September 2023 Digital Issue of HR Professionals Magazine

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Embracing HR Disruption Talking Taboo Chapter 10 The Future of Taboo Talk Upcoming Compliance Under the CAA TM Volume 13 : Issue 9 Rose Ann Garza, SPHR, SHRM-SCP Director, Texas SHRM Equal Opportunity Harassment 13th Anniversary Issue

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22% of Americans have Long-Term Care Insurance.

Editor Cynthia Y. Thompson, MBA,


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HR Professionals Magazine is published every month, 12 times a year by the Thompson HR Firm, LLC. Reproduction of any photographs, articles, artwork or copy prepared by the magazine or the contributors is strictly prohibited without prior written permission of the Publisher. All information is deemed to be reliable, but not guaranteed to be accurate, and subject to change without notice. HR Professionals Magazine, its contributors or advertisers within are not responsible for misinformation, misprints, omissions or typographical errors.

©2023 The Thompson HR Firm, LLC | This publication is pledged to the spirit and letter of Equal Opportunity Law. The following is general educational information only. It is not legal advice. You need to consult with legal counsel regarding all employment law matters. This information is subject to change without notice.

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SPHR Publisher The Thompson HR Firm, LLC Art Direction Park Avenue Design Marketing and Social Media Specialist Julie Nagem Project Specialist Liz Rogers Photographer Charles B. Thompson Webmaster Leo Dimilo Contributing Writers Alexander Alonso William Brown Amy Schabacker Dufrane Ashley Dugger Susan Hanold J. Eric Harrison Don Hutson Tim Keck Geoffrey A. Lindley John W. Mitchell Stephanie Raborn Features 4 note from the editor 5 Profile: Rose Ann Garza, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Director of Texas SHRM 9 New Book -Fire Your Hiring Habits by Dr. John W. Mitchell 10 Talking Taboo Chapter 10: Epilogue: The Future of Taboo Talk 38 Online SHRM CP | SCP Certification Prep Exam Begins October 16 43 Register Today for the 2024 HR Conference Cruise Talent Management and Recruiting 2 Data 360 – The Progressive Approach to Background Screening 7 Action vs. Words for Organizational Impact 8 The Needs of the Employee or The Needs of the Company? 14 Just How Dangerous is He? Three Tips to Keep Yourself and Your People Safe 18 AI Isn’t New. How We Use It Is 24 Streamlining Background Screening with a Progressive Approach 36 Navigating a Crowded HR Technology Market: Simplifying the Buying Process 39 Holiday Gift Check Program
Benefits 20 The Benefit No One Wants to Think About (But Everyone Needs) 21 The Benefits Group – We Do All the Work! 22 Upcoming Compliance Obligations Under the CAA 23 Transform Your Employee Benefits from an Expense to a Competitive Advantage 27 QualChoice Health Insurance – There’s a Better Choice 28 Embracing HR Disruptions: Navigating Uncertainty for Unprecedented Opportunity 29 Benefits Claims Intelligence – Ensuring Claims Payment Integrity for Your Self-Insured Health Plan 30 Highlights from the HCTN Benefits Conference August 9 in Memphis
Law 16 What Employers Should Know About General Liability Claims 17 Wimberly Lawson Labor & Employment Law Update Webinar, November 2 at 9 AM – 12 PM EST 26 Facing the Music: Is Equal Opportunity Harassment in the Workplace Illegal?
HR Professionals 15 Safehaven Security Group –Life-Saving Training 19 Save 20% on HRCI Courses in 2023 with Code HRMAG23
SHRM Learning Journey
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Science in Human Resource Management SHRM Conferences Update
6 Texas SHRM Global Conference in Houston September 14
12 The HR Southwest Conference in Fort Worth October 15-18
13 SHRM Inclusion Conference in Savannah, GA October 30 – November 1
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September 20-22
the Date for SHRM24
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Wehave a special magazine for you this month! I am so excited to present our 13th anniversary issue! We are celebrating 13 fabulous years at HR Professionals Magazine this month!

Hat’s off to our sponsors, contributors, and YOU for making these past thirteen years so successful!

We are honored to be the official media sponsor for the SHRM State Conferences in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee, and Texas. What a pleasure to work with the SHRM State Councils and the SHRM volunteers in our distribution footprint! I also want to say a huge thank you to the extraordinary SHRM Public Affairs Team who graciously works with us to bring you the latest SHRM educational opportunities, updates on SHRM Conferences, and breaking news in the HR community!

We are kicking off year 13 with four important SHRM State Conferences in September. We are beginning with our latest addition to the HR Professionals Magazine community – Texas SHRM with over 20,000 members! We will be in Houston on September 14 for the Global Texas SHRM Conference. Then it’s on to the Tennessee SHRM Conference in Chattanooga September 20-22. The NC SHRM Conference in Wilmington coincides with the TNSHRM Conference this year. The One SHRM Georgia Conference will be in Lanier Islands October 11-13, followed by the annual SHRM Inclusion Conference in Savannah October 30-November 1. If you are attending any of these conferences, please come see us at in the media room.

It was great speaking at the August meeting of the SHRM Golden Triangle HR Association monthly meeting in Columbus, MS on August 15. The topic was “Professionalism and the Importance of HR Certification.”

Pictured are James Goodman, PHR, Director of HR with PACCAR; and attendees.

Speaking of Texas SHRM, look who’s on our 13th anniversary cover! What an honor to feature the Director of Texas SHRM, Rose Ann Garza, on our cover! What better way to welcome our newest members to our distribution footprint? Check out Rose Ann’s exciting career profile on Page 5. I had the great pleasure of meeting Rose Ann at the SHRM23 Conference in Las Vegas in June. Looking forward to interviewing her on Facebook Live at the conference September 14. Watch our Facebook page and LinkedIn to learn more about her.

As you may know, the SHRM Certification Winter Exam Testing Window opens December 1. See Page 43 for details and the link to apply for our next Online SHRM Certification Exam Prep Class beginning October 19. The last day to register for our next class is October 12. Register at www.hrprofessionalsmagazine. com. If you are not a certified HR professional, I encourage you to get certified! It will take your career in human resource management to the next level. Get certified!

Just a reminder about our complimentary monthly webinar sponsored by Data Facts. It will be September 22. Watch your email for your invitation. @cythomps

a note from the editor

Rose Ann GARZA

Rose Ann Garza, SPHR, SHRM-SCP Director, Texas SHRM

Rose Ann Garza, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is the 2022-2024 Texas Society for Human Resources Management State Director as well as the Chief Human Resources Officer for Kerbey Lane Cafe, Inc. Rose Ann joined Kerbey Lane in 2006 as the Training Coordinator and has held the roles of Human Resources Manager, Director, and Vice President prior to being named the CHRO in 2018. Throughout her time at Kerbey Lane Rose Ann has played a key role in growing the organization into the largest privately owned and operated restaurant group in Austin, Texas. During her time at Kerbey Lane the organization has more than doubled in size and has won several prestigious awards related to their impact on the community and to their team members. Including one of her personal favorite awards, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce “Most Uniquely Austin” Business Award, which celebrates a businesses impact on the Austin community and its unique culture. Rose Ann is also passionate about volunteerism and helped to create the Kerbey Kindness program which partners with local non-profit organizations to donate a portion of proceeds quarterly. Additionally, Kerbey Kindness organizes hundreds of hours of volunteerism for Kerbey Lane team members to donate their time and expertise to local organizations, giving back to the local community- specifically focusing on four core pillars: (1) nutrition, health, and wellness, (2) education, (3) family and (4) animal welfare.

A member of Kerbey Lane’s Executive Leadership Team, Rose Ann leads the execution of Kerbey Lane’s people strategy as well as builds organizational capability and team member culture to further enable Kerbey Lane’s growth and impact. She also serves as the strategic business advisor to senior leadership and the Managing Partners of each location regarding key organizational and management issues. Prior to joining Kerbey Lane, Rose Ann built her career in the restaurant and hospitality industry working with Destination Hotel and Resorts as well as Brinker International.

