March 2007

Health Spending Account Help

by Evil HR Lady on March 30, 2007

Good morning,
I work for a large company. During the annual benefits sign up period I opted for an HSA insurance account. Some of my co workers opted for a FSA. ( I’m assuming you know what I am referring to.)

Any how, the company has not funded these accounts properly. The company pledged to fund my HSA evenly though out the year and has failed to do so. I try to contact the home office and get stonewalled, any reply is achieved by getting my supervisors to send e-mails to them. They put random amounts in the account when you complain and send you an e-mail saying the fund is correct.

Actually, I’ve got it good, because my co workers with the FSA have funds deducted from their paycheck and not posted to their account.

I have contacted the Federal Wage board and other than one message on my answering machine,( telling me to contact her, and all other follow up calls have met voice mail purgatory).My question is, what means of redress do I have?

Thanks, I do enjoy your blog.

Oh dear, you are in a pickle. First, let’s define a few things. HSAs are Health Savings Accounts. They are designed to allow you to pay for medical costs tax free. Individuals or employees can contribute to them. I’m a big fan (although I’ve never personally used one, but I think I’d be a fan.) An FSA is a Flexible Spending Account. These have a big difference from the HSA in that they are use it or lose it accounts. If you put $1000 in and then only have $500 worth of eligible costs, you lose that $500.

Now, on to your question. Your employer is about to get themselves in a whole heap of trouble. The IRS regulates Flexible Spending Accounts. They are definitely known for their warm fuzziness and understanding of mistakes, right?

The way to get things fixed internally is to get the right person upset about it. Your e-mails go unnoticed, but your supervisor’s e-mails get responses. Can you get your supervisor to get her boss to complain? The higher up the complainer is the more likely you are to get a response. You might want to throw in the words, “you know, the IRS regulates this.” It might help.

Unfortunately, I’m not a benefits expert, but B. Janell Grenier is. Hop on over to her blog and see if she can give you a better answer.

Good luck!

Evil HR Lady


Affirmative Action

by Evil HR Lady on March 29, 2007

A few days ago, the Offspring and I went to [Mexican Restaurant]. Being an HR professional who has dealt with the OFCCP far too often, I immediately noticed a problem: 75% of the people eating there were adult males.*

Now, this must not be due to any free will among the patrons, so I did what any good citizen would do: I contacted the OFCCP. Here is their response:

Dear Evil HR Lady,

Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention. We immediately launched an investigation and this is what we determined regarding .

  • [Mexican Restaurant] admits that they do not monitor the gender of everyone who walks in their door. This is unacceptable. How do we know if we are not discriminating if we don’t count and categorize everyone who walks in?
  • [Mexican Restaurant] admits that their children’s menu does not include macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets. They claim that it is their choice to serve “Mexican” food only. We say this causes a disparate impact, as noted by the lack of toddlers in the restaurant. We also questioned them as to why they thought that it was sufficient to only serve “Mexican” food. What about the rest of Latin America? The investigation over whether Guatamalens are harmed by this is still underway.
  • [Mexican Restaurant] acknowledges that the person working the counter was female. This clearly attracts males–and not only males, but heterosexual males. While at the present, we don’t monitor the sexual orientation of people (but we are thinking about it), this is a concern to us.
  • [Mexican Restaurant] admits to serving “spicy” foods. They also acknowledge that men tend to prefer spicy foods more than women do. They also admit that pregnant or nursing women may have to stay away from spicy food due to heartburn and upset babies. Again, they claim this is an untintentional slight, but we are still concerned.
  • We thank you for bringing this to our attention. We will be working with [Mexican Restaurant] to bring them into compliance on this very important issue.



    *Everything past here is made up. And the food was great, by they way.


    For My Brother, the Lawyer

    by Evil HR Lady on March 28, 2007

    He gives me free legal advice. I give him free HR advice. It’s all good.


    Responsibility vs Authority

    by Evil HR Lady on March 26, 2007

    Some of my responsibilities are being outsourced. (No worries–my employment status will not change as a result of this outsourcing.) Nevertheless, it’s a high stress thing to turn responsibilities over to an outside firm. At the same time, we are setting our annual performance goals, especially as they relate to the outsourcing. My boss and I had the following conversation (well, paraphrased to make me sound more articulate and clever than I really am):

