The Real HR Show: When to Get HR Involved

by Evil HR Lady on September 3, 2020

Brenda Neckvatal and I are back! We took August off because we wanted to pretend we were Europeans.

Come join us as we talk about what managers need to know, and we’ve added a question segment! Listen to me and Brenda answer questions with no preparation.

4 Tips for Better Workplace Investigations

by Evil HR Lady on September 2, 2020

There have been some big headline news stories recently about the humble job of an employee relations person. Did you miss them? You probably didn’t — -just didn’t think about how HR and employee relations plays a significant role and could have made a real difference, especially in one area: Investigations.

For instance, McDonald’s CEO resigned after an improper relationship with an employee. They are back in court because she wasn’t his only paramour, and there were some sketchy stock transfers. This should have all come out in an investigation, but they didn’t bother to look at his emails.

Another hot case involved the cooking experts and YouTube stars of Bon Appetit. Employees charged racial discrimination, and the editor in chief ended up resigning.

Who takes care of things like this? Your investigative geniuses in employee relations. Properly and promptly done workplace investigations could have saved these big name companies from embarrassing press coverage. Here’s how to use investigations to make your business a better place to work–where people feel comfortable being there. keep reading, click here: 4 Tips for Better Workplace Investigations

After working from home since late March due to COVID, my employer informed all employees on August 18th that we were expected to return to the office on August 24th.

If we decided we needed to continue to work from home, we would do so with a 20% cut in hours as well as a 20% cut in salary.

Because I have Multiple Sclerosis, I told my boss I would need to talk to my doctor before making that decision (my boss knows I have MS).
I immediately got in contact with my physician and was advised to absolutely continue working remotely due to my compromised immune system.

When I told my boss, I explained that I did not want to cut my hours. I am productive at home and have been even more accessible to our clients and other managers while working from home in hopes of going above and beyond during this “new normal.” Unfortunately, my boss was not flexible and my request to work my normal hours and receive my normal pay was denied. I explained that I have a note from my doctor but that fell on deaf ears. I was told effective August 24th, my hours and pay would be cut.

My job is about 90% computer and phone calls with only about 10% being “in person” if a client comes in. But even then, I’m not in the front office/reception area so all I do is wave at clients as they walk by.

So my question is whether or not this is allowed since I am a salaried employee with a doctor’s note saying I should continue to work remotely for the foreseeable future.

Doctor’s notes aren’t magical and, contrary to popular opinion, companies don’t have to automatically do everything a doctor says. What it should do, however, is trigger an Americans with Disabilities Act interactive process.

You’re not asking to work at home because you think it would be more fun, you hate your commute, or it’s worked so far, so why not now? You have a legitimate disability and your doctor says it is not wise for you to go into the office right now.

Assuming there are 15 or more employees in your company, your business is subject to the ADA. So, here’s what you do: Call up HR and ask for ADA paperwork.

Now, your boss should know that ADA should be considered when an employee with a known chronic illness asks for an accommodation, but many managers don’t receive proper training or they deal with these things so infrequently that they don’t really understand what is at stake. Give your manager the benefit of the doubt.

Get the ADA paperwork and tell the HR manager that you would like to go through the interactive process to come up with a reasonable solution.

In the past. it would be pretty easy for your company to argue that being in the office was an essential function of the job, and, therefore, it would not be reasonable to have you work from home. But, since you’ve been working from home without problems (and even with increased productivity!) since March, they won’t be able to successfully argue that in court. (I hope! I’m not a lawyer!)

Be prepared to demonstrate that you’ve been productive from home and will continue to be so. Also, if your boss is generally not a jerk, ask what problem he expects to solve by having you in the office. He may say he wants everyone in the office. That is swell (and generally his right, as the boss), but you’re not everyone. You’re someone with a serious condition that affects your everyday life activities. He can allow you to work from home while requiring your coworkers to be in the office.

And, by the way, if you ask specifically to go through the “interactive process” unless your HR manager is completely incompetent, she’ll know that you know what you’re talking about. That gives you an advantage.

Everyone needs people skills.

