February 2008

Repayment

by Evil HR Lady on February 29, 2008

Monday is the beginning of my last week at my company. They have reimbursed me for one quarter of my MBA degree, however, now I have decided to leave. I signed a repayment agreement when they reimbursed me. They are going to deduct my last paycheck, my bonus, and my vacation pay from what I owe them. Leaving about $4000 left for me to pay that they would like me to pay off each month over the next six months. If I don’t they say they will send it to a collection agency.

It is legal in my state for them to deduct from my last paychecks I believe, but do I have any other recourse here? I read your article on tuition reimbursement and it was very interesting. Just wanted to hear your thoughts on this specific case.

Do you have any recourse? Why would you? This isn’t an involuntary termination–you decided to leave. (If it was a layoff or a non-willful non-performance term, then I would argue your case, but it is not. You resigned.) When you made this decision, you knew you had signed a repayment agreement.

I lack sympathy.

Yeah, paying back money stinks. I would also like to get out of paying my mortgage and yet continue to live in my house. Somehow, I don’t think the bank will go for that. (And for the record, I have a 30 year fixed mortgage and a great rate, so I can’t even cry that I was duped as part of the sub-prime lending fiasco.)

Suck it up. Make the payments. Your MBA should have taught you at least a little bit about the legalities of signing contracts. If not, your mother should have.

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The View From the Other Side of the Table

by Evil HR Lady on February 28, 2008

Susan Heathfield, shares a story of a clueless candidate she interviewed. (He listed his wife as a reference–depending on who did the dishes the previous night, that reference may or may not have been positive.) She asks for additional stories about bad interviews.

I think there are equally frightening stories from the worker’s side of the table. Once, an interviewer asked me, “Do you need health insurance?” I was young and naive and didn’t realize what he was really asking. By answering, he could easily ascertain my marital status. While the EEOC won’t come after you for discriminating on the basis of marital status, the state I lived in would. He was being so clever and I was so naive I answered the question, honestly. (Yes, yes, in fact, I do need health insurance, as I may get hit by a truck/get pneumonia/develop a life threatening hangnail tomorrow.)

I didn’t get the job. (Just as well, it would have been intensely dull and boring and who wants to work for such a person?)

If I’m ever asked that question again, I know how I’ll answer it: “Does this job offer health insurance?” That turns the tables back on the interviewer and removes any legitimate reason he may have had for asking in the first place.

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Surfing the Web

by Evil HR Lady on February 26, 2008

Why do most companies say you can’t use their computers, internet connections, etc. for anything other than business purposes when they know people probably check out Ebay from time to time or use their company email account to visit a blog site on occasion? Is this just zero tolerance to avoid a slippery slope or is there some other “evil” HR reason behind this?

I’m usually the first to point out evil HR practices, but I can’t say that there is a single evil thing about limiting internet access at work. (Okay, I can. If your company blocks out brilliant sites, such as evilhrlady.blogspot.com then we have problems. Remember, people, this is a work related site and you should read it every day! If I haven’t published new content, re-read old content.)

Yes, companies know that people check e-bay, their home e-mail, read the NY Times and blogs and participate in internet forums. Some of this is harmless, some is not.

When you are working, you are being paid to perform work for the company. If you are busy selling on e-bay or arguing some point on a forum, you are not working. Companies should be alarmed that their employees are not working. If you are Christmas shopping, you are not working.

Now, all the activities that I’ve mentioned are fairly wholesome. There are certainly internet activities that are not wholesome. Since we all know what those are, I shan’t mention them. Just know that if you so much as think about looking at an unwholesome site I will make sure you are fired without so much as two weeks pay. Don’t do it. Don’t risk it.

When at work, you should be working. If your company allows you to surf the web at lunch, go ahead, but realize that your IT department can track every site you visit. I’ve heard that the IT department can also see what passwords you are typing in, so a bad IT person can then access your bank account. I have no idea if it is true, but it’s something to think about.

If you are violating your company policy (even if everyone else is doing it), you take on risks. Be in compliance. Make sure your manager approves of what you are doing and most of all, work while you are at work.

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A Misunderstood Disability

by Evil HR Lady on February 25, 2008

This is the hardest e-mail, esp. to a stranger, and I’ll bet the oddest one you’ve received. I am a veteran with 13 yrs. served in the Air Force. I was injured in Desert Storm and medically discharged.

Here lies the problem, my doctors told me I talk as if I’m drunk or high on something.

My question is this; should I tell potential employers before an interview about this affliction? I have had what I thought were excellent interviews for good to menial jobs with no success.

