January 2008

In This Edition

By Anthony Dix, PHR,
GMA SHRM President

Can the Employee Undo the Deal We Had?
- By David R. Friedman, Friedman Law Firm

Just Joking Among Friends?
- Robert E. Gregg, Boardman Law Firm

Telecommuting Issues
- By Nancy N. Stott, HR Information & Services Director

Making Pay-for-Performance Work for You
- By Dave Furlan, PHR, Virchow Krause Employee Benefits, LLC

- January 15, 2008 GMA SHRM Summit

- Welcome 2008 Corporate Partners!

- Request for Proposal - 2008 Compensation Survey

- Cell Phones and Other Items to Donate to DAIS

- What's Cool in HR in the Greater Madison Area

- Welcome New Members

- In Transition

- Movin' Up

Click here to see the full GMA SHRM Event Calendar.

- January 15th - GMA SHRM Summit
Panel Discussion on the Multi-Generational Workplace

- February 1, 2008 - Small HR Resource Group
Emergency Action Planning and I.T. Disaster Recovery for the HR Professional

- World at Work, Certification Course and Exam
T1: Total Rewards Management
March 25-27, 2008



Printable version


































Anthony Dix, PHR
2008 Corporate Partners

Boardman Law Firm
Lee Hecht Harrison
Melli, Walker, Pease & Ruhly, S.C.

Fidelitec, LLC
Physicians Plus Insurance Corporation
Right Management
UW Credit Union

Career Momentum
Edgewood College
Neider & Boucher, S.C.
Payroll Data Services
QBE Regional Insurance
Stark Company Realtors

Thank you!



On Behalf of the Board of Directors,

Wishing You a Great 2008!



Anthony Dix, PHR, MBA
GMA SHRM Chapter President


Can The Employee Undo The Deal We Had?
David R. Friedman, Friedman Law Firm

Have you ever written or seen a check with the words “paid in full” on it? Do you wonder if those words have any legal meaning? As with most legal matters, the answer is “it depends.”

The law encourages resolving disputes informally without litigation and in a manner which is fair to all involved. Typically this is accomplished by a settlement between those involved. Once an agreement has been reached, the law generally will not allow the parties to undo the deal. The legal name for this doctrine is “Accord and Satisfaction.” An accord and satisfaction is an agreement to discharge an existing disputed claim and the agreement constitutes a defense to an action of enforcing the original claim.

In the HR arena, this concept often comes up when an employment claim is settled. If there is a monetary portion of the settlement, you want to make sure that any payment resolves the matter. To insure the concept works, the person receiving the payment has to have reasonable notice that the check is intended to be in full satisfaction of the claim.

Even though these are not magic words, whatever is written regarding the participant’s intent has to be in clear and simple language. If the person is not proficient in English, it would be advisable to make sure the person understands the implications of what is being signed. The objective is to make sure the person understands that cashing the check means the matter is resolved.

So when does the issue of accord and satisfaction usually come into play? It normally applies when the person who has received the check has second thoughts and wants to undo the deal. If the payment is done properly, and certain other conditions have been met, the person will be held to the deal. Your case is stronger if the person has cashed the check and then waited a period of time before trying to back out. However you still might have to litigate to enforce the deal.

If the deal involves a situation that is covered by the federal Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, there are some unique features to that Act that allow for reconsideration of the deal, and the accord and satisfaction doctrine might not be available to you as a defense.

So when you finalize a settlement that contains a monetary payment, make sure that there the agreement can be used to raise the defense of accord and satisfaction should the need arise.

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.

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Just Joking Among Friends?
This is material extracted from a Legal and Legislative Update written by
Robert E. Gregg, Boardman Law Firm

Joking with the boys warrants demotion. A male manager shared a series of sex jokes and other off-color emails with his male subordinates—over 30 emails in a month. None of the recipients complained, but the emails violated the computer use policy and were caught by the IT monitoring system. The manager received a disciplinary demotion, which he challenged as “excessive” under the Civil Service rules. The Civil Service Commission, then the state court, both ruled that though the level of offensiveness was not serious enough to fire the manager, the emails show “an abuse of the authority entrusted to him in light of his leadership position” and clearly warranted demotion and loss of pay. Webb v. State Civil Service Comm. ( Pa. Commwth. Ct., 2007).

