HR News & Views Blog is an HR industry informational resource provided by HRN Management Group. Its purpose is to keep the HR community informed and connected to what's happening in the industry and at HRN. Our primary focus areas are employee performance management, compensation administration, and HR regulatory compliance.

 Friday, 04 April 2008
A recent article by Kate Lorenz ( found the number of Americans whose employer allows them to work remotely at least one day per month increased 63 percent, from 7.6 million in 2004 to 12.4 million in 2006 (according to a 2007 report issued by WorldatWork). In total, the sum of teleworkers (both employed and self-employed) working remotely at least one day per month has risen 10 percent from 26.1 million in 2005 to 28.7 million in 2006. I’ve worked with many home-based colleagues, coworkers, and vendors over my career. Being in marketing, I regularly associate with home-based writers, designers, event planners, photographers, developers, programmers, etc. to perform my job. I don’t even think twice if I’m having a conference call with an associate and I hear a dog bark in the background or a baby being fussy. I do think twice about working with a home-based colleague if after several attempts my calls are not returned or receipt of my email’s confirmed. It all comes down to performance and professionalism.
Friday, 04 April 2008 06:54:19 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
 Thursday, 03 April 2008
Appraisal inflation is common in many organizations. But lenient or overly generous appraisals can have unintended consequences and real costs. Some of those issues and what can be done about them are discussed below. The Employee Is Hurt: Lack of accurate & meaningful feedback isn’t provided and the employee isn’t really made aware of his strengths or weaknesses. There is no understanding that a gap may exist between how an employee views herself and how a manager views her. Without true feedback the employee is unable to focus on what he needs to do to improve and to plan training or activities around that. An employee may have limited opportunity for advancement or development if she’s not aware of what she needs to work on.
Thursday, 03 April 2008 11:22:52 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
 Tuesday, 01 April 2008

A Federal appeals court in New York has ruled that employers must pay for overtime worked even if the employer did not approve it in advance. The case involved a nursing staffing agency’s policy refusing to pay for overtime not approved by a supervisor.

Although it must pay for the time worked, an employer remains free to have a policy requiring pre-approval of overtime and to discipline an employee for violating a rule that overtime must be approved in advance.

Note that such discipline must be imposed consistently and in proportion to how similar offenses are handled in order to minimize the risk of a retaliation claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Tuesday, 01 April 2008 12:15:27 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)  #   

HRN Performance Solutions is pleased to announce the signing of our 600th active Performance Pro client. The distinction of being the 600th client belongs to Promedica Federal Credit Union located in Toledo, OH.

Tuesday, 01 April 2008 12:07:39 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
 Wednesday, 26 March 2008

There’s certainly no right answer to the question.  It definitely depends on the nature of an organization, types of positions involved, role of the manager, and a number of other things.   But the subject comes up periodically in HR literature, often driven by consultants and professors who observe business trends but may never manage staff.


Managers, naturally, have their own ideas about the number of employees they can successfully oversee.   A recent (3/24/08) Wall Street Journal article “Overseeing More Employees with Fewer Managers” revisits the issue.  It notes that for some time the optimal number of people to manage was thought to be somewhere from 7-10. 

But the advent of flatter organizations, electronic communication (e.g., email, voicemail) and increased use of technology may permit oversight of a much larger number. At least some people think so as they suggest that as many as 30 employees can be effectively managed.  Those who advocate such an increase note that such a shift also requires a change in business practices and management style.  It may require such things as greater use of pay for performance, training, cascading of corporate goals, team goals and accountabilities, and more communication.   This issue can clearly be controversial and raises a number of significant questions and concerns.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008 14:15:18 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
 Friday, 21 March 2008

The percentage of participants in 401(k) programs who have taken a loan from their investments rose from 9 percent in 2005 to 18 percent in 2007. This trend of increased borrowing took place during relatively good economic times of high employment and low mortgage foreclosures.  The outlook is for the borrowing rate to increase during tougher economic times.

The good news about borrowing from a 401(k) plan is that you are essentially borrowing and paying back yourself at an interest rate that is much less than a credit card cash advance. Repayment is made by automatic deductions from earnings. So what’s the problem? Simple, when you reduce the balance of a retirement account you reduce the earning power of these funds.

Employer-sponsored plans are able to encourage more people to save but less than 50 percent of the workforce, ages 25-64, has any kind of defined benefit or defined contribution plan.

Of those who are eligible to participate in a defined contribution plan, 89 percent do not contribute the maximum, 20 percent to 25 percent do not contribute at all and 45 percent do not roll the investment over when they change jobs.

Only 49 percent of employees participate in 401 (k) plans without automatic enrollment compared to 86 percent of those who are enrolled automatically.

Participants also tend not to increase the amount of their default contributions. A full 61 percent do not increase the amount over time.


