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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Gleason

5 HR Rules All Managers Should Know

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

As a manager you are focused on ensuring your employees are equipped to accomplish the goals of the organization at the same time you are responsible for service or production goals, departmental budgets and ensuring the people above you and below you are well-informed.

It’s not surprising you have no time to think about human resources compliance. It is an area, however, that if you get wrong could have serious consequences for you and your company.

In 2017, employers paid out a total of $2.72 billion for employment-related class action settlements. The most common types of claims include discrimination, benefits and wage and hour violations.

Following these 5 HR Rules All Managers Should Know can reduce your risk for costly and time consuming employment law claims. Staying within these boundaries helps you to stay focused on what’s important – accomplishing the goals of the organization.

These are 5 deep topics, but my goal is to provide a few nuggets you can use right away.


Only use relevant, job-related information from the candidate to make hiring decisions.
  • The key to interviewing is to stick to asking questions related to the skills needed for the job. For example, if a job requires driving as part of its regular duties you can ask if the candidate has a valid driver’s license, otherwise you can only ask an employee if they have reliable transportation.

  • If an applicant shares personal information not relevant to the job…STOP…put blinders on! Thank the applicant and move on to the next question. Or even better, tell the applicant that you only evaluate skills and abilities when making hiring decisions.

Performance Management

Prepare for a performance discussion by outlining expectations and having a clear path forward for improvement. Always document the discussion.
  • Always approach conversations with employees about performance in a way that coaches, educates and motivates them to improve.

  • Spend a few minutes preparing for the discussion. What behaviors do you want the employee to continue doing, stop doing, and start doing?

  • Always document conversations about behavior or performance and follow up on progress. If you’ve connected well and the employee is engaged, you may never have to have that conversation again.

  • Documentation allows you to see patterns in behavior or lack of progress which will help you decide how to move forward with that employee in the future.

  • Documentation lays a clear path for further disciplinary action or termination. If you have to defend that later, you have the documentation needed to support a lawful termination.

Workplace Harassment

Promptly report, investigate and respond to harassment reports. Be respectful and compassionate. These matters can be difficult and emotional for those involved.
  • This has always been an important topic for HR leaders. What you need to know is that if you see behavior that is destructive or demeaning, you must address it right away. You should also talk with your leader or human resources for additional guidance.

  • If an employee reports harassing behavior, you must take action. Depending on the size of your company, this might mean contacting your HR department. If you are a smaller organization, you may need to get in touch with a company leader. Regardless, you should ensure the concern is reported, investigated and addressed.

  • Employers are liable for employee behavior on the job and if you ignore destructive and demeaning behavior it puts you and your employer at risk for a harassment claim.

Preventing Discrimination

Indiana is an “employment at will state” meaning the employee or employer can end the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, with or without notice. However, an employer is not permitted to make employment decisions based on an employee’s protected class.
  • Ensure you are making fair and evidence-based decisions around training, promotion, transfers and pay.

  • You should always use metrics and evidence of good performance (completed projects, quality, and quantity) to make employment decisions.

  • Deciding to promote your employee because you really like them, can be perceived as favoritism by other employees and negatively impacts engagement.

Wage and Hour Practices

Appropriate classification of hourly and salary workers and ensuring both are paid correctly keeps you out of hot water with the Department of Labor. Liability for overtime pay violations can go back 3 years and includes liquidated damages (double the amount owed), attorney’s fees and personal liability for managers.
  • To properly classify a worker as salaried (exempt them from overtime wages) the worker must 1) be paid on a "salary basis" which means the worker receives the same fixed amount each week and is not subject to variation based on amount or quality of work, 2) be paid a minimum annual salary of $23,660 or $455 per week, and 3) the worker’s position must primarily include certain types of “exempt” duties as defined by FLSA regulations.

  • Hourly workers must be paid at the minimum wage rate for all “hours worked” and for hours over 40 in the workweek, at a rate of time and a half of the worker’s regular rate.

  • "Hours worked" includes all hours which an employee is performing work including time worked when “off the clock” (working before or after clocking in/out, working from home, receiving calls), interruptions of an employee’s unpaid break, certain types of travel time, time spent at training or conferences, and breaks of less than 20 minutes.

  • Overtime rate calculations should include premium rates or shift differentials, on call pay and non-discretionary bonuses.

  • You cannot discipline an employee for working unauthorized hours or overtime by not paying them the hours they worked.

Putting policies and procedures in place now and participating in training greatly reduces your risk for future employment law claims. Let People First HR help you build a foundation of compliant HR practices.


Amanda Gleason is an Human Resources Compliance Consultant at People First HR, LLC. Connect with her to learn how she can help your small to medium sized business build compliant and effective programs that support and grow your organization and its people.

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