Letters from Readers

Feb 1, 2003

HR Magazine, February 2003Sarbanes-Oxley Requires Pipeline to Audit Committee

In his otherwise excellent article, “The Joy of Uncooking” (November), on the new corporate accountability act, Jonathan Segal overlooked a provision that directly affects corporate HR departments in their role of managing employee communications.

Paragraph 4(B) of Section 301 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires each public company board’s audit committee to establish procedures for the confidential, anonymous submission by employees of concerns regarding questionable accounting or auditing matters. While many large companies already have “hotlines” for employees to make confidential complaints of unfair treatment or business ethics violations, these procedures may not pass muster under the new statute unless there is some kind of triage system that routes financial accounting issues directly to the audit committee. Typically, contractors providing employee complaint hotline services route complaints to the appropriate corporate department, usually HR, but not to board members.

Although the new act does not specify what kind of procedure must be established, it is clear, as Segal stressed, that it must include effective protections for the informant. Other provisions prohibit any retaliation against those who come forward with information about corporate fraud.

Public companies have 270 days from the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to come into compliance with this requirement. The Securities and Exchange Commission has promised rule-making to flesh out the act, but, in the meantime, HR professionals should check that their hotline providers are aware of this new complaint procedure requirement.

Marian Exall

Nursing Article No Cure

The December issue’s “An Acute Condition: Too Few Nurses” was another disappointing article on the shortage of nurses. First of all, the article implies that hospitals are the only ones experiencing these shortages. What about nursing homes, private doctor’s offices and family practice clinics, to mention a few? Don’t they count?

This “acute condition,” as it is called, is nothing new. Anyone who has worked in HR in the health care field for more than 10 years has heard all this before. The tactics listed are just putting a Band-Aid on the wound; they won’t cure the problem. Until we can make being a nurse the honorable and noble profession it once was there will continue to be a shortage.

Keith Shoemaker
Higginsville, Mo.

When the Going Gets Tough …

Bill Leonard’s “Access Denied” article (October) on HIPAA conveys a “sky is falling” sense of the administrative burdens created by the impending medical privacy rule. I, for one, give more credit to the HR professionals charged with the responsibility of complying with this new regulation. These days, compliance with government regulations is a key responsibility of the HR function. As previously reported in this publication, the growing complexity of HR with ever-increasing legal stakes is one reason for the growing pre-eminence of the HR function as a key player in top management circles.

HR professionals daily guide their organizations through a minefield of government regulations on matters such as EEO, anti-harassment, ADA, affirmative action, drug-free workplaces, OSHA compliance, hazard communication, FMLA and other issues. Likewise, medical privacy compliance is one more arena guided by federal regulations. Those regulations require covered entities to assign responsibility to a privacy officer, define and communicate medical privacy policies, implement privacy safeguards, document compliance actions, and train employees on this issue. Compliance is achievable in bite-sized chunks. The various sections of the medical privacy regulations provide the foundation for defining the organization’s privacy policies. We’re professionals. We can do this.

William S. Hubbartt, SPHR
St. Charles, Ill.

The Place of Family In the Workplace

Hurray for Martin McDonough! I applaud his courage in speaking out (“Letters from Readers,” November) on a sensitive topic (“Workplaces Fail to Support Parents of Teens,” September). Those of us who believe, as Martin does, that companies are in business to make a profit certainly believe that companies will have to pay competitive wages and offer competitive benefits packages to attract the best associates. We generally don’t believe, however, that personal concerns should override the reasons companies are in business.

Individuals must arrange their priorities to suit their life and lifestyle choices, one of which is to have children. Those personal lifestyle choices should not then become the responsibility of the companies for whom we each work, nor should we expect those companies to make addressing our personal needs the top business priority on the annual action plan.

Helen M. Kirschstein

In the November issue, Martin McDonough’s letter states that “businesses need to look to their own internal practices to be successful.” He goes on to say that they should “hire employees who have the company’s interest in mind, versus the employee’s.” Perhaps they should forget about hiring people entirely and develop a workforce of automatons.

Is he really suggesting that people totally forget that they have real lives? Companies are learning more and more that by offering benefits such as flex-time or providing access to counseling, their employees are more able to concentrate on their jobs because they are more secure in knowing that their children are safe and feel loved.

This country is coming to the realization that there is more to life than work. Unless parents are given the flexibility to properly take care of their families, while being able to afford to feed them and provide them opportunities for their future, the decline of our culture will continue. Children whose parents put their jobs first are the ones who do drugs, get pregnant, hang out in the streets and commit acts of violence.

