Dee DePass has been a Star Tribune business reporter since 1993, covering small business, financial institutions, manufacturing and, most recently, the economy. Originally from New York, Dee came to Minnesota after earning her master's in journalism at the University of Maryland and her undergraduate degree at Vassar College.

HR guide gives corporations tips on hiring vets

Posted by: Dee DePass under Unemployment, Veterans' issues Updated: April 30, 2012 - 3:45 PM

In the name of eradicating the oxymoronic duo known as "the job skills gap" and "unemployed vet syndrome,"  the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)  issued its "Military-Veteran Hiring Toolkit for Employers" on Monday.

The free toolkit provides 10 tips in 32 pages on ways HR managers can successfully find, recruit, and retain military veterans in the civilian workplace. The brochure is chock full of dandy tips many companies may not be aware of.

A recent SHRM survey of employers who hired returning veterans found 90 percent valued the technical skills the veterans brought to the job and learned their new employees 

  •  Had a strong sense of responsibility.
  •  Worked well in a team and under pressure
  •  Showed a high degree of professionalism.
  •  Worked tasks to completion.
  •  Had strong leadership and problem solving skills.
  •  Were adaptable

 Sadly, much of the above maybe a secret to the corporate world, which is just beginning to thaw from long-held hiring freezes.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:about 12 percent of Gulf War-era II veterans were unemployed, compared to the 5.7 jobless rate in Minnesota.  Veterans ages 18 to 24 suffer a whopping 30.2 percent unemployment rate. That's nearly twice the 16.1 percent rate for non-veterans in that age group.

Determined to narrow the gap, SHRM officials said the toolkit just might help companies do more to support returning veterans. That will be important. Some 33,000 troops will be looking for civilian jobs after they return from Afghanistan between now and September 2012.

Wonder what your HR department might do? Take a look at  . It suggests tax credits,  job fairs, ways to evaluate applicable job skills and general tips for successfully integrating a veteran into the corporate setting.



EEOC issues new guide on how employers should screen job candidates' criminal records

Posted by: Dee DePass under Employment Updated: April 26, 2012 - 3:47 PM


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission did employers a huge favor Wednesday when they freshened guidelines on how companies should use criminal background checks in deciding whether to hire a job candidate.
An EEOC commission voted 4-1 Wednesday to approve the new enforcement guidance. The rules now come with a question and answer sheet and some "best practices" to adopt. Take a peek at
 "The new guidance clarifies and updates the EEOC's longstanding policy concerning the use of arrest and conviction records in employment, which will assist job seekers, employers, and many other agency stakeholders," said EEOC Chairwoman Jacqueline Berrien. 
Turns out, using only an arrest record to disqualify a candidate is NOT all right. Anyone can be arrested for any number of reasons. A conviction? Now that's another matter.
"The fact of an arrest does not establish that criminal conduct has occurred. Arrest records are not probative of criminal conduct," EEOC officials said in the new guidance materials. In contrast, "conviction records are considered reliable evidence that the underlying criminal conduct occurred."
The EEOC's main concern is that a job candidate not be denied employment for some meaningless arrest that happened ages ago and that had nothing to do with the job opening at hand. That is particularly important if the job candidate is a minority. 
In issuing its revised enforcement guidance EEOC officials explained the following:
"There are two ways in which an employer’s use of criminal history information may violate Title VII (“disparate treatment discrimination”). First, Title VII prohibits employers from treating job applicants with the same criminal records differently because of their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Second, even where employers apply criminal record exclusions uniformly, the exclusions may still operate to disproportionately and unjustifiably exclude people of a particular race or national origin (“disparate impact discrimination”). If the employer does not show that such an exclusion is 'job related and consistent with business necessity' for the position in question, the exclusion is unlawful under Title VII."
In short, having too rigid of a screening process may disproportionately affect certain jobseekers decades. Employment attorneys in the Twin Cities said they coach their corporate clients to be on alert.
Say a 30-year-old job candidate is applying for a data entry job at a company that will require no travel. The HR manager at that firm would have a hard time justifying denying the candidate because he was convicted 12 years ago of driving while under the influence of alcohol. The conviction has nothing to do with the job at hand, attorneys said.
 In an effort to clarify how companies should screen potential workers, the EEOC held public meetings, took written comments and answered countless questions. Its new guidance now discusses:
•         How an employer’s use of an individual’s criminal history in making employment decisions could violate the prohibition against employment discrimination under Title VII;
•         Federal court decisions analyzing Title VII as applied to criminal record exclusions;
•         The differences between the treatment of arrest records and conviction records;
•         The applicability of disparate treatment and disparate impact analysis under Title VII;
•         Compliance with other federal laws and/or regulations that restrict and/or prohibit the employment of individuals with certain criminal records; and
•         Best practices for employers.
 The EEOC has made its testimonies and transcripts and other materials from public meetings available at   



Jobless? What's a friend to say?

Posted by: Dee DePass under Unemployment Updated: April 24, 2012 - 6:54 PM

Apparently, even well meaning friends can turn completely stupid when in the proximity of hardship.

Gotta friend who's lost their job? Please, please, please don't say:

"Enjoy your fun-employment!" or

"You're lucky. I hate my job."

