Thursday, May 26, 2016

Using Social Media to Screen Candidates?

The good, the bad and the ugly

According to Careerbuilder , 60% of employers do so, and that’s a 500% increase over the last decade. 
"Tools such as Facebook and Twitter enable employers to get a glimpse of who candidates are outside the confines of a resume or cover letter," said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer of CareerBuilder.

And therein lies both your potential downfall or opportunity – both for employers and job seekers.

Employers can find information that will support their decision to interview or hire a candidate. Social media entries may reveal additional professional qualifications or characteristics that show that person will be a good fit for the job and the company. The candidate may have displayed exceptional communication or writing skills, research ability or creativity that are attractive points for a hiring manager in making a decision.

However, there is a risk in using online information when screening and selecting candidates. You may gain knowledge you don’t really want at this stage of the process. Why? Because that information may reveal information about membership in a protected class. The risk enters the picture if you reject a candidate – for perfectly legitimate reasons – but having that information may open you to a charge of discrimination. Would you be able to prove that your knowledge of the candidate’s race, religion, national origin, age, pregnancy status, marital status, disability, sexual orientation (some state and local jurisdictions), gender expression or identity (some state and local jurisdictions), or genetic information did not play a part in your decision? You can’t unsee something you’ve already seen.

Standard advice for formally using social media for background screening is to have someone not involved in the decision-making process conduct the screening, and then filter out any information related to membership in a protected class, only passing on information that can lawfully be used in the hiring process. You should have a good policy and guidelines about the kind of information you intend to look for in these searches. Ask yourself why are you looking at social media? Why is anything there relevant to the position or to your company? Many of the background screening companies also offer social media screening as an option in addition to the standard criminal history search. You can then at least remove yourself from that part of the chain and reduce your risk.
It’s also vitally important to include your managerial and supervisory staff in communicating this policy. Even if you, as an HR pro know the rules, they may not.

What about the job seeker? Opportunities exist for you to highlight positive aspects of your experience and background. Do use your LinkedIn or Facebook posts as a way to highlight activities, both professional and volunteer, that would be attractive to an employer. Join groups related to your career interests. Pick a few and add intelligent comments or start conversations that might highlight your knowledge in those areas. It’s ok to post about your hobbies, as long as you don’t overdo it. Showing a well-rounded profile is not a bad thing.

But remember, if it’s on the internet…………….it’s out there, regardless of your privacy settings, it’s not ever really private. Someone may (and often will) share your posts.

According to the survey, the top types of information that caused an employer to reject a candidate included:
  • Provocative or inappropriate photographs, videos or information – 46 percen
  • Information about candidate drinking or using drugs – 43 percent
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, etc. – 33 percent
  • Candidate bad-mouthed previous company or fellow employee – 31 percent
  • Poor communication skills – 29 percent
Here are some tips for both job seekers and current employees (this includes supervisors and managers!):
  • If you’re looking for a job, it’s really best to keep your public profile clean. Squeaky clean. Don’t post the photos from your wild weekend at the beach with the beer in both hands, in your underwear. Seriously, it happens. While many businesses don’t search the internet for information about applicants or current employees, some do and you really want them to find only good, or at least neutral, information about you and your personal and professional activities. 
  • Don’t make insensitive jokes, don’t use foul language. 
  • Don’t badmouth your current, or a former, employer or company.
  • Adjust your Facebook settings so a potential employer can’t see those party photos. Better yet, don’t put those potentially compromising photos up there at all! (Do you really want your mother to see them?)
  • Take care in choosing your profile photo. (No more pouty face mirror shots!) You don’t have to wear a suit and use a professional photographer, but if you’re looking for a job, keep it as appropriate as possible.
  • Check your spelling and use proper grammar. Really. Several studies have shown recruiters view poor spelling and grammar almost as negatively as that drunken escapade at the beach. Never use "textspeak" on LinkedIn.  In fact, you shouldn't use textspeak anywhere except in a text.
Social media can be fun, informative and helpful in many ways. Just don’t let it be your downfall.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

New Overtime Rules

So, it’s finally here! The DOL issued the final rules regarding overtime. There really aren’t any surprises from what has been expected, other than a minor drop in the proposed salary threshold.