We all accept that (even though there are plenty of jobs that require minimal contact with other humans), but what does it mean? And what skills do we need in today’s climate? Technical skills, of course, vary across jobs and industries, but people skills are transferable. And workplaces talk about them a lot, but can they define them? Here are a few descriptions that can help companies get a better feel for what people skills look and sound like:

People skills are associated with manners, time management and influence. These are basic traits that everyone needs—even if you’re hired to be a hermit. Regardless of your industry or job, people skills impact your ability to thoughtfully listen, make decisions and create a warm and friendly environment.

Now that I’ve defined what people skills are, here are a few of them that are important to have—now more than ever: 

To keep reading, click here: It’s Never Been More Important to Hire People with People Skills

It’s Not Pushy to Ask to Be Paid

by Evil HR Lady on August 26, 2020

Offspring #1 cat sits. She’s very, very good at it. People will say, “oh my cat is shy and you probably won’t see him the entire time we’re gone,” and within 2 minutes, the cat is purring on her lap.

Now, with any business–even a teenager’s cat sitting one–there are unpleasant business things involved, like negotiating fees and collecting the money.

Offspring #1 loves the cats and she loves getting paid. She doesn’t love it when it’s awkward.

She had two experiences this week, which tell me that she’s going to do just fine in the business world.


A person contacted her to care for her her kitties while she went on a trip. Offspring #1 listened to the requirements and told her the price. The person countered with an offer of 50 percent of that. This would be a new client, and as a teenager, she always needs cash.

I’m very proud to say that Offspring #1 held her ground. She knows what the market rate is in this town, and she wasn’t going to take a rate of half that to land a new client. She knows that once you give someone a break, they’ll always want a break. She knows what her time is worth.

Shorted paycheck

She regularly cat sits for another family. They are super lovely people with lovely cats. Offspring #1 has a house key of theirs that she just keeps. So, they go out of town, she comes and takes care of the cats. They leave the money for her on the table.

It’s a perfect arrangement. They are repeat customers and the cats require medicine, which means you need someone who really loves cats and is capable of getting it into the unwilling kitty. In other words, they need her.

Except this time, she picked up the money and it was short by a significant sum. She fretted. She likes these people. It’s awkward to say “hey, you underpaid me!” But, again, she realized that her time is valuable.

So, she sent an SMS and said, “Did I write the dates wrong? I thought you were going to be gone from Wednesday to Tuesday and that is Z francs. You left X francs.”

She immediately got an apology and an offer to give her cash when they got home or to deposit it into her bank account.

I’m so pleased that she’s learned these important business skills while still in high school. It’s always okay to ask for a market rate. It’s always okay to ask for an agreed upon paycheck. It’s not rude or pushy if you say, “hey, you owe me!”

Mistakes happen–even payroll mistakes–so there’s no need to be rude about it in the first place, but there is a need to be firm. Your time is valuable.

The kitty in the picture, is our kitty, Claudia. She is mostly a liquid, as you can tell, as she fills the entire bowl.

How Networking Works in the Real World

by Evil HR Lady on August 25, 2020

This morning I went for a cup of tea (ginger lemon) with someone I met on LinkedIn. A true networking meeting.

And it was a networking meeting. We discussed careers and what we could do to better ourselves. She asked how I diversified my client list, and I shared a story. She said, “Have you ever written that story?” and I don’t believe I have, so I shall share it.

This is an example of how networking works in the real world. Yes, you meet people on LinkedIn and have a nice, socially distanced cup of tea with them, but that’s not the only way to network. Here it goes.

Many years ago, I taught Steve in Sunday School. Steve grew up, got a couple of degrees, and a job. We keep in touch via Facebook. One day he messaged me and said, “I have a friend you should write about!”

His friend was Clark Walker, who got a job through Instagram. It was a cool story and I wrote about it and tweeted the story.

Then Sarah Salbu messaged me and said, “Hey, I got a job through Twitter!” And I listened to her story and wrote that up.

Then CBS decided they no longer wished to have my services. (Their loss.) I needed a new client and posted about it on my blog. Sarah messaged me and said, “Hey, I have a friend who works for Skyword. They are always looking for writers!”

And that’s how I ended up writing for Anthem Healthcare, United Healthcare, and others.

