Make Your Documentation Bulletproof

In three weeks (June 25) I will be presenting my signature documentation program at the 2012 SHRM Annual Conference in Atlanta entitled Seven Steps to Creating Bulletproof Documentation.  I thought I would share some tips from the program…

Words to avoid: always and never.

Manager: You are always late.
Employee: I was on-time today!

Manager: You never volunteer to work overtime.
Employee: I did last week!

Unless you are 100% accurate, the speaker (manager or HR) loses credibility and the employee may walk away thinking you are exaggerating, the conduct isn’t that bad and you are picking on them unnecessarily.

Other words to consider:

Watch your words, they all count.

Posted in General, Management, Training | Leave a comment

More Clarification (ahem) from the NLRB on Social Media Policies

Well, on May 30, the NLRB has issued its third memo on social media and other workplace policies. I think the Board believes it’s trying to help employers understand what policy language they find unlawful that infringed on employee Section 7 rights, and those policies that pass the NLRB’s smell test.  The trouble is, the smells are subtle.  Sometimes we can’t distinguish the smells. Ok, enough on that analogy, but the thing is, the more I read the memos, the more confusing it gets.

As Eric Meyer (attorney and blogger on noted in his blog today, the Board’s recent memo (similar to the previous two) is all over the place and filled with a number of inconsistencies.  Here’s what Eric wrote:

  1. A requirement that employees “be honest and accurate” is ok (sample social media policy), but requiring employees to be “completely accurate and not misleading” online is unlawful because as long as the published information isn’t “maliciously false,” it’s all good. (p. 6-7). Understand the distinction? Me neither.
  2. A social-media-policy prohibition on sharing “Secret, Confidential or Attorney-Client Privileged Information” (p. 6-8) is ok, but various other restrictions on sharing confidential information (with a lower case “c” and “i”) sprinkled throughout the NLRB memo are no good. Are capitalized terms that special? Yes, I imagine that “Secret, Confidential or Attorney-Client Privileged Information” may be defined in some other policy, but maybe not. The Board memo is silent about that.
  3. “Always be fair and courteous to fellow associates, customers, members, suppliers or people who work on behalf of [Employer]” is ok (sample social media policy), but a prohibition on “disparaging or defamatory” comments is bad. (p. 16-17). My head is spinning.

Like Eric, my head is also spinning.

So, check out the memo at the NLRB memo and see what you think. The Board also provided a policy it feels passes all smell tests. So, if you want a policy, that is the place to start.  Just remember these pointers:
1. All policies need to be customized to your workplace and should be reviewed by employment counsel. Not the attorney who handles your real estate deals.
2. Define key terms in the policy.
3. Be careful about absolutes (“we prohibit the posting of pictures showing any company logos, work environments, etc), the Board just doesn’t like them and will find most will restrict concerted activity.
4. A savings clause won’t necessarily save you. E.g., “nothing in this policy is meant to limit or restrict your rights to unionize, discuss wages and benefits, etc.”  Make sure the policy language itself doesn’t limit your employee’s rights to organize.

Good luck!

Posted in General, Legal Issues, Social Media | 2 Comments

A Cure for Misbehaving Managers – Try Sensitivity Training

I am starting to think there is an epidemic out there in corporate land.  In the past couple of months I have received 7 new assignments to deliver sensitivity training to wayward managers. Is something in the water?  The bad behavior includes everything from inappropriate and/or unlawful comments, bullying (e.g, yelling, anger, sabotage), poor management skills, passive-aggressive communications and the list goes on.

To solidify my theory, I read an article this morning about a bad, offensive, tasteless joke told by Safeway’s General Counsel, Robert Gordon, when he opened the company’s annual shareholders meeting on May 15.

Here’s a snapshot: President Obama was carrying two pigs under his arms, and a Secret Service agent complimented him on the pigs, to which Obama explained they were special pigs. He said he got one for Hillary Clinton and one for Nancy Pelosi, to which the agent responded, “Excellent trade, sir.”

Safeway’s CEO was mortified and wrote letters apologizing to Ms. Clinton and Ms. Pelosi.  Allegedly, the GC also wrote his own letters.  Hmm, does Mr. Gordon need sensitivity training? In mho, you bet.  In case anyone at Safeway is reading this, I am available.

