Christine Crews says businesses leave themselves vulnerable when they fail to accurately store critical employee data -- which could even be needed to protect the company against a possible lawsuit.
ORLANDO – Data, in dictionary lingo, is defined as “qualitative or quantitative attributes of a viable or set of variables,” according to Wikipedia – but it could also be defined more simply today as the lifeblood of most companies.
“We are currently a society that expects information to be delivered to them instantly,” said Christine Crews. Businesses are also required to store a growing amount of data, and to make it readily available – to employees, state, local and federal government, federal agencies, even courts. Maintaining that data can be an awesome task. Any firm that seeks outside help on this is probably taking a smart move.
Crews is the vice president of human resource services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc., a Longwood-based non-profit corporate membership-based association, currently serving nearly 1,500 business and human resouce professionals in 24 states. One of its tasks is helping companies abide by state and federal employment laws – which, again, can require a huge amount of data collecting.
“Companies are obligated to maintain information on hours worked, overtime, money paid to employees,” Crews said. “That obligation is for three years.”
For some firms, compiling this information is about more than just meeting government requirements. This information can also be critical if the firm finds itself facing a potential lawsuit.
“They have to be able to access that information if they are sued,” Crews said. “Any time a paycheck has been issued on a discriminatory basis, the statute of limitations kicks in again. Under Florida unemployment guidelines, you have to maintain those records for five years. Those are some of the standards just for maintaining your history.”
Without this critical data on hand, companies are a lot more vulnerable to legal challenges, she said.
“If the judge rules I paid my employee improperly, it’s automatically double damages to the employee,” Crews said. “Most of these cases will settle out of court because the attorneys fees are so high.”
These challenges are particularly problematic for human resource departments, said Brek Dalrymple, who runs The Brek Group Inc., which provides specialized HR operational performance improvement services and expertise to companies throughout the U.S. It often falls on HR departments to handle this information overload, he said.
“HR in a perfect world should be like the CEOs of the company, and able to say ‘Here’s how you make this business successful,’ “ Dalrymple said. “But there is no way they can possibly know everything. There’s too many employees.”
Brek Dalrymple says human resource departments are often undervalued by businesses.

“We have the resources tro help them get there,” said Rita Manny, EAF’s president. She added that a highly effective human resource department also helps the company promote its image, message, effectiveness, and sales strategy.
“You should be communicating the value of your company,” Manny said. “If you don’t communicate the value, the costs are so high now.”
Helping companies maintain and store data is a critical part of any HR department’s mission, Crews said. Failing to do this can be costly.
“Let’s say you change your payroll processor on January 1,” she said. “Then you have someone who comes to you in March and says ‘I lost my W2 (form).’ How are you going to get that W2 to them without the data? If I realize that someone’s W2 form is just plain incorrect, will ADP (Payroll Processing/HR Service) run it again if I switch providers? I have to be able to access that data from a year ago. It’s a big issue to not have that historical data. HR should not be living in a vaccum.”
That’s one reason why EAF is taking part in the HR Florida Expo Conference on Aug. 29 at the Rosen Center in Orlando, to meet with other HR professionals and talk with them about their data, information-gathering and records storing needs. It also helps demonstrate the important role that human resources departments play for any growing company, Dalrymple said.
“I think it helps HR people justify their existance,” Dalrymple said of the current trend toward electronic data storing, and how complex this field has become.
“There is a lot of perception in companies,” he said, “that HR is where you send people to die. They’re wrong.’

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