In addition to her role at Kerbey Lane, Rose Ann proudly serves on the Texas SHRM Executive Council as the State Director serving over 21,000 SHRM members, 31 SHRM affiliate chapters, and 18 Student Chapters across Texas. As the leader of Texas SHRM, Rose Ann supports and drives connectedness of its members, oversees several strategic partnerships, and programs, and drives change to positively impact HR leaders throughout the chapters and state. Rose Ann previously served Texas SHRM in the roles of State Director Elect, Assistant State Director- District Directors and Core Leadership Area Directors, District Director and as the Workforce Readiness Director. She also served on the design team of the Texas SHRM LeadHRs program, a leadership development program unique to Texas specifically for Chapter Presidents and Chapter President Elects. Rose Ann also served her local SHRM chapter, Austin SHRM, as President, President Elect, Vice President of Programs, and co-founder of the Legal and Legislative Affairs Committee prior to joining the Texas SHRM Board.

Rose Ann has been recognized by several organizations for her leadership including the Austin Business Journal’s Profiles in Power Award, Austin Woman’s Magazine Woman’s Way Award, and Austin’s 40 under 40. Rose Ann is a graduate of both Texas State University and The University of Texas at Austin. 

on the cover
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Most of us have probably worked somewhere with those motivational posters on the walls. You know the ones I’m talking about. Serene images of nature accompanied by an inspirational message of flourishing teamwork, determination, trust, and integrity within the walls of the office buildings of the company. The problem with these posters is that so often, many employees found that they were simply images and words without any substance relating to the day-today actions of the people surrounding them at work or embedded in the realities of the actual organizational culture.

Instead of motivating workers, the posters had the opposite impact and only served to highlight the disparity between words versus actions when it comes to organizational culture and the impact it has on not only our daily working lives, but also the trickle-down impact of how we are treated at work shapes our relationships and experiences in our personal lives. If lack of alignment in organizational cultural beliefs and reality is causing burnout, frustration, and high stress loads at work, you may be more likely to take those feelings home and have them manifest in conversations and interactions with family, friends, and neighbors.

A recent Forbes article by Paula Morgan details how important it is to jobseekers that the companies they work for have values that reflect their own, and that as the organizational culture deteriorates, “71% of employees would look for new opportunities elsewhere.” A positive, healthy organizational culture not only helps companies retain strong talent, but is also critical for attracting new talent in a competitive landscape.

Culture impacts our productivity and quality of work performance, and our ability to build strong, trusting relationships with colleagues. Culture can and foster inclusive environments where employees feel comfortable being their true selves with their teammates without fear of being treated differently or negatively. It also fosters an environment that can spark more creative problem solving, increase cross-functional teamwork and collaboration, and encourage employees to invest time and effort into upskilling and reskilling in order to impact not only organizational outcomes but shape the future of their career paths as well. Gallup has noted that company culture plays a strong role in ensuring alignment between employees’ goals and organization-wide goals, resulting in a “more compelling employee experience.”

Employee surveys, focus groups, and employee resource groups are great places to start in terms of analyzing your current organizational climate and how it compares to expectations from employees as well as alignment to stated organizational mission, vision, values, and cultural beliefs. When there is a gap, remember that influencing and reshaping organizational culture is not only the work of the leadership teams

Actions vs.Words for Organizational Culture Impact

– every employee plays a critical role in driving strong org cultures through day-to-day actions and interactions with colleagues, demonstrated work ethic, integrity, and ability to be self-aware.

According to SHRM, HR in particular has a unique opportunity to influence the world of work around them through “recruiting and selecting applicants who will share the organization’s beliefs and thrive in that culture, developing orientation, training, and performance management programs that outline and reinforce the organization’s core values and ensuring that appropriate rewards and recognition go to employees who truly embody the values.”

When you find a gap between the stated culture and the day-to-day reality, the first step is to ensure you initiate action to resolve the discrepancy immediately. Set a specific target with tangible action steps toward a culture goal/improvement, with a designated and transparent timeline of how the actions outlined will get you to your goal in the noted time frame. Talk openly, honestly, and genuinely with employees when discrepancies are brought to your attention and ensure your leadership team is willing to do the same, so they are setting a top-down experience and expectation that all employees are responsible for contributing positively to org culture and holding each other accountable.

Don’t overwhelm yourself, your HR team, your leaders, or your employees with multiple action items all at once. Small steps can have a huge impact and create a snowball effect when it comes to tackling moving from words to actions to positively influence org culture changes! Offering multiple town hall meetings and open-forum discussions, providing various training options for synchronous and asynchronous reskilling and upskilling around methods for impacting culture, communicating how actions and words drive change, and continuously following up to show employees how you are acting based on feedback can make a lasting difference.

At the heart of most employee dissatisfaction is that they feel they are not being heard, and that even if they are heard, no tangible action to improve is being taken. Showing your workforce that the organization’s intention is to align values, beliefs, and actions as more than words alone can impact not only the company’s success but the employee experience for all workers who can take that positive experience and reflect it back into their communities.


Chicken Or The Egg: Which Comes First?

The Needs Of The Employee Or The Needs Of The Company?

Our tendency is to always keep our eye on the prize. Too often we hear the end result being celebrated without appreciating what it takes to get to it! However, in business, successful results are produced by successful teams. Contrary to the popular idiom, we need to take our eye off the prize. We must put it squarely on our team members – those who help our companies and organizations achieve their goals. Stop focusing on just the bottom line and start thinking about your lineup!

A team is most successful when its leaders embrace a flexible mindset that prioritizes growth of their employees in order to achieve growth of the organization. This is achieved by establishing a workplace framework that embraces collaboration, experimentation, and professional development.

As I explain in Fire Your Hiring Habits (FYHH), when a leader is flexible and ready to adapt to their team members’ ever-changing needs, the team can approach challenges without having to worry about “how it has always been done.”

I haven’t always thought this way. My career in management began in engineering and working on mobile electronics systems (aircraft controls; automotive radios; in-vehicle navigation systems) at major international companies. Too often, many companies embrace a “final product” mentality that looks to the finished product before looking at how that product is being produced. As I moved into management roles, it became important to me to evaluate how to best lead my team according to their needs and wants balanced with corporate objectives. This led me to embrace an “agile” management mindset that has changed the way I do business. This shift in mindset (and subsequent management success) is one of the factors that led me to write Fire Your Hiring Habits.

The Great Resignation Has Transformed into the Great Reprioritization. In 2021, news articles, blogs, and water cooler conversations were atwitter with tales of the “Great Resignation” where CNN claims, “almost 50 million people quit their job in the two years following the worst of the pandemic, citing pressures such as burnout, general job dissatisfaction, or childcare or elder care needs.”

While sources claim the Great Resignation is officially over, there are still lessons to be learned from the mass exodus of workers. As I discuss in my keynote talks and workshops, business leaders are now facing a “Great Reprioritization.” After facing life-altering changes in the workplace, employees have reprioritized what they want from the companies they work for. This has made employee acquisition and retention more difficult. In early 2023, we surveyed thousands of companies in different sectors across the globe about how this reprioritization had impacted their employee retention. Unsurprisingly, a significant percentage of companies found that retaining employees was more difficult than in the previous year. Moreover, a majority of the companies noted that they were forced to raise employee salaries more than anticipated and offer more benefits to keep their employees on board (IPC Sentiment Survey, June 2023 Report).

While salary increases are a nice bonus, it is becoming clear that employees are looking for more from their employers. They want a

dynamic workplace that recognizes their individual needs and meets them. For employees, old practices are no longer acceptable. Now, more than ever, the employee must come first, and team leaders must create a flexible and agile workplace to ensure they keep their top talent.

The living room is the new conference room. Teams must be able to collaborate easily whether it be face-to-face, or virtually. Over the past several months, there has been a call by prominent companies (Amazon, Apple, and Citigroup to name a few) to bring employees back to the office. Other companies, like IPC, acknowledge that the current workforce has a strong desire for a work-life balance that allows them to balance the demands of work and home without the long commutes. Employers must empathetically acknowledge the challenges faced by workforce members who are balancing elderly parent care and raising young children while nurturing their careers. Recognizing and adapting to their unique responsibilities fosters a supportive work environment, bolstering morale and loyalty. Flexible schedules, remote work options, and family-oriented policies enable them to meet both personal and professional obligations effectively. Additionally, you widen your pool of candidates to select from.

