Rising Insecurity in the Workplace – What HR Can Do

workplace insecurityThe environment in any workplace should be both positive and productive. Sad to say, but this isn’t always the way it is. There are several factors that affect the workplace environment. It’s up to the Human Resources department to ensure that all members of the workforce feel secure and protected while in the workplace. With office politics, cyber attacks, and other common situations, it can be difficult to keep things going smoothly. HR must be able to offer effective solutions to each of these problems so that the workplace is both productive and peaceful. Here are a few.

Risk of Data Breaches

Any workplace that runs on a data-driven platform is at risk of a data breach. It’s for this reason that your company should take the necessary steps to protect not only the company’s confidential information but that of its employees as well. Two-step authentication or the use of fingerprint technology can be effective in protecting this sensitive information and keep it from falling into the wrong hands.

Positive Work Environment

If HR is serious about eliminating insecurity in the workplace, then it is up to them to make every employee feel as secure and protected as possible. One way to do this is to create a positive work environment where each employee feels valued and respected. The workplace should be a neutral environment where politics and social agendas are checked at the door. It’s important that once the staff is assembled, they each feel as if they are part of the solution, no matter what question is being asked.

Open Door Policy

An open-door policy allows staff members to go to the HR department and discuss possible issues without fear that their job will be terminated or they will be in some kind of trouble. If management wants to know what is going on in the workplace, the only way to find out is to build a level of trust that allows employees to have enough faith in the company to report the issue. Once the issue is reported, it is up to the entire staff, management and associates alike to work together to resolve the problem.

Work as a Team

When your staff works together as a team, supporting one another’s ideas and encouraging each other to do better, the staff as a whole improves and the workplace environment is both cohesive and unified. Working as a team means that both successes and failures are shared equally – and that in order to move forward, every member of the team is needed. HR can further this concept by creating teams that work together and then share their thoughts and ideas with others. While each team works independently according to their department and skills, they also come together as a whole to put the entire project together.

An effective HR department will be able to identify areas that cause insecurity and work with staff members to find a solution that works. Bringing management members and associates together is the best way to work through each issue as it arises. Together, positive solutions can be found that benefit everyone who shares the workplace.

 

Recruiting Millennials and Gen Z

Generation Z members Each generation experiences the world a little bit differently. These experiences shape their consumer and professional preferences. Today’s youth really are different from yesterday’s, even though they may seem similar. Understanding the nuances of different age groups gives recruiters and managers a boost in meeting their needs.

For companies large and small, understanding the values, desires, and quirks of different generations can be both challenging and rewarding. The good news is that you can better reach your audience if you understand the means and messaging that will engage them most effectively. Take Millennials and Generation Z for example. While these two groups may seem similar, variances in their upbringings have resulted in different outlooks and expectations.

Millennials

Millennials are the demographic cohort following Generation X. Their birth years span from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s. This group was shaped by two main events. First, they entered maturity during the Information Age. They began using information technology and social media around the start of their adolescence. However, while they are proficient in these avenues now, their childhood was relatively free of technological emphasis.

The second contributing factor for Millennials is the economy. Millennials reflect the idealism of having been raised during prosperous economic years. They emphasize the experience of their workplace participation and consumerism more than previous generations. Millennials were largely raised by parents from the high-consumption Baby Boom generation, further reinforcing their economic trust. Due to their idealism, their comfort with confrontation and their relatively limited ability to recognize different points of view, Baby Boomers are also referred to as the “Me Generation.”

Generation Z

Generation Z was born between the mid-1990s and 2015. This group was exposed to information technology, social media, and digital technology from a very young age. They probably don’t understand the “Be Kind, Please Rewind” slogan or the need for a hardback encyclopedia set or the struggles of trying to properly refold a road map. Other nicknames for this group include the iGeneration, referring to the Apple wave, and the Plurals, related to the use of multiple screens at one time.

This group is thought of as the first truly digital native generation. They’re more comfortable than their predecessors at cataloging and cross-referencing a vast amount of information. Generation Z is also much more comfortable learning and engaging independently via technology.

Generation Z was raised during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Because of this, they tend to view money more practically than Millennials. Gen Z is less idealistic and more realistic than Millennials. They reject confrontation but do like to find a commonality to resolve issues.

Motivating Factors

Millennials are motivated by the experience more than Generation Z. On the flipside, Generation Z is motivated more by the actual product. While Millennials typically prefer a travel experience or festival, Generation Z members prefer a unique object or product.

