HR & Compliance

Add SBAM offers a full spectrum of human resources services to keep you compliant and help your business run more efficiently and profitably....

Human Resources Solutions

ASE LogoLooking for help with tough HR issues? 

SBAM partner ASE has the answers about hiring, firing, FMLA, ADA and more! Get access to a FREE HR hotline, affordable and cost-effective research consultation services, discounted employee handbooks and workplace posters, and more.

Section 125 Plan, FSA, HSA & HRA Administration


KUSHNER & COMPANY LogoLooking for ways to contain health care costs?
With the cost of health insurance continuing to rise, most employers require their employees to contribute to the cost of health insurance premiums. SBAM partner Kushner & Co. can help you put a tax-favored, consumer-directed plan in place that benefits you and your employees.


COBRA Administration

Personalized, affordable administration for your business. 

If you have 20 or more employees, your company is required by federal law to offer continued health insurance coverage via COBRA and will face huge fines if it's not administered correctly.  Let SBAM help you stay compliant for only $30 per month. 

Grooming policy: how far can employees go?

This can be one of the most contentious workplace issues: Dealing with employees' appearance, everything from what they wear on the job to how they are wearing it, to jewelry they wear, to where they are wearing it, to exposed tattoos and other forms of body art.

Employers' attempts to dictate their employees' appearance on the job has led to many legal contests and court decisions. Following are three examples:

1. In one case, Alamo-Rent-A-Car was found guilty of violating an employee's religious rights when, after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it reversed a previous practice of allowing an employee to wear a head scarf. The employee wore the scarf anyway and was fired. An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation found that Alamo had no legitimate business purpose for the decision and made no effort to accommodate the employee's religion. (EEOC v Alamo Rent-A-Car, LLC; ANC Rental Corporation.)

2. In another case, Costco Wholesale fired Kimberly Cloutier when she refused to remove an eyebrow ring. The retailer had a storewide policy of prohibiting facial and tongue jewelry. The employee claimed that Costco violated her religion (the Church of Body Modification), that required her to have facial and body piercings. She complained to the EEOC. During mediation, Costco offered to allow her to return to work wearing a Band-Aid over the piercing, or wearing a clear plastic retainer in place of the ring. But Cloutier rejected these solutions, saying that her faith required her to display piercings.

The EEOC found Costco guilty of religious bias. But the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that because Costco had proposed possible solutions that Cloutier rejected, Costco had made a good faith effort to accommodate her religion. (Cloutier v Costco Wholesale Corp.)

3. In a third case, Deborah Connor, a clerk at the Hub Folding Box Company, sued her employer for gender discrimination and retaliation. The employer had told Connor to cover a heart-shaped tattoo on her forearm or be terminated, but had not required a male employee to cover his Navy tattoo. The company's position was that customers would react negatively to seeing the tattoo on the female employee because a tattoo on a woman "symbolized that she was either a prostitute, on drugs, or from a broken home." In contrast, the employer believed men with tattoos were heroes. The court ruled that the employer's position was based on outdated gender stereotypes and constituted an unlawful basis for treating men and women differently in the workplace.

(Hub Folding Box Company, Inc., v Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.)

So, how far can the employer go to define, and even control, the appearance and grooming of employees on the job?

First guideline: Your decisions on what clothing, jewelry, body ornamentation, and appearance are acceptable must be work-related. Your code must be based on business necessity.

Example: You have a restaurant. You can justify prohibiting employees who are seen by your clientele from showing body piercings -- such as tongue and nose jewelry -- that you have reason to believe can upset clientele.

Second guideline: Your code is necessary for safety reasons. Example: You can prohibit machine operators from wearing loose clothing and loose jewelry that can get caught in the moving parts.

Third guideline: Your code is NOT based on stereotypical personal beliefs, and it does NOT discriminate against a protected class.

Some examples: Do you permit female employees to wear long, dangling earrings, but prohibit male employees from wearing earrings? Do you prohibit mustaches and beards and require men to be clean-shaven, placing a burden on some men (particularly men of African ancestry) who have facial skin conditions that are aggravated by shaving? Do you specify "traditional business clothing for office empl

Smart hiring decisions begin with asking the right questions

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner AdvanceHR

Bad hiring decisions can be costly, especially for small employers who lack the staff "cushion" to absorb the impact of non-performers and turnover. Some of the costs are calculable hard dollar expenses while others are hard-to-measure. The intangible costs may include damaged customer relations, missed business opportunities and low morale among co-workers who bear the brunt of another employee's shortcomings. Avoiding these costs can be accomplished by investing time upfront in better hiring techniques.