Mr. McDonough, it’s time you joined the rest of the world in the 21st century.

Donna Slojkowski
Williamsville, N.Y.

Reactions to Reactions

After reading some of the responses to the November cover of HR Magazine, I thought it was only fair to respond as someone from the “other side.” No, not of the gun, but of the opinion of a cover of the magazine. I honestly never gave the cover much attention. It didn’t seem “tasteless” or “insensitive.” The fact that people have so much time on their hands to respond to a picture on a cover of a magazine is unbelievable. It was a cover. Nothing more.

Now if someone from SHRM came to my office and forced me to read the magazine at gunpoint, then I’d be a bit disturbed.

Vince Pavic
Johnstown, Pa.

Get a grip! The letters from readers “reacting” to the November cover of the pointed gun scare me more than the gun! If a mere image on a magazine cover scares you, I question your mental fortitude with which a true HR professional must be equipped to handle real-life challenges. Please! It’s a magazine.

John Putzier, SPHR
Prospect, Pa.

My reaction to the cover page was what I believe you intended it to be. It grabbed my attention immediately and propelled me directly to the article. It also very effectively and safely shouted out the importance of the issue. As the one who has accountability for workplace violence prevention within a Fortune 50 company, I was anything but offended by the image. I do not challenge or dismiss the feelings of those who were; I just want to suggest that there was likely a greater number who were not, but indeed appreciated the stark reminder that workplace violence is a reality.

Bob Jacobsen
Federal Way, Wash.

Even after receiving such negative comments about the November cover, you chose not to apologize but rather to rationalize such incredible bad judgment. I am frankly more disturbed by your lack of taste in responding to these readers than in seeing the incredibly disturbing cover. I know I am just one small member in the organization, but this truly makes me question whether I want to continue to belong to such an insensitive group.

Tracy Ringsdorf
Englewood, Colo.

I have just opened the December issue of HR Magazine and spotted the drubbing you took from a few readers who were offended by the cover of the November issue. Apparently the intended attention-getter got their attention. How dare you portray reality! It is too much for some who prefer a head-in-the-sand approach to life to bear.

I would like to commend you on your tasteful response and the omission of an apology. No apology is necessary.

We live in increasingly (over)sensitive times in which people are offended, or claim that offense is thrust upon them, by everything from music lyrics to commercials to—gasp!—the cover of HR Magazine.

To those offended: Life is tough, folks. There are precious few rights in this country. The right to never be offended is not one of them. Your reaction was indicative of a lack of leadership and fortitude. The picture was shocking, just as an employee gunning down HR professionals is shocking. But out of that entire issue, designed to give you tools to identify or prevent workplace violence, you took away that the picture upset you? What a shame.

Given that the issue arrived the same week I was executing a reduction in force, I—for one—was appreciative. Thank you, HR Magazine. Well done.

Conor Tobin

As any HR professional knows, when an employee communication effort goes awry—as did the November cover photo—resulting in numerous objections, a lengthy attempt to justify the effort is not the appropriate response. It is much more precise to say: “We regret the error and we apologize to our readers for the discomfort we inadvertently may have caused.” Have you not been paying attention to what’s been going on for years in that large White House a couple of miles from your office?

Kenneth A. Burke

We are appalled at some readers’ published reactions to the cover of the November issue. Workplace violence is real! If they can’t handle a gun on the cover of a magazine, how will they react to a real workplace violence incident? We would be really frightened to know that these individuals are involved with our well-being at work.

We thought the cover was fantastic! It caught our attention and reminded us that violence in the workplace happens more than it is reported! Thank you, HR Magazine, for being honest and shedding some light on this extremely important matter.

Robert and Michelle Martinez
Pensacola, Fla.

It’s Incumbent Upon Us To Use That Word Correctly

Recruiters, beware! Before you critique a resume, look at the use of incumbent in your ad. You cannot recruit an incumbent—they are currently holding an office. Once a person begins a new position, he or she will be an incumbent. This word is commonly used incorrectly. Yes, HR Magazine, you did so, too, a few months back.

May I suggest using an old but good phrase: “the ideal candidate should demonstrate ... .”

Mary Herman,
Highland Park, Ill.

HR Magazine welcomes letters from readers. Submitted letters are subject to editing and are the property of the magazine. To submit a letter, visit our web site at shrm.org/Publications/hrmagazine/Contactus/Pages/default.aspx or fax us at (703) 535-6489.

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