Here are the highlights:

  • The new salary threshold will be $47,476 annually ($913/week). Any employee who makes less than this amount must be paid overtime for hours worked over 40 in a workweek, regardless of their duties.
  • This amount will change every three years. The DOL tied the amount to the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South. This is a slight change, as the proposed rules would have changed the amount every year.
  • There will be no changes to the duties test.
  • The amount increases for the "highly compensated employee" exception to the exemption to $134,004 – and that will also change every three years.
  • The new rules become effective December 1, 2016.
  • Another new tweak is that employers can now use non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10% of the new standard salary level. 

Several pieces of guidance were also released that may help keep things straight:

DOL Chart – a quick comparison

Guidance for non-profits – more a clarification of how FLSA applies to non-profits.

Guidance for higher education

Fact Sheet on New Rules

DOL Blog

Your options remain the same, if you have employees currently designated as exempt who will no longer meet the salary threshold:

  • Reclassify to non-exempt and pay the overtime when due.
  • Raise salaries to an amount above the threshold.
  • Lower the effective hourly rate to take into consideration overtime worked, so the employee’s salary remains the same.
  • Limit overtime. This may cause issues with redistributing workload, or having to hire part-time employees to make up the difference.
What you decide to do will likely depend on your financial resources, how many employees are affected, and how many hours over 40 these employees currently work. Determining how much overtime is involved may be difficult since these employees were probably not recording hours, so take care in how you do this. And remember, the costs will only increase as the threshold increases every three years.

You may also get some push-back from employees who will now have to record their time and may lose some flexibility in their schedule. Being considered "hourly" may seem like a demotion to them. Think about how you will communicate this change (regardless of which option you choose) to lessen the resistance and hard feelings.

And just to brighten your day even more…..Maryland’s minimum wage increases to $8.75 an hour on July 1, 2016.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

No more “Safe” Spaces

So, last month, Michael Bloomberg gave the commencement address at the University of Michigan. Apparently, parts of his address garnered some negative reaction from the audience and the press. But should it have?

The crux of his address rested on the need to stop demagoguery, and how to do that. The part that caused the most chatter was this:

"The most useful knowledge that you leave here with today has nothing to do with your major. It’s about how to study, cooperate, listen carefully, think critically and resolve conflicts through reason. Those are the most important skills in the working world, and it’s why colleges have always exposed students to challenging and uncomfortable ideas.

The fact that some university boards and administrations now bow to pressure and shield students from these ideas through "safe spaces," "code words" and "trigger warnings" is, in my view, a terrible mistake.

The whole purpose of college is to learn how to deal with difficult situations -- not run away from them. A microaggression is exactly that: micro. And one of the most dangerous places on a college campus is a safe space, because it creates the false impression that we can insulate ourselves from those who hold different views.

We can’t do this, and we shouldn’t try -- not in politics or in the workplace. In the global economy, and in a democratic society, an open mind is the most valuable asset you can possess."

In so many ways, I couldn’t agree more. We are continuing to turn out young people who are not just ill-equipped to deal with the everyday challenges of real life, but are incapable of doing so. Conflict, both constructive conflict, as well as destructive conflict, is part of the real world. And it sometimes seems that those conflicts are more and more real and more and more part of our everyday existence. The inability to process, cope with and surmount these issues is not what we should be teaching potential future leaders. In fact, I submit that people who are not able to deal with these realities cannot be leaders in any true sense of the word.

As an HR professional, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had parents (or grandparents, aunts or uncles) insert themselves inappropriately into the work life of their adult children. Junior applies for a job, and Mom calls to ask why he wasn’t selected for an interview. Little Jane sends in an application and Dad calls to ask when she’ll start (sans any interview or contact). Or how about when Mom shows up, unannounced and uninvited, expecting to attend the disciplinary hearing for Junior?

Yes, I have experienced all of these helicopter parenting moves, and more. And guess what? It’s not just a recent thing, either. But it has gotten worse. We’ve certainly seen any number of stories about so-called "millennials" who expect top pay or raises and promotions well before they’ve ever proven themselves worthy of such consideration. Whether they expect that because they’ve always gotten the award just for showing up or for some other reason is aside from the point. The point is that this view is not realistic and not how the real work world works.

Attempting to shield people from everything that might upset, offend or confuse them is so obscenely counterproductive, and yet becoming so prevalent. And yet, as I write this, I also note the incredibly rude and cruel treatment people heap on others via social media! And somehow, we’re also expected to tolerate that behavior (I guess because to object to that behavior would be too offensive to these tender little snowflakes?) Hypocrisy, anyone?

