HR Intel – Silicon Valley Gets HR Makeover and More…

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

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Mergers, acquisitions and corporate transformations continue to steal the show.  Since we covered the largest beer deal ever in our last HR Intel post, the past two weeks gave us the largest technology deal ever.

Dell has agreed to buy IT security giant EMC for a mind-numbing $67 billion. Among the challenges this new corporate behemoth will face is whether Dell can effectively leverage EMC’s sales force.  HR can play a huge role in achieving that goal.

Newly formed Dell-EMC will compete directly with newly formed Hewlett Packard Enterprises (HPE), which will come into existence on November 1.  That event comes on the heels of HP’s decision to split itself in two, and to lay off tens of thousands of employees in the process.

Through all of these corporate dealings, HR will very much be in flux, much like the rest of the company. That makes it a great time to consider an HR transformation the likes of which would better align with the newly formed corporate entity.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says his employees call Apple the Tesla Graveyard. “If you don’t make it at Tesla,” Musk says, “you go work at Apple. I’m not kidding.” Luckily for California-based Tesla and Apple, California state law frowns upon most noncompete agreements and encourages employee mobility.

Twitter also announced it will lay off 8% of its workforce as part of an upcoming restructure, primarily of its engineering team. Twitter plans to offer generous “exit packages” and help in finding a new job to all outgoing employees. In times like these, it pays to know how exactly to pay an employee’s final wages.

More corporate shenanigans

What does the VW emissions scandal have to do with HR? It signaled other automakers like Audi, BMW and Mercedes Benz to take an internal look at their own emissions testing and software engineering practices. Investigations of this nature can be both daunting and extremely tricky.

Think your employees are mad? Air France employees were so mad after announced layoffs that they ripped Executive VP of HR and Labor Relations Xavier Brosetta’s clothes off!

The dispute stemmed from the airline having requested that unionized pilots fly another 100 hours annually, but for the same salary (up to about $280,000). The pilots’ union (of course) didn’t go for that, and the airline was forced to make some tough decisions. In the U.S., an event like this one would remove job protections from unionized employees who are on strike.

Employee focus

Many new employment laws took effect across the country on October 1,  including changes in the minimum wage, social media privacy protections for employees, expanding  leave options, and more.

Proposed paid sick leave legislation in the District of Columbia would grant up to 16 weeks of paid leave to any non-federal employee for the birth of a child, an adoption or to care for a sick family member. If passed, this law would add to the myriad of state and municipal regulations around the country.

Meanwhile, Fitbit has announced that its technology is now “HIPAA-compliant” and as such, it is aiming to have a steady presence in the workplace. Fitbit could very well play a role in employer-drive wellness initiatives with the HIPAA stamp of approval.

Legal briefing

In Miles v. HSC-Hopson, an employee claimed his plumbing company failed to pay him for time he spent at work prior to his scheduled appointments. He would arrive at work at 7:30 a.m. – with his first appointment at 8:00 a.m. – and his employer did not compensate him for the 30 minutes.

The employer countered that it visited the DOL’s “E-law” website and based on the content of the site, determined there was no violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  The plumbing company did not seek the advice or assistance of a lawyer, nor did it contact the Department of Labor prior to the lawsuit being filed.

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the employer “willfully” failed to comply with the FLSA (despite its research on the DOL’s site) and awarded the employee double damages, or $32,265.

Determining whether employees should be paid for “waiting time” is complex and should be accompanied by a meaningful review of the law and legal guidelines. An annual review of payroll practices will go a long way toward identifying problematic habits before they become lawsuits.

How is this song relevant to HR?

In the last edition of HR Intel, we asked you how “Smells like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana is relevant to HR. It turns out that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a mock-revolutionary slogan that Kurt Cobain came up with when he considered his generation and its willingness to actually revolt. For HR professionals, dealing with younger generations of employees is always a challenging endeavor, testing your people skills, your ability to relate and your ability to understand what motivates different generations of employees to succeed.

We leave you with “Goodnight Saigon” by Billy Joel. Tell us how you think this song is related to HR in the comments section below.


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