Blog Archives

At-Will Employment
American Payroll Association 2015 Employment Law Update

Last Friday, I presented a 2015 Employment Law Update to the Hawaii Chapter of the American Payroll Association.  The presentation was held in the sports room at Dave and Busters and it was an interesting experience being in that room with the big TVs and projection screen, but for a work function instead of watching the football or basketball games.

APA employment law update

My discussion included three main parts:  (1) Hawaii legislative updates; (2) recent actions by the United States Department of Labor and Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations; and (3) decisions from the Hawaii Supreme Court, United States Supreme Court, and the National Labor Relations Board.

For the Hawaii legislative update, the topics included:

  • E-Cigarettes
  • Porterage Charge Disclosures/Distribution
  • Non-Compete Agreements
  • Medical Marijuana

For the DOL/DLIR update, we discussed the following topics:

  • DOL’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Exempt Positions
  • Independent Contractors

Finally, my discussion on recent court and Board decisions covered the following topics:

  • Joint employer status
  • Arrest and court record discrimination in hiring
  • Age discrimination in hiring
  • Religious discrimination in hiring
PBN HR Panel 2015

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to serve on a Human Resources Panel Seminar hosted by the Pacific Business News.  It was quite an honor to be asked to sit on the panel; the four other panelists have been business and community leaders for a long time and I considered it a real privilege to be able to share my thoughts on HR issues alongside these individuals.  Kam Napier, PBN Editor-in-Chief, served as the moderator and he did a great job making sure the discussion flowed smoothly and that we addressed many of the hot topics that are facing HR professionals today.

PBN HR Panel(Pic credit: PBN)

Some of the topics we discussed included hiring practices, working out differences that arise between generations (i.e. Baby Boomers vs. Gen-X vs. Millennials), and new laws that affect the way employers must conduct their businesses.  Some of the panelists discussed the difficultly of hiring talented employees in a job market where the unemployment rate is sitting at just 3.7%, the importance of wellness programs, and the value of creating a work culture that inspires employees.  I had an opportunity to discuss the impact recent court decisions such as Adams v. CDM Media and EEOC v. Abercrombie and Fitch will have on how employers conduct their hiring practices.  In addition, I also discussed the importance of training managers (who are involved in the hiring/interview process) on how to properly conduct job interviews.  I explained that although many managers are great at doing their day-to-day tasks, they are not always kept apprised of recent changes to employment laws that might affect how they can make their hiring decisions.  I also explained some of the dangers involved with providing employment references through the “coconut wireless” because you never know what type of information (or misinformation) might end up getting spread to others.  Therefore, as a matter of practice, the “name, rank and serial number” method is still your best bet.

Finally, as always, I made sure the stress that, when it comes to managing your workforce, “the best defense of a good offense.”  In other words, I firmly believe that the best way to address workplace problems is to try to proactively prevent them from happening in the first place.  In this day and age, HR professionals have transitioned from being a clerical cost center that processes payroll and benefits to a strategic department that oftentimes partners with corporate officers in leading a business into the future.  Therefore, it is imperative for HR professionals to stay ahead of the game, be proactive, and help their companies move forward.

Overall, I would say the event was very successful and I had a lot of fun.

Workplace Accommodations Made Easy

Hi Everybody!   I hope you’ve all had a great year so far and have at least some free time to enjoy the Holiday Season!  I can’t believe that it’s Thanksgiving week already.  It seems like the days, weeks, months and years seem to go by so much faster as I get older.  Like the saying goes…


Anyway, I wanted to send out a quick blog post to let you all know about an exciting workshop I will be presenting in the first quarter of 2015.  Due to several requests from HEC members, I’ve decided to put together a half-day program discussing the different types of accommodations employers must provide their employees (applicants and volunteers) in the workplace.  The topics of discussion will include accommodations based on disabilities, religion, pregnancy, status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence, and gender identity and expression, as well as others

The seminar will be presented on the following dates and locations.  All sessions will be held from 9 am to 12 noon.  (Click for link to registration form.)

The program will be informative, interactive and (hopefully) fun!  You can register for the event by visiting the training section of the HEC website at  I hope you can join me and Happy Holidays!


SES Seminar on Hiring and Firing in Today’s Economy

Earlier this month, I presented a seminar for Sterling Education Services on “Hiring and Firing Employees.”  I tailored the seminar to issues that are most prevalent in today’s current economy.

Hiring and terminations have always been two of the most important aspects of the employment process.  Whereas hiring the right employees can definitely enhance your workforce and increase profitability, hiring the wrong employees can oftentimes lead to disastrous results, such as poor productivity, workplace harassment, and unnecessary lawsuits.  In addition, there are several legal hurdles and pitfalls involved with the hiring process that employers need to avoid, such as inadvertently placing a job advertisement that could lead to a claim for discrimination.

Terminations are perhaps the most emotional and difficult part of the employment process.  Not only are terminations emotionally draining, but any misstep can lead to the former (and disgruntled) employees to file a lawsuit against your company.  The recent film, Up in the Air touched on a few of these issues.   Although the termination process can be emotionally and legally challenging, by knowing how to handle the process, it makes it a lot easier to go through.

With the current state of the economy, employment related lawsuits are on the rise.  As the economy worsens, people get more litigious.  Therefore, I recommend that all employers be very careful in the hiring and firing process, and consult their labor and employment attorneys when necessary.

At-Will Employment F.A.Q.

Is Hawaii employment at-will? If so, what does that mean?
Yes, the default employment status in Hawaii is at-will. At-will employment means either the employer or employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, without or without reason. This does not, however, mean employers can terminate an employee for illegal reasons.

Are employees in Hawaii required to give two weeks notice for a resignation?
No. This is a common misconception by both employers and employees. Unless there is a contractual obligation to give two weeks notice, it is not required.

What are protected classes?
Protected classes include a person’s race, sex, sexual orientation, age, religion, color, ancestry, disability, marital status and arrest & court record. Employers are not permitted to take any adverse employment action against any employee or prospective employee because of any protected class.