HR Consulting

*** Guest Blog Alert! *** When to Hire HR, and 3 Simple Steps to Take in the Meantime!

*** Guest Blog Alert! *** When to Hire HR, and 3 Simple Steps to Take in the Meantime!

***Guest Blog!***

The question of when to hire HR will vary amongst companies, industries, and business leaders. One answer that will never change, though, is that indeed you DO need someone dedicated to HR and the sooner the better. If you have employees, you need HR (even if it’s just fractional); in today’s highly regulated, highly visible climate, there’s nothing but risk if you’re not paying attention to the basics, at very least. What I would recommend to any business leader, though, is to consider your bigger vision. What do you dream for your company in 5 years? 3 years? 6 months? Whatever it is, utilize your HR support to get there.

Christin Johnson is the founder and leader of iStartupHR, LLC, an HR consulting firm located in Raleigh, North Carolina.  For more information about Christin and/or iStartupHR, check out her website: 

When ICE is on Your Doorstep... Lessons Learned from the Recent 7-Eleven Raids

When ICE is on Your Doorstep...  Lessons Learned from the Recent 7-Eleven Raids

On January 10, 2018, 98 7-Eleven stores nationwide were raided by ICE resulting in 21 arrests of alleged undocumented workers.  Needless to say, it is suspected that more raids are to come, probably in industries known to have immigration issues like food service and construction.  Allow me to go ahead and answer some of the questions in your head...

About that Misclassification Thing... Here is your intro to the North Carolina Employee Fair Classification Act!

About that Misclassification Thing... Here is your intro to the North Carolina Employee Fair Classification Act!

North Carolina mingled with the idea of its own misclassification statute for years and finally landed on a law that stuck.  Enter the Employee Fair Classification Act, which went into effect on December 31, 2017.  Here's your Need-to-Knows!

Don't Hug Me.

Don't Hug Me.

Are you a boss who hugs his or her co-workers?  If yes, STOP.  Recent caselaw out of the Ninth Circuit says this is a no-no.  Read more about why.

To Compete or Non-Compete, That is the Question.

At the end of July, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rendered a decision about non-compete agreements that creates further confusion about restrictive covenants in our state.*  Since many employers (and readers) face the “Compete or Non-Compete” question, this case is worthy of review.

In KLM Communications, Inc. v. Tuschen, the employee at issue (Tuschen) signed a non-compete agreement upon being hired by KLM.   In part, this non-compete states:

While I, the Employee, am employed by Employer, and for 1 years/months afterward, I will not directly or indirectly participate in a business that is similar to a business now or later operated by Employer in the same geographical area. This includes participating in my own business or as a co-owner, director, officer, consultant, independent contractor, employee, or agent of another business. “ 

Sound familiar? Of course it does.

Tuschen worked at KLM Communications for about 6 years until she tendered her resignation and accepted a new position with a competitor.   Naturally, KLM Communication was not happy with this development and sought to enforce its non-compete agreement, particularly the provision cited above.  The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said “nice try” and decided the non-compete was overly-broad and therefore unenforceable.  But…. why?

If the above excerpt from KLM Communication’s non-compete agreement looks familiar, you are probably in good company considering that same exact language pops up in a lot of templates I’ve seen.  The Fourth Circuit’s opinion stresses that this clause is too broad since it prohibits the former employee from working at any competitor in any position.   Since Tuschen can’t mow lawns, cater business lunches, or serve as a realtor fora competing company, the Fourth Circuit said it could not be enforced (yes, these are actual examples given in the opinion).   The Fourth Circuit also states that even the “indirect” language is too broad using the following example to illustrate:  “[I]f Tuschen has retirement accounts invested in mutual funds, she may have to monitor their holdings to be sure she is not investing in companies similar to RLM.”  Because there was no legitimate business interest related to this provision of the non-compete, the court said the entire document was unenforceable.  In other words:  you cannot prevent an employee from engaging in work that is distinct from the duties actually performed by the employee. 

Another curious part of this decision is that the Fourth Circuit denied the opportunity to “blue-pencil” the agreement by simply striking the bad provision.  Instead, the Fourth Circuit claimed (1) even if they could revise the provision, they wouldn’t (thanks to a 2016 North Carolina Supreme Court case that stated non-compete agreements found to be unreasonable cannot be unilaterally amended by a court); and (2) there is no way to really revise this provision without completely re-writing the agreement. 

Another interesting observation?  The Fourth Circuit states right away that non-competes are disfavored in North Carolina, a statement (and general tone) that has been left out of a lot of recent North Carolina state cases like Employment Staffing Group, Inc. v. Little in 2015. 

If you were not already struggling to draft a non-compete agreement, I’m positive you are now. YOU'RE WELCOME. 


The [*]:  The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is the federal appeals court for North Carolina so their decisions often matter to North Carolina employers. However, since they are a federal court interpreting state laws, state cases often take higher precedence. 




How to Make Millennials Like You, Part 3 :-)

Why Communication is Key (and may require #texting)

We're back by popular demand! #ihavebeenreallybusy  Our apologies for the delay in your favorite #LawBlog!

Today I'm going to write about one of the most talked about topics when it comes to Millennials in the workplace:  COMMUNICATION.  (dun, dun, dun....)

