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July 26, 2012

News Briefs: Compliance, Conflict, Dad-Friendly States, Best Boss & More

Compliance - When Employers Have an Obligation to Report Crimes - Daniel Schwartz - Connecticut Employment Law Blog
Excerpt: "There will likely come a time at some point at your company where someone, somewhere will do something really stupid. And perhaps its even something you believe might be criminal.It may be someone popular. Or someone really productive, like your top salesperson. / And you’ll probably only learn about it through a coincidence, like a co-worker walking by an employee’s cubicle unexpectedly and seeing what could be child pornography on the employee’s computer screen. / What happens next could be the difference between becoming the next Penn State or the next company you’ve still never heard of. "

FMLA - FMLA guarantee of reinstatement is never absolute - Jon Hyman - Ohio Employer's Law Blog
Excerpt: "Notifying an employee of a termination the day he or she returns from FMLA leave is a risky proposition. It will likely draw a lawsuit. The key to winning the lawsuit is having a legitimate and documented reason to support the termination."

Conflict - How to bury the hatchet with an office enemy - Denis Wilson - Fortune
Excerpt: "You may have your doubts about whether making nice with a heated rival is realistic. However, Freeman suggests the power of open communication and good listening is real. Consider the motto of the New York Police Department's Hostage Negotiation Team: Talk to me. "If [they] can convince someone with a gun to the head of a child to reach a peaceful resolution, there may be more hope than you first think."

Wellness - My Family Health Portrait
Excerpt: The Surgeon General's "My Family Health Portrait" is an internet-based tool that makes it easy for you to record your family health history. The tool is easy to access on the web and simple to fill out. It assembles your information and makes a "pedigree" family tree that you can download. It is private--it does not keep your information. It gives you a health history that you can share with family members or send to your health care practitioner.

Work / Life - How Dad-Friendly Is Your State? Report Grades Paid-Leave Policies for New Dads - Laura Walter, EHS Today
Excerpt: "Dads Expect Better: Top States for New Dads," a special report compiled by the National Partnership for Women & Families, offers a state-by-state analysis of state laws and regulations governing paid leave and workplace rights for new fathers (and new mothers) in the United States.

Values - Why companies must stop office bullying - Suzanne Lucas, MoneyWatch
Excerpt: "So when you have a bully in the office, it's not just the target that feels uncomfortable -- so do other employees, who often feel empathy for the person being pushed around and feel that the treatment is morally wrong. People also don't like working for a boss who allows, encourages, or engages in immoral behavior."

News Briefs of Note

July 24, 2012

Hiring Managers Share Tales of Memorable Resumes

CareerBuilder's latest survey invited HR Managers to submit real-life examples of resumes that stood out for the right – and wrong – reasons. We've listed a sampling of picks for "things not to do" - most fall in the category of "sadly funny" -- but funny nonetheless.

  • Candidate applying for a management job listed "gator hunting" as a skill.
  • Candidate's resume included phishing as a hobby.
  • Candidate specified that her resume was set up to be sung to the tune of "The Brady Bunch."
  • Candidate highlighted the fact that he was "Homecoming Prom Prince" in 1984.
  • Candidate's resume was decorated with pink rabbits.
  • Candidate applying for an accounting job said he was "deetail-oriented" and spelled the company's name incorrectly.
  • Candidate's cover letter contained "LOL."

The examples of what worked to impress hiring managers include some very creative approaches, such as a job candidate who sent his resume in the form of an oversized Rubik's cube in which tiles could be manipulated to align the resume or the candidate applying for a food and beverage management position who sent a resume in the form of a fine-dining menu and was hired.

CareerBuilder also offers a list of deal breakers in response to a question about pitfalls that would make them automatically dismiss a candidate from consideration. Click to see how closely your answers for the top 9 deal breakers would align with yours.

If you can't get enough, we searched our files for more and found these from 2007:

If you've been working in HR for more than about a week, you have probably seen your share of blunders and "creative" statements on resumes. CareerBuilder.com offers their list of the top 12 resume disasters. We'd have to agree that these represent some definite yellow flags but they make for an amusing list. We have found a few other compilations on the web that we've enjoyed. But if we are going to poke fun at the applicants, then turnabout is fair play. Some students compiled the top 100 most annoying questions asked in job interview - a very instructive list.


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ESI-Logo.jpg Humor aside, hiring people is one of the riskiest things that an employer does. ESI EAP offers discounted background checks and pre-employment screening to member employers. For more information, call 800-535-4841.

July 22, 2012

A tale of mental illness from the inside

Elyn Saks offers first-hand insight into schizophrenia from the vantage of the sufferer. Despite grappling with this through her lifetime, she is Professor of Law, Psychology, and Psychiatry and the Behavioral Sciences at the University of Southern California School of Law. In 2007, she released her autobiography, The Center Cannot Hold, in which she reveals the depth of her own schizophrenia, now controlled by drugs and therapy. As a mental health law scholar and writer, she speaks for the rights and dignity of mentally ill people.

We've included two items about this courageous woman. Below is a 15 minute video, in which she shares her experience, and tells how the intercession of family, friends and colleagues have helped her to lead a productive and happy life. She credits three reasons: excellent treatment, the help and support of many close family members and friends who help her navigate her life in the face of symptoms, and an enormously supportive workplace. We also encourage you to listen to A Scholar's Memoir of Schizophrenia, a 20 minute interview with NPR. Both are invaluable in breaking down myths, giving hope to those with mental illness, and standing as compelling testimony for intervention, underscoring how essential it is for those of us who live and work with the mentally ill learn compassionate ways to help.

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ESI-Logo.jpg ESI EAP offers help and resources for depression and other serious mental health issues. If one of your employees is grappling with mental illness or a sudden alarming change in behavior, your EAP can help. If you are employer that doesn't have an EAP, call us at 800-535-4841.

July 21, 2012

Colorado theater shooting: How to talk to your kids about Batman and the forces of evil

Friday's late night tragedy in a Colorado cinema was a rerun of a horror movie we've unfortunately seen played out all too many times before - a burst of gunfire, leaving innocent victims in its wake. In a matter of minutes, a brutal event reminds us how quickly a beautiful day can turn ugly. It's never easy to face the deaths of young people, loved ones, community members - but it is made all the harder when it is the result of a senseless act of violence perpetrated by another human. It's a betrayal of our common humanity, a violation of trust.

As disturbing and horrifying as these events are to adults, they may hold particular terror for children. Sometimes horrible acts of violence don't really surface too prominently on a child's radar - but because this shooting involved an event related to beloved pop-culture icon - ironically, a superhero who is supposed to defeat the forces of evil - it is more likely than not that these events will not escape their attention. Add to that the fact the events occurred in a venue that is familiar and seemingly safe to children and that children and young adults were among the casualties. The sudden and random nature of events could be terribly upsetting and threatening to a child's sense of security. These events may trigger intense fears for their own safety or the safety of loved ones.

How we help children deal with difficult and traumatic events is an important topic, one that shapes and arms them for an emotionally healthy adulthood. We think it's important enough that we offer these tips and resources for parents everywhere who may be struggling to explain things to children.

Helping kids deal with difficult events

  • Limit your child's exposure to the news. Make sure that news about violent events is not playing over and over in the background on radios or TV. Watch news with your kids and discuss events and their feelings about things.

  • When frightening events occur, watch your own reaction when children are nearby. When adults react dramatically, emotionally or fearfully, it can be very unsettling for children, who take cues from adults. While you should be truthful in your feelings, be careful not to let your behavior shatter their sense of safety and security.

  • Give comfort and reassurance. Allow children to express fear and sadness, don't dismiss bad feelings. Encourage questions so you can understand their fears. They may be feeling vulnerable themselves, or they may fear losing parents or siblings that they depend on and love.

  • Emphasize safety. Let children know that while sad and bad things do indeed happen, they are rare events. Most people are good. Reassure them that you will take care of them and keep them safe, and that police and teachers will help to look out for their safety, too. Use this as a time to reinforce safety rules.

  • Channel things in a positive direction whenever possible. Point out good things, such as the heroism and bravery of police and doctors and the kindness of the people in the community. Use bad events as a springboard to reinforce gratitude and appreciation for life; the importance of kindness and empathy, the importance of helping others.

  • Take positive action. We all feel helpless in the face of terrible events, children even more so. Encourage your child to take an action, such as making a donation, writing a letter, going to a church service, or leaving flowers or mementos at a memorial.

  • Ensure that your communications are age appropriate. Young children don't have a clear understanding of death, even if they say the words, so events may not affect them much; teens might suppress reaction entirely in a misguided attempt to appear cool or jaded. See links below for more on age-related reactions and communications.

  • Keep an eye on things to ensure that they adjust. Watch for regression, clinging, hyperactivity in young children; at any age, kids who are anxious could exhibit sleep or eating disturbances. Teens or young adults may be obsessed with details of events, Watch how your kids play, how they talk about things to peers. If signs of disturbance persist, they may need the help of a professional so they don't stay "stuck" in anxieties or fear.

Good resources for additional help:

Guide for Parents and Educators: Tips for Talking to Children and Youth After Traumatic Events (PDF)

Age-Related Reactions to a Traumatic Event (PDF)

Talking with Kids about Tough Issues

Explaining Death in a Child's Terms

Anxiety, Fears, & Phobias

How to Help: Children's Grief Responses

Batman, kids and Aurora: How to talk to children about the Colorado movie theater shooting

How to Talk to Your Kids About the Colorado Theater Shooting

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ESI-Logo.jpg ESI EAP offers trauma response, grief counseling, help for PTSD, and other services to help your employees and their family members cope with difficult life events. We also offer help and support for managers and HR professionals. Your EAP is only a phone call away. If you are employer that doesn't have an EAP, call us at 800-535-4841.

July 15, 2012

News Briefs: Worst Jargon, Sesame Street Management, Employment Law, Going Boss-less, and more

It is what it is - Granular. Out of pocket. The 10,000 pound gorilla. What do these phrases have in common? They are reader submissions to the Boston Globe for the worst workplace jargon.

Sesame Street School of Management - Some of our finest life lessons are straight from the pages of Sesame Street so we enjoyed Molly DiBianca's post at Delaware Employment Law Blog on whether your Boss a Bert or an Ernie. By way of intro, she suggests, "If you want to manage your workplace (or other) relationships better, try starting with a personality analysis. And Muppet Theory may be the analysis you've been looking for. Muppet Theory, in short, proffers that everyone can be classified as either a Chaos Muppet or an Order Muppet."

Sample HR letters - Susan M. Heathfield of About.com Human Resources offers some handy tools in the form of guidance for common letters. Get help writing job offers, letters to rejected job candidates, employee recognition acknowledgements, and more.

Follow the experts - Daniel Schwartz of Connecticut Employment Law Blog offers his pick of the Top 10 Employment Lawyers To Follow Online. He offers both Twitter handles and blog links - a good list!

You're Fired! - Speaking of Employment Law Attorneys, we like Philip K. Miles feature Fired for What!?, a roundup or top termination stories from around the web. You can see his prior postings here. There are many good "what not to do" lessons here!

Just sitting around - Fiona Gathright of Corporate Wellness Insights notes that employees who want to increase longevity and boost health will reduce sitting around at work. She offers these tips for employers: "Embrace standing desks, treadmill desks, and mid-day exercise breaks. Make stairwells bright, appealing, and accessible so employees opt out of taking the elevator. Bring in wellness consultants to transform the culture of health at your workplace. You will not only see the instant effect of more productive, focused employees (who cost the company less), you will also effectively help individuals add years to their lives." Related: Jon Coppelman of Workers' Comp Insider posts about a case involving a sedentary, overweight worker in Annals of Compensability: Sedentary Worker in the Garden.

Going Boss-less - Spurred on by a recent Wall Street Journal article that suggests a boss-less office, Sharlyn Lauby at HR Bartender looks at the question of whether managers are really necessary. She says that "there's a fine line between removing managerial roadblocks and creating organizational anarchy" and suggests that you should be looking to ensure that they indeed do add value.

Workers comp and horseplay - Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance reminds us that horseplay is often grounds for a rejected comp claim. A recent Pennsylvania court ruling rejected an employee's appeal for benefits after having been injured on a forklift. Ceniceros makes the point that the case offers lessons to other employers because the basis for denial hinged on "a solid set of rules that the employee disregarded," one being that employees are not supposed to drive a forklift without the proper certification for operating the machinery.

News briefs

July 14, 2012

Employee tracking: Boon for bosses or brave new world?

In the New York Times Bits blog, Quentin Hardy talks about Google's introduction of a product called Maps Coordinate that will allow you to locate your workers at all times. The company press release says the tool, "combines the power of Google’s mapping technologies with modern smartphones to help organizations assign jobs and deploy staff more efficiently."

You can learn more about the product at the Google blog post, Introducing Google Maps Coordinate: Organize teams on the move. Daniel Chu notes that, "As the number of mobile employees continues to grow, so does the need for a location sharing solution that works in real-time. Research firm IDC estimates that there will be over 1.3 billion mobile workers by 2015 (37.2% of the total workforce)."

While there are definite advantages to a tool like this, reaction has been mixed. In an article in Time -- Google Maps: Now Helping Your Boss Track Your Every Move -- Victor Luckerson highlights some of the benefits of the tool, while noting privacy concerns and the continued encroachment of work life and personal life. Also see Lloyd Garver's No place to hide from Big Brother.