See, networking isn’t just about targeting people in your area and hoping that they give you jobs. It’s about making connections with other humans. If I hadn’t taught Steve in Sunday School, would he have reached out to me about his friend Clark? If I hadn’t written about Clark, would Sarah have reached out? If I hadn’t built a professional relationship with Sarah, would she have seen I was looking for new clients?

Sure, you should connect with people in your field. You should follow people on LinkedIn. You should comment on their posts. You should go to conferences and you should accept the occasional virtual cup of coffee over Zoom.

But, you should also live your life. Have a hobby. Act in community theater. Talk with your neighbors. Networking through friendships also yields results. This doesn’t mean you should only make friends with the hope that some day, somewhere, they will help you. You should make friends to have friends. Someday, they may help you or you may help them. Networking goes two ways! But, don’t limit yourself to people within your field. You never know where you may find success.

Ellen DeGeneres is nice. Of course, she is. It’s her persona. She’s always doing nice things for people and she is so personable and funny. It stands to reason that her staff loves her just as much as her fans do.

But, that isn’t what’s been in the news lately. There have been multiple complaints of a “toxic” workplace, with three producers fired for their bad behavior. There is all sorts of stuff about internal investigations and the like, as well.

But, this is what caught my eye: the resolution.

Staffers will receive five paid days off to use at their discretion, birthdays off, and paid time for doctors’ appointments and family matters, one source familiar with the series told Variety.

DeGeneres has an estimated net worth of $490 million and receives a salary of $75 million, and the resolution was five days of vacation (extra, I hope!) and paid time off for doctor’s appointments?

Granted, the employees don’t work for DeGeneres directly, but for the production company, but couldn’t she settle for, say $74 million a year (give up those avocado toasts and lattes, and you can make it work!) and give better perks to the staff, without whom there would be no show?

Yes, I understand how the market works. There are far more people who want to work on such a show than there are positions, so pay and benefits don’t have to be high to attract candidates. But, when you’ve been so blessed, you should be looking out for your staff. (This isn’t limited to Hollywood complaints–Jeff Bezos, I’m looking at you.)

Don’t tell me how much you love and appreciate your staff when they haven’t had paid time off for doctors’ appointments and the business can afford it. (There are certainly many businesses–especially now–that operate at the edge and have trouble meeting payroll. I’m not talking about these companies.)

Remove toxic people, especially toxic managers, from your staff, and pay your people well and give them the time off they deserve. It should be common sense.

Join Our “Young” Team? Hello, Age Discrimination

by Evil HR Lady on August 17, 2020

Maybe it’s because I’m old (legally in the United States, as I’m over 40), but “young” doesn’t seem like a good word to use to describe your team. And yet, a Resume writing company uses it. (Thanks to a reader for taking a screenshot and sending this to me.)

See it? This line: “Our downtown Toronto office offers an open, collaborative, and relaxed environment where our young, positive, and hard-working team strive toward a common goal of empowering clients in their job search.”

Now, it does not say that they will only hire young people. but it’s definitely sending out a message that if you’re old, don’t bother applying–you won’t be a good cultural fit.

I don’t know much about Canadian employment law, but I assumed age discrimination is illegal there, and I’m right. And, in fact, it’s more restrictive than the United States. The US federal age discrimination law only protects people over 40, but it looks like Canadian (or at least Ontario) protects everyone over 18 (and over 16 in housing). The examples they give of discriminatory statements are:

  • “Are you sure you can handle this job? It takes a lot of energy and enthusiasm, and we are looking for someone with career potential.”
  • “You don’t need this training program. At your age, what would the benefit be?”
  • “We’re looking for a more mature candidate to handle this job”
  • “Students are noisy and unreliable tenants.”

None of these come out and say we won’t hire if you if you’re too old. Neither does the job posting, but definitely, that statement will turn away more mature candidates.

Make sure you write your job descriptions to be inclusive. Let someone come in for the interview and decide for themselves if they don’t want to work with a bunch of youngsters.

And get off my lawn.

When I was an undergraduate political science student at Brigham Young University, a new professor just transferred in from Princeton. We asked him what the difference was between BYU students and Princeton students. His answer?

Everyone at BYU is so busy! Everyone works! People are married with children. People have volunteer duties and church responsibilities. Princeton students, he said, don’t have all these extra burdens.

