Blog Archives

Presentation for University of Hawaii’s HR Ohana Meeting

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak at the HR Ohana Meeting to about 100 human resources professionals from all campuses of the University of Hawaii, which included the Manoa campus, as well as all neighbor island campuses and community colleges.

The meeting took place at Windward Community College, and man, I had no idea that WCC had such a beautiful campus.  On one side of the campus, you have a majestic view of the Koolau mountain range.  On the other side, you have a magnificent view of the ocean.  It was incredible, to say the least.

I was asked to speak about current hot topics in labor and employment law, so I included the following four topics in my presentation:  (1) 2014 legislative update; (2) social media and the workplace; (3) the possible unionization of Northwestern University football players and (4) employment law rights of same-sex couples in Hawaii following the Windsor court decision and legalization of same-sex marriage in Hawaii.

One of the speakers who presented before me talked about the “HR Tsunami” and how the duties of HR professionals in the workplace are becoming more significant as they take on more active roles in the strategic planning and management of corporations.  In other words, HR professionals are not just performing administrative functions.  I felt that this particular topic was a great segue into my presentation, because it gave me an opportunity to discuss the importance of being proactive in employment-related decisions and reinforce my motto that “the best defense is a good offense.”  It was also good to see that so many people chose to attend the meeting; considering that it was voluntary, having 100 attendees is fantastic because it shows that these HR professionals are doing their own part to be more proactive about their job functions.

2013 Legal Update For SHRM Maui

Yesterday, a co-worker and I flew to (the beautiful island of) Maui to do a presentation for the SHRM Maui Educational Foundation.  The presentation lasted about 2.5 hours, and we spoke on three topics:  (1) 2013 Legislative Update; (2) 2013 FMLA update and (3) the new I-9 form.

I think the program went really well.  The attendees were all very welcoming, attentive, and in good spirits.  They were also really engaging and asked a lot of great questions.  In addition, we were told the attendance for our presentation was the highest that SHRM Maui has ever had.  It looks like we’ll be partnering up with SHRM Maui on an annual basis to do similar presentations in the future.

Oh, and the venue – a banquet room at the Kahili Golf Course – was also really nice.  In fact, next time I’m out there, I might even try to squeeze in a round of golf…

Later this summer/fall, I’ll be traveling with another co-worker to Maui, Kauai and the Big Island to do a presentation on the interconnection between the various “leave laws,” which include the ADA, FMLA, Workers’ Comp, and TDI.  As any HR professional knows, managing employees’ leave is oftentimes a very difficult and confusing task, because of all the different laws that may apply.  This program will be open to both HEC members, as well as non-HEC members.  I hope you can join us.

SHRM “Ask a Lawyer” Seminar on Social Networking

Earlier this week, I was a speaker in the annual SHRM Hawaii “Ask a Lawyer” seminar.  My topic was Social Networking and the Workplace and the event was a huge success as usual.

One thing I noted during the seminar is that the law tends to be behind modern technology by about 2-3 years, and this seems to be holding true for issues related to the use of social networking in the workplace.   As more lawsuits regarding social networking are being filed, the courts seem to be  developing a better understanding of the issues related to social networking in the workplace.  This is about the 6th or 7th time I’ve presented a seminar on social networking in the workplace over the past two years, and not surprisingly, I have had something new to report almost each time.

This time, the three major legal updates that I discussed were:

  • U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a public employer had the right to check the text messages on devices issued by the employer to employees.  The Court also noted that its ruling applied to private employers as well.  I discussed the Court’s decision in the blog post here.
  • The NLRB basically sent out a warning to employers that they should not be disciplining employees who engage in “protected activity” (as defined by the NLRA) on social networking sites.  This warning was issued in the form of a press release related to a pending unfair labor practice charge.  I wrote about this earlier here.
  • The EEOC issued its regulations on the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act, and specifically addressed social networking sites.  This is the first time the EEOC regulations have ever addressed social networking specifically.  The EEOC essentially stated that it is not unlawful to obtain genetic information about an employee “unintentionally” through social networking sites, but employers are prohibited from “intentionally” searching through social networking sites to discover genetic information about an employee.  You can view the GINA regulations here.
SHRM Seminar On Social Networking In The Workplace

This morning, I presented a seminar for SHRM Hawaii on Social Networking in the Workplace.  I was a co-presenter with Jared Kuroiwa from ProService Hawaii.  Jared explained the different types of social media sites to the attendees, and I covered the legal issues regarding social networking in the workplace.

I think the seminar was quite successful:  the room was pretty full (there were about 100 people in attendance), and the crowd was very knowledgeable in Human Resources matters.  Therefore, they asked really good questions, and to me, that always makes the seminar better because you know you are addressing the specific issues that the attendees want to learn about.

One thing that I wanted to emphasize on social networking is the importance of adopting a social networking policy.  It is surprising how many companies do not currently have a workplace policy that addresses social networking specifically.   However, I expect companies will respond to social networking the same way they responded to email and the internet; some companies will be ahead of the game and develop social networking policies early, and others may be a little late, but eventually, all companies will have – or at least should have – some sort of social networking policy in place.

That being said, not all companies will need a comprehensive policy, but the majority of companies will need to develop some sort of policy to address social networking in the workplace.  Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all policy that can be applied to all companies.  Rather, companies need to develop a social networking policy that is most-suitable for their work environment.  In addition, most companies also need to train their managers and supervisors on the “do’s and dont’s” of social networking in order to avoid the pitfalls and problems that can be associated with social networking. Finally, employers should also keep up-to-date with the changes in the law regarding social networking, as the courts are now starting to provide employers with guidance on how to handle social networking in the workplace.

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.