Employers seem to have less of an appetite for the misbehaving manager these days. Why? The answers seem pretty obvious – liability, turnover, morale, distractions, impacting the bottom-line.  One question I always ask the prospective employer client: is the person worth saving? Sometimes the caller says, “um, good question”, and then promptly hangs up.  More often, the answer is “yes.” So, why keep someone who creates such turmoil in the workplace?

Easy answer: Because the misbehaving manager is often a great performer.  Funny isn’t it, how your greatest performer can also be your greatest liability? They are great, but, at the same time, their inappropriate workplace behavior is unsettling the office or even putting your company at risk for litigation. You don’t want to lose this asset, but you want to make sure that their out-of-line behavior doesn’t continue.  Oh, that’s right, some of you are working with this person, or know of one in your organization.

Given the surge in this type of training, I thought I would provide some tips if you need some help with your bad-behaving, great performer.

1. Don’t sugar coat the issues. Be direct, be specific. “Sue, your employees came to us as a group and said they can’t take it much longer. They need some relief.” This is an actual quote from a matter I handled last week. The manager is abusive, snotty, passive-aggressive.  Those are his better qualities.  Make sure you talk about the impact of the conduct – not just that you want it to stop.  However, be careful not to make the targets of the bad behavior sound weak or like whiners. Lay out legitimate concerns and cite very specific examples. Simply saying, “Stan, be nicer,” won’t get you anywhere.

2. Remind the person they are a role model.  I am finding that many managers forget they are role models. The yellers and abusers are actually giving tacit permission for everyone to act the same way.  The harassers need to know they, too, are the ones who must enforce the policy and create a safe environment.  Remind the bad actor of their role, how you expect them to act. Highlight your culture of respect and that you put people first.

3. Consequences. Don’t bother telling them to act nicer, stop yelling, stop the bad jokes and be a better “culture” fit if you don’t attach some consequence to their actions. What kind of consequences? Try termination. But, you have to mean it. I do not accept an assignment unless there is some significant consequence connected to the training. Doesn’t always have to be termination in the beginning – but it has to be enough to get the person’s attention. By the time you need outside help – termination is really the only option.

Stay tuned for more tips down the road.



Posted in Bullying, Sensitivity Training | Leave a comment

Social Media Policy Headaches

Yesterday, I delivered a webinar on Social Medial Policies and the NLRB.  To be quite frank, this is a crazy area for employers right now. As most of you know, the NLRB has been getting a lot of press these days about its views on employer’s social media, as well as other, workplace policies.

In April 2011, the NLRB’s Acting General Counsel Lafe E. Solomon adopted the position that employees’ social media activities can trigger federal labor law rights even for non-union employees.  Solomon wanted to make sure he got employer’s attention and noted he was going to pay more attention to these types of cases and added social media to his hit list.  Then, in August 2011 and January 2012, Solomon released a report concerning the outcomes of investigations into social media cases as a way to give employers an idea of what clauses in various policies could be found to be unlawful.

So, again, just to be clear, we are not just talking about social media policies – all your policies can be implicated as impacting an employee’s Section 7 (the right to engage in concerted activity) rights and can subject you to an unfair labor practices claim.  For example:

•Confidentiality re personnel and legal issues
•Ethics, Standards of Conduct, Respect in the Workplace
•Computer and technology
•Blogging, social media
•Benefits and compensation
•Media relations and press interviews

Some employers are even wondering if they should have a social media policy. My view, absolutely. Or, you can offer guidelines and give some dos and don’ts (see below.)

But first, what are your goals with the policy/guidelines? Do you want to prohibit employees from sharing confidential info, not make disparaging comment or harass each other through SM? This is the starting place.

The most important tip for writing a policy that may pass the NLRB smell test…at least for today is to define key terms in the policy.  In the majority of cases, the NLRB found the employer’s policies were just too broad and unclear.  Here are some examples of terms you will need to define:
•Appropriate and inappropriate conversations
•Harassment, discrimination protected characteristics
•Disrespectful conduct
•Trade secrets

Seems a little basic, but, for example, tell employees what you think an inappropriate conversation is to you – sharing personal information about clients, a co-workers medical condition, obscene language.

Here’s a clause the NLRB found acceptable:
Employees are prohibited from using social media to post or display comments about coworkers or supervisors or the employer that are vulgar, obscene, threatening, intimidating, harassing, or a violation of the employer’s workplace policies against discrimination, harassment, or hostility because of any protected class, status, or characteristic.

