Human Resources and Small Biz Advice and HR column

A personnel checklist for 2009-part 1

January 26, 2009

A personnel checklist for 2009-part 1

If you are a human resources professional, the start of a new year is an excellent time to assess the human resource function in your company, including how well your company is complying with the many and often complex employment laws. Take the following action now:

—Count your employees. Many employment laws apply only to companies with a certain number of employees. For example, employers with 15 or more employees must comply with the Employee Polygraph Protection Act, the Immigration Reform & Control Act (IRCA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Employment Retirement Income Security Act. Employers with 20 or more employees are required to comply with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. Employers with 50 or more employees must comply with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These are just a few examples.

—Be aware of recent changes in employment law. Regulations including the ADA, FMLA and IRCA were changed this month. Employers should use resources such as professional associations, workshops, HR journals and Internet resources to remain updated on new and proposed regulations. Don't overlook state regulations.

—Update all job descriptions. Job descriptions confirm employees' responsibilities to the employer, employee and regulatory agencies. Job descriptions are referred to during all phases of the employment process and are used when preparing a help-wanted ad, screening, interviewing and selecting applicants for employment, as well as in wage surveys, performance reviews, reorganization, discipline and termination processes. Job descriptions should include a general statement of job responsibilities; a detailed listing of the essential functions of the job; the job's exempt/non-exempt pay status; and the job's experience, special skill, certification, license, education and physical requirements.

—Check the wages and pay status of your employees. Review the minimum hourly wages you're paying. The federal and Indiana state minimum wage is $6.55, but will increase to $7.25 July 24. Make sure all employees paid as exempt (exempt from overtime pay) are classified correctly. Confirm that non-exempt (paid overtime) employees are not working "off the clock" and work overtime only when authorized by their manager, and that individuals treated by the company as independent contractors actually meet appropriate definition.

—Schedule performance reviews. All employees should have a performance review at least annually, or more often, at the employer's election. This process lets the employee know what is expected and how the employee is doing. It also provides documentation for wage adjustments as well as for disciplinary action. In addition to reflecting on performance, give as much or more attention to future goals and the employee's and employer's role in accomplishing those goals. Informal performance reviews should occur frequently during the year, so there are no surprises during the formal review.

—Review personnel files. Make sure your personnel files (active and inactive) are secure and accessible on a controlled and documented need-to-know basis. Medical, equal employment opportunity information and related files must be separate from the regular files. I-9 forms (identity and employment authorizations) should be filed together in a separate file. Document destruction should follow retention and destruction guidelines, including the maintenance of applicable records.

—Update all employment posters. Employers are required to place certain federal and state posters where employees and applicants will see them. Although the typical employer will post seven federal and five state posters, other posters may be required due to the type and/or number of employees. Posting requirements vary by statute. Not all employers are covered by each of the statutes, so may not be required to post a specific notice. Individual posters are available free on government Web sites or can be purchased in a comprehensive federal and state poster packet from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Additional information may be found at www.in.gov/rde/xfw/in_core/hs.xsl/faqs. htm and at www.dol.gov/osbp/sbrefa/poster/matrix.htm.

2009 promises to be a challenging one economically for many companies. Make sure no additional burdens are imposed on your company because of failure to comply with employment laws and regulations. 

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Phillips owns Phillips & Associates HR Services in Greenwood and collaborates with writer Gail A. Bradford on this periodic column. They can be reached at smallbizhr@ibj.com.

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