Why do employers make bad hiring decisions? Recognizing a few of the common culprits sets the stage for embracing what may be a better hiring process. Here are some of the main reasons, according to authors Lori Davila and Louise Kursmark.

  • Not really knowing what you are looking for: A failure to carefully think through the specific skills, behavioral patterns and motivators that are key to the job you are trying to fill.
  • Inadequate interview preparation and poor choice of questions: Giving short shrift to gearing up for an interview almost always will result in limited insights on the job candidate, and thus an uninformed hiring decision.
  • Hasty hiring decisions: The temptation may be strong for a manager to make a snap decision when time is tight, especially for managers who rarely have to hire. But the results can be costly.
  • Looking for a clone: People tend to hire people -- frequently unconsciously -- who they have something in common with, or who remind them of themselves. It's called the "halo effect," and it creates problems if you need someone with other characteristics, or simply are blinded to the candidate's shortcomings.
  • Lacking a formal interview process: Effective interviewing amounts to a technical skill; informal, subjective approaches often fail.
Additional hiring issues are described in detail by Davila and Kursmark in their practical primer titled How to Choose the Right Person for the Right Job Every Time (published by McGraw Hill). They include using only one interviewer, hiring over-qualified candidates who will be insufficiently challenged, and failing to check references thoroughly.

Behavior-Based Interviewing

Davila and Kursmark place great emphasis on the use of behavior-based interviewing. This means posing questions that are not hypothetical, but instead elicit concrete examples of how a job candidate has handled situations in the past. That approach may reveal whether a candidate has a track record that's appropriate to the job you are trying to fill.

This is not new, but still not universally applied. Behavior-based interviewing evolved years ago out of a recognition of the limitations of traditional theoretical interview questions, such as "What would you do if a customer or supervisor asked you to do something unethical?" Behavior-based interviewing, instead, requires asking the candidate to provide an example of how he or she responded to a situation or scenario described by the interviewer.

"Pre-selected questions, carefully correlated with the essential functions of the job, (emphasis added) allow candidates to describe specific examples of their past behavior," the authors explain. The broad job qualification parameters should cover not just technical skills and knowledge, but also "behaviors and performance skills" as well as motivation.

Today, coming up with probing behavior-based interview questions has become a burgeoning industry; "Google" the phrase and a myriad of vendors fill your computer screen. Davila and Kursmark devote a chapter of their book to such inquiries and provide 401 such questions, organized according to 50 competencies the interviewer may seek to pr

Be a better leader in your small business! Today at 10 a.m. on the free Business Next audio seminar

On Monday's program: leadership action ideas that can help make your small business more profitable, with business consultant Tom Borg; Wendy Pittman, executive director of Intern In Michigan, with great news about the success of this program that places college interns in small businesses; and the week’s legislative update with Dave Jessup.

Listen today at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the 
Michigan Business NetworkSBAM members can log in and listen to archived programs anytime on a PC or mobile device by going to the Business Next show page

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How’s your work-life balance?

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

By George Brown
So we weathered 2009 and 2010. Then we survived 2011 with a feeling that better days were ahead.  Now, four months into 2012 and with the economy rebounding (at least in Michigan), it seems like everyone you speak to is extremely busy.  So it did not surprise me when I opened my ASE Daily Alert (powered by CCH) and saw this headline: Fifty-six percent of workers say they do not have a proper work/life balance, according to survey results.

In a recent poll of over 1,000 people, 36% say they do not feel they have a proper work/life balance and that they spend too much time working. Forty-one percent said they think they may be passed over for a promotion if they leave work early. In addition, 26% said that they stay at work later than they would like due to peer pressure.

If you are still looking to figure out how to avoid the rush hour traffic on your ride home, this bit of research probably won’t make you happy: More than twice as many people leave work after five o’clock (18% between 5:00 and 6:00, 21% after 6:00) than before five o’clock (18%).

What are some things one can do to bring a little more balance to their daily routine? WebMD suggest these 5 Tips for Better Work-Life Balance:

1. Build downtime into your schedule.

When you plan your week, make it a point to schedule time with your family and friends and activities that help you recharge.  If a date night with your spouse or a softball game with friends is on your calendar, you'll have something to look forward to and an extra incentive to manage your time well so you don't have to cancel.  "It helps to be proactive about scheduling," says Laura Stack, a productivity expert in Denver and author of SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best. "When I go out with my girlfriends, we all whip out our cell phones and put another girls' night out on the calendar for one month later," she says.

