Future Friday: Lessons for HR from office designs

by Michael Haberman on September 22, 2017 · 0 comments

Just because other companies do something does not mean your company must or should.

I read a piece on a website called Insight which deals primarily with office design. I find articles on office design to be informative because they pay attention to workplaces and in many cases drive the how a workplace operates based on the design and layout of work. One piece by Mark Eltringham titled Beware the great apex fallacy of workplace design sounds a warning not only for office designers but also for HR departments.

Just because they do it does not mean you should

Eltringham points out that many companies adopt an office layout because some other, very successful, company has that office design. As an example, he talks about the supposed demise of the open office space because some companies have gotten rid of them. Yet Facebook has an open office design and is making it work. Eltringham says “…the problems commonly associated with open plan offices are also about company culture and the design of digital spaces, which are the true battlegrounds of modern company life.”

That is the warning to designing your company workspaces, in addition to designing other aspects of your company, such as performance management or compensation. Just because some other company does it one way does not mean that you should do the same thing. What you design for your company must fit your company. How you deal with workers must fit your culture. That is one of the reasons I am not a big fan of “best practices” being followed. Yes, that performance plan may work for the other company but it may not work with your employees.

If you feel the need

If you feel the need to change, rather than making changes based on what someone else is doing, try to determine what is wrong with your culture. What about your approach is not allowing employees to be successful? Try to find examples of companies that may have been in similar circumstances and then study what they did, not to copy them exactly but to learn from their solutions. As Eltringham says it is not necessary for every company to have a ping-pong table to attract millennial employees.


Another case of “bad” HR- Misusing medical information

by Michael Haberman on September 21, 2017 · 0 comments

Medical questions before a job offer are prohibited by the ADA.

Prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act being passed in 1990 it was common practice to ask medical screening questions on an application or at least on a separate sheet of paper. However, with the passage of that law 27 years ago it became illegal to collect medical information or have an applicant take a physical until such time they were made a job offer. After a job offer, you could screen and determine if the individual was able to perform the essential functions of the job. As a result of the law, medical questionnaires began to disappear and you would think by now, 27 years later, that everyone would understand they are illegal to use prior to making a job offer. Such is not the case.

EEOC sues a temporary agency

In a press release issued on September 19, 2017, the EEOC announced they are suing a staffing agency in Phoenix for “…forcing applicants seeking temporary employment to fill out an invasive medical questionnaire and answer medical questions before job offers…The federal agency also charged the company with denying job opportunities to applicants based on their answers.” Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination, including making pre-offer medical inquiries.

The lawsuit seeks back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages, as well as appropriate injunctive relief to prevent discriminatory practices in the future. Given that this is an agency that places workers in temporary employment, the numbers of people involved could be very large, which will, in turn, make the potential settlement very large as well.

It is no longer 1990

In the early 1990’s such an action might have been understandable. The law was new at that time and definitions were still being worked out. Twenty-seven years later that is not the case. The temp agency probably saw this as a competitive advantage, to be able to say we “medically screen applicants” but it was not legal. It also put their clients at risk, because under the EEOC, the temp agency is viewed as an “agent” of the hiring company. Some creative attorney could help someone denied a job with a company based on that medical questionnaire sue the company. That will remain to be seen.

What are employers supposed to be doing?

The ADA prohibits employers from requiring job applicants from taking a medical exam. Filling out a questionnaire qualifies as an exam. Employers may require a medical examination after making a conditional offer of employment to an applicant if the following items are true:

  • All new employees are required to take the exam regardless of disability.
  • The medical exam is the last stage of the screening process, even after the background check.
  • The applicant has to be determined not to be able to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without an accommodation.
  • If an accommodation is required there has to be a documented and interactive discussion around the request for an accommodation.
  • The medical information is kept in a confidential file.

This law has been around for 27 years. Today there is no excuse for not knowing the law. Ignorance is not a viable defense.


A dose of people wisdom from Peter Drucker

by Michael Haberman on September 20, 2017 · 0 comments

A management lesson from Peter Drucker.

Often people are hired for the wrong reasons. Hiring managers seek to minimize weaknesses rather than maximizing strengths. That is not the formula for success in hiring, according to Peter Drucker. From his book The Effective Executive, as quoted in The Daily Drucker, “Effective executives make strength productive. They fill positions and promote based upon what a person can do- not to minimize weakness but to maximize strength.” There is danger in that approach.

