January 2008

About That Training Budget

by Evil HR Lady on January 31, 2008

The next time your management complains that your management training budget is too high, perhaps you can show them this New York Times article:

The Lockheed Martin Corporation, the military contractor, has agreed to pay a former employee $2.5 million, more than any person has received in the settlement of a racial discrimination case filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, lawyers for the agency said on Wednesday.

The employee, Charles Daniels, 45, said he was called derogatory names and threatened by four co-workers and a supervisor from 1999 to 2001, when he worked as an aviation electrician for the company in Florida, Hawaii and Washington.

Yeah, because that is so much cheaper than training managers not to do that. I don’t know the details of the case, but I imagine it was botched on several levels. People don’t generally sue for one comment. They sue when they feel like they have no other option.

When the affected employee took the issue to his manager, he was told:

“That’s just boys being boys, and that’s the way it is here at Lockheed.”

A nice session of Evil HR Lady’s Diversity Training Program could have helped that manager realize that that was not the right answer.

I’m definitely cheaper than $2.5 million.


Not Quite Convicted

by Evil HR Lady on January 31, 2008

I was recently terminated from an employer because they had claimed that I had provided false and inaccurate information on my employment application which I dispute. In particular, there was a question asking if “I had ever been convicted for a crime in which a pardon has not been granted?”. The answer to this question is no and that is what I answered. However, I do have an outstanding charge going back from about 6 years ago which still has not been resolved. Nevertheless I do not have any criminal record nor any sort of conviction on file. The employer claimed that I had lied on that application but I simply did not, it is completely the honest truth.

After I was terminated I applied for Employment Insurance and I was granted it. The folks at the Employment Insurance office agreed with me that I had not been fired for a just cause and recommended that I might want to pursue this issue with the Human Rights Commission. So I have recently filed a complaint about this issue to the Human Rights Commission and am awaiting their response.

I was just wondering, in your experience, is what the company did legal? I do not feel it is right at all because I was completely honest and I was a great worker with a good work record.

You didn’t lie. The Unemployment Insurance people agreed with you. (Now, HR people will say that the unemployment insurance people grant unemployment to anyone who didn’t actually commit murder while at work, except when you truly laid someone off through no fault of their own and suddenly they want extra information and a sacrificed chicken in order to approve the claim.)

So, in short, I don’t know what you allegedly did, but if it was bad enough I can see why the company may be willing to face a fine rather than have you on board. Doesn’t make it legal, just understandable.

Hopefully you’ll be able to clear up this legal problem without getting a conviction. In the mean time, take your unemployment and go out and look for a new job. If you want to pursue this with the Human Rights Commission (are you Canadian?) go ahead. But, don’t sit home moping. Go get a new job.


Foolish Youth

by Evil HR Lady on January 30, 2008

This is regarding my first job out of college (one of the top 10 engineering programs in the country) with a large automotive manufacturing company. I have had 15 months of internships (one 3 month term and one 12 month term) with the company and they have offered me full-time employment that is contingent on an acceptable background screening. The job is a manufacturing engineering position with no driving required.

The reason that this concerns me is that I have a list of charges (dismissed) and two convictions (not dismissed) on my record. These charges include:

1. 2003 Minor consuming alcohol ticket – fine paid, no conviction, home town

2. 2004 Minor consuming alcohol ticket – fine paid, no conviction, college town

3. 2005 DUI conviction, no accident, .12 BAC, no aggravating factors, college town

4. 2006 Alcohol intoxication – $100 ticket paid, work town

While the majority of these charges against me never amounted to a conviction they do tend to spell out a pattern (no arrest in 2007 , that was my resolution last New Year’s). Also, I did not think that charges with no conviction would show up on a background check (but they have with other companies recently). Another major company has revoked my offer in light of these charges specifically listing them as the reason. The company that I am accepting the offer from employed me with a background check in December 2005 so I assume that the charges before that were known. They would not be aware however of the DUI or the alcohol intoxication ticket afterwards.

