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HR Magazine Book Blog

Perils and Pitfalls of California Employment Law: A Guide for HR Professionals
By Matthew S. Effland
Ogletree Deakins/SHRM, 2014
111 pages
List price: $28.95
ISBN: 978-1-58644-363-4

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This handbook helps HR professionals navigate California’s unique and complex employment law landscape. The state’s laws significantly expand employee rights beyond what federal law provides. Among the challenges, according to author Matthew S. Effland, are these:
--Wage orders. Employers must know which of California’s wage orders apply to their workforces and which employees are exempt. The book guides HR in making those determinations. It also covers state laws dealing with daily and weekly overtime (the state requires daily overtime for nonexempt workers—a change from the weekly overtime used elsewhere).
California also requires specific meal breaks and rest breaks, mandates “suitable” seating for employees, and even sets limits on both indoor and outdoor temperatures in which people can work. All these rules go far beyond federal law requirements.
--“What do we do now?”The book looks at what an employer should do when setting up a new hire. Employers must watch out for “call-in pay” (an employee who calls in on a day off must be paid for at least two hours’ work, even if the employee works less than two hours) and a requirement that employees accrue both vacation time and paid time off. There are no “use it or lose it” policies in the state.
Other topics include calculating rates of pay, figuring whether travel time is compensable and following the state’s record-keeping requirements.
--Anti-discrimination laws.California has “aggressive” anti-discrimination laws. Effland details important differences between California and federal laws, including the fact that the state laws cover more employers. The state prohibits sexual orientation discrimination, while federal law does not. California’s laws on sex discrimination, age discrimination and disability discrimination provide broader definitions of discrimination than do federal laws. Individual supervisors have more potential personal liability for harassment under California law.
The book describes how state agencies handle discrimination claims against employers and how damages work.
--Leave of absence laws. While federal law on leave is very limited, California provides “a dozen different forms of protected leave,” and Effland lays out specifics. The state has its own version of a family and medical leave law. Another law provides “pregnancy disability leave.”
Other laws create rights to wage replacement for eligible workers who must care for certain relatives; permit the use of accrued sick leave to care for relatives; and permit leave for crime victims, domestic or sexual violence victims, organ donors, and more. Effland provides strategies from seasoned HR executives to cope with leave laws.
The book is part of the Ogletree Deakins/SHRM Employment Law Series.

401(k) Essentials for the HR Professional
By Barbara Klein
Blue Point Books, 2014
166 pages
List price: $39.95
ISBN: 978-1-883423-29-2

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Barbara Klein’s volume simplifies plan administration for 401(k) plan sponsors. Klein guides readers through setup and administration, from designing basic plan documents through troubleshooting for established plans and correcting administrative mistakes.
The book defines 401(k)s, types of contributions, limits on employee contributions and the meaning of a “qualified” plan. Klein discusses how different parts of the organization play roles in 401(k)s, including HR, management, employees, the third-party plan administrator, brokers, lawyers and others.
She lists significant timelines, including the top 10 deadlines any plan needs to meet, from enrollment to document amendment dates to deposit deadlines.
Other topics include:
--Communicating with employees about plan details, enrollment, form deadlines, etc.
--Enrolling employees, encouraging them to participate in the plan, and using automatic enrollment.
--Making loans to participating employees. The book points out ways that loans can go off track and lists tips for providing trouble-free loans.
--Understanding how vesting works.
--Making distributions from 401(k) plans.
--Conducting compliance tests. These tests ensure that a plan doesn’t favor one group of employees over others.
--Keeping accurate records. Know what records are important; determine who must retain plan records; and create a formal, written records policy to protect your organization from litigation.
--Dealing with mistakes. The IRS has procedures for fixing administrative mistakes. Know where to turn at the IRS and among your in-house 401(k) team if something goes wrong.
Klein offers a detailed glossary of 401(k) terms, a chart decoding 401(k) and pension acronyms, and an appendix about administering plans that don’t run on a typical calendar year.

Commonsense Talent Management
By Steven T. Hunt
John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2014
444 pages
List price: $50
ISBN: 978-0-470-44241-8

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This volume on strategic HR—and how it improves company performance—differs from the many other books about strategic HR because it doesn’t recommend one particular approach to designing HR processes. It doesn’t advocate any one best way to manage a workforce or promote a specific tool to make your HR function more strategic.
Instead, author Steven T. Hunt focuses on “major design questions that underlie strategic HR processes.” Hunt aims to show HR professionals how to make their own judgments based on their organization’s particular workforce, resources and business needs. He even examines “the problem with HR case studies” to illustrate why what works for one employer might not work for another.
Hunt lays out what strategic HR means, beyond being a catchphrase for business books: He says it’s about maximizing workforce productivity. The book covers these topics:
--Business execution. How do you get employees to do what you need them to do to fulfill your business strategies? Hunt provides six questions to assess your business execution abilities.
--Recruiting and staffing processes. Too many employers treat hiring and staffing as purely administrative matters, neglecting to tie those processes to business needs and hires’ performance prospects. Hunt discusses how to take recruiting more seriously; involve managers more; and design better, proactive processes.
--Goals. Hunt condenses extensive research on goal-setting into a pithy direction: If you want maximum performance, set clear, specific, achievable goals for employees. Readers learn key questions for designing and managing goals. The book covers how to tailor specific goals to different types of job roles and different employees.
--Performance management. Hunt criticizes trendy attempts to abolish performance evaluations and argues for evaluations’ worth. Topics include critical elements of performance management design and steps for building competency models.
--Development. Hunt argues that “development has no inherent business value” unless it benefits business operations. He discusses integrating development with everyday work, designing development to address your talent requirements, and identifying which people or positions need development. The book charts different development methods and their effectiveness.
--Strategic HR processes. Chapters outline how to build, deploy and adopt new processes that improve business execution. Key tips include questions to assess how well you use technology to support new processes.

Measuring ROI in Employee Relations and Compliance
By Patricia Pulliam Phillips and Jack J. Phillips
SHRM, 2014
182 pages
List price: $32.95
ISBN: 978-1-58644-359-7

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This book is the first in a series of five SHRM publications on measuring return on investment (ROI) for a wide range of programs, from diversity initiatives to safety programs to recruiting and selection processes.
Using case studies from actual employers, the book delves into how those employers made financial sense of programs that can appear hard to quantify, such as sexual harassment prevention training, as well as programs that appear simpler to put into dollars.
An introduction to ROI basics guides readers through the steps for converting data into monetary values and identifying intangible benefits that can’t be assigned dollar amounts but still have value. Readers learn how to calculate ROI and why ROI builds respect for HR functions and increases support for HR budgets.
The bulk of the book applies those basic ROI steps to specific employers’ real-life experiences.
For all the case studies in the book, authors Patricia Pulliam Phillips and Jack J. Phillips use charts to allow quick access to details such as barriers to and enablers of success, specific cost types, data analysis, and more. All the case studies end with discussion questions so readers can learn from the employers’ approaches and challenges they faced.
Case studies include measuring ROI in a diversity management program at a large financial company; in an online English as a second language program at a pharmaceutical firm; and in a sexual harassment prevention program at a health care company.
Other books in the SHRM series will cover ROI calculations and employer experiences in compensation, performance and rewards systems; in health, safety and wellness programs; in learning and development programs; and in recruiting, selection and retention programs.

Compiled by Leigh Rivenbark, a freelance writer and editor in Vienna, Va.