Additional HR Resources
If you have just been served with a notice from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of a charge of discrimination against your company, it is probably best to find an HR professional/specialist who has dealt with the EEOC before, or a labor lawyer. The real question is how do you find a "good" one?
Ask your Professional/Personal Network
When you need a subject matter expert immediately, the best approach is to heed the advice of a trusted colleague or friend. Dust off your "network" and make phone calls or send e-mails that briefly describe your situation and need and ask your personal/professional network for a recommendation. If your personal/professional network doesn't have a recommendation, then you'll have to rely on more "public" resources for the assistance you need.
Consult Specialist Organizations of Good Reputation
So who are the specialist organizations with a good reputation? The last thing you want to do is to use your internet search engine to find names of labor or employment lawyers. You will amass a lot of names of individuals and law firms, but with no qualitative information or filter.
There are two public groups and resources you might consider contacting as a second-tier networking endeavor:
- Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)
- Small Business Administration (SBA)
The Society for Human Resource Management is the world's largest association devoted to HR management. It was founded in 1948, and has over 500 affiliated chapters in the United States. SHRM has more than 5,000 members, and it is highly likely that they have an SHRM Chapter organization in your area, and certainly in your state. SHRM may be contacted for a referral of knowledgeable HR Professionals, as well as legal counsel for labor and employment law matters.
The Small Business Administration is a government-sponsored resource that focuses on small business. The SBA might be able to give you names of people to help you with your specific need, or the SBA might provide names of other small business owners in your area to contact. The SBA also has a group called SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) who might be able to assist you.
There are a number of government agencies that have good information you can access online. The Department of Labor will not only have information about laws and regulations, but one of its departments, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has information about prevailing wages for over 400 common occupations.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration has information and a list of available training for workplace safety.
The Social Security Administration has information not only about social security benefits, but also has a way for you as an employer to verify the social security number of individuals to whom you make an offer of employment something that helps greatly when meeting your obligation to make certain any prospective employee has the legal right to work in the United States.
One website that is very useful is www.bpubs.com. It is a search engine for business publications, and has a category just for human resource-related articles. While it is not designed to provide pinpointed answers for specific "at the moment" questions, it is such a thorough compendium of articles that doing a focused sub-search usually gets close to the subject at hand. Further, because each article lists the author(s), it is possible that these authors could be used as sources when trying to find specific human resource experts to assist you in addressing specific situations (assuming your question isn't answered in the article itself).
General Internet Search
As a last resort, use your search engine and see what you get. You will have to thoroughly "vet" anyone contacted using this method as you will not have the advantage of "inside" information from a neutral (or trusted) source. When "vetting" someone who might be asked to provide you with good consultative advice, here are some questions you should ask:
- Length of time in business
- List of the credentials, biographies of the individuals who will be providing service
- List of all current clients with contact information so you can choose who you want to contact for reference purposes
- Local area presence (must be able to meet and do business face-to-face)
- Provide case histories for similar matters handled giving date, situation, problem, intervention, outcome
- Check for complaints levied by former clients (if legal, bar association)
- Do a search on the firm or individual to see if any legal process, litigation, past fines pop up
- List of all related publications authored by potential consultant, if any
- Verify claimed degrees, education
- Make sure the firm is financially solvent
- Get a copy of the formal contract or business terms for an engagement and review them carefully, especially if there are advance payments
- Get a specific list of people who will be working on your matter, their hourly rates, and the number of other cases to which they are currently assigned (helps determine how much time you will get)
- Get an estimate of total costs once the provider has been involved in the matter for a couple of weeks
Please don't underestimate your need for good help and advice when you are confronted with a difficult and unique situation. While an ounce of prevention in terms of your HR processes is the least expensive way to somewhat ensure you don't find yourself with a potential problem, getting good help as soon as the gravity of the situation becomes apparent is also wise — the right advocate might be able to stem the tide before it rises to the height of a disaster.