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Apply Your Knowledge

This chapter focuses on issues relating to workforce planning and employment. Complete the following review questions and exam questions as a way of reviewing and reinforcing the knowledge and skills you’ll need to perform your responsibilities as an HR professional and to increase the likelihood that you will pass the PHR examination.

Review Questions

  1. Describe directive and nondirective interviews. In general, which is the preferred approach?
  2. What are some of the factors that need to be considered when using performance as a criterion for determining who will be let go in a layoff situation?
  3. What are some best practices with respect to taking notes during an interview?
  4. Describe sexual harassment that takes the form of a hostile work environment.
  5. Define and describe the differences between a mass layoff and a plant closing (according to WARNA).

Exam Questions

  1. Which of the following forms of discrimination is not covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

    • circ.jpg A. Age
    • circ.jpg B. Color
    • circ.jpg C. Race
    • circ.jpg D. National origin
  2. Which of the following statements is true about quid pro quo sexual harassment?

    • circ.jpg A. It can be exacted by any employee on any other employee.
    • circ.jpg B. It creates a hostile work environment that can ultimately lead to constructive discharge.
    • circ.jpg C. It creates a situation in which an employee’s terms and conditions of employment are affected by acceptance or rejection of sexual advances.
    • circ.jpg D. It cannot occur during the preemployment selection process because it refers to tangible or economic work-related consequences that, by definition, can be experienced only by current employees.
  3. Which of the following employers would be required to prepare formal affirmative action plans?

    • circ.jpg A. Federal contractors who receive federal grants of any amount
    • circ.jpg B. Federal contractors with $50,000 or more in federal contracts
    • circ.jpg C. Federal contractors with at least 50 employees who have federal contracts of at least $50,000 per year
    • circ.jpg D. All federal contractors, regardless of the size or scope of the contract
  4. In the event of a mass layoff or plant closing, WARNA requires employers to notify all the following individuals or entities except

    • circ.jpg A. Affected employees or their representatives (such as a collective bargaining unit)
    • circ.jpg B. The State Dislocated Worker Unit
    • circ.jpg C. The appropriate local government unit
    • circ.jpg D. The EEOC, which will conduct an adverse impact analysis before layoffs are implemented
  5. A defining Supreme Court case for interpreting the Civil Rights Act of 1991 was

    • circ.jpg A. Kolstad v. American Dental Association, 1991
    • circ.jpg B. Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, 2003
    • circ.jpg C. St. Mary’s Honor Center v. Hicks, 1993
    • circ.jpg D. United Steelworkers v. Weber, 1979
  6. A manager with whom you have not previously worked comes to you for help with implementing two different solutions she has come up with to fix a turnover problem in her department. This manager is highly regarded—and highly visible—in the organization. You are eager to perform well on this project because you are confident it will help you strengthen your relationship with her. You are also certain that the manager will tell her peers about her experience with you, which makes it particularly critical that you handle yourself well. Your first response should be to

    • circ.jpg A. Communicate your commitment to implementing the manager’s solutions.
    • circ.jpg B. Offer alternative solutions based on experience you have had with similar situations.
    • circ.jpg C. Ask questions to obtain more information about the problems the manager is experiencing.
    • circ.jpg D. Ask questions to obtain information that will help you implement the manager’s solution more effectively.
  7. A properly conducted job analysis will produce all of the following except:

    • circ.jpg A. Job competencies
    • circ.jpg B. Job postings
    • circ.jpg C. Job specifications
    • circ.jpg D. Job description
  8. Which of the following is not one of the main elements in a job description?

    • circ.jpg A. Scope information
    • circ.jpg B. Physical work conditions and physical demands
    • circ.jpg C. Compensation rates
    • circ.jpg D. Minimum requirements
  9. Which of the following would be least likely to be considered a job competency?

    • circ.jpg A. Communication skills
    • circ.jpg B. Reading skills
    • circ.jpg C. Teamwork skills
    • circ.jpg D. Interpersonal skills
  10. All of the following represent benefits of employee referral programs except

    • circ.jpg A. Highly cost-effective recruiting
    • circ.jpg B. Employees who are more likely to succeed
    • circ.jpg C. Demonstration of good faith efforts to remedy underutilization
    • circ.jpg D. Increased candidate familiarity with the organization

Answers to Review Questions

  1. Directive interviews take a more structured approach. The interviewer(s) asks the same questions of all candidates and maintains control of the interview. Conversely, nondirective interviews are more conversational and relatively unstructured. In a nondirective interview, the candidate—not the interviewer—ends up controlling the interview and primarily determines what will be discussed.

