Business Tips > Personnel > Hey, HR Lady...
Hey, HR Lady...

Q. At what point does a small company need a dedicated HR person?  Right now our payroll person is handling HR issues.  She does an ok job but I wonder if we are missing something and that some more sensitive HR duties may be out of her wheelhouse, like analyzing our benefit plan and putting in a solid compensation program.     ~ Matthew T.

Dear Matthew:
Many small companies who cannot afford an HR person divvy up HR duties between other administrative staff.  It is not uncommon to have an administrator, finance, or payroll person handle the critical needs like making sure people get paid and benefit enrollment.  I would consider bringing in an expert to help you with compensation plan, job descriptions, recruiting, handling difficult employee relations issues, performance management, interpreting personnel law or executing a termination plan.  You may also want to consider bringing an HR person on staff as your company grows. 

Most companies with fewer than 50 employees do not need a fulltime HR person unless there are complexities such as multiple locations or diverse positions.  Basically, the need becomes more transparent when your company grows beyond a manageable point and critical personnel functions are slipping through the cracks.  With more employees comes more HR problems and more need for infrastructure to support your growing team.   What worked in the past may not work now.  Things need to be more codified and fair, legal, sound HR policies need to be in place.

Many small entrepreneurial employers don’t realize the risk and liability they are taking and should put in good measures to prevent an employee from filing a claim based on discrimination, harassment, wage and hour law or wrongful discharge.  When these issues arise, the need for some type of HR help becomes more critical.  You may want to start out with a part-time HR staff person and then increase the position hours as your company increases in number of employees and revenue to support the HR function.

Q. One of our employees posted something very disparaging about our company on his Facebook page.  He did this on his personal time so I don’t know if we can discipline him for this?  Please help as his comments have gone viral and I’m worried about the damage it will do to our reputation in the community.      ~John, Bend, OR

Dear John,
This is a very familiar story that has become more and more common.  First, if you don’t already have one, you need a social networking policy, which outlines what employees can and cannot do with the Internet and social networking sites.  If his posts were untruthful and damaging, you can discipline your employee for “unprotected activity and posts” on the basis of libel and slander.  Attorney Kurt Barker with Karnopp Petersen, LLC is the local expert in this area and can help you draft a policy or help you in interpreting your rights as an employer as well as guide you in the best way to deal with the offending employee.

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