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The Second Wave of Y2K

September 1, 1999
Related Topics: Technology and the Law, Featured Article, Technology
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The second wave will be allegations of regulatory non-compliance: wage-and-hour violations, working conditions (heat, etc.), payroll compliance, wage deductions, etc. Like most of the other aspects of American business life, the HR function has become computer dependent. A survey of systems upon which HR relies, directly or indirectly, is vitally important. For example, HR either directly or through a vendor relies on computer systems for payroll. Linked to that system are computerized deductions for items such as state and federal taxes, FICA, pension contributions, health and life insurance premiums, vacation and sick-leave entitlement, union dues and court-ordered wage garnishments. In addition, some other systems, such as workers' compensation record keeping and status under the FMLA may be linked. Indirectly, HR relies on telephone communications (including voice-mail and paging) and word-processing systems.

Most immediately important is HR's role in creating and meeting the daily cash demands of the business. Employees must be paid; most jurisdictions mandate payment within a specified period. For example, Massachusetts law mandates that employers pay wages and salaries within six days of the end of the workweek during which such moneys are earned. System failure is not a defense to fines and penalties. The specific problems cannot be addressed in a meaningful way unless it has been specifically identified and defined. Job 1 is to determine exactly where the HR function is directly and indirectly dependent on computer systems. Job 2 is to determine whether the failure of each system threatens HR's ability to function normally.

For some period after the Millennium, some everyday aspects of life at work may be affected. Contemporary HR professionals, particularly those accustomed to an office environment, may forget that such mundane things as the number and condition of restrooms. In Massachusetts, for example, restrooms must be well ventilated, well lighted, private, clean, sanitary and supplied with individual towels, hand soap and toilet paper. There are minimum acceptable ratios for the number of employees (by gender) to toilets ... and the consistency of workplace temperature Workplaces must be heated properly from October 15 to May 15 each year. Computer glitches to office systems could, conceivably, generate worker complaints, governmental inspections and resulting penalties and fines. One can never assume that the government will understand one's problems!

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion.

Recent Articles by Lee Stephen MacPhee, Esq.

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