Was it harassment or just joking between friends? The court dismissed the national origin harassment case of a Hispanic laboratory worker. Over a five-year period, the supervisor repeatedly called the worker “wetback,” “brown cow” and “stupid Mexican.” The supervisor also said that she had a “Mexican brain” that couldn’t understand numbers. (Even though many comments were outside the Title VII statute of limitations, some did occur within the 300 days before filing, so all could be used as evidence.) The court agreed that these comments standing alone could be racially hostile. However, during that same timeframe, the lab worker and supervisor regularly socialized on and off the job. They and their spouses took a week-long vacation together. She sent friendly greeting cards to the supervisor’s house and described him as a “great boss.” During the whole time, she said nothing about finding the comments unwelcome or offensive. She raised a concern only after the supervisor did not select her for a promotion. The plaintiff claimed she was too intimidated by the supervisor to raise the issue previously, but the court did not buy this excuse. It decided that the social relationship was far “more prolonged and extensive than usual among office colleagues,” discrediting the claim of intimidation. “The failure to report the behavior over this long time, combined with the unusually extensive social relationship she maintained with him would prevent a reasonable . . . finding that she viewed her work environment as hostile.” Bannon v. U. of Chicago (7th Cir., 2007).

This case is a good warning about “banter among friends.” Though the employer won, it had to go through the EEOC and the federal court and appeal process to do so, spending close to $100,000 in defense costs (if you consider that a “victory”). Friendships often go sour, and what we thought was “banter” becomes “evidence.” One should be able to have friends and fun and humor at work, but both of these cases show that a good rule is to avoid workplace banter, and comments and emails about national origin, gender, sexuality, race, religion and other EEO topics while at work-even with your best buddies.

Bob Gregg , a partner at the Boardman Law Firm in Madison, Wisconsin, has been professionally involved in Employment Relations and Civil Rights work for more than 30 years. He litigates employment cases. A recognized educator and trainer, Bob has conducted over 2,000 seminars throughout the United States and authored numerous articles on practical employment issues.

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.

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Telecommuting Issues
By Nancy N. Stott, HR Information & Services Director

Technological advances and high gasoline prices have resulted in more employees working from home. According to WorldatWork, more than 12 million workers in the U.S. are full-time telecommuters, while 33 million work from home part of the time. These arrangements can benefit employers by reducing the need for office space, attracting employees who are unwilling or unable to report to the office full-time, and increasing employee productivity due to lack of office interruptions.

Many of the initial concerns about telecommuting arrangements have been worked out. Employers have learned that not all jobs and not all employees are well suited to telecommuting arrangements. Telecommuting arrangements should be made on a case-by-case basis. Individual telecommuters must be self-motivated and trustworthy. Managers must take an active role to ensure the work is getting done and telecommuters feel the company supports them.

Because telecommuters work independently, performance management can be an issue. The manager does not have the opportunity to closely observe the individual doing the job to determine whether the home worker is completing assignments correctly. Where communication is lacking, the end result is often the only indicator the manager has of the telecommuter’s performance. The individual is more likely to keep the manager informed of progress and problems with the job if the manager is perceived as supportive.

In some jobs, “face time” can also be a concern for telecommuters. Building relationships is an essential part of many jobs and personal interaction is usually the best way to accomplish this. Spending some time in the workplace, meeting coworkers, and learning the best ways to get things done in the corporate setting can foster a team environment for many who work at home. It may also be valuable for coworkers to see the telecommuter working in the office so his or her contribution can be fully appreciated.