Most importantly, agile teams know how to keep each other engaged and share ideas through new and innovative collaborative platforms no matter how many employees are in the office or at home. Now is the time to evaluate how to balance virtual and face-to-face interaction. As I make clear in my book FYHH, the workforce is not the same as it was in the early 1900’s, nor the 1950’s or even 1990’s. We have the technology to help our employees communicate. Use it! Throw away the training manual. Team leaders should be open to experimentation and input from their team members. Rather than relying solely on built-in processes, team members should feel encouraged to use their skills and expertise to find new solutions to old and new problems. For example, a few years ago, allowing employees to use AI systems to create content would be almost unthinkable. That mindset needs to change as employees and team leaders embrace the benefits and efficiency AI and other tools have to offer.

Old dogs, new tricks. Team leaders should make it easy for their team to adopt new skills. Emerging technology means that old training processes are becoming obsolete. Old procedures may be familiar, but they must be abandoned if employees do not find them useful. Are you training your employees with old technology? Change it! Is your terminology outdated? Update it! Top employees want to be trained in what is new and relevant. Make upskilling a priority.

Forbes recently noted, “Many US companies are offering increasingly higher salaries, signing bonuses, and other perks like student debt payments to attract talent. But the “Great Upgrade” is now becoming prohibitively expensive for many smaller U.S.-based companies.” The reprioritizations shared here are inexpensive to implement, but invaluable for your workers. Rather than pricing yourself out of the game, focus on these easy methods to keep the best talent you already have. Your employees are the prize! Keep your eye on that prize, and cascading success will be the reward.


We are honored to present our tenth installment of Talking


Making the Most of Polarizing Discussions at Work

Chapter 10

Epilogue: The Future of Taboo Talk

The data explored in this book shows that workers have a true passion for talking about taboo topics. The data also shows, paradoxically, that such polarizing discussions can make the workplace more inclusive. One of the biggest challenges for any leader is how to manage contentious conversations on difficult issues, especially those unrelated to the job at hand.

The instinctual management response is to quell conflict and refocus people on their work. But what if that is the wrong approach? What if preventing or suppressing taboo talk is less effective than welcoming it? Too often, it seems, leaders seek conflict resolution through conflict avoidance.

“Avoidance is the best short-term strategy to escape conflict, and the best long-term strategy to ensure suffering.”1 So advises Brendon Burchard, a business and motivational trainer and author of The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive.2

1 Brendon Burchard (@BrendonBurchard), “Avoidance is the best short-term strategy to escape conflict, and the best long-term strategy to ensure suffering,” Twitter, April 8, 2014, 24236033?lang=en.

2 Brendon Burchard, The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives That Make You Feel Alive (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012).


The literature on leadership—works by ethnographer Simon Sinek, professor of communications Leslie DeChurch, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, and others—focuses on the importance of building better teams. Most managers are familiar with classic principles of teamwork, such as the forming, storming, norming, and performing stages of group development. But we rarely apply these principles to the whole organization—which is, of course, really just a scaled-up team—or to the organization’s culture.

Worse yet, we often discourage the application of these teambuilding leadership principles, even when they would be more productive than other methods used to promote inclusion in the workplace. A couple of examples of this ineffective attitude are shared next.


A supervisor at a think tank dependent on federal funds advised her staff to never discuss political views at work so as not to endanger the organization’s funding opportunities. The mere perception that employees had independent perspectives was risky, she said—even regarding legislation pertinent to their jobs and other not-socontroversial issues.

These discussions, however, would have actually better preserved the organization’s funding. Staff members freely sharing their perspectives with one another would have helped eliminate information silos, build better project teams, identify individual biases, develop more inclusive interactions, and increase productivity. On a cultural level, everyone would have experienced a greater sense of belonging within the organization.

Ironically, staff members’ inability to share information eventually led to a series of management errors that ultimately cut off the organization’s funding completely. This resulted in two hundred layoffs and fewer resources available to those who relied on the think tank’s work product, all because a leader did not know how to handle discussions around what were perceived to be taboo topics.

Read the entire Chapter 10 at


Did you know?

Two of every three Black employees (66%) experience microaggression at their current workplace.*

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* Source: Under-the-Radar DE&I: Black Employee Experiences, SHRM Research, 2023

Just How Dangerous Is He?

“He didn’t react well. In fact, many people are afraid of him,” she said with a troubled look on her face.

Laura from HR was an accomplished senior leader in a wellknown regional company. She was smart, savvy, and experienced in business and life. But she didn’t have an answer for the problem of what might happen after Friday’s meeting. How could she?

As organizations struggle to cope with our nation’s escalating violence, the burden of managing this problem at work has fallen mostly on HR professionals. It shouldn’t be that way. But it is.

How realistic is it to think that someone whose career has involved building a strong culture, managing performance, acquiring talent, and ensuring compliance will somehow be successful at managing violence? It’s about as realistic as asking you to work a protection detail for the President of the United States or asking a Secret Service agent to take your place in this afternoon’s compensation meeting.

Without training, mentorship, and experience, the failures could be catastrophic on both sides.

Here are three things you can do, as an HR professional, to navigate the growing violence in our culture:

1. Request More Training – In the case of a violent event at your organization, nothing offers higher liability protection than additional training. If your proposal is accepted, your employees get trained. That’s a win. If it is rejected, at the very least, you can protect yourself (and your career) by showing you tried to get education for yourself and your organization.

2. Seek Better Training – Virtually nothing has changed in our response to workplace violence for forty years. That’s four decades of doing the same thing and expecting a different result! We can do better. Virtually all active shooter training (Avoid-Deny-Defend, ALICE, Run-Hide-Fight, etc.) begins with what to do when the bad guy shows up with a gun. But what if the bad guy never showed up in the first place? It seems like that would be better.

Our friends at the Secret Service know this is true, and they use a process known as Threat Assessment and Management (TAM) to protect POTUS. This methodology is so effective that there hasn’t been an actual attack on a president since Reagan in 1981. But the best news is that TAM isn’t about sidearms and sunglasses; it’s about knowing the warning signs and de-escalating the situation. If it works for the USSS, it can work for us.

3. Partner with a Threat Management Firm – You do not have to face this alone. Why would you even try?

• Is it the cost? Our initial assessment of your situation is absolutely free.

• Is it because you don’t know who to call? You can call us or Gavin de Becker (, Park Dietz (, or anyone else specializing in threat management.

• Is it because you don’t want to admit you don’t know what to do? No one in your profession knows what to do. That’s why we exist, to be your partner in keeping people safe.

If you’re still not convinced you need an expert to assist you, it’s probably because you believe one of these myths:

1. It will never happen to us. This one is insidious because it probably won’t happen to you statistically. But it absolutely can. No one thinks something will happen to them until it is happening to them.

2. It can’t be predicted. Violence in any form is seldom random. If you know what to watch for, you can almost always see it coming. In the aftermath of any mass shooting, we learn of many red flags that were ignored for months.

3. It can’t be prevented. Almost anything that can be predicted can be prevented. We use tradecraft to disrupt, distract, de-escalate, and defend our clients. We also teach them to do the same for themselves.

Our rate of success in preventing violent acts is 100% effective. That’s right, in over two decades of managing threats for celebrities, political figures, and regular folks, we have never allowed a threat to end in a violent act. Not even the dicey situation Laura from HR called us about. She trusted her instincts enough to call and get a second opinion. If you get a bad vibe about a situation, trust that if something feels wrong, something probably is wrong.

After investigating, we determined Laura was rightly concerned. Together we managed to prevent a planned deadly act, using skills we learned protecting cities, businesses, and VIP’s across the world.

We want to help you and your people both feel safe and be safe. Be the hero for your employees and get trained. Call 1-844-SAFEGROUP or today for vulnerability assessments, training, and consulting that keeps people safe. And remember, initial consultations are free.

Three tips to keep yourself and your people safe.

What Employers Should Know About General Liability Claims

Effectively running a business requires employers to reflect on the past, deal in the present, and prepare for the future. Preparation for the future requires being ready to handle a wide range of potential issues – issues that could harm the employers, their employees, and/or their business. It is indispensable for businesses to have policies and procedures in place so that if the worst does happen, they are ready.

