I Think One of My Employees is A Victim of Domestic Violence

Given the statistics, it is entirely likely that, at some point, one or more of your employees is or has been a victim of domestic violence. How will you handle it if you suspect this is the case?

Read more: I Think One of My Employees is A Victim of Domestic Violence

Red Flags for Interviewers

You are looking at a wonderful resume, a candidate who has all the experience, skills, and background you need. The interview will be a breeze, right?

Maybe so, but there are still a bunch of red flags to watch out for before you make an offer to that candidate.

1. It looks like they left more than one previous job because of the hours or workload. There are many reasons for leaving a job, but if it's the same reasons repeatedly, you should start wondering whether this is a secret prima donna who won't help out with extra work when needed. (Hint: Have them tell you how they handle it, with specifics, when the workload gets to be too much.)

2. They don't offer any past managers as a reference. If the reference list is stocked with peers, you have to wonder why the candidate doesn't want you talking to the people who supervised their work. Do they have something to hide? (Hint: Call those past managers before you make any hiring decisions!)

3. They come across as overly confident. Confidence is wonderful, but an inflated sense of their abilities and value should make you wonder what they will be like to work with. Will they be able to take input and feedback, or will they insist they know best? Some jobs are easy to learn and for them it is appropriate to believe the candidate will be a master in just a few weeks, but most jobs take a minimum of three months to learn well enough that the employee qualifies as 'good'. (Hint: Give a specific, work-based scenario and ask how they will handle it.)

4. They dismiss (or "breeze by") concerns about their level of experience. It is not enough, generally speaking, to  trust a candidate's assertion that they can "learn anything." It may be that you have a savant, able to acquire any skill in record time. But it is more likely you are looking at someone who isn't being realistic about the job's challenges and how they will approach them.

5. They are oddly 'salesy' in their verbal mannerisms. If they seem more interested in pushing their way into the job than making sure that the fit is right on both sides, be afraid. Interviewing is a two way conversation, not a beauty pageant. (Hint: Try to specifically say "I see interviewing as an opportunity for you to learn as much about the company and the position as we do about you." And then give them a chance to ask questions.)

6. They check in and ask for updates a lot. "A lot" is tricky to define, but you know exactly what it feels like, don't you? If you were clear with them about your interviewing process and timeline (and you were, weren't you?) then a weekly follow-up call or email from them is just plain annoying. Is that what they'll be like in the office? (Hint: Be specific about the time frame, and ask them not to contact you again -- you'll contact them.)

7. They don't have any questions about the job. It may be that you did a great job explaining everything in your discussion about the job, and the company. Even so, if they don't have any questions about the job they'll be spending significant amounts of time at on a regular basis ... that seems more than a little cavalier or disengaged. How will you know if they understand what they are signing up for?

8. They mention that lawyers are working out their departure from their last job. No matter how warranted their lawsuit might be, it is pretty spooky to know this candidate is suing (or sued) a past employer. Fair or not, you may not want to hire anyone who might be litigious.

9. You catch them in a lie, about anything. At first thought you might think it's minor to change the last job title or misrepresent the salary history, but this should be an instant deal-breaker for you. If they can't show integrity during the hiring process, you can't trust they will show it on the job either. (Hint: Be absolutely sure they are lying, but don't feel like you need to confront them about it. Just make a note and move on to another candidate.)

10. They sound angry or bitter, about anything. Like lying, this is a major red flag. Whether it's being angry at a previous employer or bitter over the job market, this is not an employee you want. People who are upbeat and pleasant are much easier to manage; why hire a grumpus?

©2016, DawnspringHR. All rights reserved.

Illegal Interview Questions

Hey employers: What are the questions that, if asked, will get you into very hot water? Would you believe me if I told you that is a trick question, and there actually aren't any? It's not the question, but when you base your hiring decisions on certain pieces of information that you get into trouble. Yes, it is a technicality, but lawyers make a lot of money on technicalities, and part of my job is to keep you from having to pay out any more than is necessary.

I do a lot of hiring, and one thing I've learned is that smart interviewers avoid a bunch of questions because they can’t factor the answers into their hiring decision, and by not asking they avoid any appearance of impropriety. Specifically, you cannot ask any question during an interview that relates to an applicant's race, color, religion, age, gender, national origin, or disability.

Questions to Avoid
• Are you a U.S. citizen?
• Where were you born?
• What is your birth date?
• How old are you?
• Do you have a disability?
• Are you married?
• What is your spouse's name?
• What is your maiden name?
• Do you have any children?
• Do you have child care arrangements?
• What is your race or ethnic origin?
• Which church do you attend?
• What is your religion?

There are some questions that can be asked, but only when there is a bona fide, job-specific reason to ask them. If asked of one candidate, they should be asked of all candidates for the same position.

