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The HR Specialist Forum

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A Virginia woman created a social media storm last month when she was photographed giving the presidential motorcade the middle finger while riding her bike. When she notified her bosses at Akima, a federal contracting firm, that she was the woman in the photo, they instantly fired her and escorted her out.
Here’s good news for employers facing litigants acting as their own attorneys. The Court of Appeal of California has concluded that low-income ex-employees are not entitled to free counsel under the Shriver Act, which calls for legal counsel to “represent low-income parties in civil matters involving critical issues affecting basic human needs.”
With gasoline prices averaging near $4 per gallon, many employees are struggling to keep their tanks filled. For some, the added cost makes it hard to get to work each day. Are your employees sweating the gas price crisis? Is your organization doing anything to help relieve employees’ gas pains? Tell us your story.
I've worked in HR for several years for smaller companies, but don’t have an HR certification. To further my career in HR and make myself more valuable to larger employers, some mention certification, but others emphasize having a degree in HR. Which is more valuable: SHRM’s PHR certification? A degree? Both?—Gienah
We are going to have to terminate an employee whose personal life has been in turmoil for the last year. There's no doubt he needs to go (the decision has been made), but his manager feels terrible about having to fire the man. What kind of advice can I offer the manager? What kind of help should we offer the employee?—Pete C., Colorado
In a few weeks, hundreds of college graduates will hit the streets looking for jobs in HR. You were once in their shoes, but now you’re older and wiser—maybe thanks to advice from experienced HR mentors. What tips did they give you to help your HR career? What advice would you offer to young people eager to start an HR career?
My fellow directors are always late for the HR-related meetings I call, usually more than 10 minutes late. I've tried to schedule more time between meetings, give them plenty of notice, provide all the background materials well in advance and all the other basic ideas to help keep them on time. Nothing works, and frankly, I think it shows a lack of respect for the HR function. Has anyone found something that has worked for this problem?—E.J., Minn.
Here's your chance to decide the winner in the “Final Four Biggest Workplace Headaches for 2011” tournament. Which of the following do you rate as the biggest workplace headache? Why?

A. Supervisors forgetting to document warnings
B. Employees on intermittent FMLA leave
C. Hostile work environment allegations
D. Employee theft
For the last year, my supervisor has been telling me that I'll be due for a raise "as soon as the company is back on its feet." Well, two months ago, the executive team made a flashy presentation about our bright prospects for the coming year. I myself have processed a couple dozen salary increases for other employees. So far, not one word from my supervisor about when I might be getting a little something extra. At what point should I nudge her about this? How should I approach that awkward conversation?—Julia, SC
Several of our managers want to hire college interns this summer. I explained the specific legal and payroll requirements of using interns—that we will probably have to pay them—and the managers are fine with that. What I want to know is, what’s the best way to integrate interns into our day-to-day work, so it’s a good learning experience for the students, beneficial to our operations and a minimal disruption? Does anyone have experience using interns? What pitfalls should we be aware of?—Luke, Ohio
My company gives awards (bonus checks) to employees who have worked five, 10, 15 and 20 years. In the past we've gone from inviting the entire company to an annual dinner where those being honored were presented their checks to only the honorees and their supervisors attending the dinner. This year, we're considering cutting back even more. I'd like to learn how other companies honor their long-standing employees.—Terri
My boss recently encouraged me to go for my Professional in Human Resources certification from the Society for Human Resource Management. I’m considering it, but need to get an idea of just how big a time commitment I would be signing up for. I see that SHRM says I should plan on a minimum of 65 study hours, but I have a feeling that’s on the low side. For any PHRs out there, how much time did you spend going for the designation? Is SHRM’s three-day prep course worth it?—Bruce, N.J.
We’re hiring again, but have been swamped with applications from unqualified people. We would like to set up a bonus program that pays employees who bring us good candidates that we ultimately hire. What’s the right amount to pay for employee referrals? How should we structure the program?—Steve, N.C.
We just interviewed a candidate who would be a great addition to our call center staff. He has the experience, and most important, seems to have the personality for the job. Only one problem: He has one of those piercings next to his eyebrow. I don’t care, and his potential supervisor doesn’t care, but I’m pretty sure our president will not like it one bit. He’s pretty conservative, and so is our company generally. My question is, who should I talk to about this—the guy we want to hire (tell him to lose the eyebrow thing) or the president (tell him to loosen up)?—Diedre, Neb.
We have a policy that requires all requests for employment references to go through HR; responses are limited to essential information. Managers are allowed to give personal references as long as they are not speaking as a representative of the organization. Lately managers have been asked to “recommend” staff on business-related social networking sites like LinkedIn. Since they are identified as managers of our organization on LinkedIn, wouldn’t that be a violation of our policy? We are split on this question, and I am wondering how other organizations handle this issue. — Peggie, Oakland
As part of my new job, I was told that I would be responsible for handing out payroll checks to the entire staff—hundreds of employees! Some of them are live checks, too. (Why people don’t direct deposit is beyond me.) The result is that I’m spending a good chunk of every other Friday tracking down people, leaving notes on their desks, sending e-mails and so forth, all so they can get their pay envelopes. Is it normal for HR to pass out checks? Shouldn’t someone from accounting be handling this?—R, Cali

Our employees are by far the “gossipiest” group I have ever worked with. Rumors fly around the shop floor and office at lightning speed. These people dish the dirt on each other, and they’re always “learning” that we’ve just lost a big customer or we’re going to cut hours or someone is about to get fired. Of course, most of these rumors are untrue. I try to put out the fires as fast as possible, but I’m wondering if there’s a better overall way to put an end to this weird culture. Has anyone else faced this problem? Any advice on what I can do so gossip isn’t such a distraction?—Pete, Bay Area
A new year, new beginnings and ... just maybe ... some new ways of doing things! Did you make any work-related resolutions for 2011? Any HR habits you're trying to quit--or hoping to start? (Around here, we're resolving to give HR Weekly readers a more robust way to interact with our information.) What's your resolution?—The HR Specialist editors
I’ve been tasked with resetting our employee pay bands, so they are appropriate for all categories of positions within our workforce. I’m not sure where to begin. Does anyone have any guidelines they use to set employee salaries and raises?—Tara, New York
Bless their hearts, several employees are raising money for charitable causes this holiday season. However, they are soliciting contributions from co-workers during working hours. This has become disruptive, and a few employees have complained to HR. It’s probably too late to do anything this year, but I would like to develop a policy regulating charitable activities at work. What should such a policy cover? Does anyone have sample policy language I can adapt? Thanks.—Dan, Illinois
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