The Differences between Compliance Officers and the HR Department
The HR department of any organization has a crucial role to play in ensuring compliance, and company compliance officers have the important responsibility of ensuring that the human resources department complies with internal and external laws and regulations. They coordinate with HR officials to come up solutions for with HR related compliance issues.
Procedures and policies created within the company have to be in accord with state and federal laws. For the HR department to be on the right side of state and federal laws, it is important that individual and group compliance norms be met.
A compliance officer’s work is simplified if the HR department is staffed by the right kind of people for jobs that include employee benefits, legal matters, recruitment, compliance liaison, and employee relations. Training the staff in related laws and keeping them abreast of changes in laws is important. It is the responsibility of compliance officers to institute HR-compliance checks to ensure that the company’s policies are being implemented and external laws are being followed. Such audits can be the difference between smooth compliance, and an expensive and reputation-damaging legal case.
Compliance officers are also expected to identify areas of compliance risk within the HR department and either put in place or suggest a remedial plan so that the risks are nullified. They should institute disciplinary programs to tackle cases of employee misconduct. There should be a process of internal reporting and a system for following up on whistleblower complaints.
One of the most important jobs that compliance officers do in partnership with the HR department is to ensure that the messages regarding compliance reach all members of an organization.
Chiefly, the HR department and compliance officers have to ensure compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, Federal Civil Rights laws, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Uniform Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act.
Social media policy compliance is one of the newer compliance issues that the HR department has to pay attention to. A sound social media policy promotes transparent communication online without compromising sensitive information. It should not be vague and too open to interpretation because this can be used against employees.
I-9 compliance, related to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is among the top HR compliance issues that compliance officers have to keep an eye out for. Even if a company does not employ unauthorized aliens, it can incur financial penalties for technical violations. In 2010, Abercrombie and Fitch paid $1.04 million in fines for wrong data entered in the company’s electronic I-9 verification system. This is among the highest fines ever paid for a technical violation.
With respect to HR compliance, the biggest drain to a company’s bottom line often results from employee fraud. Examples of employee fraud include phantom employees being added to the payroll or maintaining an employee’s name on the payroll even after the employee’s death; misuse of company credit cards; and employees teaming with vendors to defraud the company.
Full compliance within the HR department, and the organization as a whole, can only be maintained by the synergistic working of the compliance, legal, auditing, and HR departments.