Human resources (HR) is a set of people in an organization who are responsible for a variety of functions. These include:
- Overseeing various aspects of employment.
- Complying with labor law and employment standards.
- Administering worker benefits.
- Maintaining employee files with the required documents.
- Guiding some aspects of recruitment and hiring.
Counties may not have a specific HR department, and these duties may be dispersed among several people or departments, such as the treasurer and the auditor. County HR is not a decision-maker. Its role is to understand policy and practices to keep the county fair, consistent and compliant across all departments. It is important for HR to create a culture of trust and confidence with all employees and elected officials.
Staffing is a large component of HR and involves:
- Posting jobs.
- Assisting with interviews to ensure compliance.
- Processing applicants before they are hired by completing background checks, drug tests, physicals and driving record assessments.
- Handling all new employee paperwork, including required forms such as I-9, W-4, Public Information Act (PIA) release, workers’ compensation agreement, health and retirement forms, and policy acknowledgement forms.
The staffing function also involves maintaining job descriptions, which are valuable for hiring, Family and Medical Leave, job accommodations and workers’ compensation. Job descriptions are the most important document to have for an employee.
Processing and maintaining employee benefits, such as medical, dental, vision, life, short-term disability and long-term disability insurance, as well as employee assistance programs and retirement, are also components of HR. This involves the enrollment of employees, the processing of claims and the payment of all benefits.
Payroll, which is the process of compensating employees, is the most important component of HR. Payroll functions include processing and maintaining time sheets, leave balances, longevity, service awards and compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). FLSA establishes overtime pay requirements, including exemption classifications, sets the minimum wage, sets record-keeping requirements, restricts child labor and provides breaks for nursing mothers.
The training and development component of HR is fundamental for all employees, but especially for supervisors. They need to know the laws they have to follow and understand their liability. The county is liable for the actions of all supervisors, including elected officials. They need to understand documentation and the importance of the laws to be able to handle unemployment guidelines, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules, and lawsuits. Training new employees as they are hired helps change an organization's culture. Compliance with employment laws is required, and the county must know and understand federal and state laws, including the following:
- Title VII, Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- Family and Medical Leave Act
- Military family leave
- Americans With Disability Act Amendments Act
- Texas Workers’ Compensation Act
- Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act
- Equal Pay Act
- Pregnancy Discrimination Act
- Texas Whistleblower Act
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Texas Unemployment Compensation Act
County policies are critical to establish fair and consistent procedures throughout all departments. They should be reviewed often, updated as laws and procedures change, and be checked to ensure practice always matches written policy. In county government, the commissioners court is responsible for adopting all personnel policies. However, HR should be proactive in writing and presenting policies to the commissioners court so they may become county policy. To ensure compliance with county policies, it is important to build and maintain a great working relationship with all elected officials.
Finally, risk management is also an important component of HR. Risk management involves maintaining coverage documents and processing renewals and claims. Lines of coverage offered by the TAC Risk Management Pool include Workers’ Compensation, Unemployment, Property, Auto Liability, General Liability, Public Officials Liability and Law Enforcement Liability.
It is important to understand the roles and responsibilities of HR. If your county doesn’t have a centralized HR department, it is imperative that employees know who in the county is responsible for each function and where they need to go for their HR needs. HR should be a resource to educate and motivate employees and should create a culture of trust and confidence.