January 2006





















Table of Contents
















Table of Contents













Table of Contents








Table of Contents















































Table of Contents

















Table of Contents






Table of Contents










Table of Contents












Table of Contents































Table of Contents










Table of Contents

















Table of Contents




Table of Contents




Table of Contents:

2006 Corporate Partners

American Family Insurance
Career Momentum
Lee Hecht Harrison
Melli, Walker, Pease & Ruhly, S.C.

Mortenson, Matzelle & Meldrum, Inc.
Stark Company Realtors
Quarles and Brady LLP

ABR Employment Services
Higgins Hemb Insurance Group
General Casualty Insurance Companies
Neider & Boucher, S.C.
Payroll Data Services
Physicians Plus Insurance Corporation
Right Management

Thank you!


By Belinda Weber, SPHR, GMA SHRM President

How Good is Your HR Vocabulary?
By David R. Friedman, Friedman Law Firm

Bereavement Leave
From the National SHRM Bulletin Board...

Website of the Month: Letters of Recommendation

- Welcome 2006 Corporate Partners!

- Welcome New Members

- Best HR Resolutions for 2006
By Martha Finney

- Marketing Your HR Internship

- Community Events

- Movin' Up

ark Your Calendar

- Calendar of events and chapter meeting notices

Click above to view details for all upcoming GMA SHRM meetings.

January 17 — Chapter Meeting

Corporate Finance 101 for the HR Professional
How I Can Use Financial Tools as a Member of the Management Team

Program Details

January 11 - Wednesday in the Park
Doing more with less. Is HRO right for you?
Program Details

January 18 - Certification Orientation
Program Details

- Community activities Community Events
- Conferences


- Orientation Mark your calendars, the next Member Welcome and Orientation is Thursday, April 6, 2006, 3:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m
- Certification Prep Information

Wednesday, January 18 - Certification Orientation

News/Updates - for more information, click topic in left hand column

- SHRM National news  
- State Council news  
- Student Chapter news Marketing Your HR Internship
- PEG announcements


- Committee announcements  
- View 2005/2006 GMA SHRM Board of Directors  
- Open board positions  
- New members  
- Job line See the latest job postings!
- Question of the month Volunteers needed
- Office News  
- Partner Program Welcome 2006 Corporate Partners!
- Certifications  

Printable version

How Good Is Your HR Vocabulary?
By David R. Friedman, Friedman Law Firm

It’s time for a quiz. Do you know the meaning of the following words and phrases as used in the HR profession?

1) employment at will
2) wrongful discharge
3) layoff
4) just cause
5) probationary period
6) constructive discharge

These words and phrases have acquired their own special meaning (also known as terms of art) in the employment arena. It is important to understand and use these words and phrases correctly.

Employment at Will. Wisconsin interprets the “employment at will” doctrine to mean that an employer is allowed to discharge an employee for good cause, for no cause, or even for cause morally wrong, without being thereby guilty of legal wrong.

As the Wisconsin Supreme Court stated in Bammert v. Don’s Supervalu, Inc., 2002 WI 85, 254 Wis.2d 347, 646 N.W.2d 365, “The employment-at-will doctrine is a ‘stable fixture’ of our common law, and has been since 1871. It is central to the free market economy and ‘serves the interests of employees as well as employers’ by maximizing the freedom of both. The ‘antidote’ to the potential for unfairness in employment-at-will ‘is an employment contract.’”

There are three common ways to contract with an employee. One is to contract directly with the employee, i.e., the individual employment contract. A second way is to have a handbook or other employer policy that provides some form of job security that modifies or abrogates the employment at will doctrine. And finally a collective bargaining agreement usually provides a form of job security.

Generally, at-will employees cannot pursue legal claims stemming from routine dissatisfactions with the terms and conditions of employment or an employer's unjustified decision to terminate the employment relationship. The courts generally will not second guess employment or business decisions, even when those decisions appear ill-advised or unfortunate.

However, there are various statutory exceptions to the employment-at-will doctrine. For instance, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act each prohibit employers from discharging an employee on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Other statutes make it unlawful for employers to terminate workers because of participation in union activities, jury service, military service, or testifying at an occupational, safety, and health proceeding.

