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March 27, 2011

Managing recovery-related risk, Wal-Mart suit, cool news tool & other news notes

A downside to recovery - greater risk - While an economic recovery means mostly good things, there's a downside that managers need to be aware of so that risk management strategies can be buttoned down. Caroline McDonald of PropertyCasualty360 discusses a new report from Advisen, "Managing Risk through the Economic Recovery". Some of the identified areas of vulnerability include increased workers comp claims ("greener," less trained workers have more injuries), a rise in lawsuits, and a greater likelihood for labor law violation charges. The report and the article suggest steps that companies and their brokers can take to mitigate and manage this increased exposure.

Hiring - In light of the above, it makes sense to tighten up your hiring practices, and there are good economic reasons for doing so, too. According to Top Grading by Dr. Bradford Smart, the average cost for a bad hire, earning between $50,000 and $100,000, is $80,000. Employee Benefit News offers a slide show of 10 Tips to Hiring Right the First Time.

Legal - The Wal-Mart sex bias case is heading for Supreme Court. At issue is whether a single job-bias lawsuit against Wal-Mart can proceed as a nationwide class-action claim. According to the LA Times:

"The court's ruling could be the most far-reaching decision on job bias in more than a decade, according to experts on both sides. A win for Seligman's clients could open the door for the broader use of statistics to prove job discrimination — and not just on behalf of women, but also for minorities or persons with disabilities. However, a win for Wal-Mart could deal a death blow to nationwide job-bias suits by ruling that employees who work in different stores and hold different jobs do not have enough in common to be a class.

Bear-ly legal - Last week, the Montana Supreme Court made news by granting workers comp benefits to a pot-smoking employee who was mauled by a grizzly bear. At Workers Comp Insider, Jon Coppelman discusses various factors that the judges had to consider in reviewing this case in his June posting Blowing Smoke in Montana. There were numerous issues involved: when are volunteers not really volunteers and how far do management responsibilities extend.

Tracking healthcare reform - Confused about all the changes in healthcare, particularly in states where you have employees? Check out this State Legislative Tracking Database brought to you by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Search by state, topic, keyword, status, and/or primary sponsor. Database updates occur every other Tuesday. You can find other information about healthcare reform implementation.

Hard lessons of history - This month marked the 100 year anniversary of New York's horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, an event that claimed the lives of 146 garment workers - young girls and women - who had been locked in the sweatshop to prevent theft. Most died in stairwells, jumping down the single elevator shaft, or by hurtling themselves from 9th story windows in desperate attempts to escape the fire. PBS recently ran a special on this disaster. (If you missed it, you can watch online: Triangle Fire). The Triangle Shirtwaist fire was instrumental in ushering in new workplace safety measures, as well as crystallizing national sentiment for a workers compensation plan. At Today's Workplace, Richard Greenwald looks at lessons learned and unlearned.

Cool news tool and archive 10x10 is a pictorial view of the day's biggest stories - or you can also search on any given day or any given hour back to 2004. Here's how the developers describe the process: "Every hour, 10x10 scans the RSS feeds of several leading international news sources, and performs an elaborate process of weighted linguistic analysis on the text contained in their top news stories. After this process, conclusions are automatically drawn about the hour's most important words. The top 100 words are chosen, along with 100 corresponding images, culled from the source news stories. At the end of each day, month, and year, 10x10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input."

By the Numbers

March 24, 2011

Tips from an Expert: Warning Signs of Workplace Violence

Workplace violence is a recurring issue, and one that is of great concern to the employers we work with. We've talked about it many time here on the blog, offering everything from resources and tools to strategies for prevention. We're always on the lookout for more information and more tools.

An article about the Warning Signs of Workplace Violence by Rich Cordivari caught our eye. As a senior executive at AlliedBarton Security Services, he is an expert on the topic. He kindly allowed us permission to reprint his article here. He notes that while many of these signs alone are not necessarily indicative of future violence, they are red flags. And we note that we would view many of these signs as being triggers that should generate an EAP referral.

The Warning Signs of Workplace Violence

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics more than two million Americans are impacted by workplace violence annually. There are behavior indicators often exhibited in the workplace that have been linked to workplace violence situations. According to a 2004 USA Today analysis of 224 instances of fatal workplace violence situations, the attacker had left behind clear warning signs.
Workplace violence is attributed to a broad range of behaviors falling along a spectrum that, due to their nature and/or severity, significantly affect the workplace, generate a concern for personal safety and can result in physical injury or even death.

While every situation and set of circumstances is unique, there are some warning signs that are commonly exhibited by individuals in need of assistance. If you are feeling uncomfortable in any situation with a co-worker, or noticing these warning signs, you should notify a manager or someone in a position of authority within your organization.

Remember that just because someone exhibits one of these behaviors does not necessarily mean they are prone to display an act of violence. It is when someone has a noticeable change in behavior, if these behaviors are observed in combination or if the behavior is displayed constantly that you should consider telling someone about the situation.

  • Excessive tardiness or absences – An employee who consistently leaves their workday early without authorization, or presents numerous excuses for shortening the work day, should set off an alarm. This is a significant sign if an individual is typically prompt and committed to a full work day.
  • Increased need for supervision – Generally, an employee requires less supervision as he or she becomes more proficient at their work. An employee who exhibits an increased need for supervision, or with whom the supervisor must spend an inordinate amount of time, may be an individual who is signaling a need for help. Managers should be alert to such a change and consider offering professional intervention if needed.
  • Lack of performance – If an employee who is normally efficient and productive experiences a sudden or sustained drop in performance, there is reason for concern. This is actually a classic warning sign of dissatisfaction and the manager should meet with the employee immediately to determine a mutually beneficial course of action.
  • Change in work habits – As in the case of reduced productivity, an employee exhibiting inconsistent work habits may be in need of intervention. If you think about your peers at work, they are typically quite consistent in their work habits. If habits change, the manager has reason to suspect the individual is in need of assistance and action should be taken.
  • Inability to concentrate – If an employee is suddenly unable to concentrate, this may indicate that they are distracted and in trouble. A manager should be notified to try and encourage the employee to seek assistance.
  • Signs of stress – If an employee who has traditionally adhered to safety procedures is suddenly involved in accidents or safety violations, stress, a significant contributor to workplace violence, may be indicated.
  • Change in attitude – A sustained change in behavior is often an indication of an employee in difficulty. People are typically quite familiar with the personalities of their peers and are often quick to notice significant changes. Your work environment should be managed in such a way as to ensure trust and open communication.
  • Weapons fascination – A classic behavioral warning sign is someone who is fascinated with weapons. This should be easily recognized and reported.
  • Drugs and Alcohol – Watch for changes in the person’s mood or character when drugs and alcohol are used. Often people who have substance abuse problems act out in the workplace and it’s important that every organization have some methodology in place to identify and assist victims of drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Not taking responsibility for their actions – A person who uses excuses and blames others is a classic behavioral warning sign that is easy to identify but just as often ignored by managers. A worker who engages in this behavior is typically signaling for assistance and may require counseling.

Remember that these are only a few of the possible warning signs of workplace violence. As with any work related issue, you should report unusual behavior to a manager or someone who has the authority to take action.
For more information on Workplace Violence Awareness, visit www.AlliedBarton.com/WorkplaceViolence.

About the author: Rich Cordivari is the Vice President of Learning & Development at AlliedBarton Security Services. AlliedBarton is the industry’s premier provider of highly trained security personnel to many industries including higher education, commercial real estate, healthcare, residential communities, chemical/petrochemical, government, manufacturing and distribution, financial institutions, and shopping centers.

March 20, 2011

The link between childhood trauma and adult health

There's an excellent article in this week's New Yorker about Nadine Burke and her work at the Bayview Child Health Center. The article focuses on the connection between childhood trauma and adult health problems and cites the ACE Study. (See the article abstract here, full access requires a subscription.)

The ACE Study (Adverse Childhood Experience) describes itself as "Bridging the gap between childhood trauma and negative consequences later in life" and is the "... largest scientific research study of its kind, analyzing the relationship between multiple categories of childhood trauma (ACEs), and health and behavioral outcomes later in life." It is an ongoing collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente.

The study encompassed more than 17,000 adults and assessed multiple categories of stressful or traumatic childhood experiences:

  • Recurrent physical abuse
  • Recurrent emotional abuse
  • Contact sexual abuse
  • An alcohol and/or drug abuser in the household
  • An incarcerated household member
  • Someone who is chronically depressed,mentally ill, institutionalized, or suicidal
  • Mother is treated violently
  • One or no parents
  • Emotional or physical neglect

More than half of the participants reported at least one type of adverse experience, about 25% reported two, and more than 10% reported 5 or more. ACEs tend to occur in clusters, rather than single experiences.

Researches developed a simple questionnaire that captured an "ACE Score," which demonstrated a
strong, graded relationship to health, social, and behavioral problems over the course of the person's life. Among other things, ACEs show a strong influence on mental health, the risk of re-victimization, the stability of relationships, and performance in the workforce. ACES also often indicate an increased rate serious adult health issues: heart disease, chronic lung disease, liver disease, suicide, HIV and STDs, and other risks. In a 5-minute CDC podcast entitled Bad Memories, Dr. Valerie Edwards discusses the lingering effects of adverse childhood experiences.

According to researchers, this demands an "...integrated approach to intervene early on children growing up being abused, neglected, witnessing domestic violence, or with substance abusing, mentally ill, or criminal household members. All of these childhood stressors are interrelated and usually co-occur in these homes. Prevention and treatment of one ACE frequently can mean that similar efforts are needed to treat multiple persons in affected families."

The integrated approach is one that employers should heed with their employees, as well. It underscores the imperative that any serious wellness program must include a strong behavioral and mental health component since many serious health conditions may be rooted in or exacerbated by ACEs.

The Centers for Disease Control offers much more information about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, including a list of related publications.

March 19, 2011

The Happiness Model

Can you base a business model on happiness? Yes, according to successful CEO Chip Conley. Conley has written three books, including his most recent, PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow, and is at work on two new ones, Emotional Equations and PEAK Leadership. He consults widely on transformative enterprises, corporate social responsibility and creative business development. He traveled to Bhutan last year to study its Gross National Happiness index, the country's unique method of measuring success and its citizens' quality of life.

March 13, 2011

Resources for Japan's earthquake & tsunami; tools for for explaining disasters to kids

Our hearts go out to the folks in Japan. You may have employees who are concerned about relatives or friends who are living, studying, or traveling in Japan. We've put together some resources that you might share with your work force.

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Resources
Google Person Finder: 2011 Japan Earthquake - available in English & other languages

Restoring Family Links - maintained by the International Red Cross in cooperation with the Japanese Red Cross and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Google Crisis Response - 2011 Japanese Earthquake & Tsunami - News, media, maps, and other resources from Google.

Translate Japanese text to English

U.S. State Department: Japan Earthquake & Pacific Tsunami

Sending money to U.S. citizens overseas

Ambassador John V. Roos Twitter feed - U.S. Ambassador to Japan has been posting updates.

Japan earthquake live report - Local news and emergency information for those in Japan

Some perspective on the Japanese earthquake - a no-nonsense primer on geography, what happened, and the aftermath.

Interactive before and after photos - Move the slider to compare satellite images, taken by GeoEye, from before and after the disaster.

How you can help
Tips for Giving to Earthquake Relief Efforts in Japan - follow these tips to avoid the scams that inevitably crop up after a disaster

Red Cross - Responding to Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami. People can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to help those affected by the earthquake in Japan and tsunami throughout the Pacific.

Japan Earthquake: How you can help

Charity Navigator

Talking with kids about disasters
Even if you don't know anyone in Japan, there may be someone right in your own home who is having trouble coping with this disaster: your kids.

Graphic and dramatic images repeated on the news or talked about at school can be upsetting to adults, but even more so to kids who may not have the life experience to put things in perspective. This can lead to anxiety or fear about many of the things being discussed: natural disasters, radiation leaks, disruption, loss, and death. We've put together a few resources for parents and teachers to help discuss these things with kids.

