Tag: HR

There is no law against stupid

There is no law against stupid

There is no law against stupid

For the past few weeks, I have been traveling the United States talking to Human Resources Professionals, and Business Leaders about Employment Law. What I learned from listening to the audience is that there are stupid people in the world. Of course, this was no surprised.

There is no law against stupid.

However, there are thousands of laws that govern the relationship between employer and employee.

Listening to the Human Resource Professionals and Business Leaders in my seminar, I realize that stupidity is not reserved just for our front-line employees. These professionals told me about hiring manager’s asking questions of applicants about their family life. The one I heard most often was, “Do you have any children or are you planning to have any children?” (Just in case – you are not allowed to ask people about their family life during the interview process?)

Are your managers, supervisors, and HR people up to date on the laws that govern the relationship between you as an employer and your employees?

I will admit what I call the alphabet soup of acronyms used to describe employment law, can be confusing. ADA, HIPPA, COBRA, FLSA, FMLA, OSHA, GINA, etc. However, ignorance of the law is not a legal excuse. It is our responsibility to make sure we are familiar with the rules that govern our relationship with our employees.

Here are the seven examples of the most misunderstood laws based on my seminars over the last few weeks.

Employment Verification: All Employers must use the I-9 form to verify the employee’s identity and ability to work in the United States. This document must be kept on site and be available if the USCIS request it. Click here for more information.

Interview Questions: As employers, we need to know what to questions we can ask and what ones we can’t ask. For instance, do you know that it is illegal to ask if a person owns or rent their home, or what year did you graduate from high school? Click here for more information

Concerted Activities: when our workers gather and discuss compensation, working conditions or shift schedules, what could go wrong? Though it might be a thorn in our side, employees can join in these concerted activities with their co-workers as protected by the National Labor Relations Act. (click here for more information)

Employment at Will: According to most states, our relationship with our employees is at will. Employment at will means that either party can sever the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, no reason, with or without notice. It sounds to go to be true, and it probably is by the number of wrongful termination suits in the news. For us to keep the privilege of employment at will, we need to be very careful with the information we put in our employee handbooks and the conversations with our employees. For instance, if you say something like, “We treat everyone as family, you will never be fired unless you mess up,” you are telling the employee that you will only fire them for just cause, no longer employment-at-will situation.

 Job Advertisements: If you read any of the summers want ads you might see hiring college age or young people for the summer. These ads are illegal under Title VII because they discriminate against a protected class. In this case, people who are over 40 years old. If you are not aware of Title VII and how it protects certain types of people, read more about it here.

Sexual Harassment: How are you training your managers/leaders to understand, prevent and respond to sexual harassment in the workplace? Do you have an anti-harassment policy? The EEOC states, “It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” More importantly, your organization can be held liable for the actions of your supervisors and managers, specifically if you haven’t offered them any training or provided a process for employees to report sexual harassment on the job. Learn more here.

Family Medical Leave Act: Do you have over 50 people in your organization that are working within 75 miles of each other? If so your organization falls under the FMLA, which means that you need to provide to your employees up to twelve weeks of unprotected unpaid job leave. According to many managers and supervisors, this is one of the most confusing law governing the relationship between employer and employee. If your employee is welcoming a new child into his family, did you let him have off? Learn More here.

​There are thousand laws and regulations that regulate the relationship between employer and employee. The more I travel the more I realize that leaders, managers and supervisors are unaware of how these laws impact them. And as my friend the judge says, ignorance is not a legal excuse.

Then again, there is no law against stupid.


John Thalheimer is the Executive Director of True Star Leadership and has been traveling the country talking to business owners and leaders about the importance of understanding the laws that govern the relationship between employer and employee. He has a master’s in organizational leadership and dual-certified in leadership coaching. He believes that every organization and every employee deserve a great leader. Are you prepared?

The Myth of the Alpha Dog

The Myth of the Alpha Dog

My wife and I have adopted two puppies this year, and as I was researching how to potty train our younger dog, I came across the headline, “The Myth of the Alpha Dog.” The article discussed how our belief that dog packs structures are based on an alpha dog or dominant dog is false. And that dogs have a more cooperative approach to pack structure.

