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Protection for the Protectors in HR

Human Resources.  It’s a living thing.  State and Federal rules and regulations combined with business protocol and best practices.  It’s a field that requires knowledgeable and determined professionals.  Usually the path to equitable solutions is clear.  But what about the time when implementing the reasonable accommodation under ADA crosses into the privacy regulations of HIPPA?  Or, federal exemptions regarding state statues cross paths under ERISA?  The truth is that the HR professional can become personally liable.

Let’s talk about a few places where liability can creep in.

Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) the law criminalizes knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant, along with financial and other penalties for employing them.  This act introduced the I-9 form to ensure that documentary proof of employability was provided, however there are plenty of methods potential hires have found in forging their documentation.  And, hiring personnel could still be found negligent in a possible case of employing an illegal immigrant.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) establishes minimum standards for pension plans in private industry.  And it includes extensive rules on the federal income tax effects on benefit plans.  These stipulations and guidelines can at best become cumbersome, and at worst, make it difficult to confidently adhere to every part of the law.  An example of this complexity is found in the way a pension plan may pay benefits:  A defined benefit plan must pay a married participant’s pension as a “joint-and-survivor annuity” that provides continuing benefits to the surviving spouse unless both the participant and the spouse waive the survivor coverage.  Additionally there are some exceptions to the federal regulations, determined by certain state regulations.

ERISA was later amended to include the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA).  COBRA provides certain workers and their families with continued health coverage for a limited time after qualifying events such as the loss of a job.  The rules and regulations are again complex, including certain exceptions, and can be modified or extended by the federal government, as was recently the case.  These complexities can make the process of finding the correct path for individual employees a challenge, and can leave HR Professionals in a place of personal accountability.

Any HR professional will tell you that sometimes you have to work under good faith and determine the best solution based on the circumstances of the situation.  And usually we trust that our work will speak for itself in professionalism and regulatory adherence.  However, there are times when a situation becomes greater than the reasonable solution and in those cases even the HR professional can be held liable.  To protect yourself from litigation (even the costs of litigation resolved in your favor) get yourself a team of protectors.  Get XINSURANCE.  They will cover you for additional liability insurance – personal liability insurance – and lawsuit protection.  Then you can move forward reassured and confident that your work life will not unduly reach into your personal life.