One of the most detrimental issues that an employer could face is a lawsuit. Lawsuits are time-consuming, expensive, and interrupt the flow of business. There are many different areas of law that are pertinent to employers, but in this article, we will discuss just one of them: General Liability.

General Liability, though superficially vague, is a complex area of law. It covers a myriad of different issues – including car accidents, property damage, slips and falls, product liability, advertising injury, defamation, and various other types of personal injury. Because of the breadth of the potential angles of attack, employers should make sure they are ready for any one of these.

The damages that accompany a general liability action provide an even greater incentive for employers to be ready. Employers could find themselves liable for medical bills, future medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, lost wages, and legal fees/defense costs. In addition to these already mounting potential costs, there are consequences that businesses may not even realize – such as the interruption of the flow of their business, including time and energy of their employees and executives – and damage to their business reputation, such as damage to brand-name, and loss of good will.

With the extensive list of potential losses – both tangible and intangible – employers should take action to protect themselves well in advance of a claim or lawsuit. How though, can employers do this?

There are several preemptive actions that employers should take to prepare themselves. First, they should have a policy and plan in place for reporting and investigating incidents and claims; second, they should have a data preservation and retention policy - including one for electronically stored information (ESI); and thirdly, they should make sure all employees are trained on policies and procedures for incident reporting and data/evidence retention policies.

In the event that an incident does occur, employers should follow their incident/claims investigation procedure, including – and especially – documentation of the facts of the incident at the time of the occurrence. Employers should take action to record the personal data – and personal statement – about what happened, they should identify the witnesses, and they should get witness statements. The collection of this information could be indispensable in defending a suit for a general liability action.

Regardless of the type of the incident, another immensely valuable action that employers can do is take pictures and videos. To the greatest extent possible, employers should ensure that photographs and videos are taken of the scene of the incident – including the damages (if possible), and the injuries (if possible). This data should be saved and secured with multiple copies made. Primarily, and as soon as possible, employers (or their agents) should endeavor to discover and document (1) what occurred; (2) who was involved; (3) when/where the incident occurred; and (4) when, where, and by whom any and all photos/videos were taken.

In addition to collection and retention of the data on the incident, employers should also have in place an Evidence Preservation Plan for ESI and hard evidence. Data that should be preserved – in addition to the above – include emails, texts, incident reports, and any and all other related documents/information. This is a very important step for employers to take, as it will be pertinent for defending an action. Although this likely includes a great deal of information, and sounds complex, that is exactly why it is so important to have an Evidence Preservation Plan in place. It will be far easier to tackle this task if there is already a policy and procedure in place that employees are trained to execute.


Usefulness of data evidence at trial is not the only incentive that employers should have when it comes to ensuring that their evidence is preserved. If a court discovers that a party destroys evidence, or simply fails to adequately keep and protect critical evidence, it has the power to assess penalties against that party. This is possible regardless of whether the damage or destruction was intentional. In addition to the penalties assessed, courts can also impose sanctions on those parties who lose or destroy evidence, and the failure to adequately protect and store evidence could lead to that evidence being stricken or excluded entirely – including testimony about such evidence. This failure to properly act could also lead to an adverse inference of negligence or improper actions, special (and harmful) jury instructions, or dismissal and/or default judgment.

Each one of those penalties and sanctions are completely within the court’s discretion, and are determined on a case-by-case basis, usually by the trial judge. Although that is the case in the majority of the situations, it is also possible for these issues to go to a jury for determination. In either case, these problems can be avoided if employers have adequate policies and procedures in place.

Apart from preparing for future issues, employers should learn from previous ones. In the event an incident arises, employers should review that happened – with all those involved – immediately after the incident occurs. They should also use those incidents as teaching opportunities, and learn how to prevent – and handle – similar incidents in the future, as well as take action regarding those people

involved. Beyond making policy and procedural changes, employers need to counsel and train those employees whose actions or inactions caused (or contributed to) the incident, and, if necessary, discipline repeat offenders.

Effectively running a business requires employers to reflect on the past, deal in the present, and prepare for the future. Preparation for the future requires being ready to handle a wide range of potential issues, including lawsuits. General liability claims include a wide range of actions – any of which could be detrimental to a business. Employers should be prepared with effective data/evidence collection and retention policies for both ESI and hard evidence, and their employees should be trained to effectively execute those procedures. It is of paramount importance that employers take steps to prepare, not only because this data could be indispensable at trial, but also because courts can (and will) impose penalties and sanctions on parties who fail to act/prepare (regardless of whether their shortcoming was intentional). Employers must learn from the past, teach (and, if necessary, discipline) their employees, and adjust their procedures to make sure they continue to be prepared.

AI Isn’t New.
How We Use It Is.


The three courses comprising our certificate were developed in accordance with the International Organization for Standardization’s guidance on diversity and inclusion for organizations (ISO 30415:2021).

• Fostering an Inclusive Culture

• Assessing Diversity and Inclusion

• Hiring and Retaining Diverse Talent Earn

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Everyone in HR would immediately scream, Defeat the supervillains!"

It's a funny question, but what isn't so funny is trying to attract and retain top talent in the real world. And it's not just about "fickle" employees or "too much competition." With 76 percent of employers having been 'ghosted' by a candidate and a labor force participation rate of around 62 percent, it's getting tough out there.

So, here you are, trying to remain culture-minded and budget-focused while you craft the most appealing compensation packages. Your mission?

The Benefit No One Wants To Think About (But Everyone Needs)

To attract, interview, hire, and onboard employees who will fit with the company culture and stay oyal and grow in value. That's a ot to handle, even for superheroes.

The solution is multi-pronged, and no one person has a l the tools needed.

In fact, every superhero needs a team. With their team they are unstoppable.

So who's on your team? Right now, I bet you have a league member you think of maybe once a year during renewal season. And yet al year ong what they provide to your team is instrumental to everyone's health, loyalty and very lives.

I'm Will Brown and I'm a broker crusader" to my clients-to HR professionals like you who want to be superheroes in the eyes of their employees. But what about rising costs? Insurance premiums are rising more quickly than inflation! That's why you need a broker who:

• Understands the levers that drive premiums.

Death comes for us all.

Knows how to search for creative strategies.

• Recognizes employee goals, so you only pay for the insurance perks your team needs.

• Performs a thorough yearly analysis rather than adopt the "set and forget" attitude that plagues most brokerages.

Sorry, that may be too much reality for your day. Still, it’s a reality we all face. There’s no way to stop time or its effects on our health. Yet we’re optimistic! We all hope to sail into our Golden Years and retire without worry.

At The Benefits Group, we are defying the "order-taker" broker stereotype. We see that small- to mid-sized businesses are being underserved in their ability to offer Fortune 500 benefits to their employees. And we're doing our best every day to change that.

Can a benefits broker change the world? For your employees, I believe we can. We thrive on getting the best deals and beating the market. In virtually every competitive situation, we win. Not all heroes wear capes. But we're ready to make you look like a superhero to your employees. Let your employees see how much you care through the affordable benefits you offer.

Let us turn you into a Benefit Superhero!

But wait—have you ever thought, “What if it’s not so Golden?”

Most Americans haven't.

The majority of working Americans never consider the “what ifs” of their retirement years regarding their finances, savings, and quality-of-life care.

That needs to change, and many HR Professionals already know this. In a recent webinar for HR professionals, I asked what benefit topics you want to see covered more often. Surprisingly, most wanted to learn more about long-term care insurance (LTCI).

Fortunately, it’s on the mind of those who deal with benefits. And that’s good for your employees because they desperately need your help! How do I know? Here’s some proof from the latest statistics that most of your employees are heading into their later decades woefully unprepared for the slightest health crisis:

• Only 22 percent of Americans currently have Long-Term Care Insurance.

• Only 55 percent of American workers reported having saved anything for retirement.

• The National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) reported that the median retirement account balance for working-age households (32-61 years old) was only $5,000, and the median account balance for all households nearing retirement (55-64 years old) was just $15,000.

• According to the Social Security Administration, approximately 65% of retirees rely on Social Security benefits as a major source of income, and about 34% rely on it as their ONLY source of income.

The financial status of Americans doesn’t allow for anything but the healthiest of futures with no wiggle room whatsoever. We all know it’s not realistic or wise to assume you will not need some sort of care as you age.

That leaves millions unprepared and dealing with crippling medical debt during what was supposed to be their Golden Years.

