Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Six Months on Capitol Hill – Five Potential Laws You Need to Know

In the last issue of Astronology, we explored three pieces of legislation with the potential to impact Human Resources: the Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency Act (ALERRT), the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act, and the Department of Commerce and the Workforce Consolidation Act.  Continuing our review of Human Resources impacting legislation being considered and written on Capitol Hill, Astronology highlights five more bills circulating in Washington, D.C.

4. Equal Employment for All Act of 2013
Introduced in the Senate on December 17, 2013, this bill would amend the Fair Credit and Reporting Act (FCRA) to prohibit employers from requiring credit history of potential employees as part of the job application process. Under the law, employers cannot use consumer credit reports of prospective and current employees for hiring purposes or for taking negative action. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), states “A bad credit rating is far more often the result of unexpected medical costs, unemployment, economic downturns, or other bad breaks than it is reflection on an individual’s character or abilities; families have not fully recovered from the 2008 financial crisis, and too many Americans are still searching for jobs. This is about basic fairness --- let people compete on their merits, not on whether they already have enough money to pay all their bills.” She adds, “It makes no sense to make it harder for people to get jobs because of a system of credit reporting that has no correlation with job performance and that can be riddled with inaccuracies.”

5. Family and Medical Leave Enhancement Act of 2014
This bill, presented in February 2014 by Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), would amend the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to cover employers with 25 or more employees, lowering the current 50 employee threshold. “No one should have to fear that they’ll lose their job if they need to take medical leave or care for a family member; the landmark Family and Medical Leave Act sought to end that insecurity by guaranteeing 12 weeks of unpaid leave. Unfortunately, nearly 40% of workers are not covered by that law because they work in businesses with fewer than 50 employees…Every American deserves the rights afforded by the Family and Medical Leave Act and this legislation would help us reach that goal.” The amendment also seeks to add reasons for which FMLA leave can be taken, including:
  •  participating in a child or grandchild’s community program or school activity,
  •  meeting routine medical needs for one’s self, child, spouse, or grandchild, and
  •  attending to the needs of the employee’s elderly relatives, including nursing / group home visits.
6. Paycheck Fairness Act
A bill that continues to make its appearance in Congress is the Paycheck Fairness Act. With its reintroduction, the bill was intended to shrink the pay gap between men and women. The sponsors (Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Representative Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn.) believe that because women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man for equal work, there must be corrective action taken to fix the disparity that can cost women over the cost of their careers approximately $434,000 on average. In April 2014, the bill was once again outvoted for further discussion from the Republicans and one Independent present.  According to the Washington Post, Republicans support equal pay for equal work.  However, the bill would increase civil lawsuits.  To the Republicans, the bill is unnecessary because discrimination based on gender is already illegal.

7. The Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA)
A reintroduced bill on February 6, 2013, SNOPA is designed to protect employees from divulging their personal information on their social network profiles. It would prohibit institutions such as places of employment and educational institutions from requiring users to relinquish their log-in information (user name and / or password, etc.).  The law would also protect employees from being punished for refusing any such request.  Although the federal government has been slow in this area, states have already begun motioning on creating such laws.  Maryland, for instance, is the first state to prohibit employers from requesting / accessing social media passwords or gaining access to the social media accounts of prospective and current employees. We have yet to hear anything else on this law; sometime in 2014 it could reappear given the activity at the state level.

8. Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes for employment discrimination prohibitions. Previously introduced, the ENDA would make it illegal for an employer with 15 or more employees to:

1. Refuse to hire or fire any individual due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It would also make it illegal for an employer to discriminate with respect to their compensation and terms of employment.

2. To classify, limit or segregate applicants or employee in any manner that would deny an individual employment because of a person’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The ENDA was passed in the Senate and awaits a vote by the House. As of current, 21 states have passed laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, while 19 states also prohibit gender identity.  We shall see, perhaps in 2014, the House’s response to the ENDA.

What other potential laws have you on your toes?  Write to Astronology! We’d like to hear your input on current Human Resource laws and possible future legislation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tips from a Job Interview Pro

