No legalese, no nonsense... our HR publications simply get you the answers you need, so that you can get back to business.

Choose your state

Under standing desks

May 18th, 2018

OK, "under standing desks" would literally mean sitting on the floor, and create bunk desks and the inevitable "who gets the top desk" rock-paper-scissors tournament and the stern adult admonition that jumping from the top desk was NOT OK.

So instead, Holly Mancl and Howard Mavity from Fisher Phillips will help you understand standing desk requests and answer three questions:

  1. Should you always provide employees with standing desks upon request?
  2. Are you ever required to provide an employee with a variable desk?
  3. Could failure to provide a variable workstation become a safety and health hazard?


read more

How to approach an employee showing signs of cognitive decline

May 17th, 2018

Dear Littler: We have an employee who is exhibiting signs of dementia or some other sort of cognitive impairment. He has fallen asleep at work a few times recently and seems confused by tasks that did not pose any problem for him in the past. His performance was solid for years but started declining in the past several months, along with his attention to detail. How do we handle our concerns about his well-being and performance? Should we ask him what’s going on with his health?

                                                                                                 —Worried in Wisconsin

Dear Worried in Wisconsin . . .

read more

Dress codes should not be encoded

May 16th, 2018

Translation: lay it all out ahead of time (dress code pun) and be clear.

The Hartford Small Business Ahead blog provides five tips:

  1. Have an answer for "Why not?" other than "Because your Furoshikis* look silly"
  2. Send out reminders – like now, before the dress code begins to suffer the dreaded summer creep
  3. Be really specific – casual wear means different things to different people
  4. Understand the talking point do's and don'ts
  5. Have "The Talk"

Need a dress code policy? See our blog "Dress codes: who, what, wear" or login to your HR Library.

* Disclaimer, I have a pair and they kinda do.

read more

Don't ask a woman the gender of her child, especially. . .

May 16th, 2018

A friend of mine, let's call him "Art" (because everyone else does), asked a woman on an elevator if she was having a girl or a boy. Turns out she wasn't pregnant. And it was an express elevator.

Pregnancy is an issue, or more appropriately, the plural, issues, that most workplaces will have to deal with at some point, and the more help, maps, guidance, direction, examples, prayers (non-denominational and not mandatory), the better.

So we share The Evil HR Lady's 5 most common mistakes small businesses make with pregnant employees and how to steer clear.

read more

Foul language *

May 16th, 2018

* This blog is about profanity. For "fowl language" see below.

Foul language comes in various colors, intensities and tones, with just as many interpretations. And, like much of the HR landscape, it can depend on both the protagonist and the audience, intended or not.

A one-off f-bomb after stapling the flappy piece of skin between your thumb and pointer to your quarterly report would likely be better tolerated than a string-of-filth invective directed at someone in particular.

SHRM provides three steps to help:

  1. Notice
  2. Change expectations
  3. Lay down the law

* I don't know if fowl curse, but chicken squawk is talkChicken is also a computer language in which "chicken" is the only valid symbol. Duh.

read more

Rorschach, Horshack and Abednego

May 10th, 2018

Rorschach, Horshack and Abednego

The phrase above tumbled out of my head as I read this blog post from our partners at Troutman Sanders. Kind of went like this:

Personality testing –> Rorschach –> Somebody, Meshach and Abenego –> somebody in the Sweathogs.

I am sure it says something about me that a Meyers-Briggs test begat inkblots begat catechism with Reverend Tozer begat a late 70’s sitcom, but I don’t know what it is. However, I now crave a long narrow loaf of French bread.

Although personality is not a protected class and is a legitimate reason not to hire an applicant and/or discipline an employee, you know adding "testing" to anything almost always raises red flags, so check out the blog.

read more

Guidelines for a valid no-solicitation/no-distribution policy

May 3rd, 2018

Guidelines for a Valid No-Solicitation/No-Distribution Policy

Many employers would like to ensure that employees focus on their work during their working time – after all, that’s what they’re being paid to do! One way employers attempt to prevent distractions is by implementing a policy that prohibits employees from soliciting their co-workers (Buy cookies! Participate in this raffle! Come to my church supper! Join a union!) or giving them written materials to read while at work.

According to the National Labor Relations Board, the following guidelines apply:

read more

All aboard the Love Train for long-term onboarding!