Wrongful Discharge. It seems that every employee who is fired wants to claim a wrongful discharge. However, it is not the easy for an employee to sustain such a claim. To win a wrongful discharge claim, the employee must satisfy a two-part test: (1) the employee must identify a fundamental and well-defined public policy sufficient to meet the narrow cause of action for wrongful discharge under the public policy exception to the employment-at-will doctrine; and (2) the employee must demonstrate that the discharge violates that fundamental and well-defined public policy.

It is not the purpose of this article to go through the law that has developed with regard to the public policy exceptions to the employment at will doctrine. Suffice it to say that the run of the mill termination is not a wrongful discharge.

Layoff. In 1979 the Wisconsin Supreme Court stated that a layoff from employment has a different concept in employment relations and implies a temporary separation from employment rather than a permanent termination of employment.” The exact definition of a layoff is normally defined by the terms of a collective bargaining agreement or employer policy. The main feature of a layoff is the right to be recalled to a job. Some employers, who operate under the at will concept, will layoff an employee instead of firing the employee believing this is a more compassionate approach. This approach gives the employee the ability to argue that the employer has abandoned the employee at will concept.

Just Cause. In a Wisconsin court case, a private sector non-unionized employer entered into an employment contract with an employee, and the contract contained a provision that the contract could only be terminated for just cause. After the company fired the employee, the employee sued claiming there was not just cause for the firing. The employment contract did not define what was meant by the term “just cause.” The corporation contended that "just cause" meant "inexcusable neglect." The employee presented evidence that "just cause" meant "intentional wrongdoing." As the Supreme Court said in letting the jury determine the phrase’s meaning, “the definitions are different from each other, thereby giving lie to the notion that ‘just cause’ has a single ‘plain and ordinary’ meaning.”

The lesson for an employer is twofold. First, do not assume the employer and employee have the same understanding of the meaning of the phrase “just cause.” Second, the employer should attempt to define “just cause” if it is going to use the phrase in an individual employment contract or board policy. (There is no real difference between the words just cause, reasonable cause or cause.)

In unionized settings the phrase “just cause” will be interpreted by arbitrators using the common law that has developed for the particular industry.

Probationary Period. A probationary period is an amount of time that allows the employer to discharge the employee without having to meet the ultimate discharge standard (which typically is a cause standard). Inherent in the at will concept is that there is no cause standard. Therefore, it can be argued employees are always on “probation.” For those employers who add a probationary period where it is not necessary, it can be implied that there must be a higher standard at the end of the probationary period.

Constructive Discharge. The doctrine of constructive discharge recognizes that some resignations are coerced, tantamount to a termination. In an attempt to avoid liability, an employer may refrain from actually firing an employee, preferring instead to engage in conduct causing him or her to quit. The doctrine of constructive discharge addresses such employer-attempted "end runs" around wrongful discharge and other claims requiring employer-initiated terminations of employment. Constructive discharge exposes "what is ostensibly a resignation [as] a discharge." The doctrine operates "to discard form for substance, to reject sham for reality" and recognizes that certain resignations are, in fact, actual firings.

As the Wisconsin Supreme Court said in Strozinsky v. School District of Brown Deer, 2000 WI 97, 237 Wis.2d 19, 614 N.W.2d 443, “We therefore must discern what conditions rise to this level of intolerability. A constructive discharge analysis implicates an objective inquiry, recognizing that employees cannot be overly sensitive to a working environment. The question hinges on whether a reasonable person in the position of the plaintiff would feel forced to quit. Stressful ‘disappointments, and possibly some injustices’ are not actionable. Similarly, employees will not prevail in claims charging only that managers were heavy-handed, critical, or unpleasant. Inferior work assignments, transfers to less favorable job duties, and substandard performance reviews alone generally do not create intolerable conditions. Rather, the situation must be unusually aggravating and surpass ‘[s]ingle, trivial, or isolated’ incidents of misconduct.”

So, how did you score on this vocabulary quiz? Whether you passed with flying colors or learned a few things, hopefully you’re ready for the next time you’re tested in the real world – either in court, with an administrative agency, or in the HR issues that you solve on a daily basis.

The opinions expressed or implied are those of the author and may not represent the official position of GMASHRM. This article is intended for general information purposes and highlights developments in the legal area. This article does not constitute legal advice. The reader should consult legal counsel to determine how this information applies to any specific situation.