I’m not stupid, I’m an electronics technician by trade in both the military and civilian sectors. I can’t wait for the VA to raise my disability, if they do at all. I saw your site on the Internet and was impressed with your humbleness. What do you think, being an HR professional, I would appreciate any advice you can share.

Normally, I would say there is no need to disclose a disability before you need to. In your case, you need to disclose it soon. Why? Because if you sound drunk, to the recruiter on the phone you are drunk.

Now, I realize this is all sorts of judgmental on the part of the recruiter. (Please note, I am not judgmental because I am not a recruiter. Oh, strike that, I certainly am judgmental and so are all of you. It’s how we get through the day–making constant judgments about things and acting on those judgments.)

As, I said, I’m not a recruiter, but I did play one for about 3 months. Granted, I was recruiting bank tellers (starting salary $8.56 per hour!), which is different than your qualifications. However, I can tell you that when someone was inappropriate on the phone, we rejected them regardless of how qualified they were on paper.

Now, my suggestion to you is that if you get a call from a recruiter (or hiring manager), the conversation should go somewhat like this:

Ring, ring (or in today’s world, a sudden blast of some bizarre ring tone that you downloaded for $0.99)

You: Hello, This is Jim.

Recruiter: This is Karen from Acme Corp. I received your resume and application for an electronics technician job.

You: Thanks for calling, Karen. I’d just like to warn you that if I sound a little off, it’s due to a medical condition. Fortunately, it just affects my speech and not the rest of my abilities. I’m very excited to hear from you, as I really respect the work that Acme Corp does.

Now, I would never recommend someone starting out saying, “Just so you know, I only have one leg” or “I’m diabetic, so I need regularly scheduled breaks and lunches!” But, because your condition can be misconstrued as “it’s 10:30 a.m. and he’s drunk?!?!” it’s important to be up front about it.

I hope this helps and it works for you. I am not so naive as to think that having this condition won’t make it more difficult to find work then it would otherwise (it shouldn’t, but this is the real world and people are often afraid of things they don’t understand).

This means that you will need to work twice as hard to find a great job. Remember to network, network, network. All those people you were in the military with, and know your work, are excellent places to start. And don’t be afraid to reach out to people and let them know what you are looking for, even if you don’t think they can help you.

Just last week, my brother-in-law called and asked if I would be willing to talk to a friend of a friend of his (catch how far removed I am from this person?) because he’d just been laid off and needed some advice on how to proceed. Sure, I said. After our conversation about dealing with his recent layoff he said, “When I figure out what companies I’m going to target, do you mind if I include you on my ‘do you know anybody at this company?’ e-mails?”

Brilliant, I thought. Rather than saying, “gee, I really want to work for Bob’s House of Pets, but I don’t know any one, so I’ll just fill out this online application,” he’s going to send out e-mails to everyone he knows asking if you know someone who works for Bob’s House of Pets. It’s been my experience that people are generally thrilled to help other people get jobs. He knows I don’t work for Bob’s House of Pets, but he doesn’t know who my relatives, friends and ex-co-workers work for.

Good luck on your job search and thank you so much for serving in the military. I really appreciate it and know you did it at a high cost.

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Not HR Related, But I’ve Had This Conversation Before

by Evil HR Lady on February 24, 2008

The 2007 Weblog Awards

I suspect some of you have had this conversation as well.

(Via Volokh Conspiracy)

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Politics

by Evil HR Lady on February 21, 2008

As a former political scientist (yes, yes, after years of recovery I can finally say it in public that I voluntarily studied politics, which all of us now strive to avoid, but can’t because any time you turn on the radio, television or happen to glance at a newspaper, presidential candidates are shrieking out at you to vote for him or her or somebody other than that [insert evil opponent of choice]), one would think that I would be writing about the big news of yesterday: The Teamsters just endorsed Barack Obama.

While the political pundits are running around talking about how this is just another nail in the coffin of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, I have two words for them: Dick Gephardt.

Yes, I am just that nerdy and I can tell you that in 2003 the same union endorsed Gephardt and we all know how well that campaign went.

So, right now I’m neither impressed nor unimpressed and it hasn’t affected my decision on how to vote anyway. (Of course, I live in a late primary state, so presidential nominations are always finished by the time I hit the voting booth. I vote anyway—free “I voted” sticker and warm fuzzy feelings.)

More interesting on what should be a Teamsters front is an IRS ruling:

Just before Christmas, package-delivery company FedEx was slammed with a $319 million tax bill. The Internal Revenue Service ruled the company had misclassified about 13,000 drivers as independent contractors when, the IRS said, they really were employees.