Source: Workforce Management (

Friday, 21 March 2008 09:11:53 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
 Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Apparently faking a cough over the phone wasn’t enough for an employee wanting to get out of work. No, a Washington man apparently wanted a little more time off and had a flair for the dramatic so he had a friend shoot him in the shoulder to avoid work and a looming drug test.  He told his boss he was hit in a drive by shooting.   No word on whether the time off has morphed into permanent time away from the job.


While there still seems to be some disagreement among those in the military over whether waterboarding is torture, it appears that at least one supervisor thought it could be a motivational tool.  A Utah company and its supervisor are being accused of using this technique of making someone feel as though he is drowning, to motivate sales staff.   It is alleged that a supervisor took his team outside, held an employee down, and poured water into his mouth and nose. The employee, who claims he didn’t know what type of motivational exercise he was volunteering for, has sued claiming he is now sick and depressed.   The company president suspended the supervisor for 2 weeks, indicated that the actions were against company policy, and that the employee knew what he was getting into.


I couldn't make this stuff up. Reality is indeed stranger than fiction.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008 08:12:12 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
 Thursday, 13 March 2008

In the “old days” when the snow began to melt, the birds reappeared, and many Americans became excited about the NCAA basketball tournament, employers might worry that employees would spend too much time discussing the games and the office pool. Well, those days are gone.  This year, for the first time, all but one of the 63 games are available online.  Many early games are played during business hours.  You’re probably thinking… that will mean that a lot of employees will spend too much time watching games and checking score updates.  You’d be right.  But IT people see an even larger problem.  All that watching and use of bandwidth can bring networks down.  Many are fighting back and installing filters that block the online coverage.  So much for the technology revolution and the added productivity that has come with it.

Thursday, 13 March 2008 14:27:42 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
 Wednesday, 12 March 2008

A report from the Pew Center on the States has found that for the first time, one in every 100 American adults is behind bars. In the last 30 years the prison population has tripled, now standing at 1.6 million, with another 725,000 in municipal jails.  One in 36 Hispanic men is incarcerated and one in fifteen black men (one in nine black men from 20-24). The U.S. keeps more people in prison than any other country, even China. As a percentage of population the numbers are particularly attention getting.


That’s tragic, shocking, or interesting you may say, but what does it have to do with HR?   Well, most of those people eventually get out and apply for work.  Issues surrounding criminal backgrounds checks, how to handle results from such checks, avoiding discrimination against people with criminal records, and negligent hiring have all become more common issues.  If you haven’t had to face them yet, you most likely will.  It may be time to review your policies and procedures.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008 14:15:34 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
 Friday, 07 March 2008
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has just released its numbers involving private sector discrimination filings for 2007. They’re up by 9%, the highest increase since 1993, as the EEOC received 82,792 filings. Bias charges based on race continued to be the most frequent. Race has been the most common claim since the EEOC went into business in 1965. Interestingly, for the first time, retaliation was the second most common charge and was at record levels. Claims based on sex/gender moved to third. The next most common, in order, were filings based on age, disability, national origin, and religion.
Friday, 07 March 2008 09:54:18 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
 Wednesday, 05 March 2008
One state government entity is getting an up-close and personal look at the challenges posed by the laws it must enforce. Ironically, the Utah Anti-discrimination and Labor Division (UALD), the state agency charged with enforcing the state’s employment discrimination laws, now has been accused of committing employment discrimination and retaliation itself.

In a lawsuit filed recently in Utah federal court, a former UALD claims investigator says she was subjected to discrimination and sexual harassment along with other female employees. She also alleges the UALD retaliated against her by terminating her employment after she registered her complaints.

According to the filed court complaint, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) considered the matter and decided there was reasonable cause to believe that the UALD violated the law in its conduct towards the plaintiff. The case will now play out in federal court.

Wednesday, 05 March 2008 10:32:48 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)  #   
The United States Supreme Court has issued several decisions that will impact employers.

First, regarding an age discrimination claim, the court has ruled that a charge questionnaire filed by an employee with a civil rights agency may be enough to actually be a filed charge. This decision poses the possibility that a wider range of documents filed with such agencies, short of formal charge documents, will have to be considered by the agencies, most of which now face charge backlogs.

Second, in another age discrimination case, the Court has ruled that courts can allow, but must carefully consider whether to allow, so-called “me too” evidence, i.e. evidence of another employee who also has claimed that the employer is biased in a context unrelated to the pending lawsuit (e.g. involving other employees, other supervisors and another department of the employer).

Finally, the court has expanded the type of lawsuit that can be filed regarding retirement benefits. The Court ruled that a 401(k) plan participant may sue to recover losses allegedly caused by a plan’s failure to properly implement investment directions. The plaintiff in that case claimed that the plan’s investors had not followed his directions on how to invest his 401(k) funds and thus should be liable for the related losses.

Wednesday, 05 March 2008 10:29:25 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)  #