Tag Archives: SHRM

SHRM Legal Conference Gets Under Way

You’ve probably heard of the best-selling book What To Expect When You’re Expecting. Well, what about what to expect when your employees are expecting? This was, in fact, the title of a session during the first day of SHRM’s 2015 Employment Law & Legislative Conference this Monday, where employment attorney Courtney Perez reminded a packed room that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made targeting pregnancy discrimination one of its top enforcement priorities.

“This topic is personal for me,” said Perez, a working mom of two and the expectant mother of a third. As a senior associate at Dallas-based Carter Scholer Arnett Hamada & Mockler, she advises clients regularly on how to avoid discriminating against employees and ending up on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

Mothers make up a huge chunk of the workforce: 57 percent of women with children 1 years old or younger hold down jobs outside the home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while 62 percent of women who give birth are in the workforce at the time and 40 percent of U.S. households with children younger than 18 have mothers who are the sole or primary breadwinners, she said.

As the number of women in the workforce has grown, so too has the rate of pregnancy discrimination: The number of pregnancy discrimination charges filed with the EEOC went up by 35 percent between 1997 and 2008, said Perez. One of the biggest areas of contention revolves around the topic of light duty for pregnant workers: The Supreme Court is expected to announce its ruling soon in Young vs. UPS, in which delivery driver Peggy Young filed suit against the package delivery company after it required her to go on unpaid maternity leave instead of providing her with light duty during her pregnancy. UPS said Young didn’t qualify for a program in which temporarily disabled employees were given light duty until they could resume their regular jobs.

Should the Supreme Court rule in favor of Young, “it may expand the definition of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act,” the 1978 law passed by Congress in response to an earlier Supreme Court ruling that employers who discriminated against pregnant employees were not guilty of sex discrimination, said Perez.

Although pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under the law, the EEOC’s guidelines recommend that employers treat pregnant employees whose condition limits their job abilities the same as other temporarily disabled employees, said Perez.

She recommended a set of best practices for HR to follow, chiefly that HR ensure that a company’s policies and practices related to hiring, promotion and pay do not disadvantage pregnant employees or those who plan to take or have taken maternity leave. And beware the “mommy track,” she said, referring to the practice of steering pregnant employees into less-prestigious, lower-paying jobs.

“That’s the stuff of which discrimination lawsuits are made,” said Perez.

State governments aren’t waiting on the Supreme Court or Congress to give increased protections to pregnant workers, said Jonathan Segal, a partner at Duane Morris in Philadelphia. At least nine states have passed laws that go further than the federal PDA in requiring companies to accommodate pregnant employees, he said, part of a trend in which states are taking a more activist role in workplace matters.

“There may be gridlock at the federal level, but at the state level we’re seeing a lot of action,” said Segal during the session “All Politics is Local: State Law Trends.”

Thirteen states so far (and at least 90 municipalities) have passed so-called “ban the box” laws that prohibit employers from asking job candidates on their initial application whether they’ve ever been convicted of something. Four states have passed laws specifically protecting interns from discrimination and harassment. Twenty one states have passed laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and 19 of those states also have laws banning gender-identity discrimination.

“With the 2016 election, you can expect to see more ballot initiatives pertaining to paid sick leave, raising the minimum wage, gender identity — more Democratic voters tend to participate in presidential elections than mid-term ones, and these issues resonate with them,” said Segal.

Conservative state lawmakers have also been active: Twenty-two states have passed laws protecting the right of employees to store guns in their cars while they’re at work. A new law proposed in Pennsylvania would even allow employees to store guns on the outside of their vehicles, said Segal. Meanwhile, the number of “right to work” states is at an all-time high of 26, having recently been joined by Wisconsin and Michigan.

All of this poses a special burden for multi-state employers, said Segal, who must comply with a patchwork of regulations across the country.

In some cases, he said, the best approach is to keep it simple. With respect to ban-the-box, it might make sense to simply remove the question from all job application forms, rather than having differing forms for different jurisdictions.

“Does it really make sense to have multiple forms for different states?” asked Segal. “This is an area where we’re certainly going to see more states adopt this rule. It’s one thing that actually attracts support from both Republicans and Democrats.”

SHRM Stepping Back from HR Standards Work

SHRM-Logo2The Society for Human Resource Management recently alerted the members of its HR standards task force that it plans to end its current role in creating standards for the HR profession in areas such as cost-per-hire and performance management. In a letter to the task force, Deb Cohen, SHRM’s senior vice president for knowledge development, said that while SHRM believes “the HR profession needs consensus-driven HR standards,” its own priority is on competency-based certification. SHRM recently announced details of its new competency-based certification, which, as we’ve previously reported, has caused a rift between it and the HR Certification Institute.

SHRM will be transitioning out of its role as the American National Standards Institute administrator of the U.S. technical advisory group (TAG) for the HR standards, known as ISO/TC 260, sometime during the first quarter of 2015, Cohen wrote.

“One of the things we want to focus on is keeping our new competency model fresh and refreshed, because once you create a new model you need to ensure people know what they need to do to stay up to date,” said Cohen in an interview.

SHRM will also transition out of its role as an ANSI “Accredited Standards Developer” and will work with ANSI to find a replacement organization to carry on that work, she wrote.

“We’ve been actively reaching out to already-accredited standards-developing organizations and we’ve had some inquiries from folks interested in becoming accredited standards-developing organizations,” said Cohen. “We’re very hopeful we’ll find one soon and, frankly, if it takes a little while we’re prepared to help in any way.”

SHRM plans to continue being an “active member” of the U.S. TAG, said Cohen. “We’ll continue to have a voice and a point of view regarding new standards, and we’ll continue to vote and participate in meetings, because we think this is very important work. We just won’t be the administrator.”

Elizabeth Neiman, a spokeswoman for ANSI, confirmed that SHRM had given notice of its intent to withdraw. “We are grateful for their many efforts, as well as their stated intention to continue as an active participant in standards development work, both domestically and internationally,” she said in an emailed statement.

A source who spoke on background said the move confirms that SHRM wants to focus on its new competency certification and probably wanted to reassign the small number of staff members who’d been working on the standards. The source also said there had been some grumbling that ANSI seemed to care more about process than content and that too much time had to be devoted to “crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.”

Cohen agreed that ANSI is “very process focused” but said that is simply part of their job.

“My sense of ANSI is that they want to ensure an open, consensus-driven process and, in order for that to happen, there need to be a lot of process checks,” she said. “I don’t think they have a dog in the hunt with regard to content—that’s not part of their purview.”

The new certification process carries high stakes for SHRM, the source said: The organization anticipates that its revenues will dip as it transitions from the previous HRCI certifications and waits for people to sign up for the new ones. In anticipation of this, the source said, SHRM recently conducted layoffs at its Alexandria, Va., headquarters and froze hiring for some positions.

Cohen declined to comment about the layoffs.

“SHRM is still committed to consensus-driven standards for the HR profession—we’re pleased to have been involved and plan to continue, but we’re changing the role we’ve been playing,” she said.