Some do’s and don’t for your guidelines:

•Think before you hit enter – be respectful of the employer, clients, co-workers.
–Be sensitive how comments may impact others
•Be courteous and polite
•Use common sense and good judgment
•Work comes first, facebooking, tweeting, etc., should not impact productivity
•Be mindful of privacy issues
•Be accountable and correct mistakes.
•Encourage, but not require, employees to bring complaints to HR

And always, always, remind employees they have the right to chat about wages and the terms and conditions of their employment. If you would like a copy of my presentation. Shoot me an email.

Good luck!

Posted in General, Legal Issues, Management, Social Media | Leave a comment

Social Media Policies – Managing Risk in Light of the NLRA

Like it or not, many of your employees likely are accessing Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites on and off the clock. Telling them not to may be impractical. But not managing the associated risks properly can put your business in jeopardy.

On Wed. May 23 I will be delivering a webinar, through Thompson Publishing, that will explore the many issues emerging from the explosive popularity of social media:

  • Where do you draw the line on when and how much an employee can engage with social media?
  • Is it lawful for a recruiter, HR, or a supervisor to peruse the Facebook or Twitter pages of an employee or potential hire?
  • Will blocking employee access to these sites at the workplace impact productivity?
  • What are the privacy ramifications of social media on the workplace?
  • Is it possible to control employees’ use of social media without violating the National Labor Relations Act or other employment and civil rights laws?

These are risky times for employers regarding social media (ok, just one of many risks for employers!) so I hope you will join me.

Click on the link to register:

Posted in General, Social Media | Leave a comment

Yikes! 2d Circuit Finds Title VII Does Not Protect Internal Investigators

Every internal HR investigator’s nightmare came true for HR Director Karlean Grey-Allen when she was allegedly fired in retaliation for investigating a receptionist’s allegations of harassment against the company’s vice-president (who happened to be married to the president of the company.)

The receptionist, Martha Diane Townsend complained to Grey-Allen that Hugh Benjamin sexually harassed her over a two year period.  Grey-Allen conducted an investigation after informing Benjamin he would have to work from home.  Grey-Allen discussed the complaint with a management consultant that had been hired by the company.  When the company president, Michelle Benjamin, found out that Grey-Allen revealed the investigation to the consultant, she terminated Grey-Allen.  At this point, no EEOC charge had been filed. (Townsend later sued and won a jury verdict back in 2008 for $30,000.)

Grey-Allen sued for retaliation.  Makes sense, right? Well, the Federal Court for the Southern District of NY dismissed Grey-Allen’s claims holding that Title VII does not protect against retaliation arising from an internal investigation that occurred before any EEOC proceedings were initiated.  The Court reasoned that Grey-Allen did not participate in protected activity under the participation clause of Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision.

Now I have read Title VII and, well, the Court is correct, although the law doesn’t make sense when you think about what the retaliation provision is really intended to protect – participation in any proceeding – internal or external. But, that is not the reality.

Some of you may actually be scratching your head and thinking back to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Crawford v. Metro. Gov’t of Nashville & Davidson Cnty. If you remember that case, Crawford participated in an internal investigation and noted to the investigator that she had experienced the same harassment from the alleged wrongdoer.  The Court found that Crawford had opposed a practice – namely the harassment of her boss.  I always thought the Court cheated us by not discussing why that case didn’t fall under the participation clause.

Back to Grey-Allen. On Appeal, the Court said the participation clause concerns the EEOC’s enforcement powers and investigations procedures. So, Grey-Allen is out of luck and is afforded no protection. One of the Appellate Judges actually noted it was unfortunate that Title VII did not protect internal investigators.

As investigators, all we can do is the best we can do. And, hope that state law provides protections where Title VII fails.

Martha Diane Townsend et al v. Benjamin Enterprises et al, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, No. 09-197.

Posted in Investigations, Legal Issues | 1 Comment

AT&T hit for $5M Religious Discrimination Verdict

In 1999, when Susan Bashir began working for Southwestern Bell, a unit of AT&T, she was Christian. In 2005, she converted to Islam and, well, her world changed.  Bashir alleged her managers and co-workers began calling her a “terrorist” as well as other derogatory names and also made fun of her hijab (a religious head scarf.)  She told the jury that at one point her manager tried to pull off her hijab after she refused to remove it.

Bashir filed complaints internally with HR and externally with the EEOC, and was ultimately fired from her position in 2010.  Last week, a jury ordered AT&T to pay Bashir $120,000 in actual damages plus $5 million in punitive damages.