As telecommuting has become more widespread, new issues have arisen:

Workplace safety. While OSHA has backed away from its previous position that an employer has responsibility for the safety of workers’ home offices, an employee who is injured while performing work for the employer at home is still the employer’s responsibility. The injury may be covered by Worker’s Compensation. Injuries sustained at home while working for the employer may still be recordable on the employer’s OSHA log

While it may not be feasible for the employer to regularly inspect home offices, it can be helpful for employers to periodically remind its home workers that they should maintain their home workspace in a safe and organized manner.

Wage and hour concerns. Employers must rely onhourly employees who work at home to correctly keep track of their hours of work, including any overtime. If the company becomes aware an employee is working through lunch hour or is not recording some hours worked, the company has a legal obligation to correct the situation and pay the employee for these hours. If the telecommuter is not satisfactorily performing the job, the problem must be approached through coaching and disciplinary channels, not through compensation. For example, if the employee says it took eight hours to complete a task the manager believes should have taken four hours, it is NOT acceptable to simply pay the worker four hours for the task.

Privacy issues/access to personal computers. While the company has a right to inspect anything on its office computers, what right does the company have to inspect a home computer on which company work has been performed? The answer to this question is not known and may depend on whether the circumstances provide a compelling reason for allowing inspection. The employer’s simple desire to inspect the personal computer is not enough. However, if the telecommuter is sending harassing e-mail messages to customers or coworkers, a stronger argument for permitting inspection can be made.

A common understanding of the way these issues will be handled by the company will go a long way toward avoiding related problems. The best way to create this understanding is through clearly communicated policies.

Nancy N. Stott is HR Information & Solutions Director for MRA. Nancy has helped hundreds of employers find workable solutions to their employment challenges, including managing family leave issues, responding to charges of discrimination or harassment in the workplace, understanding benefits issues, complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws affecting employment. Phone: 800.488.4845, web: www.mranet.org.

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Making Pay-for-Performance Work for You
By Dave Furlan, PHR, Virchow Krause Employee Benefits, LLC

If you asked a roomful of business leaders what a pay-for-performance system looks like, you would likely get a different description from each of them. Despite its popularity, it is unlikely that any of us has the same vision or understanding of how a pay-for-performance system would work. Some of us may simply not understand what the concept means.

Regardless of the situation, pay-for-performance must be a part of your organization’s way of thinking. A talent shortage is looming around the corner, and we all want the top performers driving results at our organization, rather than at the competition. You need to figure out what pay-for-performance means to you and how to turn your vision and ideas into a driving force within your company.

The first thing to review is your performance management system. Are you still using the same old form that supervisors pull out once a year? And if you at least conduct this annual performance appraisal for your employees, are you suffering from a process that doesn’t work anyway?

If you are operating under an archaic system, take some time to revamp your performance management system. Look at your organization’s values/outcomes and see how you can tie individual goals to them. Make sure your supervisors’ performance goals link to these outcomes and are somewhat independent of their employees’ goals. Focus on the individual, not the job title. This is especially helpful in knowledge-based organizations. Consider the employee’s contribution to the entire organization and how lateral moves can build skills and enhance careers. Finally, consider new ways of rating performance and get out of the habit of a rating between “3 and 5” for everyone. A multi-rater evaluation can include vendors and employees outside of a business unit. Also, bringing together team leaders to review each other’s assessments can ensure that ratings are consistent, fair, and appropriate across the organization.

Perhaps you took the time to introduce an updated performance management system in the last couple of years but it’s still not working. Have you let it die on the vine because you haven’t put the support and communication behind it? Your performance management system is a critical foundation to retaining talent, so make sure you are putting the energy into it regularly – quarterly, monthly, perhaps even more often – and getting your senior executives to consistently speak of its value.