This same myth is pervasive throughout our discussions on leadership. In the west, we have mythologized the single person as the saver of the world. The man on the white horse who comes in to save the day. When we talk about great discoveries, we talk about them as if a single person made the discovery. Admiral Peary had over 50 people with him as he tried to reach the North Pole in 1909 but the names of the other people have all been forgotten. We talk about great inventions; we talk as if a single person invented the light bulb. However, Thomas Edison had a team of “young muckers” working with him at Menlo Park. In the world of leadership, we talk of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, both who are famous for the companies they started. However both had strong partners working with them; Steve Jobs had Steve Wozniak, Bill Gates had Paul Allen. This isn’t to say that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are not brilliant men, it is just to say that rarely do we do anything in isolation.

My research and experience have led me to the conclusion that the leadership team is more important than the single leader of an organization. In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about the importance of having the right people on the bus. This is even more important the closer you get to the top of any organization.


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead


Why are leadership teams more valuable than a single leader?

  1. They provide a greater level of experience.
  2. They provide balance against a singular strength or limitation
  3. They offer diversity of thought.
  4. They provide the ability to delegate work
  5. They provide increased touch points to an organization

This does not mean that a leader can abdicate her responsibility for the team. It means that she has more resources to make the best decisions, create the best strategic vision and build the best team.

When I work to improve leadership teams, I ask myself the following questions:

  • Are the right individuals on the leadership team?
  • What behavioral changes will make them a better leadership team?
  • What is their level of motivation to improve the working dynamics?
  • How do they discuss different points of views?
  • Are they focused on the same vision of the organization?

Always start with an assessment of the team’s strengths and limitations. This gives a good understanding of what is working well together and what is not. I usually use an assessment tool, followed up with individual interviews. This provides an excellent groundwork to start working with the team to improve their team dynamic. Working with the leader and the team, we create a path to developing the leadership team dynamic. The goal is to understand the strengths and limitations of each member and that of the team. If you can create positive connections and a desire to move the organization forward, the team dynamic will improve.

The goal here is not to remove the leader or to dismiss the leader. The goal here is to provide a team of individuals working together to assist the leader in their challenges of running a large organization.  To create a cooperative approach to the team structure.


Together we are stronger than we are alone.

Walter Payton



Leadership: The Ostrich Myth

Leadership: The Ostrich Myth

Did you know that it is a myth that Ostriches hide their head in the sand when they face danger?

However, in the world of leadership, I find various behaviors that mimic the myth of Ostrich with their head in the sand. As leaders, we need to make the best possible decisions to lead our organization forward. At times, we continue not to accept a contrary position, either because we are isolated within our corporate headquarters, or don’t believe the information we are being presented is correct.

I worked with a vice President who spent a lot of time isolated in his office; developing ideas, concepts, and ways to move his organization forward. He was one of the smartest individuals I knew. He could analyze a problem and develop amazing solutions. Unfortunately, his solutions would routinely fail when implemented by his team. At first, my thought was that it was an implementation issue but the more I talked to him and his staff, I realize that his isolation was limiting the information he received. His results were good in theory but didn’t work within the real world of his organization.

After working together, he implemented a new process where his team would present real world solutions to the organization’s challenges and the team as a group would discuss what the best option was. Not only did the solutions work better, but the vice president was also more in touch with his team and the challenges they faced. It also allowed the team to be more involved in the decision-making process, giving them ownership over the solution.

As humans, we are limited in our decision-making ability by the shared experiences we have in our lifetime. One of the reasons, our social and emotional intelligence continues to grow is that we continue to experience life and learn how to deal with the many challenges it offers. If we hide in our figurative office, we will not be receiving the experience we need to make the best decisions for ourselves. We need to step outside of our comfort zone and have new experiences that challenge us and create new perspectives.

The Ostrich with his head in the sand was an optical illusion. From a far distance because of the difference in size of the ostrich’s head and their body, when they are foraging for food, it may have looked as if the head is in the sand.

This is why it is important to change our perspective.