Will proposed changes in health care help employees?

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HR Roundtable panel member Bill Pinto gives his take on the health care reform bills currently being debated in Congress, and their impact on small businesses and their employees:

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved a bill yesterday that requires certain businesses to offer health insurance to their employees or pay a penalty to the federal government. Few would argue that it’s a bad idea to encourage the expansion of health care coverage for employees. But will this bill have the intended effect?

Under the Senate proposal, businesses that do not provide health insurance would be required to pay $750 per year for every full-time employee who is not provided coverage, and $350 per year for every part-time employee not covered.

In the House, Democrats unveiled their own reform bill that calls for penalties on businesses for failing to provide health insurance and surcharges (read “taxes”) on individuals that have certain …

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Ask HR: What job skills do you consider to be most valuable for job applicants in this tough job market?


A: There are many skills that may be important in this tough job market such as technical and adaptive skills but transferable skills are what many employers may now more than ever deem to be the most valuable as these skills can be transferred from industry to industry and job to job. Examples of these skills are effective business communication, customer service (as we’re in a service oriented environment), analytical, interpersonal and teamwork. These are skills that one takes with them no matter where they go. Danese Simpkins, HR Director for Air2Web


A: As an attorney who regularly works with Human Resources professionals, many employers, in today’s economy, benefit from HR professionals who possess the acumen to not only help reduce the legal exposure of organizational restructuring, but also assist in implementing personnel policies that will inure to the overall profitability of their employers. Antonio Robinson, Employment & Labor Attorney with Littler Mendelson, …

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Observations from an internal workplace investigation

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HR Roundtable panel member Bill Pinto details what goes on during an internal investigation in the workplace:

Occasionally clients ask me to conduct internal investigations for them concerning a variety of employee matters. Recently, I worked with a client on an investigation of alleged harassment. An employee presented a couple of incidents that involved her and asserted that a couple of other employees were experiencing some of the same issues. The client asked me to interview the employees in the department as well as their supervisors to determine what had occurred and whether further action was necessary.

Over the course of a couple of weeks, I interviewed a number of employees and the supervisors, asking them if they had observed anything that the complaining employee alleged or any other incident of possible mistreatment. The reactions from the employees to the various questions I asked them were interesting to say the least. These are the most …

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Ask HR: What’s the current demand for internships and contract work?

This past week, we asked our panel of HR experts the following question: With so many new graduates seeking work experience, and so many people in career transitions, why do you believe more employers do not offer volunteer, internships, part-time, or contract work opportunities?

Click on the link above to read their individual answers. Some of our experts felt that there were actually more opportunities for contract work or part-time work in order to temporarily fill the holes left by mass waves of layoffs in various industries. But other experts felt that generally speaking, employers are being more conservative with the scope of their internship programs.

So this means that recent college graduates may have to work a little harder than in the past to secure entry-level employment, internships, and volunteer opportunities with their career goals in mind. Do you have any advice for recent college graduates? Should they seek alternative work opportunities until that good …

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Ask HR: How should convicted felons approach the job search?

This past month’s Ask HR question was a tough one: “If an applicant has a history of being convicted as a felon, what advice can you offer them to help them get back in the work force while being honest about their past?”

You can see all of the responses on the Ask HR page.

Obviously, honesty is the best policy, because background checks are standard these days. But there are ways you can approach this sensitive subject and not eliminate yourself from consideration for a job. Read the advice of our experts and let us know what you think.

If you have been convicted of a felony, how has it impacted your job search? What did you do to get a job?

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Now is the Time to Step-Up Training

HR Roundtable panel member Michael Haberman discusses how important it is for companies to continue to provide training for their employees during tough economic times:

When times are tough and companies are looking to make budgetary cuts often one of the first things to go is the training budget. However, this could actually cost the company more than it will save. “How so?” you ask. First, it is well known that it is much cheaper to keep a good customer than it is to find a new one. Cutting employee training in such things as customer service could end up driving away a good customer while a well-trained employee may turn that “good” customer into a “loyal” customer, thus retaining a revenue stream for the company.

Another effect of training is that it helps retain good employees. People feel more valued when they realize the company is willing to invest money in their skill sets, despite tough times. Yes, I understand that people with a job are probably going to stay put …

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Creating a culture at work

HR Roundtable expert Bill Pinto discusses the importance of creating the right kind of culture in the workplace:

I had lunch recently with a friend of mine who runs a business. In the past, he has had managers on site to handle most of the day-to-day affairs. Because of the current environment, he has taken more of a hands-on role and discovered that the culture that he wanted his business to reflect was not as evident as he intended. So he decided to take the opportunity to re-establish the culture that he wants his employees to espouse. We discussed a number of ways to communicate that culture.

Identify the culture. The first thing that businesses should do is determine what the culture is that they want. Is it a family operation? Is it formal or informal? Is it straight-laced or more laid back? IBM, Microsoft, Dell and Google are all involved in the computer industry in various ways, but if you spent some time in an IBM office and a Google workspace, you would see …

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Sometimes you have to change course in life

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HR Roundtable member Michael Haberman shares his own tale of having to reinvent himself after losing his job many years ago:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution announced this week, that as a response to the nature of the newspaper business, they were changing the format of the paper. They were doing so to make it more readable, more visually attractive, and easier to handle in order to attract a new generation of readers. They have done so in order to try to be competitive and to keep people employed. I am glad to see they have responded and I wish them success. But what they have done is a good lesson for many of us who have been let go from their jobs. Sometimes you have to make some changes in order to adjust to the world.

I did so some 18 years ago in another downturn age. I was let go in a mass job action. While everyone I knew went scrambling for another job, doing the same thing in another company, I decided to strike out on my own and start my own …

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Mandatory arbitration: HR expert’s take on Pyett decision

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HR Roundtable member Bill Pinto gives his take on the U.S. Supreme Court ’s opinion to allow unions to waive
employee’s access to a judicial forum for statutory discrimination claims.

For decades, the U.S. Supreme Court has approved the use of arbitration to resolve employment-related disputes. This position rose to prominence from a trilogy of cases in 1960 involving the steelworkers union and the use of arbitration to settle matters collectively bargained in a union contract. Over the years, the Court has expanded its position to cover mandatory arbitration agreements between employers and their individual employees. Such agreements require employees to use arbitration instead of the courts to resolve their employment claims, including individual statutory discrimination claims.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court issued an opinion that permits employers and unions to include a provision in a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that …

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Left behind: Those who survive a layoff

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Here’s a timely topic from HR Roundtable panel member Dionna Keels. While much discussion has surrounded those that are laid off, what about those that survive job cuts and are left behind to pick up the pieces at the company? Keels provides her expert opinion:

So what happens to those that survive the lay off? With all the recent downsizing many employees have been left behind with the responsibility of not only continuing to fulfill their current responsibilities, but typically they are also expected to pick up additional duties. Of course, these lucky souls are still employed, so they should be happy right? Well, that depends on who you asked. Those who have been laid off would say YES but sometimes those left behind might disagree.

Employers must be sensitive to the fact that after downsizing the employees who have been spared also need to be addressed. Typically morale is down, fear increases and employee loyalty decreases. As management decides how the …

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