If you’ve done all this, you still need to consider how you are going to reward employees as they work through your appraisal process. Merit increase budgets are tight; they always have been. But that doesn’t need to be an excuse for not having the resources to reward your top performers in very meaningful ways. Consider some of these ideas:

  • Start with a compensation philosophy. A formal compensation philosophy linked to your company’s mission and core competencies allows you to focus on critical pay issues. If new product development differentiates you from the competition, your compensation philosophy might emphasize paying top dollar for engineers. On the other hand, if you compete best on price, then you may have a philosophy to pay below the 40 th percentile and then focus on how to best manage your workforce under this guideline.
  • Get the salary right relative to the employee’s contribution. Use available funds to close any gaps between current salary and target pay. The approach may require some hard choices, but you’ll never get pay-for-performance right until you stop giving regular merit increases to below-average performers.
  • Vary the timing of your increase. Perhaps a top performer gets an increase every 12 months while average performers receive one every 18 months. You can budget for the same percentage increase for both or even make the increase greater for the top performer to further enhance the pay increase.
  • Consider variable pay. Profit-sharing, gainsharing, lump-sum awards, and small group incentives are some ways to share success when performance warrants it. Variable pay avoids increasing salaries for future periods, and it can be effective to add to base pay for top performers and for employees at the top of their pay range.
  • Set team salary budgets based on distribution of top performers. This should tie back logically to your compensation philosophy. If one department has the majority of your top performers, make sure you differentiate their budget so supervisors have more latitude with increases in base pay.
  • Go beyond the 4% annual increase. Studies show employees find little motivation between getting a 3% and 4% annual increase. Your top performers are smart people and they know that the 1% to 2% difference between them and average performers doesn’t add up to much on an after-tax basis. To make a real difference, some researchers say it takes a bonus or incentive of 15% to 20% to reward your best talent.
  • Allow for spot rewards. Create a culture within your business unit and department leaders for creative rewards that can go a long way. Take a rising star to lunch after delivering an outstanding presentation to a top client. Gather the whole team for an after-work event upon the successful launch of a new product. You can easily embellish team budgets with these small points of recognition, whether individual or team based. Small spot rewards can speak volumes about how you value performance on a day-to-day basis.

The bottom line for a successful pay-for-performance system is to take advantage of what makes your company unique. Maybe you don’t have the cash to sink into large bonuses. You can still find other ways to reward your top performers. You don’t need hard dollars to make sure you are providing regular feedback to all employees, regardless of their contribution. If your rising star just needs a little more training, perhaps an internal resource can take on a mentoring role. And if you think your company is too big to move beyond the textbook appraisal process, remember even the largest employers are capable of creating a pay-for-performance system that can be flexible down to the unique needs of each department. Some of the largest U.S. corporations, such as Kimberly-Clark and GE, are proof that it’s possible.

If you’re questioning whether you could make pay-for-performance work for you, remember to think dynamic, think creative, and think flexible. Pay-for-performance can work for you, and it can be as unique as the company it supports.

Dave Furlan is the Operations Manager with Virchow Krause Employee Benefits, LLC and has been a member of SHRM since 1998. Dave is the Co-Chair of the Communications and Marketing Committee and has volunteered on the committee since 2002. He has managed health, welfare, and retirement benefit plans and has designed and implemented safety and disaster recovery plans as well as in-house training programs on topics such as sexual harassment and HIPAA privacy.

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January 15, 2008 GMA SHRM HR Summit

“For the first time in history, today’s workplace spans at least four generations. The Silent Generation is about 95% retired already, while Baby Boomers are delaying their retirement plans. Generation X is climbing the corporate ladder and Generation Y is just entering the workforce. This collision of generations — unless fully understood and properly managed — could create long-term turbulence in the workplace.” According to a paper entltled “Managing Today’s Multi-Generational Work Force” published by Lee Hecht Harrison in April 2007.

Click here to learn more about this program and registration details.

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Welcome 2008 Corporate Partners!

Please join your GMA SHRM chapter in welcoming our new and renewing Corporate Partners for 2008. 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 (see above next to President’s Message) and on the GMA SHRM website. In addition, partners are introduced at program 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 program 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.