My question:

How should I approach the situation with the HR department? Their HR department is far removed from any of the people I have worked with (different state actually) and I do not know if I should bring it up or if I should keep mum about it. Would it be to my credit to come forward with it ahead of time? If the job is not driving related will this affect their decision about whether to continue with the employment?

I really am an honest hardworking intelligent person, which people I have worked with know, but have had bad luck and a careless attitude regarding alcohol related law.

Any advice you can offer will be much appreciated.

Hmmm, you have what I call seriously bad judgment. In fact, I think you probably have a drinking problem and should seek professional help.

Now, as to what you should say to HR? Nothing. If you’ve been asked to fill out a new application or form for this background check, do so honestly. I doubt the juvenile convictions count. However, if this is a reason to disqualify you from the job, no matter your excuse you aren’t going to get the job.

Your supervisor during your internship can vouch for your ability to do the job, but no company wants to make an exception to a rule for a recent college grad. They might make an exception for a highly regarded new executive, but not at the entry level.

That said, I don’t know that there is a business reason to disqualify you since the job doesn’t directly involve driving. However, it is for an automotive company and therefore, they may be more careful about it.

Don’t be tempted to lie. Lies like this will get discovered. If they ask for an explanation you can give them one, but otherwise they are going to make their decision based on the conviction.

And for everyone else reading, please don’t be stupid when you drink. If you are going to be stupid when you drink, stop drinking. It’s not worth the cost you may have to pay later on.


Fired, Now What?

by Evil HR Lady on January 30, 2008

Hi Evil HR Lady,

In May I graduated college and found a full time job with a large firm in town. One month into the job, I came down with mono and an infected liver. On doctor’s orders I was out of work for five weeks and my supervisors and HR at work were all very supportive and even suggested that I apply for short-term disability. Right before my illness, another person was hired in our department who can basically do all of the work that I did but more as he has a higher degree and more experience than me.

Also, the GIS (a computer program) person went part-time and I was given the majority of his work. When I was hired, I made it very clear that my GIS experience was very limited and they said that I would only be assisting this person with 10 hours per week. When I came back from sick leave, I found that I was spending 30 hours per week doing GIS work. I talked to the GIS person to make sure he knew that our supervisors were aware of my limited experience (he was the one who interviewed me on those skills in the first place). He said that they were and that he would talk to one of our supervisors about it. When he did, the supervisor had no idea that they were giving me work that I didn’t know how to do and said she would get it resolved. Two weeks later, I was terminated due to an email I replied to. In this email, the administrative assistant revealed our boss’s expense report information to me. I didn’t get along well with this girl and usually tried to humor her in order for her to leave me alone and since I replied saying how surprised I was at one of the expenses (no foul language, no name calling, no negativity), the termination was justified because HR felt that “the e-mail showed how unhappy” I was at the company.

Up until this point, I had received plenty of “job well done” emails from my superiors and at no point did my supervisors talk to me about email use, my attitude, my interactions or my appearance while this other girl had repeated warnings that she was not doing her job correctly.

As soon as my coworkers found out (from an office-wide email) they all called me up and offered support and good recommendations. Three of them even emailed the office manager saying how pleasant I was to work with and what a good worker I was. Everyone was shocked that I was fired along with the admin girl, including myself.

My question is: What do I put on my resume and applications for new jobs? I know you repeatedly say not to lie on your blog and while I am usually the most truthful person you will find, you have said that you are very uncomfortable hiring someone who was fired with cause. Technically I was fired with cause, but the reason for termination was so ludicrous that one of my former coworkers is more than willing to give me a recommendation and he even suggested that he be my “supervisor reference”. He technically did supervise me on projects and believes that I was not fired justly. He is a senior employee, although much lower on the pole than my real boss.

