How to Help an Employee Suffering from Addiction

by Michael Haberman on August 14, 2018 · 0 comments

Addiction can harm both individuals and the companies they work for.

Today’s guest post is written by Trevor McDonald, who has been through the recovery process from addiction, thus bringing practical experience to this post.

Fifty-two percent of about 18.9 million people dealing with substance abuse issues were employed in 2011, according to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health. With these odds, there’s a good chance you’ll encounter an employee with a substance abuse problem. So, how will you handle it?

Here are a few things you should do:

Find helpful resources

Before you approach an employee, have a plan to help them through this challenging time. Assemble a list of rehab programs, inpatient treatment options, and group therapy sessions. Plan to bring this list to your meeting with the affected person, but you should also make the list available to everyone in the company. It will not be easy, but getting them back on the right track is of the utmost importance because the problem will worsen over time.

Also, find out what your employer-sponsored insurance covers. Oftentimes, the cost of treatment can be a barrier to getting help.

Talk to your lawyer

Addiction is a disease, and as such, we cannot discriminate against an addicted person. This doesn’t mean you have to condone bad behavior, such as showing up late or falling behind on work. But it does mean that you can’t fire someone for wanting to get help. There could be some exceptions, especially if your company has a clear drug policy, but your lawyer can talk you through this. A lawyer is the best person to review your organization’s policies and direct you on how to handle a current case of addiction.

Have a private conversation

Now that you’re armed with the dos and don’ts of handling addiction, it’s time to sit down with the addicted party. At this point, you’ll want to express your concerns and review your company’s policy on drug abuse and addiction. Different states have different laws, which is why you should consult a lawyer, but you may be able to tell the person that his or her job will be on the line if they don’t get help.

Trevor McDonald is a free-lance writer is proud to say “I am in recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction.” 





Why it is important to document a termination

by Michael Haberman on August 13, 2018 · 0 comments

Make sure you have documentation for EVERY case of documentation.

I have a webinar that I occasionally conduct on the importance of documentation. Documentation is that bane of existence for the HR professional, as it is absolutely necessary for the defense of the company when needed, yet it is almost impossible to get supervisors and managers to do it, willingly anyway. Recently I came across an article written by attorney Thomas Pence of the firm Foley & Lardner LLP. He specifically talked about the importance of documentation for terminations and pointed out several wrong ways to document and one he considers the best.

Why document?

Pence says that there are two reasons to document and I agree with him. The first reason is “…it helps the employer remember why it terminated the employee, especially in situations where the original decision makers are no longer with the employer.” There is an old saying that I use in my webinar that says “The palest ink is better than the best memory.”  Most actions, aka lawsuits, do not occur right after the event and study after study shows how faulty human memory is. One such study says “In the courtroom, even minor memory distortions can have severe consequences that are in part driven by common misunderstandings about memory…”

The second reason, says Pence, is:

“…it will help the employer defend challenges to the termination decision (e.g., a discrimination claim). For example, if the employer has contemporaneous documentation showing it terminated an employee for a legitimate reason like failure to follow safety practices, that documentation will lend credibility to the employer’s version of events and help discredit the employee’s claim the termination was for a different, improper reason.”

Many an attorney has told me that judges and juries tend to believe documents much more than testimony. One attorney told me she would prefer “one page of documentation over 10,000 words of testimony.

Worse to best

Pence ranked the worst to best ways to document a termination. The first of these occurs far to often. I get calls from clients asking if they can do this. They want to soft sell the reason for termination. They want to give the reason for termination as job elimination. I generally ask them if they are truly going to do away with the job, and of course, the answer is “no.” I ask them why they want to lie about it then. I tell them starting off with a lie is not the route to future security.

Pence says the second worse method is to do no documentation. This does not help the employer at all, and in fact, may hurt. If the ex-exmployee comes across as more credible or is in dire straights as a result of their job loss then the jury is much more likely to side with them.

The third way is to be brief and give one sentence, a non-specific reason for the termination, such as “The employee was terminated for violating company safety policy.” While not very good, it is better than the others.

The fourth, and best, reason, is to give a brief description of the circumstances of the termination. As Pence says: “This sort of summary will help to refresh memories and establish credibility.” He adds “One note of caution. Be careful to avoid the kitchen-sink approach. A short summary is useful but there is no need to overdo it. A summary that is too long risks mistakes.”

If you follow these tips you will be much better off and be able to present a much more credible defense of your actions if needed.


Future Friday: Do algorithms actually reduce biases?

by Michael Haberman on August 10, 2018 · 0 comments

Is AI decision making good or bad?

If you read anything about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its use in the world of HR you quickly discover that there are two schools of thought. The first of these is that AI is biased and dehumanizing, the second is that it makes better decisions that humans and thus is an improvement.

The negative: Biased algorithms

Representative of the first point of view is that of Will Knight, author of an article in MIT Technology Review, called Biased Algorithms Are Everywhere, and No One Seems to Care. Knight talks about the camp that thinks algorithms go too far and are trusted too much. This group thinks that the widespread use of algorithms may disadvantage candidates, paroles, teachers, neighborhoods, loan applicants and more. Knight quotes Cathy O’Neil, a mathematician and the author of Weapons of Math Destruction, a book that highlights the risk of algorithmic bias in many contexts, who says people are often too willing to trust in mathematical models because they believe it will remove human bias. “[Algorithms] replace human processes, but they’re not held to the same standards,” she says. “People trust them too much.” The American Civil Liberties Union has teamed with experts and launched an effort to identify and highlight algorithmic bias.