From the National SHRM Bulletin Board…

Topic: Bereavement Leave
Posted: 12/15/2005 9:29:52 PM
Post: Is it fair to penalize an employee on their Annual Review or Bonus Evaluation due to taking Bereavement Leave; consequently losing 3 days of work performance? Bereavement leave was taken for the death of a brother [and] after permission was granted. There is a Bereavement policy and the employee was paid for the 3 missed days. Manager evaluated Employee for bonus evaluation. Points were not deducted per policy under the Attendance section; but points were deducted under the performance section. The reason given for the deduction of points in the performance section of the review was that targeted numbers were not met because of the days that were missed during the Bereavement Leave.

Number of Replies: 6 by 12/19/2005 9:06:36 AM

Posted Reply 1: In this case, we would describe the missed target in the evaluation form, but the supervisor would mention the bereavement leave as a compounding factor, so as NOT to reduce the bonus for this reason.

Posted Reply 2: I think you might have a problem if this person was on approved bereavement leave and then is penalized for being out. I would note it in the review as well but not penalize for it, listing the reason why.

Website of the Month: Letters of Recommendation

Do managers and supervisors always ask you for help with recommendation letters? Do you struggle with writing them yourself? If so, click here for some sample letters at the about.com website. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for letters targeted in an employment setting. Also, be sure to read the instructions on how to download the letters because a simple “double-click” will not open most of them. There are sample letters for various scenarios such as a layoff or for an average, above average, or superior employee. The language may not be an exact fit to your organization’s culture, but it’s a good starting point. The site is also a little difficult to navigate with pop-up ads and with some links not leading to the letter you may be looking for, but a quick visit may become a time-saving tool.

 Welcome 2006 Corporate Partners!

Please join your GMA SHRM chapter in welcoming our new and renewing Corporate Partners for 2006. The support of these partners allows the chapter to arrange quality speakers at monthly meetings, provide career-building resources for HR professionals, and organize other HR-related activities.

There are several ways for members to get to know our Corporate Partners. The chapter lists the names of Corporate Partners in each monthly newsletter and on the GMA SHRM website. In addition, partners are introduced at monthly meetings, and every partner has a special ribbon attached to his or her nametag at the meetings. The chapter also displays a banner with all of the Corporate Partner names at the monthly meetings. Members can also look for some partners to display materials at meetings or give a short introduction of their services.

So, whether in your daily interactions or as part of attending a program meeting, please take a moment this year to introduce yourself to our partners and thank them for their support. They are a vital part of the ongoing success of our chapter.



Welcome New Members!

GMA SHRM welcomes the following members who joined our chapter in November.


Steve Anderson

Educational Seminar Director

KLAAS Financial

Tad Cromley


Express Personnel Services

Nicole Frank, PHR

Human Resources Specialist

FABCO Equipment, Inc

Peter Gantner

Compensation Administrator

Winterthur North America

Marjorie Lisi

Financial Advisor

New York Life Insurance Company

Jenny Medeke, PHR



Diana Mehler


UW Medical Foundation

Stephanie Shefcik

HR Receptionist

UW Medical Foundation

Radha Sijapati

Marketing Specialist

American Family Insurance Company

Kristine Wolter

HR Specialist

American Superconductor


Best HR Resolutions for 2006

By Martha Finney

I realize that New Year’s resolutions are about as popular as puns – both provoke the same brand of groansmanship among those who like to think they’re beyond such antics. I, for one, like resolutions so much, I make the exact same ones every year. There’s a kind of comforting familiarity to addressing the same problems.

The same problems seem to haunt the HR community as well. For the last two decades, the list of things that need to change never changes: a certain dearth of respect from the organization at large; frustration that leadership doesn’t want to walk its talk; exasperation at how the employees seem to be “calling it in.” Absolute rage at the ever growing amount of administrivia and accountabilities that really should be someone else’s problem. The chronic anxieties that come from a general agreement that HR in its current iteration is an endangered species, with no clear idea what general shape it’s evolving toward.

Okay. So, with the birth of a new year, we have a fresh set of opportunities for greatness. How are we going to take advantage of them? Here is my proposed list of resolutions designed specifically for HR. They may or may not obliterate the chronic bugaboos that have plagued HR for years. But follow these resolutions and you’ll certainly have a more rewarding and fulfilling 2006.