You are right, I will recommend that you not lie. However, unlike your parents, who didn’t take “but you didn’t ask if I was attending calculus every day, you just asked if I was showing up and I did, twice, last week,” as an appropriate answer, companies don’t require that you voluntarily reveal everything.

Yes, you can leave this job off your resume and explain that shortly after graduating you got mono and were very ill blah, blah, blah. However, you did gain some valuable experience in that job.

I’m not going to second guess why they terminated you. (Although saying that it was because of the e-mail and then saying that the e-mail showed how unhappy you were is a really lame reason. Darn HR types!) Instead, let’s move forward.

Including the job on your resume says you gained experience in your field–and in a related field (which can only help you!)–will probably benefit you on your current job hunt. You don’t have to list a reason for leaving on your resume. In fact, I would think it was strange.

On an application, you may have to list a reason for leaving. Most companies don’t have you fill out an application until you show up for the interview. Which means, you get a chance to verbally explain rather than having to fit why you were terminated in a little box.

The interviewer (either staffing, hiring manager or another interviewer) will say, “Why did you leave your last job after such a short time?”

This is something you need to be prepared to answer. Your answer needs to be truthful, but you can certainly spin it your way. Whatever you do, don’t say, “well, there was this admin that nobody liked and plus they dumped GIS work on me that I wasn’t prepared for and blah, blah, blah.”

Instead try, “I was hired to do X and unfortunately I caught mono and was out for 6 weeks. During that time, someone else took over the majority of my responsibilities, so when I came back I was assigned to GIS work. Unfortunately, that is not my forte, and things didn’t work out very well. I’m eager to start a new job doing X again, although I wouldn’t mind learning more about GIS.”

You can list the project supervisor who volunteered to serve as a reference. List him as a “project supervisor,” though, not just a generic supervisor. And let him know that you’ve listed him as a project supervisor. That way, he won’t attempt to lie for you. Since this is your first job out of college, listing a college professor or previous boss and then two people you worked with at this company should allay fears that you are some sort of slacker.

Mismatches happen. Normal people understand that. Hopefully you’ll be able to land a new job quickly!

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Please, Please, Please, Find a New Job

by Evil HR Lady on January 30, 2008

I’ve got another one for you: (Go here for the first problem.)

Is it LEGAL for your supervisor (also your HR Manager) to forbid you from going to lunch with any employee at all? How about whole departments?

Might that vary from state to state? Or is there a federal law?

Oh, and it’s not stated anywhere in our employee handbook.

Thanks for any advice. I’ve tried to do some research on this but can’t find anything concrete.

Honestly, I have no idea. From what I know, I can’t see where it would be illegal, but it might be. I’m certainly no expert on employment law, especially in all 50 states.

Here’s the problem. Your manager and you don’t see eye to eye. She doesn’t like the way you dress. She doesn’t want you interacting with the employees. She doesn’t trust your judgment.

Now, I happen to think you have great judgment because you come to me for advice, but that aside, it’s time to either change to be what she wants or move on.

There are many reasons why HR should not be chummy with the employees. Does your boss not socialize at lunch either? If she doesn’t, then this is one of her policies and learn to love it or leave. If she does, it’s your judgment she doesn’t trust.

It takes a great deal of time to build up trust in someone who you already have negative feelings for. You’ll have to work three times as hard to prove yourself to this person. You’ll have to act in ways that are not natural to you.

You can certainly do this, but why? Polish your resume and start looking for a new job where you will have a better fit. And while you are polishing, take a good look at yourself. What is it that this woman doesn’t like? While she may be completely irrational, there are probably some valid reasons for her concerns.

Figure out what they are and correct them or this will haunt you the rest of your career.


Be Careful What You Wish For

by Evil HR Lady on January 29, 2008

Are you exempt or non-exempt? Judging by the questions I get, there is something psychologically satisfying about being declared a “professional.” But there is something more than psychologically satisfying about getting a check with a large amount of overtime pay.