May 2nd, 2018




  1.  getting a new employee up to speed as fast as possible so you can get back to work
  2.  the first step in learning how to surf; literally just staying on the surfboard by any means, often accompanied by the phrase "Hang one"
  3.  a 90-day process of integrating a new employee into the company's culture, process and team
  4.  the refrain you shout across the dancefloor as soon as you hear the first chords of "Love Train" by the O'Jays

read more

Gender and workplace bathrooms

May 2nd, 2018

In 2016 the Governor of North Carolina lit a fuse when he signed a law requiring individuals to use the restrooms consistent with their “biological sex”. Shortly after, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit preventing North Carolina from enforcing this law – and the “bathroom issue” as we know it was born. 

As an employer you are legally required to provide workers reasonable access to restroom facilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s rules. Seems pretty straightforward, right? In the last few years LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) issues have come to the forefront and many employers have been left wondering how to do what for who. To complicate matters even more, what happens when doing something to make one employee comfortable has the adverse result on another employee? Let’s take a look at what bathroom gender requirements are, and what experts recommend as best bathroom practices

read more

Personal hygiene in the workplace

April 2nd, 2018

When you took your job in HR, you knew that you would have to face some uncomfortable situations: terminations, poor performance reviews, disciplinary actions, but perhaps the worst of all is the “we need to talk about your personal hygiene” conversation. Your staff’s poor personal hygiene can negatively effect co-workers and customers alike, and management needs to take these delicate matters seriously. Here are few ways to deal with hygiene issues in the workplace. 

1. Have a policy in place. And use it. 

As we say often, the best way to enforce rules in the workplace is to have rules in the workplace. When you have a clear policy on what level of hygiene is expect of all staff members, your staff can clearly understand what is expected of them, and these uncomfortable issues are less likely to arise. When new staff is hired make sure to go over the employee handbook with them and highlight these areas. Here is a sample dress code policy from our partners at Polsinelli that includes hygiene. 

read more

No FMLA for pet's death

March 23rd, 2018

The Family and Medical Leave Act does not provide leave to care for an ill or dying pet. (Because a pet is not technically a family member. Really. Despite how we pet-owners feel about our fur babies. That’s mine in the picture.) But I also said that, “if an employee becomes depressed because of the death of a pet, it is possible that this could rise to the level of a disability that would require a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or a serious health condition for which leave must be granted under the [Family and Medical Leave Act].” I further noted, however, that most people may experience grief but not become clinically depressed as the result of a pet’s death. So my interest was piqued by a recent case in which the employee claimed that his insomnia following his dog’s death was a serious health condition under the FMLA.

read more

Master the modern method for managing March Madness

March 13th, 2018

March Madness is not, in fact, capturing the King of Leprechauns (although imagine the benefits). But it can be either:

  • an annual distracting scourge


  • an inevitable activity that you can manage.

Your choice.

Richard Meneghello and Shayla Balch at our author Fisher Phillips help you manage:

  • productivity
  • hourly workers
  • company organized pools
  • risks.

read more

Yes Virginia, there is a St. Patrick's Day in Ireland

March 12th, 2018

With thanks and apologies to the New York Sun:

He It exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus St. Patrick's Day! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias leprechauns. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.”

As long as we are mixing references, here is the The Fun, The Bad and the Tardy from David Bell, who I assume is an actual Irelander / Irishian / Slainte-ite:

read more

Background checks

March 1st, 2018

Most employers understand that it is very important to hire the right employees. To make good hiring decisions, many employers consider information about the applicant that comes from various sources. This pre-employment due diligence helps companies make informed choices, and it also helps them limit their possible exposure for negligent hiring claims. 

Liability can arise in this context where an employer hires an applicant without conducting a reasonable background investigation. Many services are available that can help employers conduct background investigations, but employers must account for laws such as the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), which regulates certain types of investigations and/or requires employers to make disclosures about such investigations. Services include:

Click the title of the article to read more.

read more

Drug testing in The Office

February 28th, 2018

Learn how to minimize the impact of drug use in your workplace at an ABI seminar: "Employee Drug Testing Program: Signs, Symptoms, Solutions". 

The seminar will include:

  • Legislative update
  • Expert panel on signs and symptoms
  • Speaker on drug abuse in Iowa: evolving threats, impacts and responses
  • Speaker on litigation issues regarding drug testing
  • Lunch and breaks for networking

March 22, 8:30 a.m.-2:45 p.m., at the ABI office (400 East Court Ave, Suite 100, Des Moines). 

The seminar is $99 for ABI members and $115 for non-members. Early-bird pricing is $75 and $90, respectively, if you register by March 8. Lunch and breaks for networking.

Order a copy of the ABI Iowa Human Resources Manual using the code hrstweet and receive a 75% discount.
This BONUS OFFER is for a limited time only.

read more