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Request for Proposal - 2008 Compensation Survey

For organizations with experience in implementing and compiling surveys, please note the chapter is requesting proposals for this year’s Compensation Survey. If you are interested, please go to our website for further details or contact Communications and Marketing Co-Chair, Dave Furlan, for a copy of the request for proposal. All proposal responses are due by February 22, 2008.


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Cell Phones and Other Items to Donate to DAIS  

As we introduced in our November newsletter, this year we will be supporting Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS). Domestic Abuse Intervention Services, located in Madison offers a 24-hour crisis line, a 25-bed safe house for women and their children, legal advocacy, support groups, information and referrals. DAIS is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization. For more information about DAIS, please visit www.abuseintervention.org.

Cell Phone Donations to DAIS

Do you have an old cell phone that you’re no longer using? Want to support a good cause AND recycle at the same time? We have an easy and painless way to do so! As part of GMA SHRM’s support of DAIS (Domestic Abuse and Intervention Services) we’ll be collecting used cell phones in any condition at our monthly meetings. DAIS is able to take these used cell phones and turn them into much-needed cash for their operations. Look for the collection box at coming meetings!

No Cell Phone to Recycle? Here are other items DAIS needs:

Since women and children often come to the DAIS shelter with only the clothes on their back, they have a critical and regular need for the following items:

New sweat suits (sweat shirt, sweat pants) in women's size M, L, and XL
New women's socks
New kids and women's pajamas or tee shirts in sizes S, M, L, and XL
New bath towels and washcloths

We'll also be collecting these at our chapter meetings beginning in December. Please bring your donation with you to the meeting and do what you can to help!

If you have questions about GMA SHRM’s support of DAIS or would like to make a donation, but can’t make it to the GMA SHRM meeting, please contact Sue Estes, Immediate Past President, at 238-3410 or via email sue@celeritystaffing.com 

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What’s Cool in HR in the Greater Madison Area?

What’s going on in HR in your workplace?

Have you…

  • completed a major project,
  • implemented something new,
  • managed a change,

Is there something…

  • your company/dept does really well,
  • interesting about your company culture
  • that makes your company an employer of choice

We want to hear about it! Share it with your HR colleagues in HR InTouch. Send us an e-mail

Welcome New Members

GMA SHRM welcomes the following members who joined our chapter in November 2007.

Anne E. Butt

Office Manager

Rowland Reading Foundation

Amy J. Feinstein, SPHR

Human Resources Manager

Shopko Stores, Inc.

Ruth A. Lundy

Vice President Human Resources

Promega Corporation

Jennifer Canterbury Risgaard

HR Manager

Harlan Sprague Dawley, Inc.

Patricia R. Rogers

Independent Consultant

Rogers Consulting

Tara L. Thom

SR HR Administrative Coordinator

Telephone & Data Systems, Inc


In Transition

If you are a member who is in between jobs, or who is currently employed but seeking new positions or career paths, write us a brief description of your skill set, areas of expertise, what you’re looking for, etc . . Send us an e-mail. We’ll publish your information in the next HR InTouch.

Movin' Up

Jeff Hackel , SPHR, previously with Oakwood Village, has recently begun a new career with Virchow, Krause & Company, LLC as their Director of Human Resources. Virchow Krause is a professional services firm with offices throughout Wisconsin, Detroit, Minneapolis and Chicago.  Jeff will be providing overall human resource leadership at the local and regional level.  His new contact information is jhackel@virchowkrause.com, (608) 240-2398.

Tim Seifriz, SPHR recently began a new role as a Human Resources Manager with Covance Laboratories, Inc. Tim Seifriz. Tim continues to serve as an Instructor for the SHRM Certification classes sponsored by the UW-Small Business Development Center. tim.seifriz@covance.com, (608) 395-3635.

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.
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Madison, WI 53718
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fax: (608) 204-9818
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