According to an article in the New York Times and other recent media coverage, reviews of job vacancy postings on popular sites like, and have revealed hundreds of instances where employers would only consider (or at least “strongly prefer”) applicants who are employed or just recently laid off.

Does your company reject the unemployed simply because they are unemployed? If you do, be careful. You’re walking a thin line between what’s considered a fair recruitment practice and what’s considered discrimination, and your job posting could result in a complaint from the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

When looking for a potential candidate, you do not want to make reference to whether or not the applicant is unemployed. This could be considered discrimination against the unemployed, and while not yet illegal, it could create a number of problems for your organization.

So, what’s the difference between “unemployed” and “unemployable?” In some cases, the long-term unemployed person may be someone who was a poor performer in their previous position and was amongst the first group to be terminated. In other instances, with the economy the way it is, the unemployed person may be a hard working individual with great work ethic, but was laid off for no other reason than the steady decline of demand within their industry.

As an employer, a best practice is to be clear about your vacant job’s duties and responsibilities, and to conduct thorough interviews that will assess the candidate’s skills and competencies for those job requirements. You can inquire about previous employment and periods of unemployment, but only when appropriate. The person sitting in front of you may be a very capable candidate for your company, regardless of how long they have been out of work.  A thorough screening process will assess the candidate’s knowledge, skills and abilities that are relevant to the position; regardless of whether or not that person is or has been unemployed, and will help you find the best qualified candidate.

When advertising a vacant position, be careful to avoid other types of discrimination as well. You cannot state number of years experience wanted, ethnicity preferred, age, union, non-union, gender, disability; it is illegal to discriminate against anyone on the basis of personal characteristics. If possible, have an HR professional review and approve the ad copy prior to placement.

Sexual harassment includes a vast range of behavior from mild annoyances to actual sexual abuse or violence. As an employer, sexual harassment in the workplace is not as obvious as you may think. You may not even realize it’s happening, especially if the victim does not bring it to your attention or report it.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal, and should never be taken lightly. Harassment often creates subsequent problems, that may affect your employee’s career, well-being or even family, and as an employer you are responsible for preventing, protecting and defending your employees if you suspect it is happening.

Pay close attention to the way employees, management or even customers and clients interact with one another. Here are some signs that sexual harassment is occurring in your workplace: 

  • Co-workers addressing each other in a flirty or suggestive manner
  • Sexual innuendoes and other suggestive comments or teasing of sexual nature
  • Excessive or inappropriate touching amongst co-workers: brushing, patting, hugging, pinching, shoulder rubs, etc.
  • Supervisors or managers frequently asking certain employees to stay late or work alone on projects
  • Favoring of employees: supervisors, managers or co-workers repeatedly asking a certain employee to work with them
  • Shut doors: Shut doors are rarely appropriate for the workplace. If a conversation absolutely needs to be kept quiet or private and that requires the door to be shut, some type of monitoring or access to the room must remain open.
  • Private meetings: Supervisors, managers or employees consistently trying to get an employee alone without the company. Examples: lunches, dinners, meetings out of the workplace

Any time that you suspect sexual harassment in the workplace, you should document it, regardless of whether the person you presume victim reports it themselves. Document the situation clearly, including dates, times and descriptions, and then schedule separate and private meetings with both the victim and the person who is acting unacceptably. If the individual doing the harassing is not an employee, the employer must address the problem directly with that individual’s organization.

The employer’s response must be reasonably calculated to end the harassment and prevent it from happening again. Your employee has the right to contact an attorney and pursue potential legal action to further remedy the situation, and as an employer you also have the right to terminate someone based on their inappropriate behavior. Make sure you have proper documentation of all incidences, and call a reliable source for a second opinion before taking any action.

For HR management best practices, or specific questions about workplace harassment, contact HR Shield. With HR Shield, you get instant access to all the information, forms and expert advice you need to keep your employees safe. We’ll help you identify exactly which course of action needs to be taken.

Last year, survey results from Jobvite’s recruiting survey found that 83% of respondents used or planned to use social networking this year as a recruitment tool.  Over 600 human resources professionals completed Jobvite’s online survey, and not to much surprise, the big sites referenced were LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

Regarding the quality of candidates, human resources professionals rated job boards the worst, referrals the best, and social networks somewhere in between.  Now, here we are a year later, and recruiting professionals have stood by their responses. Use of and investment in social media recruiting continues to increase, and use of traditional online outlets, such as job boards, continues to decrease.  Despite the increase in social media users, many recruiters and organizations still struggle with exactly how to incorporate social media into their recruitment strategies.

Here are some steps to consider when putting together your social media recruitment strategy:

  1. Determine which social media platforms are best for recruitment: Who is your audience and who are you looking to employ? The biggest outlets don’t necessarily guarantee the biggest pools of talent. Also, consider how you want to engage with your audience. Signing up for all social media outlets available may not be the most effective means of reaching out to people. It may not be the most direct either.
  2. Create an online presence that accurately depicts who you are: Once you’ve selected the right social media platforms that your company is most comfortable with, get connected! Provide potential contacts with an accurate idea of who you are and what your company’s culture is like so they’ll have a reason to communicate with you and form a relationship. Be authentic!
  3. Get users involved: A large part of any success with social media is involvement and interaction. This stands true if you want to use social media for recruiting as well. However, it often takes longer to build a community of talent versus a basic community of followers. Consider engaging users by directing them to your company Web site or online employment applications. Post activities that capture information and generate qualified leads. The people who interact are likely the most interested in your company, and by capturing information you can save a potential candidate’s information, even if you are not hiring at the current time.
  4. Personalize your approach: Eventually, to continue building your online community, you will have to connect with people you don’t know. As an employer, recruitment manager or HR manager, take a moment to connect with people who have a genuine interest in your business or industry. Engage in personal conversation when appropriate; you never know who might turn into your next employee!
  5. Get mobile and video applications:Mobile and video are increasingly popular in the social mix, and will need to form a big part of your strategy. Videos help add authenticity to your company’s brand and image, and will also increase awareness. With many job seekers utilizing their mobile phones for information and employment opportunities, make sure your social media messages, videos, engagement and links are mobile friendly!