    Boss: The outsourcing needs to be seamless in order for you to meet your goal.
    EHL: Define seamless.
    Boss: The client will not experience any change in service. They will not know that this task has been outsourced.
    EHL: No.
    Boss: No?
    EHL: No, that is not a goal I’ll accept.
    Boss: Why?
    EHL: Because the outsourcers have different requirements. For instance, they require a 5 day turn around. We currently give a one hour turn around in an emergency. Additionally, no matter what information I give the outsources, I cannot guarentee that they will do it correctly. (I then listed examples from a previous outsourcing that has caused all of us HR types endless woes.)
    Boss: Well, you need to make it happen.
    EHL: I have no authority over the outsource company. They don’t report to me. I don’t have hire/fire authority over the person they assign to the task. You want me to be responsible for something I have no authority over.
    Boss: How about your goal is to “provide the outsourcer with all necessary information to complete the task.”
    EHL: Much better

    Ahh, the responsibility vs. authority problem. It’s a big one we face in HR. We’re responsible to make good hires, reduce turnover, fill the leadership pipeline, make the EEO and OFCCP happy and solve every problem under the sun. But, do we have the authority to do so?

    Some HR people might. But, who makes the final decision on who to hire? The Staffing Rep? Not likely. Staffing can send a variety of candidates, but it’s the manager who makes the hiring decision. What about managers? Internal promotion decisions are made by current management. Sure, HR can have input, but the final decision? Line management. We can offer management training classes out the wazoo, but we are dependent upon line management to get their employees in the classes.

    But, who is held responsible for all these things? HR.

    It really annoys me. If you are going to make me responsible, give me authority.

    Kris at the HR Capitalist has the subitle : Get to the table, stay at the table. He’s a wise man. Being at the table helps give you authority to accomplish the things you are already responsible for.


    Business Decisions

    by Evil HR Lady on March 26, 2007

    I stumbled upon This piece of wisdom:

    Tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians (so legend has it), passed on from generation to generation, says that, “When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.”

    Makes sense, right? The unknown author continues:

    However, in government, education and the corporate world, more advanced strategies are often employed, such as:

    1. Buying a stronger whip.
    2. Changing riders.
    3. Giving horse and rider a good bollocking.
    4. Re-structuring the dead horse’s reward scale to contain a performance-related element.
    5. Suspending the horse’s access to the executive grassy meadow until performance targets are met.
    6. Making the horse work late shifts and weekends.
    7. Scrutising and clawing back a percentage of the horse’s past 12 months expenses payments.
    8. Appointing a committee to study the horse.
    9. Arranging to visit other countries to see how other cultures ride horses.
    10. Convening a dead horse productivity improvement workshop.
    11. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.
    12. Reclassifying the dead horse as living-impaired.
    13. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.
    14. Outsourcing the management of the dead horse.
    15. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.
    16. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase dead horse’s performance.
    17. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse’s performance.
    18. Declaring that as the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line of the economy than do some other horses.
    19. Rewriting the expected performance requirements for all horses. And the highly effective…
    20. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

    How sad is it that I not only laughed, but nodded my head with almost every one of these?


    Insanity Time

    by Evil HR Lady on March 25, 2007

    The Carnival of the Insanities is up over at Dr. Sanity’s place. You’ll learn about Iran, Piano playing, political ads, mad kittens and flying children. What more could you ask for!


    Hiring Outside the Box

    by Evil HR Lady on March 25, 2007

    We always hear about “thinking outside the box.” But what if that thinking leads us to hiring outside the box?

    With the scandal at Walter Reed Medical Center the Army Surgeon General Resigned. The interim Surgeon General? Major General Gale S. Pollock. What is so outside the box on this hire?

    She’s not a doctor. She’s a nurse.

    Granted, she’s an interim Surgeon General, but I still think it’s got great potential. The Army definitely has problems with it’s medical centers. Maybe the best way to fix it is to think differently–bring in a nurse who has different experiences and view points than doctors do.

    The nursing blogosphere is, of course, ecstatic over this. Universal Health writes:

    [N]urses are notorious for creativeness under fire, frugality, patient advocacy and stepping up to the plate when the odds are enormous. Nurses have brains, intestinal fortitude and can-do attitudes. General Pollock is an able leader, and she is now quite possibly the most publicly visible nurse in the U.S.

    Have there been “out of the box” hires that you’ve seen? Did they work out wonderfully or fail miserably, or somewhere in the middle?


    Toddling in Manhattan

    by Evil HR Lady on March 24, 2007

    Toddlers are taking over Manhattan, apparently. And not just any toddlers–the rich, white kind.

    Since 2000, according to census figures released last year, the number of children under age 5 living in Manhattan mushroomed by more than 32 percent. And though their ranks have been growing for several years, a new analysis for The New York Times makes clear for the first time who has been driving that growth: wealthy white families.

    At least half of the growth was generated by children who are white and non-Hispanic. Their ranks expanded by more than 40 percent from 2000 to 2005. For the first time since at least the 1960s, white children now outnumber either black or Hispanic youngsters in that age group in Manhattan.