The Wall Street Journal had a very interesting Q&A last week with Sofia Faruqi who went on over 100 job interviews. I found her answers really interesting for not just job seekers but interviewers as well. You want to make sure that the job seeker feels comfortable with the questions you are asking but that you actually challenge them to answer important questions. Here are a few parts of the Q&A that I thought would be helpful for Human Resources and all who are interviewing to take notice of:
WSJ: Over the course of 100 interviews, you’ve been asked a lot of questions. Which ones caught you by surprise?
Faruqi: The ones that caught me by surprise were the ones that were either really good or really bad. Some of the best that I’ve been asked were: “What values did you grow up with? What makes you proud of who you are?” Also, “What’s the most exaggerated point on your résumé?”
WSJ: That last one is bold.
Faruqi It’s a good question, because all résumés have some level of exaggeration. It’s really good to just ask that outright. In terms of the worst questions, one was “Your resume says you speak French. So, let’s do this interview in French.” Another horrible one was, “Will you go out with me?” That only happened once, so it’s a very rare thing to happen, but not great. You always have to keep your composure, no matter what happens....
WSJ: The rest of your interviews would have been by phone or video. What are the challenges of those mediums?
Faruqi: In a phone interview it helps to remove distractions and put yourself in a position where you are focused. Right now, my office door is closed, so there are going to be no interruptions, my computer screen is blank, so there are no pop-ups or e-mails or other distractions. This way, I can focus on our conversation. 
That is some good advice there for both interviewers and their interviewees. For those who do a lot of interviews, do you have questions you try to use to surprise the candidate or do you try to keep the questions very basic? When you conduct a phone interview, do you make sure to eliminate all distractions as well or do you think that's only a requirement for the job seeker? Just a few things to think about the next time you have a job seeker at the other end of the table or the phone call.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Apex Award Winners Once Again

Some good news to share on this Friday: Astron Solutions has won four 2014 Apex Awards for Publication Excellence!  This blog, our website (http://astronsolutions.net/)Astronology, and Skylines by Astron each won one award! Congrats to everyone at Astron and all the Apex Award Winners for 2014!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Six Months on Capitol Hill – Three Potential Laws You Need to Know

The first half of 2014 is almost in the books!  In this two part series, Astronology will examine eight current hot topics from our federal government that directly affect Human Resources.  In part 1, we will cover three federal bills and regulations currently being considered.

As in 2013, we’ve noticed a political impasse due to a predominately Republican U.S. House of Representatives and a predominately Democratic U.S. Senate.   However, that political division does not mean a complete lack of legislative activity.  Of what laws and bills should Human Resources practitioners be aware?

1. Achieving Less Excess in Regulation and Requiring Transparency Act (ALERRT)
The House passed this collection of four previous bills in March 2014. The compilation includes the following:

The All Economic Regulations are Transparent Act (ALERT)
This bill promotes transparency by requiring the Office of Information Affairs to publish details about pending rules & regulations and related cost benefit information online.  According to the bill’s introducer, George Holding, “When faced with new regulations, small business owners must consider how it will affect every aspect of their business, such as workers’ wages and hours, hours of operation, and daily costs and processes. In order for our economy to grow and businesses to prosper, we should take steps to ensure that they are given sufficient notices of regulation, and have time to adjust their business practices in anticipation of regulatory changes. This bill increases government transparency by requiring the administration to fully detail the effects of regulations and make things easier on small business owners.”

The Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act
This bill enhances the Regulatory Flexibility Act by eliminating possible loopholes that agencies have used to avoid compliancy, requiring initial and final regulatory analyses to consider the costs new rules would impose on business indirectly.

The Regulatory Accountability Act
This bill promotes transparency with early engagement by stakeholders in the rulemaking process, including businesses and nonprofits.  This will result in increasing public input.

The Sunshine for Regulatory Decrees and Settlements Act
This bill would prevent secret settlement deals by making it law for an agency seeking to enter a consent decree or settlement agreement to publish it in the Federal Register and online 60 days after it is filed in court. Details in the publishing would have to include the basis for the decree or settlement agreement, description of the terms, and whether it includes attorney fees.

2. Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act
A bill that failed to pass in the last session of Congress, the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act would extend to employees unpaid leave to care for a(n): 

  •   Same sex spouse or partner
  •   Parent in law
  •   Adult child        
  •   Sibling
  •   Grandchild
  •   Grandparent
As of July 8, 2013, this bill had been referred to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. At some point in 2014, we may hear more.  Stay tuned, as passage of this law could have great impacts on your organization.

3. Department of Commerce and the Workforce Consolidation Act
Introduced in December 2013, we look forward to hearing more on this bill designed to combine the Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, and the Small Business Administration. The hybrid departments would be named the Department of Commerce and Workforce. Proposed by Richard Burr (R-North Carolina), and co-sponsored by Senator Daniel Coats (R-Indiana), the Department of Commerce and Workforce would still have its independent functions of the departments but also effectively combine their administrative offices. Burr says, “Duplicative programs cost the federal government staggering amounts of money every year; The president has proposed merging and consolidating federal agencies several times over his two terms, and this bill advances that proposal. Combining offices with similar functions within these two agencies is a common-sense approach that reduces wasteful spending and would streamline our approach to comprehensive economic policy."

In the next issue of Astronology, we will discuss five legislative hot topics in Human Resources, including the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Social Networking Online Protection Act, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

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