Halloween festivities in the office are certainly fun for employees and can help promote a more social working environment. But, Halloween at the office brings forth a list of challenges for the employer. Although Halloween is meant to be festive, employers must be prepared in the event that an employee uses poor judgment or something is misinterpreted (or correctly interpreted) as harassment.

Allowing costumes or festivities at work is certainly tricky. Employers can be held liable for something as small as an employee tripping over a costume part. With some employers permitting after hours Halloween parties on work premises, the exposures to liability increases, especially if alcohol is permitted.

All compensable injuries aside though, the most common issues lie with permitting Halloween costumes in the office. There is potential for a harassment claim in the workplace if an employee is offended or comments are made that originate from a costume choice. Many costumes carry political, social, sexual or religious messages that are inappropriate for employee/employer interaction.

Inappropriate costumes can quickly be seen as creating a hostile work environment and lead to litigation. If your workplace is going to plan a Halloween Party, and has considered the potential risks, make sure you’ve covered your bases when it comes to policies. Here are some helpful tips:

Review the Past: If this is not your first workplace Halloween celebration, review the past. Were there any complaints? Did everything go according to plan? How can you make things better for both the employer and the employee this year?

Create a set of Costume Guidelines:  Guidelines issued to employees should alert them that failure to follow the established guidelines will result in discipline. Employees will still be at work, and it’s important to remind them of your professional culture prior to the celebration. Potential clients or customers could also be interacting with them, not just fellow employees. Make sure every employee knows that their costume choice and behavior also represent the company. Provocative costumes and anything that could be misinterpreted as offensive, is not a good choice. If they’re questioning their decision to wear a certain costume, chances are it is not a good choice. Guidelines should also eliminate costumes or props that pose potential safety hazards.

Lead by Example:  Executives and management serve as role models and set examples for employees. Assume the same rules and guidelines you have set for your employees.

Offer Alternative Ways to Celebrate:  Your employees may be just as thrilled with a great luncheon or an early dismissal for the day, to trick or treat with their families or celebrate on their own terms.

React:  If an employee shows up to work in a revealing costume, ask them to go home and change. If you foresee any problems, prevent them. Just because there is a celebration, it does not mean that your company’s policies have changed.

For more HR tips, contact HR Shield.

They’re professional, they’re proactive, they’re profitable… and then, they leave! Why is it that good employees seek out more? As an HR professional, or a manager, you need to ensure your best employees stay within your organization. Knowledge is the key to success, and knowing why good employees leave can prevent costly departures in the future.

Does your company conduct exit interviews with departing employees? If not, you need to start today. The exit interview is one of the simplest methods of gathering information and can better help you determine the underlying causes for an employee’s departure. Also, the exit interview helps build statistical information for an organization, so moving forward you can prevent making the same mistakes twice! Make sure that exit interviews are conducted by a neutral party, such as an HR Manager. If the reason for departure is conflict or poor management, the employee is more likely to share their frustrations with someone other than the direct person who is causing them discontent.

While employees may leave for a variety of reasons, we’d like to review the most common, so you can better prevent the curse of unhappy employees.  Employers often make the mistake of assuming that the best way to retain employees is with bigger paychecks. While money plays a big role in a person’s decision to stay within an organization, it’s not the only thing that keeps them happy.

Money: An employer is responsible for evaluating an employee’s salary on a regular basis to stay competitive. Are you paying your employee fairly in today’s market? If so, and the employee decides to evaluate their options, chances are they will not make more in a position elsewhere. If they are truly happy, the small difference in pay may not be worth the hassle of relocating. What is their workload like? If your employee is overworked or too challenged, their salary may no longer be competitive when it is broken down into the number of hours they are committing to your organization each week. If they can work less elsewhere, for the same salary, grasses may be greener on the other side.

Conflict: Conflict is not uncommon in the workplace. Behavioral or personality differences amongst co-workers and mangers can often turn into unhealthy environments, where your employees are not comfortable working each day. This can be addressed with anonymous surveys if you are a large organization, private one-on-one HR meetings, or even training on how to adapt to different behavior styles. If you are a small organization, we understand that addressing conflict can be awkward, but it’s important. Welcome opinions and feedback, and routinely check in with your employees on a personal level, to make sure there are no frustrations or concerns.

Poor Management: Many managers become managers because they’ve been promoted after doing well at their first job, but that does not mean they are good at understanding and managing others. A manager’s attitude speaks volumes, and a better attitude and understanding of his or her employees can create a more upbeat atmosphere. Again, welcome feedback; interview your best employees to learn their likes and dislikes of the manager/employee relationship. Ask them what they’d like to see done differently. Ask them for a wish list.

While these are just some of the reasons employees may be unhappy, a handful of HR management best practices can go a long way in bettering your working environment, and preventing employee unhappiness. For questions or concerns about current employee situations, there’s a team of HR professionals that are just one phone call away, and can provide a second opinion and support should you need it: HR Shield.