By Karen Gregory, HRSS President
“Ignorance is Bliss”
Most recently I have encountered several situations where my clients have relied on the old adage “Ignorance is Bliss” meaning it’s a much happier place to be when you know nothing. Well, I’m here to tell you that knowing nothing and hoping that will provide top cover in the world of Human Resources will not get you off the hook when the crap hits the fan.
In HR, Ignorance is NOT Bliss.
Here are 3 very recent examples of what could become costly HR mistakes:
1) A client asks me how she can find out the age of her applicants for a Administrative Assistant position. She stated, I know I can’t ask overtly, so please tell me another way I can find out.
Ugh…really? This is never a good place to be. Of course, I reminded her that she could not discriminate in the hiring process based on age. She insisted she needed to know the age of the candidates before interviewing because she wanted a younger person.
Ultimately, my job as a consultant and advisor is to advise. I explained to her the costly implications of an EEOC complaint and then the conversation went cold. Let’s see what she decides to do.
2) Another situation arose that had to do with discriminating based on first and last names. In this case, the company was weeding out resumes based on names that appeared African American and who were women.
Really? When does the madness stop? The position they were hiring for was a Structural Engineering position. This company decided, for whatever reason, that they didn’t want African Americans or women so they started tossing resumes with any appearance of a name that represented either of those PROTECTED classes.
This is another example of where this could result in a VERY costly HR mistake. Although it may be difficult to prove discrimination occurred, the EEOC has plenty of time and money on their hands to pursue.
I don’t think this is something that any company, regardless of size, wants to deal with. Not to think about the fact that the company potentially lost out on several well-qualified candidates that could have done great things for their company!
3) Lastly, is the case of misclassifying employees vs. subcontractors. This tends to happen more in small business environments because it is perceived that there is a cost savings with hiring subcontractors. That is not necessarily the case.
The determination of employee vs. subcontractor is really a matter of how much control the employer has. If the employer directs the member to report to a specific location, at a specific time, and monitors the work closely while providing all materials and equipment, the person is an employee. There’s no way around it.
Misclassifying employees as subcontractors can bring a HUGE fine, large enough to shut some small businesses down. It’s just not worth trying to save a few pennies that may ultimately cost you several thousands of dollars.
My piece of advice to those reading this, hire an HR Advisor or Attorney to ensure you are making the right decisions that will not lead to costly HR mistakes. Ignorance is NOT Bliss.
I’d love to hear your thoughts? What have you seen in the workplace?