Studies indicate that Generation Z members value saving money and job security more than Millennials do. Generation Zers that are old enough to work are now taking full-time jobs at a higher percentage rate than previous generations. When consuming, Millennials are more drawn to big-name brands, while Generation Z is marked by a desire to express their individuality though their purchases.

One key factor that motivates Generation Z is their ethics. Generation Z is attracted to companies that take a stand on important issues and then follow through – i.e., put their money where their mouth is. Understanding this and the other preferences of each group can help recruiters attract and retain the most desirable employees.

What Responsibilities do Employers Have to Provide a Living Wage?

Living Wage - Construction Worker with a $100 billThere’s a stark difference between the Federal minimum wage and the widely accepted Living Wage in America. The last time the minimum wage went up was in 2009, when it increased from $6.55/hr. to $7.25/hr. Before that, the minimum wage was $5.15 as late as 2007, and hadn’t seen an increase in the past 10 years. Historically it’s clear that Federal regulation isn’t the driving force behind providing living wages to hourly employees.

The first Living Wage initiatives came through community organizing in the 1990s, when many families with full time employment were still suffering from poverty. The initial argument for employer’s responsibility was that a Living Wage benefits not only the employee, but also the employers and community, as workers would have greater purchasing power.

Does an Employer Have a Legal Obligation to Provide a Living Wage?

Living Wage policies can be set by a number of agencies with a variety of oversight areas. Cities, municipalities and counties might set a Living Wage policy for a specific industry, job or contracted employees. Corporations may also establish a Living Wage for their own employees, or a group of employees within the company. While both Federal and State regulations dictate a minimum wage, cities, and states must take it upon themselves to establish separate Living Wage laws, which take into consideration a number of factors.

In determining your legal obligation regarding Living Wages, it’s a matter of checking with established laws in your region as well as your industry.

What is Considered a Livable Wage?

The Living Wage really depends on where in the country an individual is living. It takes into consideration the expenditures for housing, food, child care costs, transportation and health care. For example, in New York, a living wage for a single adult with no children is $15.09/hr. However, if that adult married with two kids and the only one working to support the family, their Living Wage is $28.90/hr. However in New York, the minimum wage is $10.40/hr., which is almost enough if two adults are working in a household, without any children. In fact, their Living Wage would be $11.11/hr.

The Federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr. doesn’t nearly come close to a Living Wage anywhere in the country, requiring families of four with two kids to work a nearly 80 hour week in order to cover basic necessities. While the minimum wage is set to increase soon, the growth won’t be enough to catch up to the increase cost of living.

How Does a Living Wage Affect Employers?

On the down side…

Naturally, allocating more resources for paying employees impacts profit margins and cash flow. For smaller businesses which may already be at the tipping point, a Living Wage policy may push them out of business, or push greater costs to clients and customers.

A higher wage may also affect the structure of employee benefits and cause stricter workforce management. Where previously a company could afford paid lunches and breaks, now a vigilant eye is cast on the time clock. Some employers have even cut employee hours to accommodate the greater hourly cost.

But, on the upside…

There are a number of benefits that come to employers by providing a living wage as well. Productivity improves as there’s decreased turnover and employees gain longer and longer tenure. Employees earning a higher wage will also be more dedicated and put forth a larger effort while on the clock. In my experience, the more I provide my people while demanding greater performance, the better the outcome has been. Especially when they have a hand in building the performance plans, so that fairness and understanding are built into the process.

Business is mostly about people. If you expect great work from them while they are financially in distress, you’ll be running in circles. It must be a win – win – win. The customer must win. The business must win. The employees must love what they do and how they’re compensated to do it. Then the shareholders can perpetuate their wins and their profitability and equity growth.

So, is an employer responsible for providing a Living Wage? Not as such. An employer is responsible to his/her stakeholders, which include the customers, the employees, and the shareholders. Everybody must win, or perpetuation of long-term success will be difficult to uphold.

Why Having Financially Literate Employees Is Better for Your Business

Financial Literacy Photo

Creating a healthy working environment that values employees’ well-being begins with providing useful benefits. One of the most significant benefits that companies can offer is a chance to become financially literate. Beyond good compensation, health insurance, or paid leave, financial literacy programs impact businesses in a unique way. Here, we are going to discuss just what happens when these programs are not in place, and give tips on how HR personnel can implement them.

The Importance of Financial Literacy

A study by Northwestern Mutual found that finances are the main source of stress for nearly half of all Americans, with 40% particularly anxious about retirement savings. This is not surprising, given how the majority of workers in the country are in danger of a financially unstable retirement. In fact, Yahoo Finance reports that a whopping 64% of Americans will retire broke, with 19% having less than $10,000 in their retirement fund.

