Recent News

Q&A with Kimberly Jones

Kimberly Jones
July 28, 2014

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In this day and age, with so many varying employment rules and regulations, many credit unions may not understand what they are allowed and not allowed to do when an employee terminates employment with the organization.

Question: When employees leave the credit union, either voluntarily or involuntarily, and they have not returned their laptop or other valuable credit union property, can we hold their final paycheck until we receive our property back? Or can we take money out of their final paycheck to reimburse us?

Although it may seem like we would be justified in withholding pay because the property actually belongs to the credit union, and not returning property that doesn’t belong to you could be viewed as theft, employment laws and regulations, specifically in the state of Texas, have a different point of view.

Even if an employee is in possession of company property, the Texas Payday Law provides that in such a case, wages may be withheld only when the employer is authorized to do so by law; required to do so by a court; or has written authorization from the employee for the deduction.

So, what could an employer do to get their property back? Simply put, you would need to attempt to recoup the property by some other means, such as civil remedies (lawsuit, small claims court, police report) or make arrangements with the employee outside of a wage deduction.

Also, if you do have a signed agreement in place to make deductions from wages for such items as cash or merchandise shortages, employer required uniforms, and tools of the trade, you must make sure that those deductions do not reduce the wages of employees below the minimum wage rate required by the Fair Labor Standards Act or reduce the amount of overtime pay due under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Reprinted with permission from Lonestar Perspectives, the publication of the Cornerstone Credit Union League.

Fly in the High Performance Zone

July 23, 2014

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John Foley, who flew in the movie “Top Gun,” urged credit union leaders to take their teams not to the “danger zone,” but the “high performance zone,” in May at the CSCU Solutions Conference in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The high performance zone is “the gap between where you are and where you want to go,” said the former Blue Angels pilot, Sloan Fellow at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and entrepreneur.
“It has a lot to do with leadership,” Foley said.

Foley reverse-engineered the culture of team excellence found in the Blue Angels—the U.S. Navy's flight demonstration squadron known for precision—for his presentations and created a model for others to achieve high performance. He extolled traits such as:

Purpose. A team’s belief in the processes, products, people, and purpose of an institution is critical. Credit unions, he noted, already have a leg up on the competition.

“What is beautiful about credit unions is that you have deep relationships with your members,” he said. “Don’t take that for granted.”

Focus. “If you can learn how to focus your mind, you can direct it many places,” Foley said.

Clarity matters. Multitasking is a myth. “There is no such thing,” he said.

Alignment. Foley urged attendees to go home to their credit unions and ask one question of their teams: “What is our centerpoint?”

Then listen, he said, and see what answers you get. Most commonly people will cite goals, objectives, milestones, and checkpoints. Are the answers what you expected?

“The power of the question is not the answer,” Foley said. “The real power is whether you get the same answer.”

Trust. As a Blue Angel, you are putting your life in the hands of your team, Foley said. You need to trust that your team will do what they say they are going to do and vice versa.

Think about the informal agreements, or personal contracts, you already have with your team and then reinforce them.

“If you focus on trust, I guarantee execution will follow,” Foley said.

Humility. Or in the way the Blue Angels express it: “Glad to be here.”

Foley said debriefing was a critical component to the success of the Blue Angels. These sessions would often be longer than their performances and consistently took place afterwards. You can’t just debrief when things go wrong, he said.

Team members must be open to criticism, fess up to mistakes, leave their rank at the door, and always verbalize: “And, I’ll fix it.”

Employment Law Update 7-21-14

Michael Patrick O’Brien
July 21, 2014

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed with the Utah trial court that the State’s ban on same sex marriage is unconstitutional. In a recent decision, the appeals court concluded that the ban, found in Utah’s State Constitution, violated the United States Constitution’s guarantee of Equal Protection for all persons. The appeals court stayed the effect of its decision and Utah has indicated it will appeal the case to the United States Supreme Court. Until the stay is lifted or the Supreme Court rules on the dispute, the ban on same sex marriage remains intact.

White House Signals Change to FMLA Definition of Spouse

The White House has indicated that it will implement rulemaking through the Department of Labor (DOL) to expand the definition of spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to more fully include same sex spouses. FMLA regulations currently define “spouse” as “a husband or wife as defined or recognized under State law for purposes of marriage in the State where the employee resides, including common law marriage in States where it is recognized.” (emphasis added). In the case of same-sex marriages, the FMLA focuses not on whether the marriage is lawful in the state where the employer is located, where the employee works, or where the marriage occurred, but whether it is recognized in the state in which the employee resides. The proposed new definition likely will more broadly focus on whether same sex marriage is legal where the marriage was performed: “Spouse, as defined in the statute, means a husband or wife. For purposes of this definition, husband or wife refers to the other person with whom an individual entered into marriage as defined or recognized under State law for purposes of marriage in the State in which the marriage was entered into or, in the case of a marriage entered into outside of any State, if the marriage is valid in the place where entered into and could have been entered into in at least one State. This definition includes an individual in a same-sex or common law marriage that either (1) was entered into in a State that recognizes such marriages or, (2) if entered into outside of any State, is valid in the place where entered into and could have been entered into in at least one State.” Read the DOL press release on this point: and details on the proposed new rule.

