HR Tech Providers: It's Time to Become Partners in Compliance

It’s been quite a year for employment law. We’ve seen minimum wage increases, Affordable Care Act implementations, the legalization of marijuana, and the more recent and anticipated announcement by the Department of Labor regarding overtime exemption. Not to mention rulings and regulations that, while not directly related to employment law, will affect HR strategy and corporate policies, such as the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

In the early 20th century in the United States, it was primarily common law and case law that governed employers. Revolutions in technology, globalization, and human rights have brought us to the complex alphabet soup of agencies and regulations we must answer to today. The Department of Labor (DOL) alone manages and enforces nearly 200 federal laws, but in addition to that, there are many widely varying state and local laws to consider as well. While it is often a struggle for an organization to stay in compliance, it cannot be ignored, and must be addressed as a prerequisite to pursuing strategic initiatives. Even with extreme attention to these regulations, there’s a black-or-white outcome: you’re either compliant, or you aren’t.

The cost of noncompliance is greater than ever. While the volume of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audits has dropped since 2013, the fines have steadily increased. Over $16 million was collected from 642 US employers in 2014, with one noteworthy 2013 settlement topping $30 million. 80% of that company’s I-9s were materially out of compliance. Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) Class Action lawsuits are rising to an all-time high, with focus shifting to technical interpretation of the statute and specifically to employer obligations such as background check disclosure, authorization and the adverse action process. Between January 1 and July 31, nearly eleven percent—198 of the 1,828 total FCRA cases—were Class Action lawsuits, many entering seven figures. A multi-million dollar settlement is a huge financial burden, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the time and expense required to correct errors or implement policy changes, not to mention potentially irreparable damage done to your brand when faced with bad publicity.

So what can HR do to keep up with the growing, changing complexities of employment law? And how can expanding businesses expect to manage not only domestic compliance, but entirely new realms of regulations with compounding complexity as their business enters the global market? HR technology providers can help, and should. HR organizations have long been reliant on utilizing their technology to simplify process and boost efficiency. This is a natural opportunity for the technology industry to solve a very real and timely business challenge, up-level its value proposition, and for HR buyers to amplify their ROI through risk reduction and peace of mind. Although compliance adherence ultimately rests with the employer, I see at least three ways technology providers can lend a stronger helping hand.

First, tech partners can help HR navigate compliance through process consistency. Highly configurable and extensible software allows system administrators to define workflows that map to company policy, and update them on the fly as requirements change. Smart field validation is another example, helping companies minimize missing or incomplete data. Some technology systems can serve as compliance system of record, centralizing the storage of forms and sensitive data. When coupled with a detailed audit trail, HR organizations can be more prepared if and when a regulator comes knocking.

Secondly, compliance can be built into the technology itself. For example, the required Form I-9 version is constantly changing, as are required disclaimers and notifications associated with the FCRA-governed background checks. These changes are more easily tracked and implemented by a technology partner than by each and every HR department. HR buyers should look for companies that will keep them informed of changes within the compliance landscape, and update wherever possible the technology configuration. This plays to the strengths of SaaS, right?

Finally, to transcend the business relationship from a vendor to a true partner is to marry smart technology with exceptional service. One way is to provide assistance and service to both organizations and their candidates. For example, at TalentWise we offer a support number that a candidate can call for help when completing Section 1 of their Form I-9. We also pride ourselves in our dedication to settle background screening disputes quickly, so both the employer and their candidate can move forward without the service provider bottlenecking their ability to make a confident hiring decision. We’ve come to realize that by being responsive and transparent with candidates, while treating them with the respect they deserve, is a most certain way to reduce risk of legal intervention.

We all understand the need for organizations to operate in compliance and we’re feeling the heat more than ever. There is room for improvement for technology providers to bring not only process efficiency and highly valuable data-driven insights, but also compliance. After all, HR organizations that aren’t both efficient and compliant won’t have the opportunity to recruit, develop and engage top talent—which I presume we all agree is “true north” for most talent organizations. Let’s strengthen our client relationships and value proposition by providing more fulsome compliance solutions whenever and wherever possible. Whether it’s built into your product or provided via human support, it’s clear that HR could use a helping hand now more than ever, so they can focus on the most important task of building high-performing teams within their organization.


TalentWise is a client of TalentCulture and sponsored this post.

The Social Workplace: Nowhere To Hide #TChat Recap

“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.”
–Dalai Lama

Excellent point. But the Dalai Lama’s quote begs a key question: In the social workplace, how much transparency is too much? Moreover, what does “privacy” really mean today, for employees as well as employers?