    Generally speaking, a directive style is more effective and appropriate than a nondirective style because it yields more consistent results, facilitates the process of comparing candidates to the job requirements and to each other, and generally provides greater defensibility in the event of a legal challenge. Although the directive approach is the better one, the interview must still remain dynamic and interactive.

  2. Before choosing to rely solely on employees’ prior performance ratings to determine who should be laid off and who should be retained, the organization needs to carefully examine its performance appraisal system and assess its validity and overall worth. The system itself could be flawed, or—even if it is sound—there could be problems with the way in which individual raters have applied it over time. Either factor could result in misguided assessments, which could consequently diminish the legitimacy (and defensibility) of layoff decisions made on the basis of employees’ past performance.
  3. At the beginning of the interview—perhaps at the end of the formal “rapport- building” process—let the candidate know that you will be taking notes. The candidate may otherwise assume that she has said something wrong the minute your pen hits the paper. Letting the candidate know you will be taking notes can actually constitute another element of rapport- building: you are interested in and care about what she is going to tell you and want to be certain that you remember it correctly.

    Note taking should not interfere in any way with the interview process. It also should not diminish the personal connectedness that the interviewer establishes with the candidate during the initial rapport- building portion of the interview. Jotting down key words and phrases that the candidate offers in response to the interviewer’s questions will help the interviewer remember the candidate’s responses after the interview is over. Interviewers can then go back after the interview is done and “flesh out” more details around each of the candidate’s answers.

  4. Sexual harassment that manifests itself as a hostile work environment exists when unwelcome sexual conduct unreasonably interferes with an employee’s job performance or creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment. A hostile work environment can be found to exist whether or not the employee experiences (or runs the risk of experiencing) tangible or economic work-related consequences.

    Hostile work environment harassment is unrelated to any decisions that are made relative to the employee’s employment. As such, hostile work environments can be created by virtually anyone with whom an employee might come in contact in the workplace or “workspace.”

  5. According to WARNA, a “mass layoff” occurs under the following sets of circumstances:

    • Mass layoff: A covered employer must give notice if there is to be a mass layoff that does not result from a plant closing but that will result in an employment loss at the employment site during any 30-day period for 500 or more employees, or for 50–499 employees if they make up at least 33% of the employer’s active workforce. Again, this does not count employees who have worked less than 6 months in the past 12 months or employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week for that employer. These latter groups, however, are entitled to notice.

      An employer also must give notice if the number of employment losses that occur during a 30-day period fails to meet the threshold requirements of a plant closing or mass layoff, but the number of employment losses for 2 or more groups of workers, each of which is less than the minimum number needed to trigger notice, reaches the threshold level, during any 90-day period, of either a plant closing or mass layoff. Job losses within any 90-day period will count toward WARNA threshold levels unless the employer demonstrates that the employment losses during the 90-day period are the result of separate and distinct actions and causes.

    WARNA defines a “plant closing” as follows:

    • Plant closing: A covered employer must give notice if an employment site (or one or more facilities or operating units within an employment site) will be shut down, and the shutdown will result in an employment loss (as defined later) for 50 or more employees during any 30-day period. This does not count employees who have worked less than 6 months in the past 12 months or employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week for that employer. These latter groups, however, are entitled to notice.