Yet, we do have some hurdles to overcome. The cost of LTCI increases exponentially with age, and the stringent application and underwriting process can be prohibitive. And most people don’t even have LTCI on their radar until they are no longer insurable. Then, they are surprised when they’re declined coverage. Adding to the problem are rising costs and extended life spans that have forced many long-term care insurers out of the market, limiting the options available to consumers and increasing premiums.

The industry IS trying to adapt, and less expensive products are available to “bolt” onto life insurance policies. While these alternatives are more affordable, they have their caveats and restrictions.

That doesn’t change the cold, hard fact that most of us will need some form of care or long-term facility care in our lifetime. We may also be ill-equipped to handle the added financial and mental stress of trying to pay for quality care for ourselves or a loved one. But we don’t want to be a burden to our families! So, what can we do? My suggestion:

Start having long-term care conversations with your people. Put it on their radar as soon as possible!

That may include a discussion during benefit meetings or a monthly reminder in the company newsletter. Long-term care is often overlooked and underestimated as part of a personal or company benefit/asset protection strategy until it’s too late.

Hey, at least you can’t say I didn’t warn you!

And by the way, if you plan to attend the Middle Tennessee SHRM Conference in September, stop by and see us at BOOTH 224

I would love to say hello.

How being a benefits superhero can dramatically increase employee loyalty and retention. By
CPA Pretend you live in a dystopian world where villains terrorize the planet and superheroes are the only things standing between order and chaos. To save humanity, this league of heroes must make a choice: 1) defeat a band of supervillains or 2) hire and retain a team of valuable, loyal employees.
William Brown,
• 21

Upcoming Compliance Obligations Under the CAA: Don’t Choke on the Gag Clause Attestation Rules!

The Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) of 2021 includes a prohibition on “gag clauses,” that prohibits group health plans and health issuers (insurers) from entering into agreements with providers, provider networks or administrators that would, in essence:

• Restrict the plan or insurer’s ability to provide information about the cost or quality of care

• Restrict the plan or insurer’s ability to share or access financial information such as de-identified claims

The prohibition is intended to promote the transparent disclosure of information and to ensure that plans and insurers are not contractually hampered in their ability to share information not otherwise protected by other laws such as HIPAA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. A classic example would be a contractual term that treats rates payable to providers at a point of service as proprietary.

The CAA also includes a requirement that plans and insurers annually attest to regulators that they are compliant with this prohibition. While the anti-gag clause rules have been in effect since the law was passed in late December 2020, the affirmative attestation component was initially delayed pending guidance from regulators regarding how and when to submit these attestations of compliance.

Regulators finally issued a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) in February of this year providing the awaited guidance. These FAQs clarify that group health plans and insurers will be required to submit their first attestation of compliance, indicating that no prohibited gag clauses exist in contracts for the period covering Dec. 27, 2020—when the gag clause prohibition went into effect—no later than Dec. 31, 2023.

Subsequent attestations covering the period since the last submission will be due Dec. 31 each year thereafter. Attestations must be submitted through a web form created by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS has also created a web page with resources to assist entities in understanding these requirements, such as instructions for submitting attestations and a user manual for the relevant web form used to attest.

Perhaps frustratingly for self-insured plan sponsors, the FAQs make clear that the prohibition and attestation rules apply to health plans and insurers, but do not directly regulate other vendors such as third-party administrators (TPAs) or pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). As a result, fully insured plan sponsors should generally be able to rely on carriers to submit attestations on their behalf, while self-insured plans will need to determine whether their TPA and/or PBM are willing to submit on their plan’s behalf.

The FAQs make clear that self-insured plans may satisfy the requirement to submit a gag clause prohibition compliance attestation by entering into

a written agreement with a service provider enabling the provider to attest on the plan’s behalf, though the legal requirement to provide an attestation remains with the self-insured plan. And, naturally, self-insured plans may face resistance from vendor partners who are unwilling or unable to take on this obligation.

On the subject of who and what is being regulated, the gag clause rules apply to health insurers, fully insured and self-insured group health plans, including ERISA plans, non-Federal governmental plans, and church plans subject to the Internal Revenue Code. Grandfathered status is irrelevant for these purposes. Excepted benefits such as dental and vision coverage are exempt, and account-based plans such as health reimbursement arrangements, while not technically exempt, will not face enforcement action. Most vendors worth their salt will be willing to provide information regarding whether or not their benefits offerings are subject to these rules. If in doubt, ask!

So, what should employer plan sponsors do now?

First, take a deep breath. This upcoming obligation is not expected to require nearly the heavy lift as some of the CAA’s other compliance obligations, such as MHPAEA comparative analyses or prescription drug reporting.

Second, confirm with vendors that your contract(s) do not contain the prohibited gag clauses. Because the gag clause prohibition attestation will essentially operate as a promise to the government that your plan(s) do not contain the prohibited gag clauses, employer plan sponsors must verify that this is in fact true.

Third, determine who will be submitting the attestation on the plan’s behalf. Carriers and TPAs have begun to communicate their strategies to assist plan sponsors in meeting their obligations by either submitting the attestation on their clients’ behalf or advising that they will not be doing so. If you have not received communication to this effect, now is the time to ask questions. Ask your carrier/TPA how they plan to assist their clients in complying with the anti-gag clause rules. If you determine that your relevant vendor partners(s) will be submitting the necessary attestation on your plan’s behalf, document this information and check it off your to-do list.

And finally, if you determine that you will be responsible for submitting an attestation, become familiar with the resources CMS has created to assist. These resources are also available at the CMS web page mentioned above.

Transform your employee benefits from an expense to a competitive advantage...with McGriff MORE InsightsTM Our proprietary approach helps you quantify and achieve optimal plan performance across four key areas of your employee benefits program – Managing Costs, Operational Efficiency, Risk Mitigation and the Employee Experience by answering three key questions: •How is your organization doing? •Where should you aim? •What’s the value in getting there? By optimizing benefit plan selection, design, management, and employee engagement, McGriff MORE InsightsTM can help turn your benefits program into a real differentiator that aligns with your organization’s culture and business objectives. Visit to learn more. © 2023 McGriff Insurance Services, LLC. All rights reserved. McGriff Insurance Services, LLC is a subsidiary of Truist Insurance Holdings, LLC

Streamlining Background Screening with a Progressive Approach: A Win-Win for HR Professionals


In the competitive landscape of modern business, companies must prioritize hiring the right candidates while ensuring a safe and productive work environment. However, traditional background screening processes can be time-consuming and expensive, often inundating HR professionals with heaps of irrelevant information. To address these challenges, a novel approach called “Progressive Background Screening” has emerged, providing companies with a comprehensive yet flexible way to streamline the hiring process, adhere to FCRA compliance, and focus their efforts on qualified candidates. This article explores the benefits and practical implementation of Progressive Background Screening, presenting a win-win solution for HR professionals and businesses alike.

The Concept of Progressive Background Screening

Progressive Background Screening is an innovative approach to pre-employment screening that allows companies to order a full package of background screening services but stage the process based on the results obtained at each step. This method optimizes efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and adherence to FCRA regulations while ensuring that HR professionals focus their efforts on the most promising candidates.

Step 1: Instant Services for Initial Assessment

The first step in Progressive Background Screening involves ordering instant services, such as a Social Security Number (SSN) trace, an instant national criminal database search, or a motor vehicle record check. These services provide crucial preliminary information about a candidate, including any previous addresses, potential criminal records, or driving history.

If the information obtained in this initial step is clear and devoid of adverse information, the process proceeds to the next stage. This ensures that HR professionals don’t waste time and resources on candidates who are ineligible for hire, thus streamlining the screening process significantly.

Step 2: Comprehensive Checks for Qualified Candidates

For candidates who pass the initial stage, the screening process moves to the second step. This phase involves more extensive checks, including county criminal court searches, statewide criminal records, and federal records. These comprehensive checks provide a deeper understanding of a candidate’s criminal history and provide valuable insights into their background.

In the event that adverse information is discovered during this phase, HR professionals have the opportunity to review the findings and make an informed decision about the candidate’s eligibility for hire. If necessary, the process can be stopped at this point, and the company is only charged for the services completed up to that stage. This not only saves money but also ensures that the organization complies with the FCRA regulations by providing proper adverse action notices.