Obviously, there are no simple answers. And best practices only continue to shift, as social tools and conventions evolve. However, this issue affects everyone in the world of work. So that’s why TalentCulture invited a social-media-savvy HR attorney to help our community explore these issues at this week’s #TChat forums. We were thrilled to welcome Mary Wright, former General Counsel at employment litigation firm Ogletree Deakins, and founding Editor of HR Gazette, a daily online newspaper for HR professionals and employment lawyers. (For event highlights, see the links and Storify slideshow at the end of this post.)

Social Disclosure: Less Is More. Or Is It?

Ubiquitous social media channels. Smartphones with cameras. (Does anyone remember “old school” film cartridges anymore?) Circles of “friends” we’ve never even met face-to-face. It seems like nothing is truly private anymore. Most of us share photos, post comments and tell the world whatever pops into our minds throughout the day. But how does all that activity expose us professionally in unwanted ways? And what are the implications for the organizations we represent?

Here’s the kicker question: In an open social environment, how can companies encourage employees to serve as brand ambassadors, while ensuring that those same individuals use appropriate discretion?

Knowledge Is Power

As many #TChat participants noted this week, the answers start at the top. Senior executives must lead by example and encourage others to follow. Treating employees with candor and respect means that candor and respect will likely be returned. Communicating company objectives and priorities helps employees feel valued and empowered. And clarifying social policies provides a framework that makes it easier for employees to comply. Sharing more information with employees doesn’t need to put employers at risk. Instead, it can create a spirit of collaboration and strengthen employee engagement.

At the same time, employers should respect employee privacy. Again, leading by example is key. Managers should avoid gossip around the office and outside of work. This sounds like common sense, doesn’t it? And yet, I’ve overheard managers openly discussing an employee’s personal hardships, including private medical information. When managers breach that kind of trust, it leaves a memorable impression for everyone involved.

Amplify This? Think Before You Go Social

These days, social media adds another dimension. Employers can no longer afford to operate without documented social media policies. But what should the guiding principle be? Here’s a simple idea from Dave Ryan:

And what is an employee’s responsibility when interpreting social policies? Jen Olney offered sound advice:

Or perhaps for some of us, that sequence should be Stop. Think. Stop some more…and more…and more…then send.

In other words, before posting a comment or photo, consider for a moment who may see that information. How might they perceive it — for better or worse? Ask yourself, “Would I want my grandmother or daughter to see what I am about to make public?” Remember, once you post it, you won’t have control over where it may be seen, or how it will be interpreted. So perhaps the very best policy is for each of us to take responsibility for ourselves, and err on the side of caution.

To see more about this week’s conversation, see the resource links and Storify highlights slideshow below. And if you have ideas, feel free to share a comment, or post in the #TChat stream. This is just the start of an ongoing dialogue — so please weigh-in anytime!

#TChat Week-In-Review: Workplace Privacy vs. Transparency

SAT 9/21:

Mary Wright

Watch the Hangout with Mary Wright now

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager Tim McDonald framed the topic in a post that features a brief G+ Hangout video with our guest, Mary Wright. Read the Preview:
“TMI: A Fresh Take On Privacy By An HR Lawyer.”

SUN 9/22: Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro outlined 5 issues for business leaders to consider about transparency in today’s social world. Read: “Private Workplace Lives In a Public Social Age.”

MON 9/23:

Related Article: Entrepreneur David Hassell talked about why and how trust is the most precious currency for any new venture. Read: “Want to Build a Business? Lead With Trust.”

TUE 9/24: Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro shared compelling leadership lessons learened from a cultural clash at a software company in transition. Read: “5 Social Skills Business Leaders Must Master.”

WED 9/25:


Listen to the #TChat Radio show now

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with Mary Wright about legal issues and implications surrounding privacy in the workplace — from multiple perspectives: employers, employees and job candidates. Listen to the radio show recording now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, hundreds of community members gathered with Mary on the #TChat Twitter stream for an expanded discussion about this topic. For highlights from the event, see the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Highlights: Transparency vs. Privacy In The Workplace

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Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Mary Wright for adding your insights to this week’s discussion. Your legal and HR expertise added depth and perspective to a topic that increasingly affects us all.

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about information sharing in the new era of social business? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week, we tackle another “world of work” hot topic — The Dark Side of Workplace Effectiveness — along with two of the HR community’s best-known social commentators: John Sumser, editor-in-chief of HRExaminer; and William Tincup, CEO of HR consultancy Tincup & Co. So save the date (October 2) for another rockin #TChat double-header.

In the meantime, we’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Pixabay