I will assume the role of CPO. Not Chief People Officer. For the year 2006, your assignment is to become Chief Passion Officer. That title is available to you no matter where you are in the HR organization. All you have to do is achieve the competency of understanding how your company’s mission-critical objectives intersect with individual employees’ personal sense of meaning, fulfillment and drive. High-quality employees want to know that their efforts are doing more than just pulling in a paycheck. They want to know that what they’re doing is helping to make the world a better place. Be the one to connect those dots for them.

I will sell what people want to buy how they want to buy it. Some people traffic in passion. Others prefer a different commodity: statistics, P&L, demographics, probabilities, stock prices, the numbers stuff. Okay. So give it to them that way, in just the form that will make them reach out to embrace it. You’re still about passion. And that will be our little secret.

I will make my office Destination Yes. Cultivate an HR culture that thrives on finding great solutions to creative challenges. There are some terrific consultants and trainers who will come in for a day or two and teach your team the skills and intellectual habits that foster creative problem-solving. Make each individual on your HR team personally responsible for delivering creative solutions, and then celebrate a job well done!

I will stay true to my personal ideals. How do you want people to feel consistently when they work with you on a large project or merely run into you in the hall? What can the company’s leadership know they can count on you for? Authenticity? Integrity? A merry, unpretentious disposition? A deeply sensitive talent for understanding subtleties? A worth ethic that values the spirit of service and stewardship? A clear head for business? Decide what characteristics you want to be known and respected for. And then stay consistent with those values and behaviors regardless of fleeting moods or the daily storms of doing business in uncertain times.

I will steal ideas. Great solutions to tired old problems are all around you. Open your mind to bolts of inspiration from a variety of sources. Your counterpart from a completely different kind of company. Best practices from different departments (want some hints on how to sell your initiatives? Ask the best salesperson in your organization to coach you on cutting edge presentation techniques.). Your HR friends around the country. (Naturally, always give credit where credit’s due!)

I will share ideas. Give away your best advice to your counterparts – both internally and externally. Don’t even worry about sharing a best practice with a competitor. By the time it’s absorbed into the other company’s culture, it will have changed significantly. In the meantime, you’ll enjoy both the personal satisfaction of being resourceful and an improved reputation in the wider world as being the go-to HR pro.

I will be eager to serve but not eager to please. There are so many quick, easy, and cheap things you can do to help your company on a daily basis. Dumb little stuff that just needs some attention. Or major projects that can be completed more quickly with more focus. A conversation that needs to be had. A sales comp program that needs an ever-so-slight tweak to skyrocket the sales numbers. A coffee pot that keeps burning the morning brew. A squirrelly light fixture that needs an engineer’s attention – to be had with just one phone call. You have the power to make it happen. Pick a department a month, ask them what’s going on that’s especially irksome, distracting, or counterproductive. And then fix it. But also remember that you’re nobody’s servant or scapegoat. Carry out your day with dignity and backbone. And your coworkers will know to come to you for help, not for a time- and spirit-vacuuming vent session.

I won’t fear the reaper. As per usual, business is expanding and contracting all over the country, all the time, all at once. And it’s not uncommon for the HR person who has been tasked to prepare lay-off packages to then be asked to prepare one last package before turning out the light, if you get my drift. Pour heart and mind into the work at hand. But reserve a bit of your energy and intellectual bandwidth to make sure you’re building your competencies and contacts in such a way that you’re consistently presented with new opportunities well before you’re called into your boss’s office “for a chat.” Knowing that you always have options will give you the personal power you need to always be your most effective and innovative for the year coming up.

Martha Finney is an HR career coach and employee engagement consultant. She is also the co-author of the book, HR From the Heart: Inspiring Stories and Strategies for Building the People Side of Great Business. Contact her at martha@marthafinney.com.