Step 3: Investigative Searches for Final Validation

For candidates who pass the second stage, the process moves to the third and final step. At this stage, more labor-intensive investigative searches, such as education verifications, employment references, and drug screenings, are conducted. These searches provide additional validation of a candidate’s qualifications and suitability for the position.

The progressive nature of this approach ensures that only the most promising candidates reach this stage, saving time and resources for the HR professionals and allowing them to focus their attention on the most qualified applicants.

Benefits of Progressive Background Screening

1. Time and Cost Efficiency: Progressive Background Screening significantly reduces the time and cost associated with traditional screening methods. By filtering out ineligible candidates early in the process, HR professionals can allocate their resources more effectively and focus on qualified applicants.

2. Compliance with FCRA Regulations: Adhering to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is crucial for businesses to avoid legal repercussions. Progressive Background Screening ensures proper adverse action notices and compliance with FCRA requirements, safeguarding companies from potential legal issues.

3. Enhanced Candidate Experience: Candidates appreciate an efficient and transparent hiring process. By adopting Progressive Background Screening, companies demonstrate their commitment to making the screening process smoother and less invasive, improving the overall candidate experience.

4. Better Hiring Decisions: By obtaining relevant and timely information about candidates at each stage, HR professionals can make better-informed hiring decisions, reducing the risk of potential hiring mistakes and ensuring a more qualified workforce.


Progressive Background Screening offers a cuttingedge solution for businesses seeking to optimize their pre-employment screening process. By adopting this innovative approach, companies can save time, reduce costs, and adhere to FCRA compliance while focusing their efforts on the most qualified candidates. Ultimately, this win-win strategy not only benefits HR professionals and organizations but also improves the overall hiring experience for applicants. As businesses continue to seek efficient and effective hiring solutions, Progressive Background Screening stands out as a gamechanging approach in the field of pre-employment screening.

Data Facts |


Conference Registration & Hotel Block Are Now Open!


One in three U.S. workers say their job has negatively impacted their mental health over the last six months.*

Support your employees with benefits and access to mental health resources to ensure your retention rate remains high. Attend the SHRM Talent Conference & Expo 2024, taking place April 14-17 in Las Vegas, Nev. Join industry experts and thought leaders to crack the code on talent, with insightful sessions covering:

• Engagement & Retention

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*Source: State of Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace, SHRM Research, 2023.

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you know?

Facing The Music:

Is Equal Opportunity Harassment In The Workplace Illegal?

[A]n employer cannot evade liability by cultivating a workplace that is broadly hostile and offensive.

Sharp v. S&S Activewear, LLC, 69 F.4th 974, 982 (9th Cir. 2023)

Hostile Work Environment

The phrase “hostile work environment” is a legal term of art denoting a particular type of legal claim – one where an employee is subjected to an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment based on a protected class. (Remember that offensive behavior in the workplace that is not based on a protected class does not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as Title VII is not a general civility code. See Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Servs., Inc., 523 U.S. 75, 81 (1998)). In 1986, the United States Supreme Court explicitly recognized that a hostile work environment on the basis of sex violates Title VII. See Meritor Sav. Bank, FSB v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986). But what does it mean to create a hostile work environment on the basis of sex? The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently had the opportunity to weigh in on that question.

Music at Work Offensive Music Leads to a Lawsuit

Eight former employees (seven women and one man) filed suit against S&S Activewear (S&S). In their complaint, they alleged that S&S allowed “sexually graphic, violently misogynistic” music to be blasted on a routine basis from commercialstrength speakers such that it permeated to workspace of all its employees at its 700,000-square-foot warehouse located in Reno, Nevada. Sharp v. S&S Activewear, LLC, 69 F.4th at 977 (9th Cir. 2023). According to the former employees, songs like “Blowjob Betty” by Too $hort and “Stan” by Eminem demeaned women with terms like “hos” and “bitches”, glorified prostitution, and described violence toward women. Id. The music overshadowed operational noise and “was nearly impossible to escape.” Id. Additionally, employees would sometimes drive around with music blaring from speakers on forklifts. Id.

The former employees who filed suit also claimed that the music encouraged male employees to make sexually explicit remarks, engage in sexually graphic gestures, shout obscenities, and share pornographic videos. Id. And despite frequent

complaints, S&S management justified the music at work as motivational and allowed it to continue for almost two years. Id. The eight former employees eventually filed suit in United States district court against S&S claiming that the music and related conduct created a hostile work environment under Title VII. Id.

District Court Dismisses the Case, but Employees Appeal

In response to the lawsuit, S&S argued that the former employees’ claim regarding the music “did not constitute discrimination because of sex since both men and women were offended by, and all employees were exposed to, the music.” Id. As evidence that both men and women were offended by the music, one only need look at the former employees who were the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, as they included seven women and one man. Therefore, if the offensive music was directed at both sexes and offensive to both sexes, then how could it have created a hostile work environment based on the protected class of sex?

The United States district court agreed with S&S and dismissed the former employees’ hostile work environment claim related to the music, while keeping alive the former employees’ claim related to the other behavior by male employees. The court noted that there was no allegation in the complaint “‘that any employee or group of employees were targeted, or that one individual or group was subjected to treatment that another group was not.’ Because the music offended men and women alike . . . it could not be the basis of a sexual harassment claim.” Id. at 978. The former employees’ appealed the district court’s dismissal of their hostile work environment claim based on the music to the Ninth Circuit.

Equal Opportunity Harassment Can Sexually Derogatory Music Audible to All Produce a Hostile Work Environment?

The Ninth Circuit examined its own cases as well as cases from its sister circuits and the United States Supreme Court in determining that “sexually graphic, violently misogynistic” music is a “form of harassment that can pollute a workplace and give rise to a Title VII claim.” Id. at 981. First, the Ninth Circuit noted that courts have consistently held that “sexually degrading, gender-specific epithets” constitute harassment on the basis of sex. Id. at 979. As noted by the Supreme Court, “[e]ven if audible to all, lyrics loaded with such sexist slurs expose female employees to uniquely ‘disadvantageous terms or conditions of employment.’” Id. (citing Oncale, 523 U.S. at 80.)

Next, the Ninth Circuit looked to other circuit courts of appeals for insight. In examining a female employee’s allegations that her male co-workers regularly played a “crude morning show” from a radio in the central office and routinely sang “songs about gender-derogatory topics”, the Eleventh Circuit noted that “words and conduct that are sufficiently gender-specific and either severe or pervasive may state a claim of a hostile work environment, even if the words are not directed specifically at the [employee].” Reeves v. C.H. Robinson Worldwide, Inc., 594 F.3d 798, 811 (11th Cir. 2010). The Eleventh Circuit also stressed that “a member of a protected group cannot be forced to endure pervasive, derogatory conduct and references that are gender-specific in the workplace, just because the workplace may be otherwise rife with generally indiscriminate vulgar conduct.” Id. at 810.

Likewise, the Second Circuit in a lawsuit filed by a female employee determined that a reasonable jury could conclude that a hostile work environment on the basis of sex existed where “sexually offensive comments and graffiti” were commonplace. Petrosino v. Bell Atlantic, 385 F.3d 210, 222 (2d Cir. 2004). The Second Circuit explained that “[t]he fact that much of this offensive material was not directed specifically at Petrosino – indeed, her male co-workers would likely have traded sexual insults every morning and defaced terminal boxes with


sexual graffiti regardless of Petrosino’s presence… – does not, as a matter of law, preclude a jury from finding that the conduct subjected Petrosino to a hostile work environment based on her sex.” Id.

Therefore, the Ninth Circuit in Sharp held that “[w]hether sung, shouted, or whispered, blasted over speakers or relayed face-to-face, sexist epithets can offend and may transform a workplace into a hostile environment that violates Title VII.”

69 F.4th at 981.

Can Male and Female Plaintiffs Coexist in a Title VII Lawsuit?

The Ninth Circuit did not think much of S&S’s argument that the fact that both male and female former employees had filed suit over their offense to the same music somehow insulated S&S from suit under Title VII. In that regard, the Ninth Circuit held as follows.

