Thursday, December 22, 2016

Worst Holiday Gifts Ever!

Leave the coconut bra at home, please


It’s been awhile since I highlighted a survey from CareerBuilder, but I thought this one an appropriate and appropriately light-hearted one to leave you with this holiday season.

Workplace holiday parties – a great example of something we all love to hate – can be stressful to plan and carry off without offending someone. We all try to make them as fun as possible, and some sort of gift exchange is often part of that effort. However, I guess we still need to work on this!

CareerBuilder's annual survey is out:

Most Unusual Gifts

Traditional holiday gifts are still office regulars: ornaments, gift cards, books and candy, but some workers may not know where "the line" is when it comes to holiday gift-giving at work. The following are among the most unusual presents workers received from co-workers:

  • Two left-handed gloves
  • Coconut bra
  • Jar of gravy
  • A fake lottery ticket
  • A real stuffed duck
  • Toilet paper that looked like money
  • Post-it Notes
  • Dish detergent
  • A pen holder that looks like a crime scene victim
  • A comic book of an obscure movie
  • A handmade ornament for a sports team the recipient had never heard of
  • A singing chicken
  • A whip

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah!!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What Will Banning Salary History Questions Accomplish?

Probably not what is intended

Philadelphia just passed a law banning employers from asking applicants about their prior salary history. New York City banned it for city agencies’ hiring practices, and Massachusetts banned it for all employers this past summer.

The rationale behind these bans is that women and minorities have historically been paid less than men and when employers base salary offers on past history, that pay discrepancy is continued over and over again. The theory goes that if an employer does not know the applicant’s previous salary, it will base its decision on factors more relevant than past pay history.

Will this close the wage gap? While it may accomplish that in some (few?) cases, the answer really goes back to what actually causes the wage gap. I explored this in a previous post. When you look at the earnings of men and women with the same job title, at similar companies with similar levels of education and experience, women still get paid less, but the pay gap is much narrower. A recent study by Glassdoor, for instance, found women earned 95 cents for every dollar their male colleagues doing the same job were paid.

This argument also assumes that employers routinely use past salary history as a primary determining factor in deciding what they will pay a new hire. I submit that this is not the case for most employers. It’s true that this information is often used as one factor among many in this decision (along with experience, education, skills, company budget, etc.) Previous salaries can be an indication of level of experience, scope of responsibility and other factors that may not be indicated by job title alone. Further, a job title at one company is not necessarily indicative of what a job with the same title entail at another company entails; salary can help clarify those differences.

Having said all that, will these laws help at all? What effect will they have? While I’m not a proponent of government-mandated one-size-fits-all employment laws, it may be time for more businesses to rethink their reasoning and use of this question. 

I know most applicants will rejoice if they don’t have to face this question in an interview. It’s uncomfortable at the least, and feels like an invasion of privacy at worst. And in the end, shouldn’t be used as the sole determinant of what their salary offer should be.

A company decides what a particular function, and a job within that function, is worth to that company. That decision may take into account the company’s budget, its compensation strategy (to be at, below or above market), and the applicant’s education, experience, skills and other qualifications. It shouldn’t really matter all that much what the applicant’s salary history is – after all, if a company can only pay $60,000 for a job, is the fact that the applicant previously made $75,000 all that relevant? It’s not going to change the offer to $75,000 if the budget won’t allow. On the flip side, looking for a "bargain" if you find that an applicant previously made less than what you have decided the job is worth is seldom a good move. If the applicant is a good fit with all the relevant experience and qualifications, should it really matter if he/she made less in the past?

On a related topic, I do find it not only annoying, but decidedly counterproductive when companies won’t reveal the salary range for a position they’re trying to fill. The recruitment process is difficult enough for both the company and the applicant; why not cut through some of that crap and save yourself – and your applicants – some time and stress?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

DOL Appeals Overtime Rule Injunction

And the beat goes on (and on, and on…)

This is becoming an almost never-ending saga. So, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) filed an appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals December 1 against the injunction put in place the week before blocking the new overtime regulations. The DOL has since requested that the court fast-track that appeal. However, even if the court agrees to expedite the schedule, it won’t take any action until at least February; after President-elect Donald Trump takes office.

The DOL states in its filing that that the federal district court judge’s injunction stopping the rule "rests on an error of law and should be reversed." Judge Mazzant had called into question DOL’s authority to establish a salary-basis test for overtime eligibility under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The answer to that, I guess, will be litigated in the court during this whole legal process.

But what does this mean and where does it leave employers? With a severe case of whip-lash? I guess that answer really won’t suffice, will it?

If you were dragging your feet and had not made any changes (raising salaries above the threshold or converting previously exempt positions to non-exempt), it means you don’t have to do anything right now, if you choose. One caveat: IF (and this is really an unknown "if"), the court reverses the injunction, the DOL’s rule could be put back into place with a retroactive effective date of December 1. Yikes! Yes, theoretically, it could mean you’ve been in violation all this time and subject to a thrashing (monetarily and otherwise) from the DOL. However, I am quite sure that would also end up in court arguing that it’s unreasonable to hold businesses responsible for not complying with a law that was enjoined by a federal judge.

If you’ve already raised some salaries to above the threshold, you really need to think about the morale issues involved in reducing those salaries back to pre-rule levels. Not to the mention, attempting to explain what the heck happened and deal with the confusion employees are sure to experience. Nothing is ever easy.

Going forward, there are a couple of possible outcomes. When Trump takes office on January 20, 2017, he could withdraw the appeal. That would maintain the temporary injunction and allow the case to be fully heard in court as was originally planned by the two parties who filed the suits. At that point, it will be up to the judge to decide if the DOL’s rule will survive at all.

Or, President Trump could instruct the DOL to withdraw the rule all together. Game over.

While there are some other possibilities involving what might happen if the appeal is heard in the 5th circuit, it seems unlikely to get that far.

I know one thing for sure; the next 4 years will be very interesting in terms of employment law and workplace regulation. I might even use the terms "exciting" or "encouraging", but that may depend on which side of the issues you’re on.

And you thought HR was boring.