The Fair Labor Standards Act gives a bunch of criteria for evaluating a position to determine whether it is overtime eligible (non-exempt) or not (exempt). Unfortunately, even those of us with magical HR crystal balls can disagree over how a position should be categorized.

It’s to the company’s advantage to have as many exempt positions as possible. However, it’s more to the company’s advantage to be correct, or else they can get hit with lawsuits, fines, and then there’s the issue of back overtime pay. (Most exempt employees don’t punch a clock of any kind. So, there’s no record of what hours actually were worked. So, the back overtime pay is nothing more than a guess–a very expensive guess.)

But, as I said, sometimes it’s not exactly clear. Enter the lawyers–and the lawsuits.

IBM in recent months has been hit with lawsuits filed on behalf of thousands of U.S. employees who claim the company illegally classified them as exempt from federal and state overtime statutes in order to avoid paying them extra whenever they worked more than 40 hours per week.

Bad for IBM, but potentially good for the employees? Well, it depends. Read on:

The good news for those workers is that IBM now plans to grant them so-called “non-exempt” status so they can collect overtime pay. The bad news: IBM will cut their base salaries by 15% to make up the difference, InformationWeek has learned.

The plan has been greeted with howls of protest from affected workers.

So, if you have been someone who has been putting in a straight 40 hours a week, now that you are overtime eligible, you’ll see your paycheck drop substantially. Even if you regularly work more than that, you may not benefit as much as you think you might.

If you were earning $50,000 a year before, that translates into an hourly wage of $24 an hour for a 40 hour work week, or $961 per week. Now, with your 15% pay cut, you are earning $20.43 per hour, or $817 a week. Sure, if you get overtime, you get $30 an hour. You’ve got to work nearly 5 extra hours every week to get your old base salary.

Now, if you were regularly putting in 50 hour work weeks anyway, this is a benefit to you. If you weren’t–well, bummer. The hour you took off last week to go to a doctor appointment? As an exempt employee, it made no difference to your paycheck. As a non-exempt employee? You lose that hour of pay. Same thing goes for the occasional long lunch. Oh, and you need to clock out when you are eating lunch. Technically, you shouldn’t even answer a work related question while on your lunch break.

There are benefits to being exempt and benefits to being nonexempt. Before you call a lawyer and start a class action suit, you want to think through all of these things. And if a lawyer calls you, ask yourself why he’s doing it? Is it for your good or for his financial gain? You may not be pleased with the outcome.


Want a New Job?

by Evil HR Lady on January 25, 2008

The The Fortune Top 100 Companies to Work For list is now up.

Great places to work.

Personally, while I don’t work for any of them, I’m just thrilled that I have a Wegmans to shop at. Technically, I think, their chocolate muffins should be classified as a controlled substance.

Check them out and check out why they made the list.


Managing Expectations

by Evil HR Lady on January 25, 2008

I am an Army veteran from my home country, India. I remodeled my resume to make it suitable for a career in HR and was granted a work visa as an HR Manager.

Since then I have been working for a small-to-medium family owned enterprise. They haven’t had a dedicated HR department all this while and looked upon me as someone to bring in the required changes in policies and procedures. They were even willing to accept the fact that I shall be learning mostly on the job. I put up a brave front and have been trying to cope ever since with myriad laws and regulations practiced in USA.

There is, however, a major point of irritation between us, bringing in discipline amongst the employees. I do not think that any of our 45 workers across four locations need any major overhaul. I fired all the trouble makers right in the beginning. But he keeps needling me on the fact that he had hired me because of my Army background and that I am not justifying his beliefs. Dealing with mostly disciplined combat soldiers from the other end of the gun is far different than dealing with corporate employees. I consider myself good at people to people communication and exercise this trait of my personality to the fullest extent but I can’t become an Army Colonel all over again, try as I might. I have led a disciplined life and I try to lead this bunch of young and talented people by personal example. That seems to be working, but somewhere there is a mismatch between my employers expectations and my way of working.