It should be no surprise that sexually charged conduct may simultaneously offend different genders in unique and meaningful ways. While words from a man to a man may be differently received than words from a man to a woman, harassing both men and women cannot cure bad conduct and does not rule out the possibility that both men and women have viable claims against their employer for sexual harassment. Thus, in general terms, a male employee may bring a hostile work environment claim alongside female colleagues.

69 F.4th at 982 (internal citations and punctuation omitted).

Therefore, the court explicitly rejected S&S’s “equal opportunity harasser” defense and noted that its case law was clear that equal mistreatment of men and women on the basis of sex “provides no defense to an accusation of sexual harassment.” Id. (The court also noted that such a defense also will not work in claims of discrimination brought based on other protected classes such as race.) Id. Thus, the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s decision to dismiss the former employees’ claim that the music at issue created a hostile work environment on the basis of sex.

Employer Takeaways

This case makes it clear that employers should not turn a blind eye to what type of music, entertainment, behavior, or speech is occurring in the workplace –both while employees are working and during breaks. Sexually explicit or other inappropriate material, behavior, or speech that denigrates people on the basis of a protected class (sex, race, etc.) can absolutely create a legally actionable hostile work environment regardless of whom it offends. It does not matter whether such material or behavior is directed at specific individuals or no one in particular. If it is severe and pervasive and both objectively and subjectively offensive, then an employer is at risk of not only having a bad work environment but an illegal one as well. Therefore, if an employer becomes aware of such material or behavior in its workplace, it should immediately conduct an investigation and take appropriate action to stop the material from being shared or the behavior from occurring.

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Our(CAA) and the emergence of mandates prohibiting Gag Clauses. Amidst this swirl of change, we face a pivotal question: Will the uncertainty overwhelm us or empower us to harness new visions? It’s a choice between letting ambiguity control us or taking proactive charge to navigate this dynamic terrain.

Perhaps you’ve heard the philosophy that the easiest thing to do today is the same thing we did yesterday. That statement is validated by the fact that we are all creatures of habit. The way many psychologists phrase it is slightly different: The best predicter of future behavior is past behavior All of this suggests that going with the flow and maintaining the status quo is usually the easiest path into the future. However, during the many changes we are seeing today, that path can be disastrous.

Disruption invariably interrupts the status quo, urging us to look beyond challenges and spot opportunities. During these transformative times, HR professionals have an opportunity to build a quorum of proactive thinking, fostering an environment where each employee becomes a part of the solution. We hold the reins to shape growth during these shifts, and it’s imperative that we not only adapt but thrive, lest we become victims of the turmoil.

Here are some key disruptive elements to consider, accompanied by insightful questions and observations to guide your approach:

• The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (Effective 1/1/23): What benefits does it bring? What responsibilities do I shoulder in its wake? How does our HR department need to pivot its operations? Can we leverage this act for positive change?

Embracing HR Disruption: Navigating Uncertainty for Unprecedented Opportunity

This increase in transparency will necessitate increased HR responsi bilities. ERISA compliance will be viewed by the Department of Labor (DOL) with greater scrutiny considering the CAA. The good news is that the new regulations will expand the control you have over plan monitoring. This will facilitate better options and provide actionable processes to assure better fiduciary impact and ERISA compliance.

• Attestations: What attestations are required of us? When is the deadline? How can we be prepared to fulfill these require ments in a timely manner? How will these attestations reshape our TPA relationships, and will they necessitate new service agreements?


This standard is based on the following trust services criteria: security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.

It seems all the above considerations are hovering over an ever-changing foundation impacted by Artificial Intelligence. It will be incumbent upon all of us to become knowledgeable about AI and its capabilities. Let’s discuss ways in which we can harness AI to optimize healthcare plan management.

Artificial Intelligence is a tool that can be utilized by HR professionals for improved efficiency in several ways. We can harness these new capabilities by embracing AI tools for data-driven decision making, personalized employee experiences, and streamlined processes. However, we should be wary of over-reliance on AI, ensuring that a human touch, empathy, and ethical considerations remain central. Since managing the work force’s wellbeing and fostering a positive work environment are key considerations, we can use AI as an information source for achieving these results. While AI can automate certain tasks, it will also augment HR professionals’ capabilities, enabling them to become more strategic advisors and champions of employee engagement. Balancing AI’s efficiency with personal insights will be key to its successful implementation.

During these HR disruptions, we hold the potential to transform uncertainty into opportunity. A deep dive of research on your part regarding the HR elements you specifically address in your everyday activities is warranted. The more we learn by proactively addressing these disruptions, we not only safeguard our organizations but also shape a brighter, more resilient future. Let’s rise to the challenge, embracing these changes and turning them into catalysts for innovation, growth, and success.

How Can Benefits Claims Intelligence Help You?

BCI can assist you in several ways. Engaging with us enables you to navigate more successfully many of these disruptive elements. Through our team’s expertise you will be able to file your attestation with confidence and full understanding of the requirements under the CAA. Since this attestation will be required henceforth, BCI can provide ongoing monitoring of your plan to ensure consistent compliance and identify any wrongdoing. We can assist you in the process of acquiring your claims data from your TPA in a timely manner and can also provide safe and secure storage of your data. Above all, we are a resource for uniquely thorough and complete claims data analysis to identify misappropriated funds from your plan (FWAE) and protect your plan participants. Lastly, we can perform our “Summary Statement” on your plan at No Charge. This is a report, based upon cursory research into your plan data to clarify the extent and location of FWAE and indicate next steps.

Ready to thrive in this new HR landscape? Connect with us to explore proactive strategies that empower your organization’s journey.

Ensuring Claims Payment Integrity For Your Self-Insured Health Plan

• AI-based software for identifying claims payment and processing errors

• Recoupment expertise to recover funds from improperly adjudicated claims

• Capabilities for ongoing monitoring of claims payments to uphold plan efficacy

• Timely guidance to assure ERISA compliance


1. BCI’s “Summary Statement” which we will create from your recent plan claims data to advise you of discrepancies/ irregularities in claims payments and/or confirmation of proper adjudication.

2. BCI’s new 3-Part White Paper consisting of our “Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 Synopsis”, “Guidelines for Administrative Agreements”, and “Legal Q&A” prepared by BCI’s legal department.

To request these free items today, please email us… Benefits Claims Intelligence

1 Cristie Upshaw Travis, Co-CEO HealthCareTN 2 Adrienne Johnson, Principal, Mercer 3 L-R, Andrea Dowdy, State of Tennessee Benefits Administration, Phil Belcher, HealthCareTN 4 L-R, Craig Wright, Higginbotham, Karen Sones, First Horizon, Tyler McGlaughlin, Higginbotham 5 Upcoming event slide 6 L-R, Janet Choi, MD, Progyny, Katie Schubert, Society for Women’s Health Research, Sarah Dye, Optum Health Solutions 7 L-R, Cristie Upshaw Travis, HealthCareTN, Karen Sones, First Horizon, Tristan Harris, Quantum Health 8 L-R, Preston Cox, Unum, Mollie Zigelnik, Mercer, Adrienne Johnson, Mercer 9 Sally Pace, Connect Healthcare Collaboration and her team 10 Chris Algera, CaptialRx 11 L-R, Jan Brackett, Progyny, Janet Choi MD, Progyny
1 2 5 4 3 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 30
12 L-R Terinni Stafford, Cigna, Julie Kappen, Omada
Gold Sponsor Silver Sponsor Atrium Health-Wake Forest Baptist Bronze Sponsors Legal Resources One Medical Assurint Assured Partners Only $799 in-person Visit our website for more details on programs, sponsorship, exhibits, and great entertainment! Great Keynote Speakers Networking Events Register NOW!
CHICAGO BOUND! REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN. Join us in the windy city June 23–26, 2024, for the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2024 (SHRM24). LEARN MORE!

SHRM-Georgia Day In the District

The Georgia DC Fly-In

Members of the SHRM Georgia DC-Fly-In delegation enjoyed a day of sightseeing at the Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Capitol.

