Misclassifying Contractors? Let’s Get the Basics Right, Folks.

Jessica Lee Bad HR, Jessica Lee, Workforce Management Articles

Everyone wants to know how to get a “seat at the table.” Or how to transform their HR function into world class organization. Or how to stay on top of the latest and greatest with HR technology – including incorporating social media into their employee communications and recruiting practices. All valid desires. I’m totally for making HR cooler, making HR better, and God forbid, making HR sexier (that is, if you don’t believe that is an oxymoron). But you can’t get there – to the table, to world class status, to sexy – if you don’t have the basics right.

Of late, I feel like we’ve seen and heard about situations where companies have short changed their talent in an effort to affect the bottom line or save face –

  • Hedging bets by misclassifying contractors rather than hiring them full-time.Check out what’s happening with BMW and ZipReality who both are struggling with the status of employee versus contingent worker. Eeek.
  • Not paying interns. Got an intern doing something meaningful and that contributes to your bottom line? Pay them. And if you haven’t been doing so, there is such a thing as retro pay. I know a few fresh grads who have seen checks come in the mail to them after offering free labor to former  “employers.” We can do the right thing here, folks.
  • Not paying overtime. Don’t want to pay time and a half or double time but need the work done? Tough luck, son. Pay up, or get staffed up appropriately and don’t ask people to work without pay. Directly or indirectly. The examples abound of employersgetting busted for not paying up. Don’t let this be you.
  • Wrongful terminations. Ask Shirley Sherrod about what happened to her this week (or, better yet, as our friends at KnowHR are asking, where was HR in all of this?!). Fired without having had a diligent investigation done of the facts. And when the facts in totality were discovered, then she was asked back. Wow.

I could go on – but these are just some recent examples we’ve seen in the news of the basic areas that have served to remind me that HR folks have got to make sure their organizations get the little things right. I know that no one really likes the compliance role that HR has to play. It’s far from sexy and cool, and it’s the least favorite part of my job. There’s little that’s so-called “strategic” about it. But if you can’t get those very, very basics right, you can say goodbye to ever having the credibility that you oh-so yearn for as a “business partner.”

So friends? Look at the A-B-C’s of your HR function and workforce. Wage and hour issues shouldn’t have to happen under your watch. Harassment and discrimination issues should be managed with grace and dignity and justice. Try to work to keep your company from getting sued. And let’s also try our very best to make sure our data is right. Double, triple check your numbers before reporting anything out. It’s the simple, basic stuff that you’ve gotta master first. Run before you walk, folks.