    The analysis shows that Manhattan’s 35,000 or so white non-Hispanic toddlers are being raised by parents whose median income was $284,208 a year in 2005, which means they are growing up in wealthier households than similar youngsters in any other large county in the country.

    I could live on $284,208 per year, couldn’t you? I even have a toddler (although she will insist she is not a toddler, she is a pre-school girl).

    If stumbled upon this article right after chatting with two of my colleagues about our children. While none of us have salaries that push us into that $284,208 bracket (although no telling what their husband’s make–so maybe they do), we all have young children and are much older than our mothers were when they had young children.

    It’s expensive to live in Manhattan. And unless you just completed your Supreme Court Clerkship, you’re not going to be making that kind of money by the time you are 25. You’re going to be an older parent. So, these parents are older, and have devoted time to their careers first.

    Is this good for business? Would it be better for a business to hire people who had their children in their early 20s, so time off for stomach viruses and school plays was taken by the low level staff instead of the executive group? In requiring extra hours that make people feel unable to produce their own offspring at young ages causing companies to lose money in the long run?

    After all, it costs you less to have a $30,000 a year employee take FMLA than it does to have a $150,000 employee. (Not saying that you have to pay them their salary–you don’t, but somebody has to do the work while they are gone and it’s much easier to find a $15 an hour temp than it is to find someone who is used to $150,000 a year to work for you for 12 weeks.)

    Maybe the old way of getting married young, having children young, and getting them out of the house while you are still young was better for business. Thoughts?


    Carnival of HR–Really

    by Evil HR Lady on March 22, 2007

    I’m a day late, but part of the fun of a carnival is the anticipation, right? Right.

    We didn’t have a planned theme, but it turns out one developed all on its own: Managers need help.
    First up is Lisa asking us “Why is your staff morale so low?” Here are some of her questions:

    Do you expect your support people to “read your mind” in regards to work expectations?
    Do you play favorites?
    Do you see or measure each action or non-action as a sign of disrespect or disloyalty?

    And just what are those managers getting paid? Wally discusses CEO pay, and it’s audiences. It’s not just the CEO’s spouse that cares about the paycheck:

    The amount of CEO compensation was not an issue when I was starting out in business. You knew that the CEO would make good money, but that was part of the game. And, besides, the CEO didn’t make all that much more than anybody else. That’s changed.

    But if you wanted to fire a bad manager or an overpaid CEO–or hire a new one, we’d turn to Deb who discusses “hiring & firing speeds.”

    then again, hiring slow and not letting managers get away with firing ‘that day’ without doing their homework first, can suddenly turn into an “HR is not supportive or responsive” riot. this means we have to communicate a lot with our managers, and often need to take the time to train/coach managers through the process.

    And just how many managers does it take to overthrow the Persians? Definitely some firing–or rather swording (ha!) going on with our resident Cranky Middle Manager, Wayne. He writes:

    But she sounded completely inspired when she started on the new blockbuster movie “300”, about how 300 Spartans held out against impossible odds – citing it as proof of what a few dedicated people could do when they really tried.

    This, I suppose, was to let us know that they didn’t really need their “bloated” staff and if properly motivated, their teams would perform just like those Spartans.

    What she actually managed to do was to get me to clean out my sinus cavities with coffee as I choked and spat it out my nose.

    Anna at The Engaging Brand tells us about a manager that had a Homer Simpson experience and his new employee played Bart.

    Today a friend of mine started at a new company, he was delighted the interview process had ignited his passion. He turned up and guess what…..his new manager had forgotten he was starting today. He was asked to wait in reception, and to occupy himself for the next 2 hours 10 minutes (!) he watched and suddenly felt like Bart Simpson

    And to round us out, Evil HR Lady answers a question about a manager that just won’t let his old employee go–much to the detriment of the new employee.

    You shouldn’t date mama’s boys, and, in this case, you shouldn’t work for them.

    So, now we know–managers need help. If they would just read our blogs, businesses would have no problems.

    Wonderful submissions! Fabulous posts. Next Carnival in two weeks–April 4. Any HR or Business related posts are welcome. Submit to evilhrlady at



    by Evil HR Lady on March 22, 2007

    Okay, this post is about being a slacker. Or, more specifically, I am a slacker.

    I didn’t get the Carnival of HR posted yesterday. And I’m off to work in a few minutes and I don’t blog from work. (No use getting fired!)

    So, think of this as your opportunity to submit more posts. Anything business/HR related is acceptable–as long as there are no bad words. My daughter’s mother reads this blog and we don’t want to offend her.

    Send your hr/business related posts to evilhrlady at hotmail dot com and they will be posted in the late Carnival. I promise I will do it when I get home.

    I’m conducting a training session today and in my class is the new training manager, so I’m a bit nervous. Never met him, but my job share partner says he’s a nice guy.