HR Intel – Uncle Sam Wants His Money and More…

A roundup of workplace trends and legal developments to keep HR ahead of the curve

HR Intel Picture

Mega-contractor Haliburton will pay dearly for FLSA missteps, to the tune of over $18.3 million. In what the DOL said was one of the “largest recoveries of overtime wages in recent years,” Haliburton allegedly misclassified more than 1,000 employees as contractors, while also failing to keep track of their hours.

Not to be outdone by the DOL, an NLRB judge ordered drastic changes to be made to Verizon’s employee handbook. In particular, the judge bristled at restrictions on internal communications via company email and employee discussion of working conditions online. The judge said provisions in the handbook stating that employees can be disciplined for “embarrassing” the company were too broad and would violate the National Labor Relations Act.

On the pro-employer news front, the Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that telecommuting is not always a “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ruling follows an April 2015 6th Circuit decision in EEOC v. Ford Motor Co.  and could hasten a trend in ADA law.

It’s just business; nothing personal

Tech giant Hewlett-Packard is cutting between 25,000-30,000 jobs by the end of October 2015, citing the need to reduce expenses. HP will succeed in that right by eliminating salary, but may have to comply with the California “mini-WARN” Act, which requires 60 days’ advance notice of termination in some situations.

The world’s largest beer conglomerate is getting much larger. Ab InBev plans to acquire SAB Miller, which will result in one of the top 10 largest mergers of all time and will give Ab InBev over 30% of the total world beer market. Early planning for mergers – particularly the huge ones – is always advisable.

The Pope weighs in on HR; give fairness a chance

The Pontiff was just here, and he pontificated all over the U.S. during his trip, with HR and workplace issues getting plenty of attention. In particular, Pope Francis called attention to gender pay equality and criticized pushing workers to work longer hours and to spend less time with their families.

Along the same lines, do Americans have a “vacation” problem? Apparently up to 40% of U.S. employees don’t use all of the vacation they are entitled to. Unused vacation presents a cascade of potential issues for employers like over-worked employees, high levels of stress, and what to do with those pesky unused vacation days when it’s time to cut the cord.

Bills pending in both houses of Congress would “ban the box” on federal contractor applications and applications for jobs in federal agencies. Both bills enjoy bipartisan (come again?) support and may become law. Currently, 18 states, 100+ municipalities and major employers like Starbucks, Wal-Mart and Target all “ban the box” on their job applications.

Those darn employees…

Employee rebellion remains a pressing theme for employers these days. An employee of the Lewisville, Texas “Whataburger” allegedly refused to serve police officers. In response to the refusal, one of the officers said “this ain’t Whataburger. This is the fault of one person, probably having a really bad day.”

And that day got a whole lot worse when Whataburger terminated the employee. Not to worry, the officers didn’t go hungry. They ate at Dairy Queen instead.

According to “Futurestep,” a survey of 500+ executives in August, 2015 revealed that the most important factor they look for in filling empty roles is a candidate’s motivation and “drivers.” Hopefully depriving police of hamburgers is not among them.

How is this song relevant to HR?

We leave you with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. Tell us how you think this 90s classic is relevant to HR in the comments below.


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