NLRB Rulings May Be in Doubt after Supreme Court Ruling

The United States Supreme Court has cast into doubt some rulings of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after concluding that some of the past NLRB board members were not appropriately appointed/confirmed. These members were “recess” appointments made during times Congress was not actively in session (but arguably was not in recess either) and were not confirmed by the Senate. The decisions cast in doubt could include a number of opinions dealing with non-union workplaces, e.g. employee social media use, employer investigations and handbooks. All these rulings will be reviewed again. However, the NLRB now has in place a properly-appointed and confirmed board with a majority favoring the positions of President Obama. As a result, commentators expect that the rulings will most likely come out the same way with the new board as they did with the old one.

Pregnancy Accommodations Required?

The United States Supreme Court will consider whether federal laws prohibiting pregnancy-based discrimination also require that employers provide job accommodations to pregnant employees. The case involves a driver for a parcel service who had to lift packages weighing up to 70 pounds. She became pregnant and provided a medical note recommending that she not lift more than 20 pounds during her pregnancy. The employee wanted to return to her regular job or a light-duty position, but her request was denied due to her limitations. She sued, alleging the company violated the law by not giving her the same accommodations it provided to non-pregnant employees with physical disabilities and similar restrictions. Lower courts have agreed with the employer and now the Supreme Court will decide the issue.

News Briefs

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that certain privately-held corporations cannot be bound to the mandate in the Affordable Care Act that they provide contraceptive health care coverage to employees if that mandate violates the religious convictions of the owners of the company. A New Jersey healthcare provider will pay over $1 million to resolve claims before the EEOC that it committed disability discrimination. According to the EEOC, since the employer’s leave policy merely tracked the requirements of the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employee leaves were limited to a maximum of 12 weeks. The employer’s policy meant that employees who were not eligible for FMLA leave were fired after being absent for a short time, and many more were fired once they were out more than 12 weeks, all without additional consideration of whether the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) required some additional accommodation, including additional leave.

Michael Patrick O'Brien is an employment attorney with Utah law firm of Jones Waldo Holbrook & McDonough. He also serves as the Legal and Legislative Director for Utah’s Society for Human Resource Management chapter. Contact him at 801-534-7315 or

When Designing HR Programs: The Complex Never Gets Used...

Kris Dunn
July 14, 2014

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I know—you're a smart cookie. And when you really put your mind to it, you can design the #### out of some HR programs. There's just this one little problem . . . .

Most of us over-design the programs we develop and roll out as HR leaders.

What is complex rarely gets used. You have to think about the lowest common denominator in your audience when you design talent programs. And even if the lowest common denominator is pretty smart, you have to think about the time they have to use your solution, and the time they're willing to spend to get up to speed.

Keep it simple and you've got a chance. Below is a great video/story from Marc Effron, driving home the point about two CEOs who gave two different HR leaders the same task. One went NASA-like and one kept it simple. Guess which solution actually got implemented?

Keeping it simple doesn't mean you're stupid. It actually means the opposite.

Watch the video here (it is only about 4.5 minutes long):

The Price of Top Talent

Via 2014-2015 CUNA Environmental Scan
July 9, 2014

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Attracting and retaining highly engaged, skilled staff has always been a difficult challenge.

And in this age of lean compensation budgets, this task has become even more difficult, according to Debra Sallen, vice president of human resources (HR) for Alliance Credit Union in San Jose, Calif.

Working with senior management, HR professionals must make sure credit unions have the strategies they need to compensate and reward essential staff and top performers, Sallen writes in the recently released 2014-2015 CUNA Environmental Scan (E-Scan).

Many HR professionals say the challenge lies in creating a corporate culture that attracts and retains the best and brightest employees, remaining competitive in the talent marketplace, and finding employees with increasingly specialized skills.

“Financial firms are cutting thousands of jobs because of a slowdown in the mortgage business, a sluggish economy, growth of online banking, and new regulations,” according to a recent USA Today article.

The same article described the financial industry as the “top job-cutter…due to more banks closing branches and building smaller outlets as more consumers bank online.” This isn’t good “press” for HR professionals trying to attract qualified candidates and encourage careers in the credit union movement.

Credit unions’ average employee turnover rate is 12%, with turnover for front-line staff running as high as 18%, according to CUNA’s 2013-2014 Turnover and Staffing Report. The most prevalent reasons for employees leaving their credit unions are career-advancement opportunities, compensation issues, or dissatisfaction with managers.

After exhaustive and expensive candidate searches, it’s essential to retain the employees you worked so hard to attract and bring on board. Adequate training, recognition, and feedback are paramount to employee job satisfaction, which in turn leads to higher levels of engagement and retention.

Credit union HR professionals must rethink their recruitment and retention strategies so credit unions become “employers of choice” in their markets. Consider partnering with your marketing team to develop recruitment strategies. Identify the characteristics that make your credit union unique and a great place to work. Then, find ways to leverage those characteristics to your advantage.

If you’re not sure what those characteristics are, ask your most engaged employees. Research shows that members of Generation Y are particularly interested in working for organizations that have a social mission and exist for reasons other than to maximize profit. Credit unions’ cooperative business model and social mission are a perfect fit for them. Leverage those organizational qualities and differentiators to your advantage.

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