Talking with kids about world natural disasters

Talking with Kids about Tough Issues: TV News and Accidents & Disasters

8 Steps To Explain Disasters to Children

Helping children cope with disaster

Explaining death to children

KidsHealth: Anxiety, fears, and phobias

March 8, 2011

A focus on women in the workplace - now and then

This year marks the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, and today is the start of a series of commemorative global events that will continue through the month. The UN Has identified this year's theme as: Equal access to education, training and science and technology."

The Division of Labor has issued a special statistical focus on Women At Work. It encompasses a lot of interesting data about working women - here are a few highlights:

  • In 2009, 59 percent of working-age women in the United States were in the labor force. This percentage has increased from 43 percent four decades ago.
  • By 2010, nearly 65 million women had jobs, and 53 percent of these women worked in the three industries that employed the most women: education and health services; trade, transportation, and utilities; and local government.
  • The ratio of women's to men's earnings, for all occupations, was 81.2% in 2010. The ratio varies by occupation. In occupations such as personal financial advisors, retail salespersons, insurance sales agents, and lawyers, for example, the earnings ratios are lower than the overall ratio of women’s to men’s earnings. In occupations such as stock clerks and order fillers, bill and account collectors, and combined food preparation and serving workers, women earn more than men.

We thought it might be fun to take a look back and found a few clips that give an idea of just how far women have come over the last generation or two. If you are at or around boomer age, these clips may not be totally surprising, but they should be pretty mind blowing for anyone of younger generation! (Ladies, go home and thank your Moms and Aunts for paving the way to a more egalitarian landscape.)

The first clip is a training film from 1944 entitled "Supervising Women Workers" - obviously a special challenge!

In "The Trouble With Women," a clip from 1959, we see that a decade and a half didn't do much to enlighten male supervisors about how to deal with female workers.

March 5, 2011

The high cost of caregiving: what employers can do

If you have caregivers in your organization - and there is no doubt but that you do - they are costing your organization an 8% differential in healthcare costs per year over noncaregivers, according to a
study on caregivers conducted by Metlife and the National Alliance for Caregiving. The study also found that "younger caregivers (ages 18 to 39) cost their employers 11% more for health care than non-caregivers, while male caregivers cost an additional 18%. It also found that eldercare may be closely associated with high-risk behaviors like smoking and alcohol consumption. Exacerbating the potential impact to employers is the possibility that these medical conditions may also lead to disability-related absences."

The study encompassed more than 17,000 U.S. employees of a major multi-national manufacturing corporation. Nearly 12% of the participants reported caregiving responsibilities for an elderly person. And contrary to conventional thinking that this is an issue for older workers, younger populations such as employees in the 18-39 group are increasingly assuming caregiver responsibilities.

Caregivers face a number of life stressors that take a toll on their health - and their work performance. Caring.com addresses 5 of the biggest issues that sabotage family caregivers:

  • Lack of privacy - establishing boundaries and relief from 24/7 responsibilities.
  • Sleep deprivation - imperils the caregiver's mental and physical health.
  • Lone-soldier syndrome - failure to have emotional outlets can exacerbate stress.
  • Unpredictability - makes it difficult to make contingency plans.
  • Overwhelming tasks - sometimes the enormity of care demands necessitate nursing home placement, a wrenching decision.

What can employers do?

One of the single biggest things an employer can do is to address the issue and to make resources and support available to caregiving employees. This can be done through the Human Resources department, through a wellness program, or through an EAP, or by bringing an outside agency in to offer seminars and support.

One simple thing an employer can do is to compile and share a list of caregiving resources, both those available locally and online. Recent reports show that a high number of caregivers turn to online resources for peer-to-peer help, both with their own health issues and the health issues of loved ones that they have caregiver responsibilities for. Peer-to-peer programs can go a long way to diminishing the feeling of being alone and can help the caregiver to find and share practical support resources. We've compiled a list of online caregiver resources that might be helpful to your caregiving employees - feel free to share this page within your organization.

For additional ways that employers can support the caregivers in their workplace, here are some resources:

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