A few lessons from this case:

1. Train managers and employees that picking on someone or treating them differently because of their religious beliefs or dress is unlawful and would violate your policies.

2. Managers should also be trained to understand the nuances of religious accommodation – handling requests, options for accommodation, as well as hardship issues.  All requests must go through HR and hopefully get approval from your employment attorney.

3. Focus on respect in the workplace – in addition to having a policy, make respect a key value and part of the mission of the company.  Focus on inclusion, not exclusion.

4. Be responsive when you get a complaint and follow your policies. Apparently, AT&T had a great policy, but failed to follow it.

Posted in Discrimination, General, Investigations | Leave a comment

Ever wish you could use an Etch A Sketch to change something you did or said?

“I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes,” Fehrnstrom responded. “It’s almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.”  These words were recently said by a Romney campaign advisor, and, regardless of your political leanings, we would all likely agree the advisor would like to use an Etch A Sketch to redo his statement.

Have you ever said or written something you regretted and wished you could take it back? We all have at some point.  Being accountable for our words and actions in the workplace (and elsewhere) is absolutely critical.  I have been spending more and more time coaching executives who misbehave and at the end of the day, it is typically their words that get them in trouble.

The reality is, Etch A Sketch is just a toy and we have to live with the consequences of our words.

Here are some reminders for HR and management:

1. Please do not think of your direct reports as your family – your family doesn’t sue you for harassment or discrimination because of your jokes or comments.

2. Don’t assume that just because someone hasn’t complained, that everything you say or do is ok.  Employees are not required under any harassment laws to  tell the offending person to stop.

3. Remember your role – you have power. Power to change the terms and conditions of someone’s employment.

4. Saying “I was only joking” doesn’t help. You say it often enough and clearly you aren’t joking or know when to stop.

5. Pay attention to people’s reactions to jokes, comments, stories, etc. Often you can tell by watching the nonverbal to see how someone responds to you and what you said.






Posted in Investigations, Sensitivity Training, Training | Leave a comment

Do you have trouble getting your investigation witnesses to talk?

One of my favorite subjects to train on is investigations. As an investigator I know how hard it is at times to get a witness to open up and give me the valuable information they may have (or not.) Yet, all-too-often, investigators fail to get the critical information they need because they didn’t ask the right questions, weren’t prepared and didn’t know how to handle different types of witnesses.

I hope you will join me on March 27, 2012 (10:00 PST/1:00 EST) as I deliver a fast-paced webinar jammed full of tips and tools to help you get those witnesses to talk.

You’ll Learn:

  • How much information do you provide the alleged wrongdoer? Other witnesses?
  • How to effectively answer those tricky questions: Will I be fired? Will the alleged wrongdoer be fired? Hey, I don’t want to be involved, do I have to talk to you?
  • Keys to avoiding loaded, leading, compound and accusatory questions
  • Valuable tools for dealing with hostile or uncooperative witnesses
  • To efficiently use documents and other evidence with your witnesses
  • To question witnesses you feel are not being truthful

You can sign up at :

Posted in Investigations, Webinars | Leave a comment

Tough Talks: How to conduct difficult employee discussions (webinar)

Do you dread engaging in a difficult workplace conversation such as telling an employee they have body odor or wear too much perfume? Or dealing with the ubiquitous whiners and complainers?

How do you start the dialogue ? Come join me for a webinar this Thursday called Tough Talks: How to Conduct Difficult Employee Discussions as I tackle some of your most difficult scenarios. Learn the best approaches to handle employees who:

  • Have personal hygiene or odor issues
  • Use vulgar or foul language
  • Gossip
  • Take excessive smoking breaks
  • Severely disrupt the company or office, but don’t directly break any company rules such as gossiping and speaking in a very loud voice
  • Engage in religious/political discussion

You can also call in and ask a question!  You can register using the link below.

Posted in Webinars | Leave a comment

A RUSH to Court?

You really can’t escape reading or hearing about Rush Limbaugh’s attacks on Sandra Fluke. Many people are waiting to see if Sandra will sue Rush for defamation.  What if we change the scenario a bit and Rush’s comments were said by a manager in the workplace?

Yesterday (March 5, 2012) I delivered a program at the SHRM Employment Law and Legislative Conference in Washington, DC entitled Beyond Discrimination Claims: What Else Can You Be Sued For?  My first topic was on: defamation. I couldn’t resist quickly revising my program to include the following scenario for discussion:

Employee Sandra stops an HR Manager in the Company cafeteria and quietly states she is upset to learn that the Company’s health insurance carrier refuses to cover contraception.