While factors like unemployment or low salaries are often to blame, part of the problem is the lack of financial literacy, which influences aspects like housing and retirement. Case in point, a survey by Marcus reveals that 6 out of 10 Americans don’t have an established 401(k) with their employer, leaving them financially unstable when they retire. This instability is affecting employees in negative ways at work, causing anxiety that leads to lower levels of productivity.

The Global Benefits Attitudes Survey confirms that there is a strong connection between stress and work performance, not to mention levels of absenteeism in the office. Implementing financial literacy programs can combat the stress caused by mishandling personal funds and savings. It can provide employees with the concepts and tools that can empower them to meet their needs and have enough left for their wants. Plus, The Business Journals point out that an effective financial literacy program is one of the key benefits that promote employee retention and job satisfaction.

Improving Financial Literacy

A good place to start when trying to improve financial literacy is rethinking your company culture in relation to money. Finances can be very personal, and people may be uncomfortable discussing these matters in the workplace. Sending out material about financial literacy every now and then can signal an important shift in this mindset, allowing for a more open approach to the journey to becoming financially literate and healthy.

Aside from providing infographics or reading materials about budgeting, savings, and even self-discipline, you can also incorporate technology. There are a variety of online resources — from YouTube videos to free online short courses — that anyone can access and learn from. You can also encourage employees to use budgeting and finance apps to track their spending and plan their savings.

Of course, unless you have an in-house finance expert, one of the best options for implementing all of the above is to seek external support. You can look for consultants or even hire a financial counselor to improve your financial literacy programs or conduct workshops and seminars. Joe Blattner, President of COMPackage, emphasizes how investing in these measures is a small price to pay compared to the long-term benefits that your company will reap. After all, when employees are free from the distraction of financial stress, they can focus on things that really matter in the workplace.

Diversifying Employee Benefit Packages for a Mixed Workforce

diversity in the workplace

Today, the ideal total compensation package is as diverse as the current workforce itself. In fact, it has to be in order for companies to attract and retain the absolute best employees.

Your employees may vary greatly in age, location (urban, suburban, rural), gender, and marital status. They also most likely vary in how they work – from home or at the office? From a computer or by phone or some other type of a machine? By travelling on sales calls or going into the office every day? These are all things to take into consideration. Not to mention, employees working for the same companies have very different job descriptions and skill sets. Why give all employees the same exact benefit package, when employees are all so different?

If you are trying to provide a one-for-all solution, you are more than likely leaving some of your employees behind. By taking the demographics of your workforce into consideration, you can remove the guesswork of a one-handed solution and offer employees a worthwhile benefits package with options.

Regardless of whether or not your company is small or large or somewhere in between, tailoring benefits to the specific needs of your employees does wonders for morale. It’s also a smart move if you aren’t able to compensate monetarily as much as your competition. To bridge the salary gap, the savviest of employers know they must make up the difference by offering an attractive total compensation package and one that make sense for the employees in question.

Think about it. Would you offer an on-site daycare facility as a part of your benefits package if a large portion of your workforce is under the age of 25? If most of your employees commute by bus, would including a parking spot be relevant or even necessary? If you have telecommuters working for you maybe they don’t get to enjoy the “complimentary” coffee you keep in steady stream in the office – why not offer your virtual assistant a monthly $10 gift card to a local cafe?

Another example would be if employees are expected to use their own vehicles for company business, a prepaid gas card would help to defray fuel expenses. Do employees work from home using their own equipment and Internet service? If so, you might want to consider providing laptops with Internet access.

The cost of providing employees with potentially expensive perks such as insurance, holiday bonuses, company cars, laptops, cell phone service, tuition reimbursement, or stock options may naturally be a great concern, but it may not be as high as factoring in the cost of recruiting and retraining new hires. Offsetting salaries with a diverse selection of fringe benefits is one of the simplest ways of compensating employees smartly.

In essence, offering a diversified benefits package gives you the luxury of not only attracting talent, but also keeping the top talent in your field happy to be on board. Providing options and showing individualized attention can be priceless. And with the right software, it doesn’t have to be difficult, either. COMPackage offers customers a comprehensive list of over 60 benefit ideas as a natural part of their total compensation software subscription.