Answers to Exam Questions

  1. Answer A is the best answer. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 established five protected classes: color (answer B), race (answer C), national origin (answer D), religion, and sex. Age did not become a protected class until 1967, with the passage of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).
  2. Answer C is the best answer. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an individual’s submission to or rejection of sexual advances or conduct of a sexual nature is used as the basis for employment-related decisions. Because this sort of impact can usually only be brought about by a supervisor or someone else in a position of authority in the organization, answer A is not the best answer. Answer B is not the best answer; quid pro quo harassment is a separate concept from hostile work environment harassment (although both types of harassment could potentially lead to constructive discharge). Answer D is not the best answer; either quid pro quo or hostile work environment harassment could occur during the recruiting or selection processes.
  3. Answer B is the best answer. Federal contractors with $50,000 or more in federal contracts would be required to prepare formal affirmative action plans. Answer A is not the best answer; Executive Order 11246 does not specifically use the awarding of federal grants as a factor that determines whether an organization needs to prepare a formal affirmative action plan. Answer C is not the best answer; this threshold refers to an organization’s obligation to file annual EEO reports, not to the organization’s obligation to prepare a formal affirmative action plan. Answer D is not the best answer; not all contractors are required to prepare formal affirmative action plans.
  4. Answer D is the best answer. There is no WARNA requirement to notify the EEOC of impending mass layoffs or plant closings. The organization should, however, conduct an adverse impact analysis before making any layoff decisions. Answers A, B, and C are not the best answers; each one indicates individuals or entities who are required to be notified in the event that WARNA is triggered.
  5. Answer A is the best answer. In Kolstad v. American Dental Association, 1991, the court ruled that punitive damages can be awarded only when the employer has acted with malice and reckless indifference to “the employee’s federally protected rights.” Answers B, C, and D each address different legal principles.
  6. Answer C is the best answer. HR adds value to this process by asking questions that help to ascertain the underlying problems—and that help distinguish problems from symptoms. Answer A is not the best answer; although a manager may be convinced of the true nature of a problem and what the solution should be, the manager’s assessment is not necessarily correct, so you shouldn’t unthinkingly commit to implementing it. Answer B is not the best answer for a related reason; you don’t really know what the problem is, so it is not possible to suggest a solution. Additionally, if you use this approach, you are dismissing the manager’s opinions and experience—and you risk damaging your relationship with the manager. Answer D is not the best answer; it assumes that the manager’s assessment of the problem is correct and that the proposed solution is the best possible intervention.
  7. Answer B is the best answer. A properly conducted job analysis will produce job competencies (answer A), job specifications (answer C), and a job description (answer D). Although information generated through the job analysis should be used to write a job posting, this is not one of the specific outputs of the job analysis process.
  8. Answer C is the best answer. Compensation rates are generally not included in a job description. Scope information (answer A), physical work conditions and physical demands (answer B), and minimum requirements (answer C) do constitute important parts of the job description for each position.
  9. Answer B is the best answer. Job competencies speak to broad categories of skills that are required to perform successfully in a particular position, department, or organization. Of the four answers, “reading skills” is least likely to be defined in this way because it is more of a discrete, observable, and measurable skill. Communication skills (answer A), teamwork skills (answer B), and interpersonal skills (answer D) are all more likely to be considered “key success factors” or “performance factors.”
  10. Answer C is the best answer. If underutilization exists within an organization, employee referral programs are not likely to remedy that problem. Answers A and D are not the best possible answers; “highly cost-effective recruiting” and “increased candidate familiarity with the organization” both represent benefits of employee referral programs. Answer B is not the best answer; although the employee who makes the referral may believe that the candidate whom they refer will succeed, that assessment is not necessarily accurate.

Suggested Readings and Resources

  • Alexander, D., & Hartman, L. (2012). Employment law for business (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
  • Arthur, D. (2012). Recruiting, Interviewing, Selecting & Orienting New Employees (5th ed.). New York: AMACOM, American Management Association.
  • Department of Justice. www.usdoj.gov.
  • Department of Labor. www.dol.gov.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). www.eeoc.gov.
  • Flynn, N. (2012). The Social Media Handbook: Policies and Best Practices to Effectively Manage Your Organization’s Social Media Presence, Posts, and Potential Risks. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.
  • Gibson, C. (2006). Mission- Driven Interviewing: Moving Beyond Behavior- Based Questions: Strategies for Managers & HR Professionals. Huntington, Conn.: PTI Publishing.
  • Gottlieb, B., and Kelloway, E. (1998). Flexible Work Arrangements: Managing the Work-Family Boundary (1st ed.). Chichester, England: Wiley.
  • Moran, J. (2014). Employment Law: New Challenges in the Business Environment (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education.
  • Robertson, K. (1999). Work Transformation: Planning and Implementing the New Workplace. New York: HNB Pub.
  • Schweyer, A. (2004). Talent Management Systems: Best Practices in Technology Solutions for Recruitment, Retention, and Workforce Planning. Toronto, Ont.: Wiley.
  • Steingold, F. (2011). The Employer’s Legal Handbook (10th ed.). Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo.
  • Walsh, D. (2013). Employment Law for Human Resource Practice (4th ed.). Mason, Ohio: South-Western Cengage Learning.

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