 Manager Bill overhears the conversation and says to a small group in a rather loud voice, “Contraception coverage? What does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute…she wants to be paid to have sex…Maybe she should spend more time getting her reports out on time.” 

Now, this is pretty extreme and most bosses wouldn’t say such a thing. But, then again, nothing really surprises me in the workplace. Here is what a plaintiff (your employee) would need to prove in her defamation claim: 1) a false statement of fact was made that is 2) unprivileged, 3) about an employee, and is 4) disclosed to a third  person, and 5) causes damage to an individual’s reputation, or causes public ridicule, shame, hatred or contempt.

As an employer you have what we call a Qualified Privilege in most states (by statute) that provides you with a defense to a defamation claim when you make a statement 1) without malice,  2) said to those with a need-to-know, and 3) the communication is about performance or qualifications.

In the scenario above – let’s assume the employee is a good performer but did turn in a report late. What would happen? The Boss is technically making a true statement when it came to the timeliness issue. But, he is also making inflammatory and likely false statements about Sandra and her lifestyle.  Some may say the boss is expressing an opinion – but when bosses make statements – many employees take them as truth. Also, here the Qualified Privilege would not apply as Bill’s comments are made with malice.  The bottom line is – the Bill the Boss will likely lose.

Here’s how can you prevent defamation claims:

1. Keep the circle small of those who have a need-to-know about an employee’s performance. Likewise, limit discussions about an employee’s performance or any employment actions.

2. References. Many defamation claims arise out of references – limit those who can give them and be truthful.  Most attorneys recommend only giving basic employment information: name, dates of service, ending salary.  Obtain an authorization and release from any employee who wants you to give them a reference.

3. Watch your actions and your words.  Someone asks you if Jill is a good employee and you roll your eyes, some jurisdictions will find you liable for defamation.


Posted in General | Leave a comment

You Want Me to Investigate WHO?

If you have ever been asked to investigation the CEO, VP, or other high level employee you know it can be quite challenging.

On Wednesday, I will be delivering a 90-minute webinar on the practical and legal implications of investigating a C-level employee, public or elected official or member of the legal or human resources department.

You’ll Learn:

  • Best practices for conducting this type of investigation, including who to involve and what to report
  • Tips for overcoming the legal issues associated with investigations of high-level or sensitive employees, attorneys or officials including:
    • Privilege issues
    • Confidentiality
    • Conflict of interest
    • Ethical obligations
  • Strategies for avoiding negative publicity as a result of the investigation

Plus in this webinar format, you can ask questions via the online chat function without having to reveal your organization or name.

I hope you will join me.

Posted in General, Investigations, Webinars | Leave a comment

Dig deeper during your investigation interview

I will be delivering a three-hour session on How to Conduct a Legal, Thorough Work Workplace Investigation at the annual California Employment Law Update Conference in Berkeley on November 2.  As part of the promotion, I was asked to share what common investigator mistakes I frequently see and wanted to share some of my observations.

The most common mistake I see is that investigators don’t dig deep enough during the investigation interview.  For example, the complainant is a white 55 year old female.  She describes feeling “uncomfortable” with the alleged wrongdoer.  Most investigators will simply write down “uncomfortable” without asking what the person specifically meant by “uncomfortable.”  The complainant may have an entirely different definition than the investigator who is a 35 year old Hispanic male.  Or, a 25 year old white female.  Why is this important? You need to know what the words mean to the witness.  When you query the witness she explains,  “I was scared, nervous. I was afraid for my safety.”  Okay – now you are getting somewhere. Her definition is a bit more extreme that you might have anticipated and gives great insight into what she was feeling.  By asking the witness to more fully describe a particular word you will be able to dig deeper and find out more about the facts.  If you had neglected to probe further you might miss – or misinterpret – what the witness is telling you.

Another common mistake I often see is when the investigator has not remained neutral. He or she comes to the table with some bias towards one of the witnesses, the complainant or the alleged wrongdoer.  It could be the investigator is too close to the situation, knows the parties too well or has preconceived notions about the parties because of past experience.  Staying objective is a critical part of conducting an effective investigation.