The positives: Better than humans

The other side of the argument on AI says that the use of algorithms, while it may be flawed, still produces better results than human. Alex Miller, writing in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) says that the negative point of view asks the wrong question. Rather than focusing on whether or not AI or algorithms are biased, we should focus on how much worse human decision-making is compared to the algorithms. Miller says that “Algorithms are less biased and more accurate than the humans they are replacing”  and cites numerous studies and articles to prove his point. Click the link above to get to these studies.

Miller makes the point “A not-so-hidden secret behind the algorithms mentioned above is that they actually are biased. But the humans they are replacing are significantly more biased. After all, where do institutional biases come from if not the humans who have traditionally been in charge?” He goes on to say:

Unfortunately, decades of psychological research in judgment and decision making has demonstrated time and time again that humans are remarkably bad judges of quality in a wide range of contexts… the humans who used to make decisions were so remarkably bad that replacing them with algorithms both increased accuracy and reduced institutional biases.


The point that I am making by offering this comparison is that the average HR person needs to be aware that algorithms are not necessarily the end-all and be-all of methodologies in HR. Awareness that there are issues with both human decision-making and decisions made by algorithms will work to improve both. Do not follow blindly. As Miller concludes:

This is not an argument for algorithmic absolutism or blind faith in the power of statistics. If we find in some instances that algorithms have an unacceptably high degree of bias in comparison with current decision-making processes, then there is no harm done by following the evidence and maintaining the existing paradigm. But a commitment to following the evidence cuts both ways, and we should to be willing to accept that — in some instances — algorithms will be part of the solution for reducing institutional biases.


Sexual harassment does not have to be proved for retaliation to be claimed.

A New York sexual harassment case has demonstrated that an employer, and the offending manager, can lose a sexual harassment case without ever being found guilty of sexual harassment. How you wonder? Let me explain.

The case

The case involved a professor at Columbia University who claimed she was harassed and then denied tenure for reporting the harasser. She filed suit and a three-week trial was held. At the end of the trial the jury found that no harassment had occurred, but, the jury did find that the professor had been the subject of retaliation. The jury found that although the accused male professor had not engaged in any harassment, he had written and distributed emails that were critical and damaging to the female professor. On the basis of these damning emails, the female professor was denied tenure, which in the eyes of the jury amounted to retaliation on the part of the male professor, her boss, and the university. As a result, the jury found for the female professor and fined the university $750,000 in punitive damages and the male professor $500,000 in punitive damages (as allowed in New York.) It could have been worse, but she had moved on to another university making more money, so the court did not charge compensatory damages.

What was done wrong?

If the jury had concluded no harassment took place why was this verdict made? The answer is retaliation, which is perceived as bad as, if not worse, than the harassment. After all, it is the retaliation that cost her job and tenure. Almost half the cases the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigates are based on retaliation.

Attorney Barbara Hoey, of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, says that all employers need to take note of this case. If the male professor had not written the damning emails, and if the University had not acted on these emails, there would have been no case. Hoey advises:

All companies and institutions need to be on notice that behavior that could be perceived as ‘harassing’ or ‘bullying’, particularly when directed by a superior against a lower level employee of another race or gender, is a red flag.  What the boss may regard as ‘tough’ or ‘harsh’, a jury could see as discrimination or harassment….Emails remain the most potent piece of evidence in employment litigation today, and everyone needs to be cautious about what they say via email and text.  One “nasty” email can influence a jury, as may have happened here.

Finally, she says, “…be careful of retaliation claims, as they are serious business and present real liability.” and I echo her statement.


Ten Disruptions Ahead: HR Technology For 2018- A guest post

by Michael Haberman August 7, 2018

Tweet Today’s guest post is written by Ashley Lipman HR is a business sector that is constantly growing and maturing. There are new innovations and disruptions taking place each year, and 2018 is no different. With that in mind, this article is going to look at ten disruptions that will take place in 2018. A […]

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Another trip to the Hall of Fame affirms what it takes

by Michael Haberman August 6, 2018

Tweet I took a brief hiatus from writing this past week as I visited the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. For a baseball fan, it is a bucket list trip. Before leaving I posted a previous blog post from my visit four years ago. In that post, I listed the things I heard […]

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From the Archive: Do you have what it takes to be a Hall of Fame member?

by Michael Haberman July 30, 2018

Tweet I am away today, visiting the Baseball Hall of Fame, to see the induction of Braves’ great Chipper Jones. So I thought I would replay this post from four years ago after my first trip to visit the HoF. Being in the Baseball Hall of Fame is a pretty rare honor. In its history, […]

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Future Friday Replay: Is empathy a key skill of the future?

by Michael Haberman July 27, 2018

Tweet I am out of the office today on a brief vacation. I wanted to replay this post because empathy is so needed in today’s world. I am reading the book Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft. He covers quite a bit in the book, ending with a discussion of artificial intelligence, […]

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Featured on panel discussing KRA’s for HR

by Michael Haberman July 25, 2018

Tweet I wanted to point you to this blog post called The Ultimate KRAs for HR Professionals– 12 Experts share their insights from the folks at GroSum. They reached out to 12 “experts” in the field, including Dave Ulrich who is the Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the Ross School, the University of Michigan and […]

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From the Archive: Six Interesting age facts HR and business leaders should know

by Michael Haberman July 24, 2018

Tweet I got into a discussion with a friend about age discrimination. He agreed that age discrimination is much more rampant and “under the radar” than most people think. That made think it was time to dust off this post. A couple of interesting age facts taken from Tom Peters’ book The Little BIG Things. Written […]

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