I shall appreciate any gems of wisdom on how not to become a menace/evil at work and have all my colleagues shun me. I don’t like eating my lunch alone. I would like to remain who I am and do the right thing.

My guess is this is a matter of mismatched expectations and visions of what successful looks like. To him, successful is military precision. I bet he’s not a big fan of telecommuting or an outcome based workforce, either.

So, while you see talented people creating results (and good job in firing all the troublemakers at the beginning), he sees chaos and rule violations.

Have you said to him, “Dealing with mostly disciplined combat soldiers from the other end of the gun is far different than dealing with corporate employees”? If so, how did he respond? Anybody that is remotely rational should realize that the environment in a military unit is different from an at will workforce.

So, you need to manage his expectations and work on developing him. Usually, we focus on developing people to become managers, but this time you’ve got to develop the manager. (This isn’t uncommon in a family owned business, by the way. (Or any business, actually–parentheses inside of parentheses!))

Have a goal setting session with him–not where you talk about his personal development goals or your goals, but what his goals are for the company. Then help him (that is let him think he’s doing it) figure out the best way to achieve those goals.

You are going to have to be able to show him results from these goals. So make sure they are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and have a time frame). Also make sure they are not trivial (I want everyone in their desk by 8:00! If they come in at 8:05 that is a failure!).

This is not going to be easy. (Is any thing easy in HR? Well, yes, creating new forms! Paperwork is where it is at!) In fact, he may completely reject you and say, “I hired you because of your military background. Now, get everyone in order!” You’ll have to counter with WHY, specifically using business language and data, this is a bad idea.

Not that some companies don’t run tighter ships than others. That’s fine. Company culture varies from company to company. But, if his people that are already on board don’t fit his vision you either need to change his or change the workforce. The latter will cost him an awful lot more.


Recruiting Made Easy

by Evil HR Lady on January 23, 2008

Well, recruiting is rarely easy, but wouldn’t it be easier if you could offer a $4.2 million condo along with the salary and benefits? Oh, and a mortgage buy down along with it.

Tax Prof Blog reports on how NYU did just that to lure a Columbia professor away.

Just increase your recruiting budget by a little bit and you too can do this!


How to Be a VP of HR

by Evil HR Lady on January 23, 2008

You’ve probably answered several like these, but I’m trying to figure out how to become a VP of HR. I have a bachelors degree in HR, and for the past two years I’ve been at a mid-market benefits consulting firm. I’m happy and appreciated where I’m at now, which makes me not want to leave, but I do have a career goal that I want to move towards. I had two HR internships while in college and thoroughly enjoyed all of the areas I touched, so I’m confident I will enjoy whatever I get into.

So, the question is, at what point do I move to the corporate side? What kind of position do I try to get? Just trying to figure out where to go from here and would love your input.

Well considering that I have no desire to be a VP of HR (of course, if someone wanted to pay me like one, that’s a different story), I’m not sure I’m the best person to answer that.

First of all, VP of HR means a world of difference if you are VP of a 50 person company vs a 25,000 person. I’m assuming you’re looking for the latter.

So, a degree in HR and two years of experience in a benefits firm. Great. I think you’re on the right path. Things I think you need to do:

  • Get corporate experience. How do you do that? Start applying for corporate jobs.
  • Look for a job that has rotational possibilities
  • Actively seek out a line management job (read: non-HR Job). Why? Because you gain credibility by understanding the business.
  • When you’ve had at least 5 years of experience get an MBA. Get this MBA from the absolute best school you can get into. If you can get into a top 10 school, then go ahead and quit your job while you are in school. If you can’t, an executive MBA is fine.
  • Don’t be afraid to tackle the difficult jobs. You’ve already started by jumping into benefits, which is a complicated and increasingly important role.
  • Seek out a mentor.
  • Pay attention to how the people who are VPs act and dress and emulate them. (Note: not copy them. That’s just creepy.)
  • Read the comments because my readers have fabulous suggestions
  • .