Union-Free Activist

Acuity with Kim Parker

Back Q&A Jul 1, 2012 By Douglas Curley

Kim Parker, 46, is the executive vice president of the California Employers Association. A nonprofit, the CEA provides human resource solutions for small to medium-sized businesses throughout the state. Parker is also president of the national Employers Association of America. 

“About 20 percent of our time is spent maintaining a union-free environment within the worksites of our member businesses. The other 80 percent is spent dealing with employee relations and staying within compliance on three major issues: wage and hour laws, leave laws and termination.”

“Unions take away an employer’s power to run their business the way they want to run it. They can no longer decide how to promote people, when to promote or how much to pay them. From that point forward, an employer can not have a one-on-one conversation with an employee without them asking for a shop steward to be present.”

“Because of the economy, the workforce as a whole has become emotionally fragile. As your employer, I may not know that your spouse has been laid off or that your neighbor has lost his house and is now sleeping in a car. This makes all employees hypersensitive to any workplace changes. It also makes it more likely the employee will threaten litigation if for any reason they feel wrongly treated.”

“It’s more important than ever for the employer to be open, transparent and to communicate well with employees. The days of the taskmaster — ‘do it my way or I’ll find someone else to do it’ — are long gone. You have to keep your employees engaged; by doing so you keep them productive. Most employees want to do a good job and help the company be successful. Just as most employers want to do right by their employees. That can only be accomplished through open communication. In this case, silence really can be deadly.”

“Staying in compliance is key. Having an employee handbook is a must. Annual reviews must take place. Employees must know what is expected of them. If they are falling short of these expectations, they must be informed before action is taken.”

“The worst thing that can happen is if an employee is surprised by his or her firing. The first thing the employee will think is that they are being discriminated against. The business may be right to terminate the employee. But the fact they haven’t taken the necessary steps to make the employee aware of performance shortcomings will, in the long run, cost the employer time and money.”

“A good [human resources] department is not a roadblock. It should be a resource for both employees and management. A strong HR department will allow management to accomplish its goals while at the same time keeping the workforce engaged and productive.”

“There’s never a dull moment in the HR business. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, some new employment-related requirement or issue comes up — especially in California. If you can do HR in California, you can do it anywhere.”

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