I recently taught a really great class through ECU CMGT that was divided into students and professionals.  It was a boring legal seminar where we only talked about two cool things: (1) drones and (2) Millennials.  When I added the Millennial section to my HR presentation, I was worried that people would give me The Glare.  For anyone who has not taught before, The Glare is the look people give you when they feel like you are wasting their time or otherwise ruining their day.  For anyone who has taught a legal seminar, you pretty much get The Glare the entire time you talk. Regardless of this imminent threat, I added the Millennial section anyway and as a compromise so this entire section wasn't just about me venting about things, I focused the section on paid leave as a recruiting tool for Millennials.  Shockingly, I didn't receive a single Glare from anyone.  In fact, this part of the presentation sparked some of the most interest and questions and made me realize that I, the quintessential Millennial, had in fact done something right.  #selfhighfive

One of the greatest topics discussed at this class was communication and how to preserve interpersonal communication in a world where we only seem to text, instant message, chat on Facebook, etc AND how this common concern plays out in the workplace.  To jump start this post, I ask one simple question: What is interpersonal communication

While an undergrad at UNC, I actually studied Interpersonal Organizational Communication Studies as one of my majors.  If you are a Duke or NC State fan you can go ahead and stop laughing (b/c I never had a "paper class").  Everyone made fun of this major.  The comments I received from people were rarely positive but more like: "You're learning to talk?!" "Don't you already know how to communicate?"  "How will you ever find a job?!"  HAHA! Not.  Considering communication and how we communicate is one of the biggest topics surrounding Millennials, the joke is on all the #haters because I learned to define "communication" based on the value of the exchange and not so much by its mechanics.  

FOR EXAMPLE:  Professional Poker players have excellent non-verbal communication skills.  They can play the "poker face" and cause their opponents to fold.  Is resting "you-know-what face"  a valid form of communication?  Sure - considering it did exactly what the player wanted it to do. 

FOR EXAMPLE AGAIN:  I text my law partner and ask him to get our mail.  He gets the mail.  Success! That text was a form of communication. #10-4

FOR EXAMPLE AGAIN AGAIN:  I email a client and ask for documents.  Client sends documents.  #Winning 

JUST FOR FUN:  I text my spouse a bunch of cat emojis while on a run and when I get home, he has hidden my car keys.  He clearly got the message that I wanted to bring home a bunch of stray cats encountered on my run.  #boom #messagereceived 

See where I am going with this?  

We are facing a reality where they are more options to communicate with others than there have ever been before.  Due to this plethora of communication types, we are more connected with one another than we have ever been in the past.  Before texting, we had email. Before email, we had phones.  Before phones we had telegraphs and before that, letters. Before letters we had a face-to-face communication.  Interestingly enough, when the phone was invented, it was lauded as one of the greatest inventions of it's time.  When texting became a recognized form of communication about 15 years ago, it was seen as a social demise by the adults and one of the easiest ways to communicate with friends while in a classroom by the youngsters.  Alas, here we are with the #GreatDivide and I haven't even discussed the rise of Emojis... 

I give you this extended background to point out that text messaging, as odd as it may be, is still communication.  Because this is fact, not fiction, non-Millennials are going to have to learn how to deal with a generation of texting and emails as opposed to telephone and in-person conversations.  

The caveat to this general rule:  you tell the Millennials otherwise.  It's a shocking concept but for the Employers dealing with this Millennial issue, consider telling Millennials you prefer they call or talk in-person as opposed to text messaging or another alternative (albeit equally useful) form of communication.  We're not all idiots so we tend to respect our authority in the same way we listen to the airline attendants: we don't want to lose our coveted jobs just like we don't want to crash a plane.  If you get lip from some cocky Millennial (looking at you 15-20 year olds), then you hopefully have policies and procedures in place that would permit you to pass down some discipline.  If they don't want to work with you after that, then let them rejoin the unemployment line.  However, you cannot expect your Millennial employees to forgo from texting their boss if their boss is texting them so the conversation needs to go both ways and apply across the board to avoid confusion. 

In other words, don't yell at me for poor communication if you haven't communicated your expectations to me first. After all, you said it yourself that communication is key!



How to Make Millennials Like You, Part 1 :-)

One of the fastest growing concerns for a lot of industries is dealing with a lack of skilled labor.  For industries like Construction, the availability of trained and willing workers has been on the decline and, according to recent economic reports, is possibly the single biggest factor inhibiting economic growth.  If you ask the average 50+ person, this decline in workforce is due to the so-called "Millennials" being unwilling to "do the hard stuff," instead opting to super cushy jobs at silicon valley-wannabe companies where there is a foosball table in the break room.   Kids these days....

However, (shockingly) a lot of experts and surveys have chimed in and what employers are witnessing isn't necessarily a generation of gamers who sleep until noon and only communicate via text and emoticons.  Instead, this generation now entering the workforce has a new set of priorities and values that they want to see reflected in their careers.  In addition to that argument, the current workforce is also dealing with the fact that a lot of Millennials went to college, grad school and beyond, rendering them "over-qualified" for  certain jobs and unskilled for the jobs that are actually available (think: construction).  

So how does an employer attract a generation of over-educated, emoticon-using misfits that end every sentence with a #hashtag? It's all about recruiting and the overall package that is "The Job" (read: #TheJob).  In this multi-part blog series cleverly titled "How to Make Millennials Like You," I will go over some thoughts and considerations that may help recruit the younger workforce such as:  Paid Leave, Retention & Training (a.k.a. Investing in Employees), and the infamous HR topic "work-life balance." 

Yes, this may be more of an editorial with some helpful links and knowledge but as a narcissistic #Millennial myself, I feel it is my job to educate the masses on my self-serving thoughts.  Believe me, if I could insert emoticons all over this post and text it to people, I would. 

Sarcasm aside,  did you know our Firm provides HR Consulting services at an easy-to-swallow price?!  <insert happy emoticons here> !!