Drucker points out that “Strong people always have strong weaknesses.” Avoiding these weaknesses by looking for someone whose performance is acceptable all around is the not the formula for achieving excellence. He feels that human excellence can only be achieved in one area, or at most, in very few. All hiring should start out with what a person should be able to do well and “then demand that he or she really do it.”

Area of weakness that is important

As a human resources professional, I had a concern that not addressing weaknesses might lead to problems in people interactions. One weakness of some strong leaders is that they tend to run ”roughshod” over people. Drucker did address this as well. He said:

There is one area where weakness in itself is of importance and relevance. By themselves character and integrity do not accomplish anything. But their absence faults everything else. Here is one area where weakness is an absolute disqualification.”

In my experience, technical weaknesses can be overcome but having character weaknesses can often lead to people problems that can be disastrous to a company. A new way to program or sell can be taught but teaching someone character and integrity is often much harder to do.



REMINDER! Today is the day you must start using the new I-9

by Michael Haberman on September 19, 2017 · 0 comments

This is how you know you are using the correct form.

Back in July, I wrote There is a new I-9 form and you had better start using it! I told you that the USCIS had published a new I-9 form that was to be used starting in September. Well, was the day! As of today the form what has an expiration date of 8/31/2019 is the proper form to use for every new hire. Use of any other form from this point forward when hiring new employees can result in a fine of up to $1100 for each form improperly used.

What to do

Go here and download the new form, if you like to use paper forms, or save the link for the electronic form if that is your preferred method. Purge your files NOW of all blank forms that do not have the 8/31/2019 expiration date on them. Save yourself the heartache of getting caught in an audit years from now and paying thousands of dollars in fines.

If you have not done this MAKE IT A PRIORITY RIGHT NOW!  Avoid a stupid HR mistake that can cost you your job in the future. Don’t come crying to me if you don’t make this change and get caught. Pass this blog link to all the other HR people, office managers and business owners you know.


Yes! Interactive means Interactive and not just once!

by Michael Haberman September 18, 2017

Tweet Under the ADAAA (Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act) there is a requirement that employers have interactive discussions with employees about their needs for accommodations in performing their jobs. My Miriam-Webster dictionary defines interactive as “mutually or reciprocally active” which implies a back and forth discussion. That is also what the EEOC defines as […]

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Future Friday: The explanation of the future is about prediction and not certainty

by Michael Haberman September 15, 2017

Tweet This past week Hurricane Irma ripped through the Southeast, wreaking mass destruction and havoc. Many people in the Southeast are not able to read this blog post because they remain without power, even as far north as Atlanta. Irma was a good model for what is going to happen in the workplace with technology […]

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The date and data required for the EEO-1 report changed

by Michael Haberman September 14, 2017

Tweet Many of you may have already read that the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) suspended the implementation of the new EEO-1 form until further review. The EEO-1 is a report required by the government (EEOC) for companies with over 100 employees. Historically it has been due on September 30th of each year. However, […]

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From the Archive: Learn to be funny it will improve your Communication Skills

by Michael Haberman September 13, 2017

Tweet Yesterday I gave a presentation to the North Alabama SHRM conference in Huntsville, Alabama. I tried to incorporate some humor in to my presentation, even though the topic of investigations is not really a humorous subject. I hope it worked. Regardless these are still good tips that I wanted to reaffirm for readers. Most […]

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Is Your Small Business Prepared for Disaster?

by Michael Haberman September 12, 2017

Tweet With Hurricane Irma making a mess of Florida and Georgia I thought I would rerun this post that was brought to you from our friends at SocialMonsters.org. Timely advice is good regardless of when it was created. You may think your small business doesn’t have to worry about recent large-scale data breaches at big […]

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How HR Can Help Employees Handle Natural Disasters Again

by Michael Haberman September 11, 2017

Tweet Hurricane Irma is currently making a disaster of Florida and Georgia. Houston, Texas is still recovering from Hurricane Harvey. There are yet other storms predicted for this season. Several years ago I was offered this post by Erin Palmer from Villanova University. It is timely given the recent hurricane, tropical storm, floods and earthquake we […]

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