Marketing Your HR Internship

Do you have an HR Internship you want to market directly to SHRM student members? If so, please e-mail your internships positions to Stacy Grunnet at stacy.grunnet@uwmf.wisc.edu. Greater Madison Area Society for Human Resource Management sponsors three student chapters: UW-Madison, UW-Whitewater and UW-Platteville. Your internship information will be sent directly to student presidents of these chapters for announcement at their chapter meetings, and to be posted on the student chapter’s internship board. Please include the following information with your posting:

  • Job Title
  • Company Name
  • Job Location
  • Contact Name
  • Contact E-mail
  • Contact Phone
  • Position Description
  • Paid/Unpaid

Community Events


Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, Chamber Café: Identity Theft, 7:30 – 9:00 am, Orange Shoe Gym, 6220 Nesbitt Road. A woman nknowingly mistypes the web address of her bank but reaches a familiar looking screen that features the company logo. She enters her account information and password. Later, she finds that someone has accessed her account and stolen thousands of dollars. Learn how to protect yourself from Identity Theft at the first Chamber Cafe of 2006. Jeffrey Pettit from Liberty Mutual will educate attendees on how easy it is to be a victim -- and what you can do to prevent it. Contact info: sbreckenridge@greatermadisonchamber.com or 443-1954.


Urban League of Greater Madison, 22 nd Annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Breakfast, 8:00 am, Edgewood High School. The highlight of this event is the induction of local middle and high school students-of-color into the National Achievers Society and the presentation of Outstanding Young Person Awards. The National Achievers

Society was initiated by the National Urban League, the Congress of National Black Churches, and numerous other black civic and social institutions. For more info, go to www.ulgm.org.


Business and Professional Women – Madison Chapter, Monthly Meeting: Achieving Your Dreams: Getting What You Want in Life!, 5:30-7:45 pm, Doubletree Hotel, 525 W. Johnson Street. A lively investigation of how to uncover lost dreams, re-tap potential and ignite forward movement. Presented by Pat Barone of Catalyst Coaching, LLC. To register or for more information: www.madisonbpw.com.


Downtown Madison, Inc., 2006 Frostiball - Winter Night, City Lights, 9:00 pm – 1:00 am, Overture Center for the Arts. The Overture Center will be transformed into a beautifully lit spectacle. Dance to the beat of the world renowned Dick Judson Orchestra or relax to the sultry piano sound of Leotha Stanley in the Frostiball Martini Lounge. Guests will also be tempted to an irresistible array of delectable hors d'oeuvres, champagne, wine and assorted non-alcoholic beverages, all to the added benefit of supporting Downtown Madison, Inc. Gala Ticket - $100/ticket (no reserved seating), Patron Ticket - $150/ticket (ticket with reserved seating), Cabaret Table - $1200 (high boy table for 10), Patron Table - $1500 (full sized table seating 10).

Movin’ Up

Have you started with a new company? Has your organization recently promoted you to a new position? Or do you want to recognize a new person or promotion within your department? If so, we want to hear about it. Send us an e-mail, and we’ll publish your good news in the next HR InTouch!


HR InTouch Guidelines

Article Writing:

Do you have an interest in writing for the HR InTouch? We have an interest in learning more about your area of expertise!

Why should you volunteer? Top three reasons: 1) to share your knowledge and experiences to educate others; 2) to become more connected in the HR and Dane County communities; and 3) to contribute towards the advancement of GMA SHRM and the HR profession.

The first step is for you to choose a submission option: you can pre-submit an article to GMA SHRM at any time for us to use in any of the upcoming newsletters, you can sign up to write for a particular month, or we can put you on a list of people to contact in future months whenever we need articles.

Article length:

Because the HR InTouch is now in an online format, the size is flexible. The article should be engaging and hold readers’ attention. Include the core information in your article, and we will advise if it is too lengthy.


GMA SHRM is conscious not to allow solicitation through the articles, in an effort to protect the interests of our partners and members. The nature of the article should be educational (i.e., what are the business advantages of having a product like yours) or informational. Otherwise, if you truly are interested in advertising through the HR InTouch, you can work with our Marketing Committee. As a rule of thumb for article writing, if the submission relates to a for-profit event, or specifically markets your company (vs. your industry), it is an advertisement, and should be purchased. If it is a not-for-profit event that your company is hosting, or an announcement (i.e., a SHRM member recently joined your company), it is an acceptable addition to the HR InTouch content. If you have any questions related to the appropriateness of your submission, please contact us.


If you have questions, or to submit an article, contact GMA SHRM at chapteradmin@gmashrm.org .







Greater Madison Area SHRM, Inc.
2830 Agriculture Dr.
Madison, WI 53718
(608) 204-9814
fax: (608) 204-9818
Web: http://www.gmashrm.org/

© 2004; Greater Madison Area SHRM, Inc. All rights reserved.