Delivery Drivers could easily fall under the Teamsters, but they don’t because they aren’t unionized. And it’s difficult to be unionized when you aren’t even an employee of a company. But, here’s the IRS saying “if it acts like an employee and looks like an employee then it is an employee and the employer better darn well be paying their taxes.”

FedEx, of course, will appeal, but somehow I think this will have a bigger impact on Truck Drivers’ lives then will the Teamster’s endorsement of any particular presidential candidate.

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Happy Birthday Carnival!

by Evil HR Lady on February 20, 2008

It’s the first birthday of the Carnival of HR. And boy has it grown. All of its loving caregivers have contributed greatly.

Check out the birthday wishes at HR Thoughts.

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Getting Ahead

by Evil HR Lady on February 20, 2008

I recently realized how much I love working in HR since I was recently working in manufacturing as an HR assistant but was very hands on in the way that I did the same as the HR manager did before she moved to safety. After that I did some temp work and missed all my HR duties.

I completed my first week as an HR assistant at a great financial services company with 4 people in HR. I am the only one without my PHR and I fear I will have trouble moving up in this field without it but I feel like I’m stuck in a “catch 22″ since I can’t get my PHR without being in an exempt position but without my PHR I don’t know if I will ever get an opportunity for a higher position. I currently have my associates with a concentration in HR but what do you think I can do to insure my HR career goes in the right direction?

I have 9 years of HR experience, 8.5 of which were as an exempt employee. I earned my PHR certification in June of 2007. I’m living proof that you don’t need the PHR to get the exempt job.

First off, slow down. You’ve been in your HR assistant job for one week. (Well, one week when you wrote this, it’s been a month, so now 5 weeks.) No one expects you to be promoted within that time frame. You also don’t know enough to know if you can get promoted. So, take a deep breath, and relax.

Now, how to get ahead. You have an associates degree with an emphasis in HR. Fantastic. Go back to school and finish your bachelors degree. Please. Many companies won’t put you into an exempt position without one. Go at night, go on the weekends, go online, but get the degree.

When you’ve finished that (probably 3-4 years, since you’ll be working full time), and you have all this lovely HR assistant experience, you’ll be ready to jump into an exempt role.

You may be able to find a job that will put you in an exempt role before you have the degree, but they will be more likely to take you if you are demonstrating that you are working towards it.

Don’t turn down opportunities to learn at your current job. I love that there are only 4 people in HR. This means that you will be exposed to the broad spectrum of HR duties and responsibilities. Yeah! I love broad knowledge. You can specialize later.

Those boring power point slides that people need formatted? Volunteer to do that. Not because you love pointing and clicking, but because you may not be invited to the actual meeting, but if you read through the materials beforehand you’ll gain the knowledge anyway.

Don’t worry too much about jumping to an exempt role immediately. An HR assistant is a great place to start, especially with a 2 year degree. Work towards the 4 and gain all the knowledge you can and you’ll go places. Don’t worry.

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Harassment?

by Evil HR Lady on February 19, 2008

My co-worker, a peer has accused me of not doing my job, leaving early and skipping assignments. (NOT TRUE) He pulled me aside at work to accuse me of these things and did not tell management. He did say all of my other co-workers agreed with him that I was not “pulling my weight”. Is this a form of harassment?

He did not threaten to tell management, was just letting me know…. but I feel like this is a scare tactic to get me to quit, or some sort of other targeting ploy to harass me.

I tried to ignore it…. but yesterday I found out (through a meeting with him and my manager) that two months ago he contacted my manager to tell her that I do not shave under my arms, and that it is offending customers. (no one SAID this, he could just tell) He did not feel comfortable approaching me about it at the time because the last time he approached me it “Backfired” on him.

Do I have grounds to go to HR about this? Do my peers have the right to discuss my shaving habits? That is not his business. Are my job activities even any of his business if they do not directly affect him??

“Rights” is a word that gets thrown around without anyone really thinking about what it really means. Of course, your co-workers have the “right” to discuss your shaving habits. Free speech baby. Now, does your company have to allow that? No. Do you have to remain silent about it? No.

Now truth be told, unless you are a life guard, I think you shouldn’t be wearing anything that reveals the status of your armpits. Sleeveless is just not professional. (I know many people disagree with me. Get your own blog. How about Ilovearmpits.blogspot.com? I think it’s available.)

If you are asking if his behavior is illegal, that’s a different question. Perhaps. I would need to know more about him and you and what really happened. He sounds, basically, like a big jerk. So, let’s handle him. We’ll call him Steve.

Jerk: You aren’t pulling your own weight. Everyone agrees with me.
You: Steve, that’s just not true. You know it’s not true. Furthermore, our boss knows it’s not true.

