The Complex World of Human Resources...Why Ignorance Isn't Bliss

by Laura DiPersia, MHR

Human Resources procedures are a fast-paced, ever changing aspect of company operations where, unfortunately, the potential for liabilities is vast. Whether job applicant or long time employee there is a law protecting a person from the time they apply until the day they retire and every minute in between. While we have all heard “ignorance is bliss” this is one area where being blissful could result in a wealth of pain and anxiety later. Rather than hide from HR processes and hope they will go away, empower yourself with a working knowledge of the industry. Here are 7 tips to get you started.

    1. Your Employment Application: Times have changed and there are many questions such as age, gender, marital status, race, religion, etc. that are no longer acceptable (there are a few rare exceptions that are known as a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification). Review your employment application for appropriateness. For a general overview of unacceptable questions see
    2. Employment Eligibility: The Form I-9 Employment Eligibility and Verification must be completed by all employees and is at times updated by the government (most recent update 8/09). The form, including instructions, can be found at:
    3. Fair Labor Standards Act: Per US the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. 201 et seq. (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments. There are several very important components to the FLSA including making sure all your employees are classified correctly as exempt or non-exempt for the purposes of calculating overtime pay. These are key areas in HR to understand as mistakes can be costly. See for a reference guide.
    4. Time & Attendance: For proper payroll processing, fewer pay check corrections, and increased efficiency consider an electronic time clock or on-line time sheet system. Many payroll providers also offer time and attendance tracking systems for a small fee.
    5. Discrimination Laws and Protected Class: Having a good working knowledge of the Federal Laws Prohibiting Discrimination will build your confidence, but also help you know you need to consult an HR professional or employment lawyer. For more information on Federal Laws Prohibiting Discrimination see:
    6. Employee Training: Employees have rights but also responsibilities. Empower employees with the knowledge to protect themselves while also informing them of their responsibilities. Trainings to consider include Preventing and Reporting Harassment, Workplace Safety and Diversity.
    7. Employee Information: Often employers ensure client confidentially, but your employees have rights to privacy too. Review the systems you have in place to protect your employees’ personal information such as social security number, date of birth, bank account, health insurance information etc.

Laura DiPersia is an organizational development and employee relations consultant, whose work focuses on organizational development, process efficiency, employee relations, outcomes development and performance management.

The Bottom Line:  At the end of the day trying to navigate the ever changing and complex world of Human Resources without full knowledge of the many facets of the industry can be incredibly stressful and place your business in jeopardy. If your current infrastructure does not include an HR Department consider hiring an HR consultant or employment lawyer, recruiting one to join your Board of Directors or outsourcing your HR functions to a Professional Employer Organization (PEO). Peace of mind is priceless and when dealing with employee situations it is well worth the investment.


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