E-pinions

Time … and Time and a Half: It’s an Issue That Won’t Go Away

By BLR Founder and Publisher Bob Brady

Just My Epinion

Robert L. Brady is the founder and publisher of BLR. This regular Friday column reflects the perspectives Bob has gained in reporting on HR since 1977, and his views on building its future. Here are his thoughts this week:

Last week I wrote about the changes in HR over the last three decades, and how the profession has gone from being a “keeper-of-records” and “arranger-of-picnics” to becoming a key strategic player.

Despite these changes, HR fundamentals are just as important today as ever. We know this because BLR is constantly surveying our readers to identify issues to research and write about.

Last year, minimum wage and overtime were up toward the top of the list.

That’s hard to believe because, 27 years ago, when we launched The HR Managers’ Legal Reporter, the page-one headline lamented that the minimum wage was being raised all the way to $2.65/hour!

To give it even more perspective, 70 years ago, when Roosevelt’s New Deal passed the Federal Labor Standards Act, a man named Jack Sullivan (more about this visionary later) saw the need for a regular service updating employers about compliance obligations, particularly wage and hour rules.

The point of this, (duh!) is that wage and hour, pedestrian though it is, is one of those “won’t-go-away” issues whose fundamentals change frequently enough that we’re still grappling with reporting it. And as a small business that faces the same issues you do, we’re also still grappling with complying with it.

Years ago, we had an IT employee who didn’t like punching a time clock. He suggested to his boss that he go “off the clock” and that his pay then be adjusted to compensate for his regular overtime. You can guess the rest. Years later, when the state did a random audit, they discovered this transgression, and we ended up paying the tech an overtime premium on top of his already adjusted pay, backdated for several years.

A similar problem arose at our local YMCA, (where I’m a volunteer board member) when staff punched in, then did their personal workouts before starting work. The bookkeeper then adjusted their time cards to reflect workout time (with their full knowledge and cooperation), but an audit saw this as a violation.

In both cases, the root causes were the same. 1) Well-meaning supervisors were “accommodating” employees; 2) HR was not vigilant enough and had not trained supervisors carefully.

Jack Sullivan foresaw all of these problems in 1950 when he started “What to Do about Personnel Problems in Connecticut.” A lawyer turned editor turned personnel consultant, Jack would file his work alphabetically by HR subject, (“Attendance, Benefits, Child Labor, etc….”), creating an easy-to-use research archive. His clients started asking for copies, and he soon switched from consultant to publisher.

Every month, as the government made changes, Jack would update WTD and send out the revisions. His alphabetic organization made it easy.

In the early 1980s Jack approached me about taking the concept national. Today, we have a large team of lawyers, writers, editors, and journalists who do for 50 states what Jack did for one, not just in print, but also on CD-ROM and the Internet, and they update daily, not monthly. BLR itself has gone from one product to 200.

One truth is unchanging, though: We are still about helping HR managers do their jobs, whether the issues are as old as minimum wage and overtime or as new as monitoring Internet usage.

As I said at the beginning of this column, the more things change, the more the important things remain important. Just as it was important in the 1930s for you to understand wage and hour, so it is important in 2006. We’ll go right on reporting what’s vital for you to know… now with Daily Advisor, every day.

Jack’s spirit lives on!

Is there an issue or a subject that you would like to see covered in this column (or, for that matter, in any of our publications)? Do you have a comment about this column? Use the “Share Your Comments” button below or email me at hrdailyadvisor@blr.com.

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