Getting the Word Out

After revamping benefits packages to meet the unique and changing needs of your employees, it is imperative to then ensure they are fully aware of their total compensation. It is often astounding for employees to find out how much their employer pays for their total compensation, but sometimes it’s also a shock to the employer, when they start adding it all up.

Many employees are completely unaware of the extent or contents of their work benefits. Are key employees being lured away and accepting other positions offering a higher base salary? They may not be so quick to make a move if they had all the facts about their benefits package.

Employees and potential recruits need to know the full costs associated with having them on staff. Knowing this gives them a better idea of their true compensation and it also allows for essential employee feedback. Encouraging employees to provide feedback regarding which types of compensation are most important to them gives you a definitive edge when it comes to yet another important aspect of any successful business – employee retention.

But how can you give them all of this information without spending a ridiculous amount of time compiling data or an exorbitant amount of money outsourcing the task to a third party?

The answer is using total compensation statement software for creating employee compensation reports and detailed benefits statements. Benefits statements will give your employees a clear and concise picture conveying exactly how much they are really being compensated for their services.

What interesting ways does your company provide benefits? We would love to hear your ideas for diversifying benefits in the comments below.

When is the Best Time to Give Employees a Total Benefit Statement?

If you’re like most business owners or HR Managers, you know that communicating with employees about their salary and benefits is always a touchy subject. It’s best to plan accordingly and ensure that the timing is appropriate. But when is a good time to tell employees what their salary, health benefits, sick time, vacation time, and countless other perks are worth? Well, the answer is…it depends.

total compensation statement time

There are several different occasions and times of the year when your organization may be best suited for giving employees their . Given that a detailed summary of employee benefits is a boost to morale, the Holiday Season or New Year can be a great time to give employees the gift of a complete rewards statement. Although an annual benefits report is sometimes adequate, there are many other times throughout the year when a total compensation statement can help attract, retain, and positively impact your employees.

Hiring

First impressions are always important, and the way you welcome a new employee to your company is no exception. That’s why hiring can be an excellent time to present a total compensation statement. Letting a new or potential employee know just what you’re prepared to provide, even beyond their regular salary, is a great way to get that new relationship off to a solid start. In addition, employees who are comparing other offers can fully see what your company is offering them, and if the competition doesn’t provide a total compensation statement, your company is going to be viewed as the better choice.

Promotions or Raises

Another good time to discuss benefits is during a promotion or request for a promotion. Oftentimes in such discussions, the focus is solely on the actual wages offered or sought. However, it is wise to also emphasize the other benefits an employee is receiving outside their paycheck, such as paid sick time, free parking, a laptop, cell phone, or several other perks. Even intangibles like flexible scheduling can and should be part of the discussion, since they contribute to the overall employee welfare, contentment, and productivity.

Reviews

Annual or semi-annual performance reviews are also an excellent time to bring up total compensation. While discussing what the employee has done for the company, you can also showcase the full dimensions of what your company is providing. A comprehensive total compensation statement can boost morale and employee loyalty, and makes an excellent accompaniment to any words of encouragement that you may offer during a review.

Significant Life Events

There are some events in life that have a direct correlation to employee benefits. Occasions such as marriage or divorce, starting a family, illness or approaching retirement can be opportune times to present a total compensation statement. Since an employee may become eligible for additional benefits at these times, taking the initiative to let them know what they qualify for and what they receive is a great way to show that you’re truly looking out for your team.

Remember, the full measure of benefits your employees receive far exceeds their actual wages. This is good news, so share it freely!

Are You Communicating Your Company’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP)?

Employee Value PropositionEmployee Compensation Software Helps You Promote It

The process of recruiting and retaining top talent is today’s toughest job. Because as an employer, you need your employees as much as they need you, you should actively communicate your employee value proposition (EVP) to potential and existing employees.

Importance of an EVP

An EVP is a strategy of everything a company has to offer to an employee. It is usually divided into salary and benefits, and it varies depending on the employee’s role, tasks, credentials, and skills. If an EVP is planned out well and laid out in detail, the employee will know the actual value of the compensation package they’re getting, and also the reasons they are getting it.

Were they headhunted from a competing company, and are now being offered a compensation package they should find irresistible? Did they perform well in the past year and now have given a significant raise not just in salary but in perks as well? Then they should know all about it through their personal total compensation statement. An EVP is essentially a sales pitch, and should be treated as such.

All companies have their own particular EVP, whether well-defined or not. Nevertheless, for the sake of attracting and maintaining top talent, it behooves you to have your company’s EVP clearly defined. How does your EVP compare to your competition? Or maybe the better question is, is your EVP, and whatever actions you take to communicate it, working well to recruit and retain employees?

Is your company’s EVP in sync with your company’s core values? For example, if your company values loyalty, your EVP might include additional incentives for employees who meet a specific length of service.

Role of Employee Compensation Software

An EVP is not a one-time thing. You don’t develop it and then just leave it there. It has to be regularly reviewed and continuously improved to be competitive.

For example, technology is rapidly changing the way people work. Think about it: If the last time you’ve updated your company’s EVP was five year ago, then your telecommuting perks (if you have them in the first place) need to be revised in light of the new digital solutions that have made remote working easier and smoother. Instead of offering just one day for working from home, maybe your company can now afford to make it the whole five days. But that’s just one thing to look out for.

Aside from streamlining your EVP, employee compensation software can also help with highlighting the important values that can drive an employee’s compensation. As with marketing to customers, marketing to employees shouldn’t come across as generic if you want to make a lasting impact. Because, today, you can tailor your EVP on a total compensation report accordingly.

Employee compensation software solutions, like those from COMPackage, also help with transparency. You never want your employees to feel shortchanged, so you must be able to explain their compensation package instantly, regularly and repeatedly in order to promote your EVP.

On a Fixed Budget, What Sort of Benefits Should You Offer Employees?

Employee Benefits StatementsA good compensation package attracts and retains top talent, so it’s crucial for companies to provide the best they can offer. It’s why employee benefits statements are so crucial — they serve as a measurement of just how much a company is willing to invest in its people.

But if your company is working within a fixed budget, how can you provide enticing benefits without overspending? How can you go beyond government-mandated benefits and deliver something extra?

The answer is in low-cost but high-impact benefits. Some of the perks employees appreciate the most are affordable enough not to dent your budget. Here are some examples:

Flexible schedules

Work-life balance is a goal for many employees, so help them achieve that by giving them a flexible schedule. There are several ways to accomplish this, such as authorizing a couple of work-from-home days every week, implementing staggered hours instead of a fixed login time, or allowing people to offset shorter hours in one workday with longer hours in another workday.

You’re not giving money to your employees when you offer them flexible schedules. You’re giving them time, which, to many, is far more valuable.

Paid vacation leave

The US doesn’t require employers to grant paid vacation leave to employees. But all work and no play makes Jan a disgruntled worker, so it’s better to allot a fixed number of paid vacation days which your employees can use whenever they want to as long as they give advanced notice.

To avoid going over budget, don’t make unused days convertible to cash. Forfeit them at the end of the year and reset the counter at the start of the new one. Or you might choose to give an extended rollover period, for example for a period of three months.

Financial planning assistance

According to a 2016 survey by Magnify Money, more than half of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Given how large this statistic is, chances are that many of your employees are living this way, even if they’ve been working for years.

Help them out by teaching them how to fish. Offering financial planning assistance won’t cost your company a lot, but it can make a world of difference for your employees who are struggling to budget their money wisely.

Corporate rates on insurance plans

Individual rates are higher than corporate rates, so your employees will appreciate it if they can get a discount through your company on life, accident, auto and other kinds of insurance.

Also, automatic payroll deductions make payments faster and easier. This added convenience is a benefit worthy of being included in employee benefits statements.

Merchant discounts

Where do your employees get their morning coffee? Where do they work out after they leave the office? Most likely, it’s that cafe around the corner and the gym a couple of blocks away, respectively.

Thus, approach nearby commercial establishments to see if you can get discounts for your employees. A lot of businesses will be happy to oblige if it means more customers.

These examples clearly show that although monetary compensation is of primary importance for many people, the little things do add up and make a difference. But your employees won’t get to appreciate the full effect of these perks unless you lay it out for them in employee benefits statements from companies like COMPackage.com. Only then will they see the total value of the compensation they’re receiving. If you’ve been looking for a way to boost staff morale, employee benefits statements are the way to go. After all, you can’t appreciate what you don’t know you have.

Major Changes to Overtime Pay on the Horizon

On March 7, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced proposed changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations that will likely make approximately 1 million workers eligible for overtime pay.

Overtime Paycheck

Under the FLSA, employers must pay workers time-and-a-half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a work week. The FLSA includes some exemptions to the overtime rules, intended to exclude certain “white-collar” workers from the overtime requirements. Companies do not have to pay an employee overtime wages as long as the worker passes both the salary test and the duties test to meet the FLSA exemptions from overtime pay.