A third common mistake I see, and one that has a potentially perilous outcome for the employer, is when the investigator reaches a conclusion too early.  This happens when the investigator is engaging in the second mistake noted above – they are biased.  The investigator feels he or she knows what happens and does not conduct a thorough investigation.  They stop too early, don’t attempt to get corroboration, and worse yet, make assumptions without gathering all the facts.

Stay tuned for future posts about other investigation mistakes. Please share any common mistakes you see!

To register or learn more about the California Employment Law Update:

Posted in Investigations | Leave a comment

Me, too!

Put your seatbelts on, it’s going to be a rocky ride – it just got a little easier for a plaintiff to make his or her harassment case.

On August 9, 2011, the California Court of Appeal ruled in Pantoja v. Anton (No. F058414), that a plaintiff may present evidence the defendant engaged in harassing conduct towards others to make their case even if the conduct occurred outside of the plaintiff’s presence and at times when the plaintiff was not even employed.

This case has many implications with the most significant being seemingly unrelated conduct will now go into the plaintiff’s bucket of evidence.  The example I use in my harassment training is that I look at everyone in the workplace as having an invisible basket on their back.  My hope for everyone is that only good things go in that basket – compliments, rewards, acknowledgements of solid performance.  Alternatively, the basket can be filled with harassing, derogatory or discriminatory comments, inappropriate jokes, touches and a variety of other “unwelcome” conduct.  If the basket gets too heavy, the employee, or shall I say the soon-to-be plaintiff will have an easier time making their claim because they will have satisfied the “severe or pervasive” prong of the harassment cause of action.

The Pantoja case helps that basket get filled faster and with potentially more dangerous evidence.  Remember who sits on a jury: twelve pissed-off employees.  So, the more evidence the jury sees that the defendant – your employee – engaged in a pattern of bad behavior, well, you know how the story ends.

Here are a few tips to minimize risk:

1.   Investigate complaints even if someone did not experience the harassment first-hand.  Often HR professionals or investigators will not investigate a complaint where the witness did not experience the harassment first-hand.  Big mistake.  Remember, once you learn of inappropriate conduct you are on notice.  Investigate all claims whether first-hand, second-hand or rumor.

2.  Pay attention to those who have witnessed harassment. During the course of your investigation in you gather information that several witnesses observed the inappropriate conduct.  Or heard about it.  Remember to follow-up with these witnesses periodically to make sure they have not been the recipient of the unwelcome bad conduct themselves.

3.   Stop the bad behavior.  Don’t ignore complaints because you may not trust the complainant, or you think the complainant is a whiner.  Whiners can spend your settlement money just as easily as a more credible complainant.  Don’t ignore complaints against rainmakers, those in the “C” suite or those who wield power.  The law doesn’t say you have to fire everyone that has misbehaved – you must stop the bad behavior and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Protect your employees and create a safe and respectful workplace.

If you have any questions about this case, or need any help with investigations or training, please give me a call.

Posted in General, Investigations, Training | Leave a comment

HR = Customer Service

I really don’t mean to rub it it but I am writing this blog entry from Paris. Yes, France. I am on a two week vacation with my 8 year old son. I don’t speak French and although I have my handy book of French phrases and words, I am utterly pathetic when it comes to speaking the language. I have to say the French people have been very kind and helpful to us as we navigate our way around this amazing City.

This got me thinking about what that new hire must feel like the first week (or longer) on the new job. They start off feeling excited, pumped up, confident with their abilities to prove themselves and master the job. But then comes the data overload: meetings, orientations, more meetings, introductions, handbooks and all the rest that goes into trying to “fit in.” This is where you come in.

HR is really that new hire’s Customer Service Rep. You are the welcoming committee, the ones who help that new hire get acclimated and safely on their employment journey. Here are a few tips amd questions to think about:

1. Is your on boarding program accomplishing everything it needs to in order to help that new hire feel welcome? Similar to being in a foreign country, your new hires are learning some new words and phrases and customs particular to your company Md need continuing assistance along the way.

2. Do you think like Customer Service? Do you offer your help over and over again? Or, do you simply pass that person over to their manager after the orientation and move on to the next person?

3. Do you have a buddy system set up for new hires? I remember a job I started in 1990 as a paralegal. On the first day my manager and I went to lunch with someone she had selected to help me learn the ropes. Well, that person, my pal Maureen, has been one of my dearest friends since that day.

4. Have you checked your company”s culture lately? What does it take to “fit in?”. In most of my presentations I mention the recent Google case in California where one of the big issues was the manager often stating that Brian Reid just wasn’t a “culture fit.” while the Reid case involved age discrimination focusing cultural fits can certainly cover several protected characteristics.