1 Front: Kadon Williams, Brad Patterson, Middle: Cynetta Freeman, Jennifer Andrews, Lisa Hughes, 3rd row: Regina Foy, Sharon Carter, Monique Jenkins 2 Members of the delegation meet with Rep. Barry Loudermilk’s legislative liaison to discuss SHRM initiatives. Seated at the table are Monique Jenkins and Ed Enoch (far left). 3 Pictured: Front to back and left to right – Kadon Williams, Ken Harrison, Kay Hanson, Regina Foy, Row 2: Rep. Loudermilk’s legislative liaison, Monique Jenkins, Cynetta Freeman, Row 3: Ed Enoch, Loudermilk staff member, Ed Enoch, Lisa Hughes, Jennifer Andrews, Sharon Carter 4 Members of the SHRM Georgia delegation met with Rep. Rich McCormick’s staff. 5 Monique Jenkins posed outside of Rep. Barry Loudermilk’s office 6 A quick photo opportunity with Senator John Ossoff. Pictured: Front: Ken Harrison, Cynetta Freeman, Sen. Ossoff, Sharon Carter, Back: Regina Foy, Kadon Williams, Monique Jenkins, Lisa Hughes
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One SHRM Georgia 2023 STATE CONFERENCE AND EXPO THREE FOCUS AREAS! 11- 13 OCT S H R M G E O R G I A . O R G Greg Schewm Michael Aitken Kat Kibben Renowned business humorist and Columnist Chief Membership Officer at SHRM Founder of Three Ears Media and awardwinning writer and keynote speaker LAKE LANIER LEGACY LODGE AND CONFERENCE CENTER, LANIER ISLANDS, BUFORD GA TALENT ATTRACTION/ACQUISITION EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT EMPLOYEE RETENTION REGISTER NOW!! Wednesday Opening Thursday Closing Thursday Lunch Richard Smiith Thursday Afternoon Gerald Wyatt, Tracy Gillette, Lisa Hughes Friday Opening Logan Loomis Friday Closing Executive Leadership Consultant and Business Growth Strategist Managing Partner at Benton+Bradford Consulting CURRENT REGISTRATION RATE: $440 Distinguished HR Leaders ANNOUNCING OUR MAIN STAGE SPEAKERS 35

Navigating a Crowded HR Technology Market: Simplifying the Buying Process

Intoday's rapidly evolving market, the sheer number of HR tools available can be overwhelming. As the landscape becomes increasingly saturated with vendors, organizations often find themselves in a state of paralysis when trying to make the right technology choices. Fortunately, I’ve put together a few key steps taking you through the complex world of buying technology, helping you cut through the noise and make informed decisions.

Here’s a simplified four-step process for selecting the right HR Technology solution:

• Get Started: Understand the business challenge you're trying to solve.

• Identify Trusted Resources: Seek advice from industry experts and trusted advisors.

• Buying Process: Be organized for product demos, prioritize requirements, and stay within your budget.

• Decision Time: Quantify data, understand your organization's culture, and involve stakeholders in the decision-making process.


The Challenge of Choice

The primary challenge in the HR technology market is the plethora of choices available. When faced with an abundance of options, many individuals and organizations tend to procrastinate or become indecisive. The first step in simplifying this process is understanding what problem you are solving.

Making the right technological choices involves a deep understanding of your organization's objectives and needs. Research has shown that having too many choices can hinder decision-making. To avoid "analysis paralysis”, prioritize what you need, seek out trusted resources and industry experts.

Finding Trusted Resources

In navigating the HR technology market, it's crucial to identify trusted resources and advisors. Dr. Susan Hanold aims to position herself as a trusted advisor to help you bridge the gap between your needs and the right solutions.

Talent Tech Labs is one place you can go to see a total talent technology ecosystem from acquisition to management. It gives you a view of a wide range vendors with niche’ specialties. When you know your business issue, you can stay laser focused on those solutions that solve your specific problem.

Leveraging Industry Experts

To navigate the crowded technology market, organizations should seek guidance from industry experts. Understanding the latest trends and distinguishing them from passing fads is crucial. You can follow HR influencers through analyst research reports, podcasts, and webinars. You want to speak with experts that are product agnostic. There are technology roundtable groups and LinkedIn groups you can join or follow. Each year, I attend the HR technology conference and spend a day walking through all the vendor booths.

Leverage your teammates in the buying process and you can share with each other what you are hearing. Listen to what they are sharing and approach the process with curiosity.

Narrowing Down Selections

So many of the vendor websites today have tons of valuable information on them such as demonstrations, references, testimonials, and templates. You can reach out to me for sample questions to ask during a demo and a buying checklist.

One common pitfall in the technology market is overspending on lots of systems and modules. It's essential to identify your organization's non-negotiable requirements and avoid purchasing unnecessary features. The decision to invest in technology should align with your specific needs and objectives.

The Role of Sales

Salespeople often have a reputation for being pushy, but they can be valuable allies in the buying process. Honesty and clear communication are key when working with salespeople. They should be experts in the industry, familiar with competitors, and capable of providing straightforward information.

Building a Case for Change

Implementing a new technology system requires a solid foundation for change within your organization. Understand your company's culture and decision-making processes and leverage them to build support for the chosen solution. Leverage your internal resources like Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to test products, provide feedback and help you build the business case for change. Tying your business case back to your business issue and the ROI will help as you build support internally.


Navigating the crowded HR technology market is undoubtedly challenging, but with the right approach and trusted guidance, organizations can simplify the buying process and make informed decisions. The four-step process, combined with a focus on understanding organizational needs and industry trends, will help you find the right solutions amidst the noise and complexity of the modern talent acquisition landscape.

Since 2004, Plan Z has been providing technology advice to clients in their HR strategy endeavors. Dr. Susan Hanold, Top Women in HR Technology You Should Follow and Support, is the company's founder and a dedicated talent strategist. For inquiries and to get a copy of the buying checklist, please don't hesitate to contact us at

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What Better Employee Holiday Gift than a Delicious Feast?

This year deliver a gift that will bring joy. Thanksgiving Turkeys and holiday hams have long been the cherished centerpiece of the holidays. This season, give the gift of culinary delight with Holiday Gift Checks. An ideal gift for all employees, and clients alike. A perfect holiday gift for so many reasons!

1. Convenient and Flexible

Holiday Gift Checks offer unparalleled convenience and versatility. Recipients enjoy redeeming for any preferred brand of turkey, ham, and festive groceries at a variety of local and national grocery stores. They offer the flexibility to deliver a customized favorite holiday feast.

2. Thoughtful and Personalized

Holiday gifts show the company values hard work and loyalty. Holiday Gift Checks have a special holiday message and can be personalized by adding your company name. Seasonal gifts are a thoughtful gesture for employees, expressing gratitude and fostering a sense of camaraderie.

3. Ideal for Various Recipients

Finding a perfect gift to satisfy all employees can be difficult. Holiday Gift Checks are flexible, satisfying the needs of a wide range of recipients, even those with special dietary needs or restrictions. They can choose a roasted turkey, smoked ham, holiday desserts or festive platters.

4. Budget-Friendly and Timesaving

Holiday Gift Checks will fit any holiday budget. Choose the gift amount from $5.00-$50.00. The entire amount will be enjoyed for a delicious holiday meal. They are easy to distribute to in-house and remote employees. Send ‘leftover’ gift checks back for a full-face value refund.




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Online classes begin October 16, 2023 and will meet twice per week for 12 weeks on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

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Online Certification Exam Prep Class is $995 (plus $25.00 shipping)

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About the instructor:

Cynthia Y. Thompson is Principal and Founder of The Thompson HR Firm, a human resources consulting company in Memphis. She is a senior human resources executive with more than twenty years of human resources experience concentrated in publicly traded companies. She is the Editor | Publisher of HR Professionals Magazine, an HR publication distributed to HR professionals in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

Cynthia has an MBA and is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) by the Human Resource Certification Institute and is also certified as a Senior Certified Professional by the Society for Human Resource Management. She is a faculty member of Christian Brothers University. Cynthia was appointed to serve on the Tennessee DOHR Board of Appeals by Gov. Bill Haslam in 2014.





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WGU’s Master of Science in Human Resource Management

There’s never been a more critical time for inclusive and strategic HR practices to support business success and employee experience. That’s why WGU is excited to announce its Master of Science in Human Resource Management (MSHRM) is designed to align with SHRM and HRCI curriculum standards and guidelines. Enrolling now. Scan for more information about the MSHRM and apply today. Rebecca O. B.S. Human Resource Management, 2022