Get access to the exclusive HR Resources you need to succeed in 2018.
Sign up for free email newsletters and get more SHRM content delivered to your inbox.
Is your employee handbook keeping up with the changing world of work? With SHRM's Employee Handbook Builder get peace of mind that your handbook is up-to-date.
Build competencies, establish credibility and advance your career—while earning PDCs—at SHRM Seminars in 14 cities across the U.S. this fall.
Gain the skills you need to rise to the next level in your career. Jon us at SHRM's Leadership Development Forum, October 2-3 in Boston.
Members may download one copy of our sample forms and templates for your personal use within your organization. Please note that all such forms and policies should be reviewed by your legal counsel for compliance with applicable law, and should be modified to suit your organization’s culture, industry, and practices. Neither members nor non-members may reproduce such samples in any other way (e.g., to republish in a book or use for a commercial purpose) without SHRM’s permission. To request permission for specific items, click on the “reuse permissions” button on the page where you find the item.
CHICAGO—Document management is the “downfall of most EEO programs” and should be a central focus of inquiry in HR audits, according to Timothy Davis, a Constangy, Brooks & Smith attorney in Kansas City.
At a June 22 preconference workshop, “Skeletons, Brooms and Old Baggage: Cleaning Your Closet with an HR Audit,” held in conjunction with SHRM’s Annual Conference, Davis encouraged HR professionals to edit employee handbooks and managers’ documentation.
Finalize Interview Notes
HR’s role as editor should start even before hire, Davis said, urging HR professionals to be particularly vigilant about interview notes.
“How many of you let your management teams do interviews?” Davis asked session attendees. Most raised their hands.
“You’re brave,” he said, recalling one client that had difficulty defending itself from a disability discrimination claim because of a manager’s interview notes.
The manager had trouble remembering the names of applicants, so he’d scribble notes on their applications to jog his memory. “A short, heavy-set, dark-haired lady walking with a limp,” read one note, which became a central piece of evidence after the applicant wasn’t hired and sued.
Davis said that HR professionals should train supervisors not to keep interview notes with personal observations.
Instead, after an interview, Davis recommended that interviewers meet with HR, who he said should compile master notes and keep them in a separate file apart from personnel files. If there are any other interview notes, he said, they should be discarded.
Of course documentation is critically important after hire too. Every day that someone comes to work is a paragraph in that employee’s story, Davis reflected, saying that managers should be the authors who document that story in a way that foreshadows problems as they arise.
That way, if the story has to end with an employee’s discharge, the termination doesn’t surprise anyone.
HR also should take out the red pen to pare down outdated and overgrown employee handbooks, Davis recommended.
He recalled one plaintiff’s attorney who asked question after question during a deposition about the employer’s mission statement. The plaintiff’s lawyer tried to spin the mission statement’s positive language into principles that the employer failed to meet and succeeded in making the deposed manager uncomfortable.
Other employee handbooks simply are too long and confuse employees.
Davis encouraged one of his clients, a manufacturer, to consider whether it needed an employee handbook, which he said plaintiffs’ attorneys often try to use against employers.
The manufacturer decided to toss out the employee handbook, which it concluded didn’t serve any purpose. The company replaced the handbook with a simple overview of a few main policies, including its policies on EEO/nondiscrimination, family and medical leave, progressive discipline, drug testing, benefits and off-the-clock work.
A conference attendee asked Davis when he thought an attorney should get involved in an HR audit.
“Throughout the process, there’s not a need for a lot” of input from lawyers, he said, acknowledging HR’s goal of “minimizing having to use lawyers for everything” because of their expense.
But, Davis emphasized, HR professionals should ensure that attorneys are involved early during an HR audit and, should the employer choose to have an audit report, as the company prepares the wording of the final report. With attorneys’ oversight and direction, Davis said that more of what is done during the audit will fall within the cloak of the attorney-client privilege.
Allen Smith, J.D., is SHRM’s manager of workplace law content.
You have successfully saved this page as a bookmark.
Please confirm that you want to proceed with deleting bookmark.
You have successfully removed bookmark.
Please log in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please sign in as a SHRM member before saving bookmarks.
Please purchase a SHRM membership before saving bookmarks.
An error has occurred
Recommended for you
Choose from dozens of free webcasts on the most timely HR topics.
SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies