Partnering for Meaningful Employment

Let me tell you a story. As many cousins go, my first cousin, Michael and I had fun together. I was in college, taking science classes and Michael, who was only a year younger, had a reading level of less than kindergarten. He was in his twenties, and although he could not articulate it, I could tell he was frustrated with his life. He had no relationships outside of his family and dependent on family for the smallest purchases like chocolate or soda. One day, I came to visit and learned that he had a job – sorting hangers 3-4 hours a day. I had never seen him so happy. Finally, he was socializing, he was earning income, and was able to purchase his favorite album Michael Jackson’s Thriller. We teased him about his new girlfriend and sometimes joked about borrowing money from him. He was now just a regular person, with friends, with a job and could spend his own money to purchase Michael Jackson albums.

This story is important because too often, we think about persons with disabilities as “unemployable.” Businesses worry about the liability involved in hiring persons with disabilities. They are no more of a liability to a business as a “normal” person. A normal person will still have accidents; a normal person will make mistakes; a normal person may not be a right fit for the job. But given the right tools and accommodation, a person with disabilities can be a great employee. Often, they are so grateful to have a job; they become your star employee.

The key to any successful employment is knowing the person’s capabilities and finding the right fit, in the right job. For example, a person with a learning disability but smiling personality might be the perfect greeter at a national retail store or be the most helpful bagger at the local grocery. Another might wipe utensils for two hours before the evening crowd arrives at a restaurant. One fulltime position might be filled by three or four different employees with disabilities.

A survey from Guam Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistic website show that Guam’s unemployment rate as of June 2017 was 4.5%. This same survey showed that 48,540 of our approximate 167,400 population (CIA Worldfact, 2018) are not in the labor force. Of the 48,500 individuals, 5,510 wanted a job but did not look for one. Approximately 4000 H2B temporary workers are approved to work in the Guam military buildup project. Translation: about, one-third of our population are not working, and we have enough people wanting jobs, if given proper training and tools, can work in those 4,000 approved H2B jobs. Of course, it is unrealistic to think that all 5,500 individuals can fill those 4,000 H2B jobs. The military buildup will not happen overnight, nor will it end next year. Guam will likely need to hire H2B workers over a period of several years. But we need to be preparing those 5,500 potential employees through job training now. We need to get our people with disabilities into meaningful jobs and contribute to our economy. And let’s not forget, companies with Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) contracts may be required to hire or make a good faith effort to recruit women in non-traditional jobs, veterans, and individuals with disabilities.

The Guam Community College (GCC), Department of Integrated Services for Individuals with Disabilities/Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DISID/DVR) are partnering with Pacific Human Resource Services (PHRS) in hosting a job fair for GCC’s graduating students, who incidentally, have disabilities. GCC is opening its facility to host the job fair, DISID/DVR has federal grants slated to help fund vocational experience or skills training in the workplace and eventual permanent employment for these students. PHRS, with its connection with businesses, match employers with potential employees. This event will occur on April 20 at GCC, Building 400 from 8:30am – 1:00pm.

The idea of public-private partnerships is not new. There are several public-private partnerships (PPP) already established on Guam. For example, Guam Power Authority, a government entity, partners with a private company to maintain and operate the power plants on Guam. The Guam Visitors Bureau partners with the hotel and food & beverage businesses to promote Guam’s tourism industry. The public-private partnership among GCC, DISID/DVR and private companies can help stimulate the economy by getting more people into the workforce.
And by the way, Michael, was not a liability. He was a good employee.

Originally printed in the April 16, 2018 issue of the Marianas Business Journal

Grace Donaldson is the COO/General Manager of Pacific Human Resource Services, providing training, HR consulting, recruitment and staffing, and drug testing services. PHRS may be contacted by phone: 671-637-6906 or email: or visit its website:

New Overtime Rule Blocked. So What Now?

The new overtime rule for exempt (salaried) employees was scheduled for implementation on December 1, 2016.  This rule would have required employers to pay time and a half to their exempt employees who worked more than 40 hours a week and earned less than $47,476 a year.  A federal judge recently blocked the rule that would have extended overtime eligibility to some 4 million Americans.  U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant III issued a preliminary injunction, siding with plaintiffs who said the new overtime rules would have made it mandatory to pay millions in additional salaries and would have eventually led to layoffs.

The Obama administration challenged the federal judge’s decision, filing a notice of appeal at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District.

So, what now?  At this time, employers need not implement changes by the December 1 deadlines.  When implementing any change, consider the level of disruption for the workplace.
1)    If you have not implemented the rate change, consider postponing the change.
2)    If you have already raised the salaries of your exempt employees, you may want to keep those salaries in place.

Look out for updates on the overtime rule injunction by visiting our website at

Grace Donaldson is the COO/General Manager of Pacific Human Resource Services, providing training, HR consulting, recruitment and staffing, and drug testing services.   PHRS may be contacted by phone: 671-637-6906 or email: or visit its website:

HR Department – a Savings Department?

Most will think of the HR department as an Expense Department rather than a Savings Department.  HR professionals do much more than administrative work, although there is a lot of that.  The HR profession is about being a business partner, strategizing and helping the company grow. HR profession is about protecting the interests of the enterprise by creating policies that help its employees grow.  The most successful HR executives I know have created policies that reduced turnover, reduced payroll cost and added to the bottom line while creating a positive work environment.

One way a few of my HR colleagues have become strategic business partners is through the development of the Apprenticeship Program.   The US Department of Labor created this program to increase the level of competencies within the workplace.  In Guam, there is the additional benefit of taking a tax credit against the Gross Receipt Tax (GRT).  When an employee registers in the Guam Registered Apprenticeship Program (GRAP), the employer can take 50% of the employee’s wages as a credit against its GRT.  The more employees under GRAP, the more savings businesses can receive.  One company on Guam saved over a million dollars in GRT by enrolling over 50 employees in its Apprenticeship program.  PHRS received almost $30,000 in tax credit just by having one apprentice.  Whether the company has only one or over fifty, companies benefit in two ways: 1) tax savings and 2) increased workforce skills.  Do want to convert your HR Department to a Savings Department?  If yes – consider enrolling your employees in GRAP.

For more information about the GRAP program, contact

New overtime rules for exempt employees present options

New overtime rules for exempt employees present options

Dating in the Workplace

The Wall Street Journal in March 2014 quoted in a study that about 10% of Americans who met their spouses between 2005 and 2009, met through co-workers. A Google Consumer Survey, of those between 18 – 34 year olds, found that 17.9% met their spouse at work, and 39.6% started their relationship platonically.

Individuals who work closely together may start out as friendly coworkers, but can end up being lovers. How does sexual harassment factor into this scenario? A sexual harassment claim can impact a company’s bottom line. How does a company protect itself from claims of harassment?

First, let’s define sexual harassment. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) states that sexual harassment is unlawful. It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person’s gender. It is unlawful if sexual advances, requests for sexual favors are unwelcome. Verbal or physical harassment is unlawful sexual harassment if harassment is sexual in nature. Harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severed that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as victim is forced to resign).

Sexual relationship between consenting adults who work together is not sexual harassment. It becomes a sexual harassment issue when the relationship ends and one insists on continuing the relationship. It becomes sexual harassment if the other party is forced to resign as a result of the repeated calls or repeated demands for continuation of the relationship. It becomes sexual harassment when someone’s behavior towards a former partner becomes unacceptable to the other. Employers often take one of three steps 1.) ignore the relationship and hope no one claims sexual harassment; 2.) adopt a “no dating” policy although this simply drives the employees to hide the relationship; or 3.) adopt a policy that acknowledges that people will fall in love, or lust, with people they work with regardless of company policy.

How does the employer prevent the relationship from becoming problematic? The employer should take proactive step by creating a policy that 1.) defines sexual harassment and includes the statement that sexual harassment in the workplace will not be tolerated; 2.) have both parties acknowledge the relationship; 3.) both parties acknowledge that they entered into the relationship voluntarily and not one borne of sexual harassment or pressure; 4.) the company may, at any time transfer, reassign responsibilities or terminate one or both employees if the relationship impacts the workplace; 5.) they must maintain a professional relationship and public display of affection during work hours or other behavior that may be construed by others as hostile, intimidating or offensive work environment is not allowed; 6.) acknowledge a relationship with individuals who do not work for the company but may do business with the company as a consultant or vendor or in any way representing the company; 7.) they will not participate in any company processes that affect the other’s pay, advancement or performance reviews or career; and 8.) should the relationship end or advances are no longer welcome, they will respect the other person’s decision and not engage in a behavior that will violate the workplace policy against sexual harassment.

Grace Donaldson is the COO/General Manager of Pacific Human Resource Services, providing training, HR consulting, recruitment and staffing, and drug testing services.   PHRS may be contacted by phone: 671-637-6906 or email: or visit its website:

You can’t be judgemental

I am working with a client, I’ll call David, who has been diagnosed with autism. As a trainer, I was very concerned that he was beyond learning. As an employer, I was concerned that he would not fit in or be able to work with the different personalities in our office. I am happy to report that David is working out well.

When a typical person thinks of autism, including me, they might think about the movie, Rain Man, starring Dustin Hoffman. His character, Raymond, was autistic. He had quirky behavior, did not communicate, but had a great memory for numbers. So much so that he was able to help his “normal” brother, Charlie, win the bets at Las Vegas.   It was my one and only exposure to autism and resulted in my preconceived ideas about autism. Those preconceived ideas were that autistic individuals cannot communicate, are untrainable and therefore, would be difficult to place in jobs.

David’s mother, Jane, brought David to our office, hoping we can help find him a job. My preconceived ideas kicked in. How was I going to help him find a job if he cannot work? Fortunately, the creative juices kicked in.   I had to learn more about David, and how to work around his disability. In the few weeks I have worked with him, I realized that David is a pretty typical young man, but with quirks.

Initially, his behavior validated my biases. But over time, David began to communicate. He greeted us in the morning, and said goodbye in the evening. Then he started participating in our conversations, including participating in philosophical discussions. And on occasion, has initiated the conversation.

He does have his “autistic behavior,” which I now call quirks.   His quirks include pacing back and forth when stressed (which is actually very good for relieving anyone’s stress), he occasionally speaks to himself or suddenly laughs out loud (sounds like my husband) and sometimes his voice gets loud (who does not know anyone who does not speak too loudly sometimes).

But he also completes tasks given him. He is very good with repetitive work and does them neatly. He does not complain about work given him. Occasionally, he thinks that the work given him is useless work, but he does them anyway because we told him.   Unfortunately, he never learned to read yet, with some assistance on spelling, he was able to type his resume. He knows his way around a computer. He takes mass transit to go home and he calls them when the bus fails to pick him up. He is taking a class to learn a trade.

We have another client, who also has autism, who functions at a much higher level. And yet, I find this person a more difficult case because of his attitude.

I have learned that autism is expressed differently based on the person’s personality and upbringing. David has taught me many things. One of the most important lessons I learned working with David is not to judge a person based on preconceived biases regarding disabilities. Equal Employment Opportunity rules as it applies to disabilities is valid – base employment decisions on abilities and knowledge, not on the individual’s disability. I was wrong about David. David can work.   Someone just needs to give him the opportunity.

If you are interested in working with David, please call our office at 637-6906.

Grace Donaldson is the general manager of Pacific Human Resources Services, Inc. She can be reached at or 637-6906