These little gems of hoof-in-mouth disease are brought to you this week courtesy of AARP.  

In the name of uncomfortable chatter, AARP has had the grace to come out with a tip sheet to help you through the discomfort of cheering a friend who has been slapped with a pink slip and shown the door.  

AARP's Aaron Crowe wrote a wonderful ditty called  "How to talk to an unemployed friend." 

Turns out people have been saying the wrong thing for so long that we don't even recognize it.

Crowe says certain expressions of sympathy should just be kept to yourself. He offers these as evidence:

"At least you have your health" (Not helpful)

"Everything happens for a reason."  (That one just makes you sound clueless).

"Where one door closes, another one opens"  (Too cliche)

"It's too bad I don't have time to stop by." (Clearly signals your avoidance)

 So what do you say? What should you do?  Try these:

"I'm sorry. How can I help?"  (Same as helping someone in mourning).

"It's on me. This is for your job search."  (A $25 gift card to a coffee shop won't pay the mortgage but can help your friend prep for an interview and get out of the house.). 

Run an errand. Do a chore. Crowe says job hunting is a full time job. So offer to take the kids for a spell, rake leaves, cook a meal.  

Take your friend to lunch, a movie, a museum. (Human contact matters). 

Give your friend a job contact or invite them to a networking event. Networking helps people work. 


 There are still 14 million unemployed Americans and 161,000 jobless Minnesotans. Crowe's advice just may come in handy.


Bullies in the workplace? You bet

Posted by: Dee DePass under Workplace issues Updated: April 19, 2012 - 11:08 AM

Cowering from bullies in the workplace?

Know two things. You're not alone and there are tips to stop the abusive behavior.

Susan Heathfield , human resources author for, reports there is no shortage of bosses who yell at their workers; pick, pick, pick at that one mistake, or constantly undermine or talk over their underlings. She estimates that 54 million Americans admit to being bullied on the job at least once during their careers.

She notes a study conducted by Zogby and the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute that found that about 37 percent of Americans have been bullied on the job, usually by a boss.  According to the study:

  • Bosses made up 72 percent of bullies
  • 60 percent of bullies are men, but 71 percent of those who bully women are women
  • 45 percent of those bullied experienced anxiety, panic attacks, depression or other stress-related health problems
  • Only 3 to 4  percent of victims sue or complain to state authorities

So, what's a worker to do? Heathfield has a few tips:

  • Set limits on what you will tolerate.
  • Describe the behavior of the bully to the bully. Don't editorialize. "You are screaming and swearing at me" 
  • Tell the bully exactly how their behavior impacts your work and hurts the company
  • Tell the person you will not put up with the specific behavior in the future
  • Leave the room. End the phone call. End the meeting. Reschedule the next meeting sans bully

 If nothing changes, seek help:

  • Report the bully to management and human resources.
  • But first document the time,  date, location and witnesses of the behavior.
  • Keep copies of abusive e-mails
  • Ask co-workers to keep a log of the behavior
  • Recognize when it's simply time to change jobs

Ad agency created Twitter job application for summer interns. Hires eight

Posted by: Dee DePass under Twitter Updated: April 17, 2012 - 8:40 AM

Minneapolis ad agency Campbell Mithun used its novel 13-tweet job application to find and recruit 8 summer interns. They were officially hired Friday, April 13.

The unique approach, which debuted last year, netted 380 intern applicants for 2012 from 33 states and 16 countries.
The "interviewing process" required applicants to post 13 tweets about themselves and to demonstrate their digital prowess.

Twenty Campbell Mithun employees evaluated the tweets and narrowed the field of candidates.

“We’re looking for digitally savvy, creative employees,” said Campbell Mithun Human Resource Director Debbie Fischer in a statement. “This process reaches that talent pool and allows them to showcase their smarts, their work, their mastery of social media and, quite frankly, their sense of humor.  It’s quite impressive -- our industry has a very bright future.”
To check out the creative gems, view Campbell Mithun's jazzy video “L13 Tweet Highlights Reel.”  It's on YouTube. Who knew 140 characters could generate so much fun?

Trade deficit narrows slightly in February

Posted by: Dee DePass under Trade Updated: April 12, 2012 - 11:15 AM

U.S. exports in February ticked up while imports slid to help lower the U.S. trade deficit by $6 billion. 

The U.S. Department of Commerce said Thursday that the deficit created between exports and imports of U.S. goods and services fell to $46 billion in February from $52.5 billion in January. 

U.S. manufacturers and other firms exported $181.2 billion worth of goods and services in February, which was up $0.2 billion from the month before. In contrast, imports fell $6.3 billion to $227.2 billion, largely because U.S. companies imported fewer goods from China.

Trade is considered by many to be the new economic engine for both the nation and the state of Minnesota.

Local mayors, the governor, the Minnesota Trade Office and The Brookings Institution are all calling on medium companies here to pursue exporting opportunities. The goal, which mimics a White House initiative, is to double exports by 2017 in and to dramatically increase employment.

Minnesota currently has an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent and still has about 161,000 unemployment people actively looking for work. The national unemployment rate is 8.2 percent.



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