Tuesday, October 30, 2012 0 comments

OSHA unveils 2012 Top Ten most-cited violations

According to Roy Maurer, writing online at the Society for Human Resources Management, OSHA announced the preliminary top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations for fiscal year 2012. The announcement was made at the 2012 National Safety Council Congress and Expo in Orlando, Florida on October 23.

This year's top ten violations were little changed from last year's top ten.

The top 10 most frequently cited workplace safety violations are as follows:
Friday, October 26, 2012 0 comments

Tread carefully when using E-Verify in union workplaces

When using E-Verify in union workplaces, one should be careful to ensure union involvement in making the decision and implementing the use of this screening system for employees. A recent settlement between the NLRB and Pacific Steel Casting Company followed a decision by the company to unilaterally implement E-Verify screening for its new hires without seeking the involvement of the labor union which was in the plant.

Pacific Steel made three mistakes, which opened them up to the NLRB action: unilateral implementation of E-Verify, misunderstanding the E-Verify Federal Contractor rule, and misunderstanding when employees can be terminated for E-Verify notices.
Monday, October 22, 2012 0 comments

Low turnout greets union meeting for Boeing workers in Charleston

That is unless you consider that the number of those who attended the meeting was a mere 1.3 to 1.6 percent of the company's Lowcountry workforce of 6,100 - far short of the number needed to organize the facility and not much more than the number who voted in favor of blocking the decertification of the facility when just several hundred worked there three years ago (a vote the IAM lost in a 68-199 vote).

But for all we know, they may have just attended for free food and drinks.

In any event, in spite of the very low turnout for the meeting, which followed a mailing to Boeing employees, the union plans to hold more meetings in the future to attempt to get back into the facility. Given the nastiness that erupted last year over Boeing's decision to open the plant in Charleston and the presence of the union in Boeing plants elsewhere, it seems likely they'll be back.


Speak Without Fear: A great online resource for developing professional speakers

I've known Deb Sofield for years. A professional speaking coach, she's worn a lot of hats in the Upstate South Carolina, including as a business and community leader. She chairs the Water and Sewer board that serves much of Greenville County and has been a leader in the Southeastern Institute for Women in Politics.

She's also got a free monthly newsletter that focuses upon developing professional speaking skills: Speak Without Fear. As someone who has taught speech at the college level, I'll say it's a great resource that you should check out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 0 comments

"Binders" and punishing equality in the workplace

In this week's Presidential debate, when Mitt Romney discussed his efforts to ensure gender diversity in hiring cabinet positions as Governor of Massachusetts, one might've thought feminists would have praised him for openly embracing the importance of ensuring gender equality in the workplace - but once again, they proved that no good deed goes unpunished.

When Romney was confronted with a pool of mostly-male candidates to help him run Massachusetts state government, he made an effort to cast a wider net by specifically seeking out female candidates - hence the "binders of women" remark, which was likely intended to mean "binders of resumes from women". The result of this effort was that ten of the twenty top positions in his administration where filled by women, including Beth Myers, his Chief of Staff, and Jane Edmonds, a self-admitted liberal Democrat who was appointed Secretary of Workforce but who spoke glowingly about him at this year's GOP convention (please see her convention speech below).

While one would think that Romney would be praised for creating more opportunities for women, the news media and Internet was full of attacks from those on the political Left who ignored the substance of his comments and used the phrase "binders of women" out of context to fuel their latest political attacks against him.

Again, here's where I step out of the political context and put on my human resources hat to discuss this issue in a more informed context.

Useful E-verify information

Immigration compliance and employment discrimination related to immigration compliance can put employers between a rock and a hard place. As more states require E-verify and the feds are ramping up enforcement against employers who misuse E-verify, it's important to get the facts.

Here are some basics for those who use E-verify:
  • Employers must still complete I-9 forms.
  • All new hires must be entered within three days of starting work.
  • All new hires must be entered into the E-verify system for confirmation of eligibility to work, not just some of them.
  • Employers cannot use E-verify to screen existing employees UNLESS a company been awarded a federal contract on or after September 8, 2009, that contains the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause (see more online).
  • E-verify notifications of work eligibility are NOT determinations of a new hire's immigration status. That's not a matter for employers to decide, so don't play cop or make assumptions.
  • When you receive a TNC (Tentative Non-Confirmation) notice from the system, be sure to print the notice, provide a copy to the employee and follow the directions. There are employer-specific instructions, as well as instructions for the new hire to follow.
  • Log in to E-verify on a daily basis to check for updates on new hires until cases are resolved.

But there's a lot of other information that you need to know, so don't take this article as a definitive answer about the system, rather use it as an invitation to learn more about it if you're not using it - or to brush up on what you know if you are a current E-verify user.

Monday, October 15, 2012 0 comments

Free safety Food for Thought: "Lessons Learned"

The folks at Safe-T-Net, a safety engineering consulting firm out of Charlotte, NC, have developed a free monthly resource in the form of a one-page look at safety incidents. You can subscribe to "Lessons Learned" and get on their monthly email list.

While they don't offer an in-depth look, they cover a wide range of industries and types of incidents. Some of these incidents and assessments can be useful in reminding us safety professionals to think about these things.