2. Drop activities that sap your time or energy.

"Many people waste their time on activities or people that add no value -- for example, spending too much time at work with a colleague who is constantly venting and gossiping," says Marilyn Puder-York, PhD, a psychologist and executive coach in New York and Connecticut.  Take stock of those activities and cut them out of your routine if you can.

3. Rethink your errands.

Consider whether you can outsource any of your time-consuming household chores or errands. Could you order your groceries online and have them delivered?  Hire a kid down the street to mow your lawn?  Have your dry cleaning picked up and dropped off at your home or office?  Order your stamps online so you don't have to go to the post office? Even if you're on a tight budget, you may discover that the time you'll save will make it worth the cost.

4. Get moving.

Exercise. Make time for it. It will boost your energy level and your ability to concentrate.  "Research shows exercise can help you to be more alert," says psychologist Robert Brooks, PhD, co-author of The Power of Resilience: Achieving Balance, Confidence, and Personal Strength in Your Life.  "And I've noticed that when I don't exercise because I'm trying to squeeze in another half hour of writing, I don't feel as alert."

5. Remember that a little relaxation goes a long way.

Don't get overwhelmed by assuming that you need to make big changes to bring more balance to your life.  "Slowly build more activities into your schedule that are important to you," Brooks says. "Maybe you can start by spending an hour a week on a hobby, or planning a weekend getaway with your spouse once

EEOC issues updated guidance on using arrest and criminal records in hiring

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

By Michael J. Burns  
On April 25, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued updated guidance to employers on the use of arrest and conviction records in hiring and promotion.

For over twenty years the EEOC has monitored whether discrimination could occur when employers used criminal records to disqualify applicants for employment. The EEOC bases its position on current and projected incarceration rates. In 2007, 3.2% or 1 in 31 of all adults in the U.S. were under one or another form of correctional control (jail, parole, or probation). At current rates of incarceration, the number would more than double to where, in the years to come, 6.6% of all persons born in 2001 or later are projected to spend at least some time in the corrections system during their lifetimes. And since Hispanics and African-Americans are arrested 2-3 more often than other groups, and (according to recent surveys) up to 92% of employers subject some or all of their job candidates to criminal background checks, the EEOC is concerned that job discrimination against those groups will be worse in the future than it is now.

The EEOC sees criminal conviction record discrimination occurring in two forms:

Disparate Treatment: This would occur when an employer rejects, for example, a minority candidate because of his or her criminal record but hires a white candidate with a similar criminal record and with the same qualifications.

Disparate Impact: This occurs when a neutral employment policy or practice has the effect of disproportionately excluding members of the protected classes, and the employer cannot show that the discriminatory practice is job related and borne of business necessity.

In issuing this updated guidance, the EEOC maintains that it has not changed its position on the use of criminal records. It does, however, provide more in-depth analysis than its earlier Guidances issued in 1987 and 1990.

The EEOC Guidance provides recommended best practices for employers:
  • Do not have a policy that excludes applicants for any criminal record.
  • Train managers, hiring personnel and decision makers on Title VII and its prohibition.
  • Develop narrowly tailored policies and procedures for screening for criminal background.
  • When asking about criminal records, limit inquiries to records for which exclusions would be job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.
  • Keep information about applicant’s and employee’s criminal records confidential.
  • Develop a narrowly tailored written policy and procedures for screening for criminal history information. The policy should do the following:
    • Identify essential job requirements and the actual circumstances under which the jobs are performed
    • Determine the specific offenses that may demonstrate unfitness for performing such jobs
    • Determine the duration of exclusions for criminal conduct based on all available evidence
    • Record the justification for the policy and procedures
    • Note and keep a record of consultations and research considered in crafting the policy and procedures
Employers concerned that the EEOC is overreaching should also note the following:
  • Despite its concern over this issue, the EEOC still concedes that employers have the right to access and use criminal conviction data on applicants as a deterrent to theft, fraud, workplace violence and even negligent hiring lawsuits. Additionally many local, state and federal laws and regulations require criminal background checks.
  • The EEOC avoided a more controversial limitation to the use of criminal records.
  • The EEOC did not change its position o