Acceptable Alternative Questions
• Do you have any responsibilities that conflict with the job's attendance or travel requirements?
• Are you able to work in the United States on an unrestricted basis?
• Are you able to perform the duties on the job description with or without reasonable accommodations?
• Have you ever been convicted of a felony crime?
• If hired, can you provide proof that you are at least 18 years of age?
• Do you have any conflicts that would prevent you from working the schedule discussed?
• What languages do you speak or write fluently?
• Have you worked under any other professional name or nickname?
• Do you have any relatives currently working for this company?
• Would you have any problem working overtime, if required?
• Would anything prohibit you from making a long-term commitment to the position and the company?

It is always acceptable to get the information you need to make a fair judgment about an applicant’s ability to do the job you are hiring for. Some questions, however, give an impression of bias, and that’s what a great interviewer will avoid.

©2016, DawnspringHR. All rights reserved.

Do I Want to Implement a Benefit Program?

A benefit program can serve the objectives of a company in several ways, when well-thought-out and implemented with deliberation. The key here is for the company to decide on its objectives and then develop programs that support those goals. Within the larger group called benefits, there are specific aspects.

Mandated benefits.  Legislatively required benefits (unemployment compensation, social security, and workers’ compensation) serve several functions in themselves. They:

  • reduce the burden of direct public relief,
  • attempt to relate family and individual economic assistance to levels of need,
  • make the cost of work-related benefits a part of the cost of doing business and a charge to consumers.

Voluntary benefits.  These are the benefits the company sponsors or offers.  These programs include:

Insurance. Not just medical or dental (although those are the most common). Types include pensions, life insurance, termination pay, health insurance, accident and sickness coverage, and disability.

Paid leaves. Payment for time not worked includes holidays, vacations, sick leave, and rest periods.

Income supplement. Supplemental income programs include profit sharing, savings plans, credit unions, tuition refunds, and discount purchases.

Common services and programs. Other typical benefits include counseling, employee assistance programs (EAPs), transportation tax relief or payment, child care services, relocation reimbursement, parking, cafeteria facilities, training, and social or recreation programs.

Implementing a Benefits Program

Too often a company adds a benefit to the company program because a manager read a magazine or took a meeting with someone selling a service. Just because you could offer on-site massage does not mean you should. Starting a new service or benefit deserves a study of costs, employee preferences, and how the benefit fits into existing company programs.

Just as no company would introduce a new product without significant prior market research, and no recruitment campaign for new employees would be initiated without first considering the employee qualities desired and developing a job description for the position, no benefits program should be initiated without doing the research.

Determining the Objectives

In broad terms, corporate benefits objectives are functions of leadership, competitiveness, employee security, and equality of benefit options.

EXAMPLE: Attracting new employees. If a company seeks to attract outstanding employees, benefits should have minimal waiting periods for eligibility, early participation, and short vesting periods.

EXAMPLE: Reducing turnover. One of the ways a benefits program can reduce turnover is when it is more progressive, with service rewards and penalties for early termination. One key way of motivating employees places an emphasis on incentive provisions.

Leadership objectives.  Leadership objectives refer to a company’s desire to be a leader in offering innovative benefits, either within an industry or a market. Simply surveying other firms and then matching or exceeding their benefit plans does not fulfill this objective.  A company needs to determine whether it wants to be a benefits leader in its industry or whether it wants to meet what other companies are offering. Further, a company may choose to establish a leadership position in one or more types of benefits.

The need for, and timing of, benefit improvements must depend also on employee needs and attitudes.  A company concerned only with what other firms are offering may miss a real opportunity to help its own employees if the demographics or needs of the two employee groups do not match.  Statistics must be tempered by human concerns.

Competitiveness objectives.  Companies may decide to attain a position that is competitive in the benefits area. The attempt is to have comparable and observable elements of the benefit package at a competitive level of prevailing practices.

Some less profitable companies attempt to juggle the benefit package by cutting back in expensive areas where it is difficult even for trained professionals to make a comparison between benefit systems. Their objective is to appear to be competitive, but simply copying prevailing practices and lowering the funding may not serve that objective.  It may be better to develop a totally different system that is not readily comparable to competitive benefits in order to disguise any discrepancies.

Employee security objectives.  Security interests offer employers the best chance for meeting employee benefits concerns. Benefits such as sick pay protect employees’ security needs by preventing lost income. The goal is to increase employee “peace of mind.”

On a somewhat lesser level, the security aspect of benefits may tend to make the everyday life of employees simpler and less uncertain. The employee who knows there is a dependable ride to work, who knows that his or her children are being adequately cared for, or who can receive help in weathering a rough time in life is likely to be able to work more efficiently on the job.

Equality in benefit systems:  Management and staff.  Achieving equality in benefits systems is a goal that can have a company-wide effect on working atmosphere. It is another goal intrinsically related to the concept of giving employees more say in their work; equality in benefits tends to create a climate where all employees are treated alike and management reacts with rank and file as equals. The feeling promoted is “We are all in this together,” which many of today’s flatter organizations try to achieve.

Simple examples of this policy include providing the same company-provided health insurance or the same amount of life insurance to all employees regardless of position or salary. Other examples include not providing preferential parking or private dining rooms for senior management only.

Evaluation of the Program

No matter what goals are chosen for a benefits program, the program must be periodically assessed in order to determine whether it is meeting both the objectives set by the company and the needs of employees. Consider:

  • Measurement.  The benefit program can be measured according to a management-by-objectives approach, whereby a periodic assessment of progress against stated goals is undertaken. Continuous assessment of employee needs through informal interviews and meetings or formal surveys is necessary.
  • Priorities.  Measuring the relative importance of services to employees and how well current programs are meeting stated needs offers a good indication of whether any revisions to the benefits programs are needed. Work force demographics change constantly, as do employee expectations, legal requirements, competitive pressures and benefit alternatives.
  • Trends and benchmarking. In order to get the most employee satisfaction and company return on the benefit dollar, the company must be in tune with the changes in benefit opportunities and the requirements of employees and be able to adjust to those changes. Trends in restructuring or re-engineering welfare plans should be explored. Benchmarking -- both in terms of industry competitors and geographic competitors and also against “best practices” -- is periodically necessary.
  • Outsourcing, a typical byproduct of re-engineering, should be objectively reviewed periodically.

An excellent benefits package can attract excellent candidates and may allow the company to pay a lower (or 'competitive') wage while reducing turnover. How does your benefits package compare?

It's a new year -- what are you planning to focus on?

©2016, DawnspringHR. All rights reserved.

How Long Do We Have To Keep All Of This Stuff?

Business creates paperwork. (Anyone remember the late 80s and the loudly-hailed advent of the ‘paperless office’?)  As we head into a new year, it seems like a good time to clean out the paperwork you don’t need and organize the paperwork you do need. But, how to tell the difference?

One way to avoid trouble is to be generous with your document retention guidelines – if it calls for three years, keep your documents for five. Another way is to have a clear policy about time-frames for destruction – and then keeping to that time-frame. The following is a good breakdown of common documents and how long you need to keep them.

Employee Compensation: Keep payroll records (including records of wages, hours, collective bargaining agreements, employment contracts, date of payment, amount of payment, straight and overtime earnings etc.) for three years. Time cards can be discarded after two years.

Leave of Absence Records: FMLA wants you to retain records related to leaves of absence for three years. This includes basic payroll data, FMLA leave dates, and copies of leave notices.

I-9 Documentation: Employers must retain completed I-9s for three years after the date of hire or one year after the date employment ends, whichever is later.

Pre-Employment Records (i.e. job postings, ads, applications, resumes): The Age Discrimination in Employment Act requires you to keep advertisements, job applications, and resumes for one year from the date of the event.

OSHA Logs: This law mandates that logs be kept for five years following the end of the year to which the records relate.

Employment Records (including promotions, demotions, transfers, terminations): Companies must keep these records for one year from the date the record was made or the termination action was taken, whichever is later.

At-a-glance discard chart
Employee Compensation  2013 and prior
Time cards                     2015 and prior
Leave of Absence           2013 and prior
I-9 documentation          2013 and prior
Pre-employment data      2015 and prior
OSHA logs                     2012 and prior
Employment records       2015 and prior

What about electronic documents?
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) address issues of discovery as they relate to electronically stored information. (The FRCP are the rules attorneys follow when conducting civil suits.) The FRCP always included rules related to the retention and discovery of documents relevant to litigation, but with so many documents stored electronically, the rules were updated.

If you are like most businesses, you create and save an enormous amount of data – both electronically and hard copy. This is a good opportunity to review and update your policies related to retention; it is a good preventative measure to save time and expense should your company ever, unfortunately, be named in a lawsuit. To comply, I suggest
• determining what your company policy or practice is related to data storage and retention.
• draft a Document Storage and Retention policy if you don’t already have one.
• draft a policy to address document preservation should litigation be threatened.
• communicate your policies to all employees who may create or have access to electronic data.

Finally, be careful when disposing of documents. You can’t just dump the data in the trash or recycling bin. At the least you’ll want to render the information unreadable or undecipherable. Office shredders are appropriate for daily use but not very efficient for large volumes or documents. A better solution is to utilize a document management company. I can recommend three services:

1. DataSite Business Archives. All your file boxes can be stored in the secure DataSite warehouse, and they have an online retrieval and inventory system. Any file box in storage can be retrieved and delivered directly to your office usually within 24 hours. DataSite will also purge and destroy old records on a schedule that you determine. For more information see www.datasitenw.com.

2. Iron Mountain. All your file boxes can be stored in the secure Iron Mountain warehouse, and they have an online retrieval and inventory system. Any file box in storage can be retrieved and delivered directly to your office usually within 24 hours. Iron Mountain will also purge and destroy old records on a schedule that you determine. Iron Mountain has been around for decades, and is the leader in document management services. For more information see www.ironmountain.com.

3. Shred It. Shred It is a scheduled service (usually monthly), coming to your office and shredding onsite. You are given a certificate of destruction, and the rates are very reasonable. For more information see www.shredit.com.

©2016, DawnspringHR. All rights reserved.

Contact Lisa!

For your free initial consultation, please contact Lisa at:

(206) 406-7256


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