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Human Resources FAQ

Is HR necessary for my company?

Absolutely. Quality HR can help create an organized, compliant, and efficient company, allowing the business to grow and succeed. Mistakes made by going it alone, can be extremely costly, and devastating for businesses, especially small businesses. Ensuring compliance and avoiding litigation is invaluable, and just the tip of the iceberg for what a quality HR consultant can do for a small business.

Why should I work with an HR Consultant?

Employers can save up to 30 percent by hiring an independent contractor because they avoid paying payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, workers' compensation and disability, as well as benefits that include pensions, sick days, health insurance and vacation time.

With a consultant you, pay one rate, that's it. With an employee, you pay many additional costs, including:
  • Retirement - pension and/or 401(k) match

  • Benefits (medical, dental, life)

  • Vacation

  • Payroll taxes (federal, state, local, Social Security and Medicare)

  • Office equipment and supplies

  • Software licensure

  • Bonuses

  • Company events

  • Training

  • Sick pay

  • Worker's compensation

  • Disability

  • Unemployment insurance

  • Paid holidays

With these additional considerations, the true cost of a new employee could be close to double the gross wage. You also have no guarantee of stability, as an employee may quit at anytime.

Is an employee handbook really necessary?

Yes, here's why. Having a compliant and well maintained employee handbook is absolutely crucial for any sized business, because this is what creates uniformity and clearly defined, compliant procedures. A handbook will also detail harassment policies, chain of command, how to file a complaint, benefits information, PTO policy, dress code, FMLA policy, work hours, and much more. A well written, maintained, and utilized handbook is the backbone of compliance for your company.

What employment laws are applicable to my company?

Being ignorant of the law is not a viable excuse for breaking the law. This is true in employment law, as well. Many small business owners do not have the education, background, or experience in employment law. An experienced HR consultant can be invaluable in this regard. There are over 180 federal employment laws, which govern employment activity. There are many more state and local laws as well. Some of these include:
  • Equal Pay Act
  • Immigration Reform & Control Act
  • Occupational Safety & Health Administration
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Civil Rights Act
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act
  • Family Medical Leave Act
  • Workers Adjustment and Retraining Act
  • CARES Act
  • Fair Labor Standards Act
  • And many, many more...

Do I need job descriptions?

Yes! Similarly to an employee handbook, current and ADA compliant job descriptions are a key element in avoiding costly litigations in regards to what was expected of an employee. A good job description will detail the essential functions, compensation, benefits, supervisory responsibilities, physical requirements, goals, and more for every position in your company. Do not let this slide!

Are there questions that are illegal to ask in an interview?

Yes, there are numerous questions that should not be asked in an interview. All employees responsible for interviewing candidates should be trained diligently on this. The consequences of asking illegal questions can be very costly to an organization.

Can I classify a worker as an employee or independent contractor?

No, the classification depends on strict standards set by the FLSA. Misclassifying an employee as a 1099 contractor will have serious consequences, including hefty fines, and possible imprisonment if it is determined to be intentional misconduct.

Can I classify a worker as exempt?

Whether an employee is classified as exempt or non-exempt is determined by the position and whether that position falls into an exempt category or not. The US Dept of Labor details each of the exempt categories. Employers who misclassify employees as exempt can be held liable for expensive fines and penalties.

Are written job offers necessary?

Although not legally required, a written job offer is a must for any business. The written job offer will outline the terms and conditions of the offer, define the at-will policy, describe applicable benefits, detail exemption and classification status, and describe the compensation package. This will also allow for a good first impression for new hires, while making the terms of employment clear for both parties.

Do I really have to keep personnel files?

Yes, yes, yes! Do not allow your personnel files to become unorganized, or ignored. It is absolutely essential to maintain organized, accurate, and compliant personnel records. There are regulations to what should go in a personnel file and what should be kept separate. These should be maintained by a HR rep and you should also only allow access to personnel files to managerial staff on a need to know basis.

What is an I-9? Do I have to complete these?

The I-9 is an employment authorization form that must be completed for every new-hire. Not only must it be completed, it needs to be completed within 3 days of hire and be done correctly, with no mistakes. This is a mandatory form. Employees who refuse to complete Section 1 can not work for pay. Not completing these forms, or making mistakes on these forms, can be very costly for an organization.

Can I fire an employee on the spot?

In an at-will state, an employee can be fired for any reason, so long as that reason is not discriminatory. There are situations where an employee should be terminated right away. However, in most cases, there are numerous events leading to the decision to part ways with an employee. With that being said, documenting warnings, training sessions, complaints, disputes, carelessness, and other issues can be a determining factor if a former employee applies for unemployment or brings charges of unfair labor practices or wrongful termination. Document everything.

Do I need to investigate every instance of proposed harassment?

Yes. Every instance of harassment should be investigated promptly. Anti-harassment training should be conducted at least yearly, as well as part of a new hire orientation.

Can I withhold money from an employee's final check?

Only under the following circumstances can an employer withhold wages:
N.C.G.S. §95-25.8(a)(1) - The employer is required to do so by state or federal law. (Example: income taxes, FICA and court ordered garnishments.)
N.C.G.S. §95-25.8(a)(2) - The amount of a proposed deduction is known and agreed upon in advance and the written authorization is: (a) signed on or before the pay day in which the deduction will be made, (b) includes the reason for the deduction, and (c) states the actual dollar amount or percentage of wages that are to be withheld.

How long do I need to keep files?

The retention requirements are different for each type of record.

How do I handle FMLA requests?

Employers should be knowledgeable about the FMLA requirements, and the protocol involved in maintaining compliance. Employers should remain consistent in providing the mandated correspondence, as well as keeping good records. See the DOL website for more information.

Can I deduct wages from an exempt employee's pay?

Generally, no. An exempt employee should receive their full salary amount for any week in which they perform work. The FLSA details certain specific criteria in which a wage deduction may apply. More info can be found here.

Do I have to respond to all Unemployment claims?

Yes; not doing so can lead to unnecessary unemployment payments and higher UC tax rates. Most employees will file for unemployment, regardless of how their employment ended. It is up to the employer to file timely responses, indicating the circumstances of termination.

Do I need to send COBRA letters?

Yes. There are notification requirements for employers that should be adhered to as applicable. More information can be found by clicking here.

What is an Employee Assistance Program?

An employee assistance program (EAP) is a work-based intervention program designed to assist employees in resolving personal problems that may be adversely affecting the employee's performance. An EAP may also include a wide array of other services, such as nurse advice lines, basic legal assistance or adoption assistance. EAP services are usually made available not only to the employee but also to the employee's spouse, children and non-marital partner living in the same household as the employee.

What is the EEOC?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, transgender status, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered. The laws apply to all types of work situations, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits. Click HERE to subscribe to the EEOC newsletter!

How do I get help with all of this?

Let's talk. I can be reached anytime via phone or email: