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February 27, 2012

Wellness focus for March: National Workplace Blindness Prevention

Did you know that March 2012 is National Prevent Blindness in the Workplace Month as well as Save Your Vision month? Since vision disorders account for $8.03 billion in lost productivity each year, screening and prevention are very important concerns for the workplace. Prevent Blindness America, a national nonprofit founded in 1908, is the nation's leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight through screenings, advocacy and training. Along with the American Optometric Association, they’re sponsoring National Prevent Blindness in the Workplace month and offering any company a free packet of blindness prevention information, as well as information on vision benefits. You can get HR tools and materials or email to get your packet.

The most common causes of blindness in America today, according to the NIH, are cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration and, most common, diabetes, through diabetic retinopathy. Eye professionals recommend that all adults should see an eye doctor at least every three years, but people with diabetes should have a full eye exam, including pupil dilation, every year.

Working at a computer all day is a fast growing source of vision problems. The American Optometric Association has a helpful fact and tip sheet for computer workers, including suggestions to take periodic eye rest breaks and keep your chair and monitor correctly aligned. Wherever you work, though, the likelihood of vision problems, like that of so many health issues, increases with age. Experts recommend that everyone should have a full vision screening at age 40, which will not just make sure that your eyes are healthy now but establish a useful baseline for future reference. Preventing vision problems in later life is not just good economic sense, it’s one of the most important things you can do to ensure quality of life into old age and beyond.

ESI-Logo.jpg A healthy workplace is a productive workplace. Need help with your wellness program? ESI EAP can help - give us a call: 800-535-4841.

February 26, 2012

Transgender in the Workplace

In December, the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit found in favor of Vandiver Elizabeth Glenn's claim of sex discrimination for having been fired from a job as editor with the Georgia General Assembly. The Court found that Glenn's firing violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, just the latest in a series of such rulings. And the courts are not the only sign that the tide is turning. In an essay in TIME, Adam Cohen notes:

"Meanwhile, things are also changing in the workplace. Last week’s [December] report from the Human Rights Campaign found that 207 of 636 major U.S. companies surveyed, or nearly one-third, covered the cost of gender-reassignment surgery for transgender workers. That number increased from just 85 a year earlier. When HRC began monitoring the issue a decade ago, no corporations covered the surgery. Among the corporations that added coverage this year are Apple, American Airlines and Chevron. In pop culture, transgender people are also becoming more visible and recognized. Chaz Bono, the only child of Sunny Bono and Cher, has put a celebrity face on being transgender — especially after he competed this season on Dancing with the Stars."

Last week, Baltimore County approves transgender discrimination ban. Nationwide, more than 160 cities and counties have laws banning transgender discrimination, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

Employment law attorneys Robert Brody and Rebecca Goldberg talk about what this means for employers in Changing Gender — The New Sex Discrimination (PDF). In discussing the case, the authors note:

But the most likely problem is workplace harassment. Research suggests as many as 97 percent of transsexual employees are harassed at work, more than double the number who reported being denied a job or promotion or fired. To prevent this problem, employers should proactively include gender identity in their anti-harassment policies and training programs. Waiting until an employee identifies as transsexual to implement these changes can draw negative attention to the employee and exacerbate the problem.

Dionysia Johnson-Massie and Gina Cook, attorneys at the employment and labor law firm Littler also take about the Court ruling's impact on employers in 11th Circuit Rules for Transgender Employee in Sex Discrimination Case.

Among other things, they suggest that both public and private employers should review the following policies:

  • Equal opportunity, anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies
  • Dress code and appearance standard policies
  • Codes of conduct between employees, constituents or customers
  • Policies regulating the use of gender-segregated areas such as bathrooms
  • Policies regarding respect for the individual or manager-subordinate relations

Additional Resources:
State Advocacy from the Human Rights Campaign offers maps of state laws and policies, lists of cities and counties with Non-Discrimination Ordinances that include gender identity, and other resources.

Employer and Union Policies from the Transgender Law Institute

Transgender Discrimination - more resources at a prior HR Web Cafe posting.

ESI-Logo.jpg ESI EAP offers help with supervisory training and compliance issues, as well as help for employees who are facing any difficult life issue or decisions. Don't have an EAP? Call 800-535-4841.

February 19, 2012

A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

This thought-provoking talk by Alain de Botton looks at success and failure and how these concepts are defined. "Is success always earned? Is failure? He makes an eloquent, witty case to move beyond snobbery to find true pleasure in our work."

February 16, 2012

The Dangers of Hoarding

You may be familiar with the popular reality show Hoarders. It’s a gruesome, can’t look away examination of what can happen when mental illness and our consumer driven society collide. While theories on why hoarding happens can vary, there is no controversy about the results: they are tragic. Hoarders often become literal prisoners in their own homes, trapped by their mountains of possessions. Unfortunately, hoarding is not uncommon: the University of California San Diego estimates that estimated up to 1.2 million people suffer from compulsive hoarding in the USA.

Professionals believe that most hoarding is an extreme form of obsessive compulsive disorder. It is unclear at this point whether compulsive hoarding is part of OCD or whether it is a separate disorder that is common in people who have OCD. It’s also important to remember that there are degrees of hoarding and not all hoarding is compulsive. Hoarding and saving behaviors can be seen in people with various neuropsychiatric disorders, such as psychotic disorders, dementia, eating disorders, autism, and mental retardation, as well as in people with no psychiatric disorder.

While hoarding is sad in and of itself, there are also hidden costs. Hoarders often neglect basic home maintenance and their own physical health. Over the years this neglect can culminate in large medical costs and tremendous increased costs for major home repairs. Due to their lifestyle, hoarders' homes are at a greatly increased risk for fire, collapse, flood, and infestation, and, understandably, they may have a very difficult time getting homeowners insurance. And hoarding can also cause stress, tension, and a breakdown in personal and family relationships, sometimes leading to increased isolation and depression.

What can you do if you suspect a friend, relative, acquaintance, or employee may be a hoarder? First, be kind. Remember, compulsive hoarding is not due to laziness, character weakness or simple disorganization. Rather, compulsive hoarding is the result of distinct brain abnormalities that will not improve without treatment. Encourage hoarders to seek treatment and help them receive it. Help is out there. The International OCD Foundation offers a checklist for suspected hoarders as well as a variety of helpful resources. The Massachusetts Department of Housing also has a long list of resources and information for hoarders and their loved ones. Hoarding can be treated.

ESI-Logo.jpg Supervisors: If you suspect that hoarding could be an issue for one of your employees, remember - it's not your role to diagnose. When a personal issue spills into the workplace and impedes performance, the appropriate response is to focus on the performance and to offer resources to the employee to get help for any personal issues that impede performance. Your EAP can help. Don't have an EAP? Call 800-535-4841.

February 12, 2012

Cupid's arrow or sexual harassment?

Have you heard the one about the nurse, the social worker, and the exotic dancer who walked into a bar ... ?

But wait, there's one little twist... in this case, the bar was the plaintiff bar in a courtroom and the punchline was no joke for their employers. To commemorate Valentine's Day this year, employment Attorney Robin Shea offers a bouquet of sexual harassment cases. She describes the circumstances surrounding all three recent cases and offers morals and lessons for each.

There were 11,364 sexual harassment charges filed with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2011, down from 15,889 in FY1997. Of that number, 16.3% of the charges were filed by males, up from 11.6% in FY1997. You can seem more info on Sexual Harassment Charges - EEOC & FEPAs Combined: FY 1997 - FY 2011

But when romance is in the air, what's an employer to do? Today's romance can turn into tomorrow's harassment. A few years ago, we discussed the pre-emptive strategy of so called Love contracts to limit employer liability for office romance. Mark Toth of ManpowerGroup Employment Blawg just posted results of a reader poll on the issue, finding there is no love for the love contract.

If an employee reports an incident, you need to take it seriously. Employment Law Attorney Jason Shinn of Michigan Employment Law Advisor offers An Employer's Playbook for Responding to an Allegation of Sexual Harassment.

Prior related posts
Taking the pulse about workplace romance on Valentine's Day
Cupid at work: office romance

ESI-Logo.jpg. Supervisors of ESI EAP member organizations have telephone access to our Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHRs) who can discuss "best practice" scenarios or assist in researching the best strategies for addressing a myriad of employee dynamics. It's like having a coach on the team when managers or supervisors face difficult issues. Click to learn more about HR benefits.

February 11, 2012

"The Happiness Advantage: Linking Positive Brains to Performance" - Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor is the winner of over a dozen distinguished teaching awards at Harvard University, where he delivered lectures on positive psychology in what was described as the most popular class at Harvard.

His research and lectures on happiness and human potential have received widespread media attention. He travels around the United States and Europe giving talks on positive psychology to Fortune 500 corporations, schools, and non-profit organizations.

He is currently CEO of Aspirant, a Cambridge-based consulting firm which conducts research to understand where human potential, success and happiness intersect. Based on his research and 12 years of experience at Harvard, he clearly and humorously describes to organizations how to increase happiness and meaning, raise success rates and profitability, and create positive transformations that ripple into more successful cultures.

In his entertaining and though provoking TEDxBloomington presentation, he says that most modern research focuses on the average, but that "if we focus on the average, we will remain merely average." He wants to study the positive outliers, and learn how not only to bring people up to the average, but to move the entire average up.

February 5, 2012

How healthy are your employees? Track via your state's Well-Being Index

For more than four years now, Gallup and Healthways have been indexing the nation's well-being by state via daily polls that measure six key aspects of well-being: life evaluation, emotional health, work environments, physical health, healthy behaviors and basic access. In 2010, they conducted more than 352,840 surveys between January and December 2010.

View month-by-month Gallup-Healthways Well-Being rankings, including an interactive map of the 2010 rankings. You can also download the 2010 Composite City, State and Congressional District Ranking Report (PDF) or City, State & Congressional District Well-Being Reports


The New York Times offers another interactive view of the 2010 Well Being Index via an interactive Congressional district map that drills down to 20 key wellness indicators ranging from stress and depression to job satisfaction and food adequacy.



esi.JPG Learn how ESI Employee Assistance Program can help address your employees' wellbeing issues - from a wellness benefits and help for everyday work-life matters to comprehensive assistance for a wide array of potentially disruptive issues and problems.

February 4, 2012

New briefs: HR Weaknesses, Facebook Follies, & More

HR Weaknesses - 10 HR mistakes your employee’s lawyer will try to exploit - Business Management Daily offers 10 common HR weaknesses that you must be prepared to defend if you are ever hauled into court.

Facebook Follies - Posting party pictures on Facebook may negatively influence benefits awarded under workers comp. The Arkansas Court of Appeals recently denied a workers' comp claim for a back injury after seeing the employee's Facebook photos, saying that the photos "could have a bearing on the claimant’s credibility."

Bullying - Dealing with Workplace Bullying & Creating a Positive Workplace Culture - "The National Bullying Helpline states “80% of managers know that bullying occurs in their workplace, and despite this, 37% say they have had no proper training”. The Andrea Adams Consultancy developed a fact-sheet on Bullying Statistics, which states “43.5% of employers do not even have a policy to deal with workplace bulling, and 82.2% say that weakness in management is the prime reason for bullying."

Motivation killer -Announcing Plans May Kill Motivation, Productivity - "Are you inadvertently undermining your productivity by talking about your plans? Research says yes, sometimes — that when you talk about intentions you could be taking the fizz out your motivation to move forward. Why? Because voicing plans runs the risk of creating a "premature sense of completeness."

Racial stereotyping - Racial stereotyping and perceptions of competence - "A recent study published in the Academic of Management Journal found that media coverage rarely gave African American quarterbacks credit for leadership. When their teams do well, it is because of their natural athletic talent; when they do poorly, it is lack of leadership — blame not equally placed on White quarterbacks when their teams do poorly."

Google's new privacy - New Google Privacy Policies - If you use Google tools in your business, you may wonder about the impact of the new policies. In ChicagoBusiness, Mark Goodman offers a rundown of what Google's privacy policy changes mean to your small biz. Also, be sure to check out the Google Privacy Tools.

Depression & work hours - Working long hours doubles depression risk - a new study by Researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health and at University College in London documents a link between long work days and depression. "Workers who put in an average of at least 11 hours per day at the office had approximately two and a half times higher odds of developing depression than their colleagues who worked seven or eight hours."

Generational communications - The Days of "Manager Knows Best" Are Ending - At Harvard Business Review, Sujai Hajela offers a a glimpse of what tomorrow's young global managers might be like as leaders and how today's young people think about communications. "Two out of five people said they'd accept a lower-paying job if the position offered greater flexibility on access to social media, the ability to work from where they chose, and choice on the mobile devices they could use on the job."

Final Wishes - Top 5 Regrets of the Dying - A nurse has recorded the most common regrets of the dying, and among the top ones is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'. What would your biggest regret be if this was your last day of life?

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