The rule would increase the salary threshold that an employee performing executive, administrative or professional duties must be paid in order to be exempt from payment of overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 per week. Currently, employees performing duties in a white collar exemption category that make $455 per week ($23,660 annually) or less must be paid an overtime wage, whereas the new rule would make the required wage of $679 per week ($35,308 annually).

The rule, if it becomes final, will go into effect on January 1, 2020. It was published in the Federal Register on March 12, upon which began a 60-day period for the public to submit comments. The DOL already received public input in six nationwide listening sessions, as well as 200,000 comments after a 2017 Request for Information while it was developing the proposal.

The nearly unanimous public opinion, according to the DOL, was that the overtime threshold needed to be updated from the current level established in 2004. The Obama administration proposed a rule in 2016 that would have doubled the salary threshold and set up automatic adjustments to it, but a U.S. District Court found the rule unlawful. The new proposal, however, would set up periodic reviews to determine if the salary threshold increases are needed.

Additionally, the rule would increase the compensation requirement for someone to be classified as a highly compensated employee (HCE) – and therefore exempt from overtime wages – from $100,000 to $147,414, which is equivalent to the 90th percentile earnings of full-time salaried workers, projected to Jan. 1, 2020. Along with the income, HCEs must also have primary duties that include office work or non-manual labor, and they customarily and regularly perform duties of an exempt executive, administrative or professional employee.

Employers should carefully review their current exempt employees’ compensation structure to determine which workers may be eligible for overtime wages under the new regulations.  Although the changes are not effective until next year, companies should monitor those employees’ work hours now to determine the most cost-effective way to comply with the new rules. In some cases, it may be easier to simply raise the workers’ salaries to the threshold, assuming their job functions meet the FLSA duties test.  In other cases, employers may want to convert the employee to an hourly rate and pay overtime for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week and implement rules to limit excessive overtime.

For more information about the new overtime regulations, contact employment attorney Elaina Smiley at es@muslaw.com or 412-456-2821.

6 Questions You CAN’T Ask When Interviewing

Shhhh - Questions not to ask in a job interviewInterviews are a great way to get to know applicants on an in-depth level — much more than resumes or test scores can offer. After all, someone can be excellent on paper, but not necessarily in person. It takes a face-to face interview to perceive someone’s attitude.

But although interviews are meant to give you a closer peek at applicants, there are several questions you shouldn’t ask, either for legal or ethical purposes. Otherwise, your company may end up with a discrimination lawsuit, as well as damage control problems on social media.

To avoid such headaches, take note of the following no-go lines of inquiries:

  • Race/ethnicity — Questions like the following are off-limits because national origin is strictly a federally protected class.
    • “Where did you originally come from?”
    • “What’s your nationality?”
    •  “What’s your ethnic background?”

However, the law stipulates that companies must hire only people who are eligible to work in the U.S., so you should determine an applicant’s eligibility without asking questions that invade privacy. But it’s not a matter of how, but when. You can verify an applicant after you’ve hired them by asking them to fill out an IRS Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) on their first day of work.

Here are some additional thoughts about what you should and should not ask.

  • Religion — If you’re concerned about whether or not an applicant can work during the required hours, you can straight up ask if they’re able to commit. It’s much better and clearer than asking them about the holidays they observe, what church they belong to, or when they will expect to have time off for their religious practices.
  • Sexual orientation/gender identity — These are considered non-issues in job hunting, so there’s no reason to ask an applicant about their gender or sexual preference. But there are less obvious questions you still need to stray away from, like “Do you plan on having kids?” or “Are you single?” Plans for getting married and having children could be used to discriminate against female employees.
  • Disability — People with disabilities (PWDs) are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means PWDs who are qualified to perform a job should not be discriminated against on the basis of their disability. Just ask the applicant if they can perform all the tasks associated with a job.
  • Age — The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects applicants aged 40 and above from workplace discrimination on the basis of their age. Thus, don’t ask an applicant how old they are, or when they finished high school. However, in some cases, asking for age is legal because the law requires employees for certain jobs to be of a certain age, e.g. bartending and casino dealing.

Current salary — In Massachusetts, asking for an applicant’s current salary is prohibited until the job offer stage. In other states, it’s not, but it’s still considered taboo to ask about it in the early stages of the hiring process. You can ask about an applicant’s current salary once you already have a job offer that includes a compensation package.

It can be tricky to navigate the do’s and don’ts of HR interviews, but the key here is to stick to professional questions and stay away from personal ones. The more you focus on the job at hand, the less likely you’ll end up asking illegal/inappropriate questions.