Now, this is one person’s opinion, and I’m sure there are Princeton students with part time jobs, families, and other outside responsibilities, but I’m also sure that different universities have different populations. The wealthier someone’s family is, the more likely they are to have free time. I worked through college, as did all my roommates and friends.

Why do I bring this up? I ran across a LinkedIn post by Stefaniya D. who rejected 80 internship candidates from top schools because they hadn’t done enough side projects (among other things).

Now, this is super helpful to know precisely what companies are looking for, and it also highlights one of the many reasons why the rich get richer. How many side projects does the student who is working full time on top of a full class load have? A student who is fully funded by mom and dad, or who is willing to take out massive student loans to cover tuition and living expenses, has time to do this type of stuff. None of my roommates ever did.

Additionally, this is an internship. You are not hiring a CEO here. Interns should be without much experience–which also means experience in job hunting as well. Don’t demand polish and perfection from someone who has never held a job before. You’re setting yourself up for failure.

I’m absolutely sure that the vast majority of the candidates she rejected could have successfully completed an internship at Candor if she had been willing to give any of them a chance.

It’s Time To Stop Hiring Talent! | Suzanne Lucas | DisruptHR Talks from DisruptHR on Vimeo.

Instead, she’s looking for a unicorn and then complaining that they don’t exist. An intern unicorn, the rarest of all creatures.

Internships are an opportunity for students to learn how to work and how to hold a job and how to get a job. Don’t require them to be masters of job hunting.

And, if she’s having so much trouble finding someone from the top schools, check out your state universities. Lots of people there who are just as brilliant but not quite as privileged.

Should You Quit Before a Layoff?

by Evil HR Lady on August 13, 2020

I’ve worked as a branch manager at a large bank for ten years. About five weeks ago, my branch was verbally notified that our branch would be closing in just over 90 days (customer notice of 90 days is required).

I was verbally told they want to keep me and hoped to put me at another branch in town at the same salary but lesser position.

Because my salary is the same, under our policies I am not eligible for a severance package. I have nothing in writing- no termination, no offer for the new position. I’m tempted not to stay through the closing date.

Is this situation on the up-and-up, regarding no severance? Why nothing in writing?

I’ve learned that ten other branches are closing yet it has not been announced internally.

This is where you see me guessing because no one called me and gave me the ins and outs of your particular bank, but here it goes.

They have given you nothing in writing because they haven’t made anything official regarding your position. Look at the word “hope.” They hope to put you in a new position. There are no guarantees here and with multiple branches closing there will be multiple people vying for the few open positions. So, no one wants to give you the job offer if they haven’t yet officially decided who gets it.

There is probably something written though: a Summary Plan Description. Undoubtedly, the people in your bank’s headquarters have already written this plan which details who gets severance, and how much, and under what circumstances. If they are closing 11 branches, this isn’t done on a whim. There is a plan.

Ask your HR department for a copy of this plan. If the person you call doesn’t know about it, ask to speak to the person coordinating the layoffs.

That said, this plan doesn’t determine who will lose their job and who won’t. It would give general rules, but it won’t say “Jane at the state street branch will over the main street branch as the manager and all other branch managers will be fired.” So, it won’t answer all your questions, but it will give you some idea of their thought processes.

Now, as to whether you should quit or not, you can also ask if there is a stay bonus. Often, when shutting down operations, companies will offer stay bonuses to people who don’t quit. They need you to work until the 90 days are over.

If they aren’t offering you a stay bonus, refuse to put a new job offer in writing, and you find a new job, by all means quit. You don’t owe them anything, and there will be plenty of people who also lose their jobs during this that can provide you with a reference in the future.

Do not feel any obligation toward a company. This is not your family and they are not your friends. If they want to keep you, they should let you know, in writing, that you have a job offer.

Of course, if they are offering a good severance package, you may wish to hang around to see if you get the new position or a severance package. If you resign, you don’t get the severance.

But, it often takes longer than three months to find a new job. Best case scenario? You find a new job that starts on day 91, and you walk away with a severance package and a new job.

So, go ahead, job hunt. If you find something you like, leave the old company behind. Don’t rely on their vague verbal promises.