CRANFORD, NJ — Helen M. Sorrentino has spent more than 20 years in the field of Human Resources, but the last four have been the most rewarding.
Since she founded HR Practices and began working on a personal level with local small business owners, she said, “It’s great. I work more hours now than when I was in corporate, but it’s more satisfying.”
Most of the businesses she advises have 50 or fewer employees. No business is too small, she emphasizes.
“You have two employees, you have two potential issues,” she said. Her job is to ensure the business does everything necessary to comply with a vast, ever-changing set of labor laws. Sorrentino offers a free one-hour consultation to any business interested in what she does. If hired, she first conducts an HR audit.
“I look at their policies, procedures, job descriptions, how they hire, how they recruit. I make sure they’re in compliance with labor laws,” she said.
Compliance is more crucial than ever, according to Sorrentino, because the US government has increased its budget so that it can conduct more audits.
“They’re trying to catch people so they can fine them,” said Sorrentino.
“The big thing right now with the government is I9s," she said, explaining that the government changed this form twice already in 2013. And, she noted, “Instead of the form being made shorter, it was made longer.”
“You have to be very careful as to how it’s filled out,” said Sorrentino. And it turns out there’s a specific way I9s must be filed, as well.
“For every labor law there is a record-keeping requirement,” said Sorrentino. “In real estate they say ‘location, location, location.’ In HR we say ‘documentation, documentation, documentation.’”
Sorrentino makes it her mission to ensure that every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed.
“I educate my clients, I set up their processes and procedures, I make sure they have their labor posters on their wall,” she said.
Sorrentino advises her clients about their rights when it comes to audits. For example, she tells them that only two government agencies can walk in the door and demand something right away—the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Homeland Security.
Sorrentino fields questions from employers such as, “Can I refuse to hire someone who smokes?” (no), “Can I ask someone about their religion?” (no) and “Can I fire someone for trashing my company on Facebook?” (maybe—the NLRB keeps changing the rules).
“You have to have a policy about social media,” said Sorrentino. Employees can’t say they didn’t know it was against the rules if it’s in the handbook and they signed off on it, she explained.
Speaking of the internet, Sorrentino recommends her clients hire an IT employee to monitor internet and email use.
“You can’t monitor everything your employees do every minute of the day,” she explained.
Like everything else in HR, she said, “You want to be proactive, not reactive.”
For more information about HR Practices, visit www.hr-practices.com or call 908-272-1004.