Bloomberg’s address was really about political demagoguery:

"If we want to stop demagogues, we have to start governing again, and that requires us to be more civil, to support politicians who have the courage to take risks, and to reward those who reach across the aisle in search of compromise.

For all the progress we have made on cultural tolerance, when it comes to political tolerance, we are moving in the wrong direction -- at campaign rallies that turn violent, on social media threads that turn vitriolic, and on college campuses, where students and faculty have attempted to censor political opponents."

Even for a politician, that’s a pretty balanced view. We can’t hide from, or ignore these types of conflicts; we have to deal with them. Whether in our personal or professional lives, or in our political process.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Employment Law Round Up - 2016

Maryland version…

The Maryland General Assembly was a pretty active event this year, but in the end, only a few employment-related laws made it to the finish line. Here is a brief summary of the new laws taking effect in Maryland on October 1, 2016:

SB 245 - Hiring and Promotion Preferences - Veterans and Spouses
Allows employers to grant a preference in hiring and promotion to eligible veterans, spouses of eligible veterans, and spouses of deceased eligible veterans. The law also provides that granting a preference under the law will not violate State or local equal employment opportunity laws. Obviously, it makes no mention of federal equal opportunity laws.

HB 249 (Cross File SB 557) - Members of the National Guard and Maryland Defense Force - Employment and Reemployment Rights – Enforcement
Authorizes members of the National Guard and Maryland Defense Force whose employment and reemployment rights have been violated to bring a civil action for economic damages. The fiscal notes state that this law simply codifies existing practice in the state.

SB 481 (Cross File with HB 1003) - Labor and Employment - Equal Pay for Equal Work Adds gender identity to the protected classes under state pay discrimination laws. It also adds a state prohibition against an employer taking any adverse employment action against employees disclosing or discussing an employee's wages, including those of other employees, if those other employees have already disclosed their own wages, or give permission for another to do so. The National Labor Relations Act already contains this provision, so it’s duplicative and unnecessary. However, it contains another disturbing nugget. Normally, an employee who has access to such information as part of their normal duties (think payroll, HR, etc.), does not have protection for disclosing the wages of another if the disclosure is not in response to a complaint or charge, or in furtherance of an investigation, hearing, etc. But, now (in Maryland) such an employee will have this protection if he/she obtains the information "outside the performance of the essential functions of the employee’s job". How, exactly are we to know if the employee gained access to this information outside of his/her normal duties?

Another troublesome aspect is the law’s definition of "location" in terms of requiring equal pay for jobs within the same location. You might think location would mean that particular facility. But no, the law defines "location" as meaning any workplace of a company located within the same county. So, if you have multiple sites within the same county, and any of those locations are different in terms of demographics, pay rates, etc., take care to have all your compensation documentation in order. While the law still allows business to base pay on things like education, experience, etc., this little tidbit could lead to you having to answer to a claim and defending yourself against a charge of pay discrimination.

HB 1004 - Equal Pay Commission
This law will eventually lead to more data collection and reporting requirements for Maryland businesses. It establishes the Equal Pay Commission which will be charged with "evaluating the extent of wage disparities in the public and private sector; establishing a mechanism for the commissioner to collect data from employers to evaluate disparities; developing a comprehensive strategy to determine and recommend best practices regarding equal pay and developing partnerships with the private and public sectors."

While the Maryland Healthy Working Families Act did not pass (despite 11th hour wrangling), it will be back next year. Rumor has it that some of that last minute wrangling involved an attempt to negotiate passage of the bill with passage of several of the Governor’s tax-relief efforts. Politics at its finest??

And on the federal front……

A small bit of good news reported by the HR Policy Association and Thompson's HR Compliance Expert, assuming it comes to pass. It looks like the DOL is backing away from its original proposal to raise the white-collar exemption minimum salary requirement. The final rule sent to the OMB last month included a raise of that level to $50,440 – indexed. It’s now been leaked that the DOL will lower that amount to $47,000.


Many business groups felt that the $50,440 figure failed to take into consideration the economic realities of different industries and different regions of the country. Also it would be way more than the threshold already enacted by states like California ($37,440) and New York ($34,124). I guess the DOL finally decided to listen – at least in part – to the job engines of the country on this issue. Or did they hear the voices in the US Congress who said they would have difficulty with the new rules?