HR Blog

Confessions of a Nerd: HR & Benefits Edition

04/01/2018 | Dee Yingst

True Confession: I am a nerd. A policy wonk. An insurance geek. An HR dork.

I love what I do even when it involves reading such exciting tomes as the Federal Register, assorted guides published by regulatory agencies, and even the always-riveting ERISA regulations.

I even like HR humor. For instance, the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans recently released a Top Ten Ways to Celebrate National Employee Benefits day; as a super-nerd I think it's pretty funny (you can read it here, but fellow nerds be warned: do not drink coffee while reading).

One of the great parts of my job is doing that type of research, presenting it, and helping the recipient understand and apply it (I especially like the 'understand and apply' part).  Sometimes that person is an internal customer and sometimes they're an external customer. Either way, it's really good stuff.

So what do you do if you don't have access to a nerd like me? Well, you could hire a broker with someone like me on staff – for instance I'm part of a larger team here at Pa Chamber Insurance that handles employee benefits and insurance brokering (hence my external customers); you could also choose to put an attorney on retainer, or you could engage the services of a standalone HR consultant.

Another option is to go it alone and do the research yourself.  Not only is that very time-consuming, there are also risks to that approach – you have to be careful about who you believe. We've all heard the warnings about consulting with 'Dr. Google' on our symptoms and those warnings apply here too.  A good search engine can help point you in the right direction, but it will also give you a massive amount of information. Its job is to simply present the available information – not make promises on the accuracy of that information.

So where can an eager seeker of HR knowledge find reliable results? Here are a few sites I like for reliable, everyday information:

  • Need help with the relationship of religion to your dress code? The EEOC can help with that.
  • Need help understanding COBRA? The DOL can help you as an employer or as an employee.
  • Want to better understand FMLA? There's a guide for that too, whether you're the employee or the employer.
  • Not sure which federal posters to display? You can either read the full list, or use the elaws Poster Advisor for a step-by-step guide to help you understand what you need.

So what happens when the question is too complex and you just can't find exactly what you're looking for? That's when it's time to turn to legal counsel. I cannot stress enough the importance of having access to a really good employment attorney.  You might only think to contact an attorney for the icky stuff, but you should also be able to ask him/her other questions too. The idea is to make sure the relatively mundane doesn't spiral and become the icky stuff. Remember, no matter how comprehensive the search engine is, it's still not a substitute for the advice of a good attorney.

There are certainly lots of other great sites that are really very good resources. I have dozens of sites bookmarked and file after file of guides and other documents that I refer to and happily share with other information seekers.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to my book - I'm getting to the really good part and I want to see how the story ends. Ok, so it's really the owner's manual for my car – that counts as a book right??

Happy Reading!