It won't change the world, but it's free and it's written by people who care.
Friday, October 12, 2012 0 comments

Feds cracking down on E-verify misuse

As E-verify usage becomes more common, especially with an increasing number of states passing immigration compliance laws which mandate the use of E-verify for new hires, employers need to be aware of what it is - and what it is not - so they can use it without getting into trouble.

It appears as if the federal Justice Department is taking this issue seriously, first by warning of plans to  ramp up investigations and enforcement actions for E-verify related acts of employment discrimination and then by taking action against employers who misuse of E-verify has an adverse impact upon employees. These are certainly warning signs those who use E-verify - or plan to - should take seriously.
Thursday, October 11, 2012 0 comments

IAM & Boeing: When "No" doesn't really mean no

Having been booted from the Charleston Boeing facility, and then losing a major NLRB battle to keep the plant from opening, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers labor union is back in Charleston, trying to get into the facility that didn't want them.

Obviously they don't think that "no" really means "no".

Don't let these guys take your daughter on a date.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 0 comments

Legislative success in the S.C. State Senate

While we've seen a lot of criticisms leveled at the State Senate, calling the institution a dead-end for legislation passed by the House. While some very useful bills have stalled in that chamber, not every good idea or vital piece of legislation dies there. As one of the lead negotiators for the construction industry and a primary instigator of efforts to reform the state's underground utility safety laws, I know firsthand what the Senate can accomplish.

Working with the Senate (and later House members), laws that were enacted in 1978 and were considered some of the most outdated in our nation's history one of the worst in the nation in regard to safety, were finally updated. These reforms helped to head off potential hazards that were putting both construction workers and the general public in harm’s way.
Monday, October 8, 2012 0 comments

Employee handbook rulings expand NLRB's reach into non-union workplaces

Employers who think that having a union-free workplace will protect them from National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) actions should think again. The federal labor agency has been broadening its reach into examining employer practices in non-union workplaces with no union activity taking place.

One area which is drawing increased scrutiny from the NLRB is the content of employee handbooks, as indicated by recent rulings issued by the board (Banner Estrella Medical Center, 358 NLRB No. 93, Hyundai America Shipping Agency Inc. 357 NLRB No. 80 and Karl Knauz Motors, 358 NLRB No. 164).

Unless the November elections result in a shake-up of the Board, employers and HR staff responsible for writing and maintaining the content of employee handbooks may want to scrutinize these documents for potential troublespots.
Sunday, October 7, 2012 0 comments

Watch for I-9 revisions next year - maybe

A recent story on the Society for Human Resource Management website reports that a new version of the I-9 form may be released next year - but that nobody could agree on exactly when that might be.

There are two versions of the I-9 form which employers should be using: the current version (Rev. 08/07/2009) or the previous version (Rev. 02/02/2009). 

Keep in mind that even if your company uses E-Verify, either voluntarily or in you're in a state which mandates it's use, you are still required to complete an I-9 form for every new hire and retain the information as you would have before your company began using E-Verify.

Friday, October 5, 2012 0 comments

Growing opposition to proposed federal hiring quotas

Back in December of last year, the Obama Administration's Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs posted a notice that the agency was planning to impose hiring quotas for individuals with disabilities on federally-funded projects. This proposal has drawn fire from a wide range of business and professional organizations who have expressed concerns about the adverse impact of this policy upon the business sector.

The proposed OFCCP policy would mandate a seven percent hiring quota for disabled and an additional two percent hiring quota for those with undefined “severe disabilities.” Patricia Shiu, director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, claimed this policy will help reduce a thirteen percent unemployment rate for those with disabilities. Shiu defended the proposed mandates, claiming that "specific goals" and "real accountability" were needed to ensure increased hiring of disabled individuals on federally-funded projects.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 0 comments

Questions about effectiveness of state OSH programs may lead to changes

Federal OSHA officials efforts to come up with effective measures for state-run Occupational Safety &  Health (OSH) programs keep coming up short, according to several reports which have examined how state-run programs are assessed. These measures are needed to ensure that state-run programs meet, if not exceed, standards and performance levels of the federally-run OSHA program which is applied in states without self-run programs.

Concerns about OSH programs in a number of states now include a report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Labor which has criticized the federal agency's ability to develop effective state OSH program measures. More bad news came in an August report from the Federal Annual Monitoring Evaluation (FAME), which criticized a number of states for the poor quality of whistle-blower programs.

These criticisms present major concerns for the quality and effectiveness of workplace safety and enforcement as the federal agency delegates the enforcement of workplace safety in many states, thus relying upon those states to develop effective safety programs that balance promoting safety with proper and effective enforcement.

E-verify mandate underway in North Carolina

Following the lead of South Carolina, which was one of the first states to pass workforce immigration compliance legislation following the Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting ruling, North Carolina is now mandating the use of E-Verify for screening all new applicants.

North Carolina will phase in compliance, based upon the size of a company's workforce, as follows:
  • Effective Oct. 1, 2012—employers with 500 or more employees will be required to use E-Verify to check work authorization for all new hires.
  • Effective Jan. 1, 2013—employers with 100 or more employees will be required to use E-Verify to check work authorization for all new hires.
  • Effective July 1, 2013—employers with 25 or more employees will be required to use E-Verify to check work authorization for all new hires.
For companies with multi-state workforces, the agency will consider just in-state employees towards the determination of the first date of enforcement.

At this time, the North Carolina legislation exempts employers with less than 25 employees as well as seasonal workers (but keep reading because federal requirements may still apply).