5. Are your senior execs, including the CEO involved in your orientations? While the President of France didn’t seek out to make me feel welcome in his country, having your senior execs involved sends an amazing message to your workforce. I remember reading many years ago about the President of Southwest Airlines who attended all new hire orientations to introduce himself and to welcome everyone to the company. Wow.

Just a few thoughts on how HR is Customer Service. Send me your thoughts.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

Document, Document, Document

Everyone knows the importance of proper documentation. The only problem is…it’s hard to do. If you missed seeing my presentation on documentation at the Annual SHRM Conference, it’s not too late…

Please join me on Thursday, July 14 at 1:00 EST for this 90-minute webinar where I will help you delve deeper into “bulletproofing” your documentation.  Gain tips and tools to improve your notetaking during coaching and counseling sessions, as well as during investigation and hiring interviews.  The webinar will include information on preparing “new,” “improve” and “continue” statements for performance management, tightening up your action plans, and words to avoid.  You will also learn how to document delicate discussions concerning leaves of absence, disability and religious accommodation requests.


Posted in General, Webinars | Leave a comment

Is there a Weiner in your workplace?

Ok, the jokes are everywhere about now former Sen. Weiner.  But, as professionals focused on workplace issues, I encourage you to sit back and ask yourself if you could have an Anthony Weiner in your midst.  Many of you provide your employees with a smartphone, laptop, maybe even a tablet.  With social media in every aspect of our lives you can’t ignore the fact that someone like Sen. Weiner is in your midst.

So, be smart and protect yourself. Here are some tips on what to do:

  1. Have a policy.
    1. One size policy does not fit all so you will need to customize to your industry, business and work environment
    2. Cover all forms of online communication and conduct
    3. Decide what, if any, use of social networking sites are permitted during working hours or on employer devices, systems, etc.
    4. Reduce any expectation of privacy stating you have the right to monitor company property at any time
  2. Prohibit
    1. Any conduct that violates a federal, state or local law
    2. Refrain from posting anything abusive, obscene, defamatory, threatening, discriminatory, harassing, abusive, hateful, or embarrassing to a fellow employee, vendor or customer
    3. Employees from revealing confidential or proprietary information
    4. Client names, technologies, trade secrets
    5. Personal information of other employees
    6. Use of employer logos / uniforms / brands
    7. All postings must respect copyright, privacy, fair use, financial disclosure, and other applicable laws
  3. Do not restrict protected activities (i.e., employee speech relating to working conditions)
  4. Warn about possible disciplinary action if the policy is violated
Posted in Investigations | Leave a comment


Welcome to my new blog and the first of many blog posts.  This post is dedicated to what I love to do: speak.  Give presentations. Train. I love it all. I am very excited that I will be heading to Sin City (Las Vegas) to speak at the upcoming SHRM Annual Conference.

Several years ago I delivered a program at the 2008 SHRM Annual Conference in Chicago called Creating Bulletproof Documentation. I figured the program would attract a small audience as most HR professionals probably have a handle on documentation. SHRM viewed the program the same way.  We were both wrong. The program was standing room only 30 minutes before I was scheduled to start.  What I learned is that HR professionals, managers and everyone else in between are hungry for tips and tools about how to properly create documentation that will withstand the scrutiny of a judge, governmental agency or those twelve pissed-off employees who will render a verdict.  Since 2008, I have delivered that program dozens of times.

So, permit me to introduce my newest documentation program that I will be delivering on Monday, June 27 at 10:45 called Document, Document, Document.  This program will delve deeper into helping you perfect your documentation.  I will cover how to effectively write new, continue and improve statements and how to focus and provide more detail in an action plan.  Of course, no documentation program would be complete if I didn’t provide you many words and phrases to avoid in your documentation.

I have also included a section on notetaking.  I firmly believe if we can be better notetakers we can more accurately document events, incidents or whatever we need to in order to keep accurate records of what happens in the workplace.

On Tuesday, June 28 at 10:45 I will deliver a fun program as part of SHRM’s California track.  My program, California: The Golden State for Big HR Mistakes: What You Need to Know About Policies, Training and Key Statutes will help you maneuver the many laws and requirements here in the Republic of California.

So, if you head to the conference – stop by one of my sessions.  The conference promises to be a great experience and I look forward to seeing many of you there.

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