“We call it ‘Managing Human Resources’ because we try and cover more than just HR, but how ... managers and supervisors manage their people,” George White, director of continuing education at Georgia Highlands College, said.
The title of this year’s event was Best Practices for the 21st Century Leaders Meeting the challenge Today — Preparing for the Future.
“We try and look at what are the big issues affecting not just human resource managers, but managers as well,” Craig Millsap, who serves on the council and as the Bartow County Fire Department Chief, said. “Even though your primary job isn’t in human resources, you’re still in that advisory role, whether you’re the fire chief or whatever you are, you have to have a human resources background, and so every year we’ve tried and expand what those topics are and going through our advisory council and people that we know and contacts we have.
“If there’s a certain issue that’s a real hot button issue ... we try to recruit those people [knowledgeable on the topic] into helping with this program to get the latest information out and answer the questions that are facing all of us.”
Steve Hopkins of Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP, spoke on how businessess can face legal ramifications for violating laws and regulations set by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
“Last year the EEOC reported a record gain of administrative enforcement of $365 million [in 2012], that’s up a little bit from previous years ... and about 10 percent of that comes from what they call ‘systemic cases’ and that has been an initiative of the EEOC board in Washington D.C. for years now, to focus on systemic issues, things that are pervasive in the workforce ... and they’re starting to see some gains in that area,” Hopkins said.
He reported not only can an employee accuse and sue an employer for what they consider a violation of the EEOC’s laws and regulations, but the EEOC in turn also can sue an employer. Last year, nationwide, there were 99,412 charges filed by employees and resolved a back log of 111,139 charges.
Hopkins further reported there has been an overall gradual increase in charges filed since 2000, but also gave some specifics. For example, race-based charges have dropped off in the past three years while sex- and gender-based discrimination charges began to drop off around 2005, but have seen an increase in the past five years.
All statistics can be viewed at www.eeoc.gov.
“Retaliation claims this year became the No. 1-cited claim, it eclipses race discrimination, I think, in the total number of charges, and that’s due mainly due to the fact that a lot of times a retaliation claim will accompany any other claim,” he said, adding retaliation claims have doubled since 2006. “Somebody may say, ‘Well, I was discriminated against because of my race and I complained to HR about it and I was fired as a result,’ ... and that may be why we’re seeing retaliation claims spike.”
In turn, Hopkins provided some advice to the crowd. For example, in order for a company to further protect itself from violating EEOC’s Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, companies should not request or require employees to provide health histories of family members, except in the case of wellness programs which provide some exceptions. In another instance, in order to help avoid being accused of age discrimination, he encouraged companies to only ask, if appropriate, if an employee was at least 18 years of age but not ask for a specific birth date.Tina Brush, who serves on the advisory council and attended the seminar, said she enjoyed the panel discussion on human resource managers as strategic partners, which included panel discussions on companies building their competitive edge based on employee contentment with the job.
“Too often we focus on bring [employees] in then [later] replace them, but if you invest in them and you create that relationship so they’re coming to work because they want to and they enjoy it and look forward to it and think, ‘Hey, I’m contributing to something important here,’ then your competition can’t copy that,” Brush.