And then you walk off.

Jerk: Your armpits are unprofessional and gross.
You: Your comments are inappropriate and border on sexual harassment. I’m going to report this comment to Human Resources/manager.

And then you walk off.

Jerk: You clocked in 3 minutes late today.
You just walk off.

You to your manager: Steve keeps questioning my performance and dress. Do you have concerns about either of these things? I’m happy to make changes in how I work, if what I’m doing is less effective.

Your manager may respond that you aren’t pulling your weight and your armpits are gross. (They are–hair or not. Put some sleeves on.) Fine. Make those changes. If your manager is extremely wimpy, he may be relying on Steve to convey messages to the other employees. Why on earth is Steve in a meeting with you and your manager? It sounds like he does have some supervisory authority over you. In that case, you need to make sure you remain professional with him. He may have authority to talk to you about your late arrival, dress, or work habits.

If this is the case, you need to get that clarified with your manager. If it is not the case, the main thing is that you don’t engage Steve and you do your best to ignore him. Do talk with your manager to make sure that you are performing up to expectations. Do report his behavior to your manager and/or Human Resources. Do this in a matter-of-fact way and not in a weepy “I’m picked on” way. Steve may not be sexually harassing you now, but he certainly seems capable of it. The company can’t do anything about it if they don’t know about it.

Steve enjoys yanking your chain. Don’t let him yank it any more. He’s stuck in 7th grade. You move on.

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Does Anybody Have Any Candy?

by Evil HR Lady on February 17, 2008

I was in a locker room, getting changed when a woman asked the above question. Someone offered a cough drop. “No,” she said, “I’m diabetic and I’m starting to feel shaky.”

Well, everyone went into overdrive. One of the staff managed to pull out a bottle of juice they keep on hand for just such an emergency. I offered her a nutri-grain bar that I had in my purse. (Always prepared!) She took the juice and turned down the nutri-grain bar. (“I’m allergic to wheat,” she said.)

A few minutes later, I overheard a conversation between this woman and a friend.

Friend: I didn’t know you were diabetic.
Diabetic Woman: Yeah, and I hadn’t eaten all day. (It was 5:30 p.m.)
Friend: Do you control it with medication or do you have to do insulin shots?
Diabetic Woman: I don’t do either. I lost my blood sugar monitor as well, and I haven’t been to the doctor in a year.

Pause

Diabetic Woman: I suppose I should go.

Now, let’s recount the facts. Woman is diabetic, she hasn’t eaten for at least 8 hours, she has no emergency food, she’s allergic to one of the most common foods (wheat) that someone might have on hand, she doesn’t take her medication, she doesn’t monitor her blood sugar and she doesn’t visit her doctor. However, everyone and their dog rushes all over to give her something to eat when she “needs” it.

This has not turned into a medical blog. (If it did, it would be extremely boring, seeing how my medical stories are limited to regularly scheduled doctors appointments and the occasional trip to the ER where the offspring got her cast.) This is, however a business blog.

I think a lot of businesses run the way this woman runs her life. We know we have problems, but rather than monitor them (blood sugar monitor), work on solutions (visit your doctor), implement proposed solutions (take your medicine), make necessary sacrifices (eat regularly scheduled, healthy meals), and work for our own success (do all of the above, and carry our own emergency food supply), we work on the panic principle.

Aaack, my business is dropping. I must do something now! Hire a consultant, cut 10% of my workforce, slash wages and benefits. Something! Right now! Quick!

What if we worked to anticipate problems? What if HR did it’s job and analyzed how people were working and what things were really necessary? What if we helped the business to reorganize before the “shakiness” set in. Then, we have lots of different options.

Yes, sometimes a diabetic has problems with blood sugar despite all their efforts. This woman made no effort until it was a real problem. What if no one had had any juice? She could have been in serious trouble.

What if we see sales declining or costs rising and we just sit around and wait until it reaches crises proportions? Then we panic, and make decisions that probably aren’t the best. These decisions can be damaging in the future as well.

Sure, sometimes what we need is to cut headcount. I think sometimes layoffs are an important tool for business growth. But, sometimes, we use layoffs as panic measures to reduce costs without really thinking of what the consequences will be. How will the business function after headcount is down? Are you changing your processes or will you just make your remaining staff work harder? What good is having your remaining staff continue to do what has been done all along? The underlying problem (whatever it is) will not be fixed, and it will eventually rise up and bite you again. Then you’ll be in a panic, searching for juice.

Don’t rely on someone to save you or your business at the last moment. Make sure you have plan and are monitoring it. Make changes that are good for your business, not reactionary, and you’ll avoid most of the blood sugar crashes.

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