Luckerson says, "Businesses will be trained by Google on the proper use of the app. But will they always play by the rules? Employers’ attempts to track employees off hours–on an alleged sick day, for instance–could open a whole new legal can of worms. “The issue is technology and innovation outpacing policy making to determine the rights and obligations related to tracking employees when off-work,” Coney said. "Litigation on an issue like this could be on where employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy or not."

July 8, 2012

From the Pantheon of Bad Bosses

Someone sent us a link recently to No flush, but two of a kind win in a workplace toilet dispute - a righteous addition to our "Bad Boss Hall of Fame." (You can find past entries in category by the same name in the right hand sidebar) A federal jury awarded $332,000 to two employees who complained to state regulators about the lack of a toilet at their job site -- they were forced to use a bucket in desperation -- and were fired after complaining to state regulators.

Lack of bathroom facilities did not make the cut when Suzanne Lucas compiled a list of 5 signs you're a lousy boss. You can click through to read her detailed thoughts, but here's the quick summary: 1) Your employees lie to you. 2) No other managers want to poach your employees. 3) You always have emergencies 4) You always ask yourself "what can I legally do?" rather than "what should I do?" 5) You steal credit.

But the clueless bathroom-denying bosses did bring to mind a post at Workers' Comp Insider about the near-legendary bad boss, Tiger Mike Davis. We reprint the salient points of the fascinating story below.

Edward 'Tiger Mike' Davis was the erstwhile CEO of the now defunct Houston-based Tiger Oil Company. You might expect an oil company to be a bit rough and tumble, but Tiger Mike took things to a new level. He didn't particularly like talking to his employees, he preferred typing memos. ("Do not speak to me when you see me. If I want to speak to you, I will do so. I want to save my throat. I don't want to ruin it by saying hello to all of you sons-of-b*tches.") And fortunately, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, his memos have been preserved for the ages. We link to them in all their glory: The Tiger Oil Memos. Please be advised, the memos do include a few cuss words

Now after marveling at his posts, you may be curious to learn more about the man and the company. E&P editor Rhonda Duey shared some readers reminiscing about Tiger Mike. And for those who want "the rest of the story," see this fascinating post on Grifters, Oil Men, Tabloids, The Scrappy Ingenue, The Titans and the Hardass: An American Story - a few links in the post are broken but despite that, it tells a fascinating story, with Tiger Mike as an integral character.

OK, what does all this have to do with workers compensation? We would refer you to #3 and #8 in attorney Alan Pierce's excellent Top Ten List as to Why Injured Workers Retain Attorneys (PDF). Actually, all ten points are worth thinking about. As a successful Massachusetts plaintiff attorney, Pierce should know. We would love to hear his cache of "bad boss" stories.

July 1, 2012

When your employees stink

We've all had a "this job stinks" moment in our worklife, but what happens when it is literally true? Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas discusses whether you should you tell a job candidate about her body odor. She rightfully brings up the potential sticky discriminatory areas that this might open in the hiring process. What if the odor is related to a medical issue or a cultural issue? If you address it in the job interview and then don't hire the employee, might that lead to problems?

OK, when it's a stinky job candidate, you may simply be able to sidestep the issue, but what if the odor problem involves a current employee? A not insubstantial part of the HR manager's job is dealing with the delivery of bad news. When bad news involves policies, procedures, or performance, that's one thing and hard enough. But when it deals with personal issues like body odor, inappropriate dress, or annoying habits, these discussions can get distinctly uncomfortable.

Susan Heathfield offers some good advice on how to tackle conversations about annoying employee habits and issues. She notes that handling this by training the whole staff is not the best way to handle things: better to be direct, to the point, and tie the difficult conversation to a direct business purpose and how the behavior may be affecting the employee's career.
See her guidelines on How to Hold a Difficult Conversation.

Now if the body odor is related to hygiene or an excess of fragrance, a straightforward conversation may resolve things. But it's also possible that body odor may be a symptom of a more deep-rooted issue - particularly if it is something new with that employee, if it marks a change. If there has been a progressive deterioration in the person's personal hygiene, it might signify a more serious personal problem, such as depression, substance abuse, or physical illness. Has there also been a deterioration in performance or other potential signs of a problem? If the issue is potential substance abuse, you may note or coworkers may complain about an odor of alcohol.

If you have talked to an employee about personal hygiene issues but the issue is either not resolved or your discussion leads you to believe that there might be a more serious underlying issue, that might be a good time for a referral to your Employee Assistance Program. While performance issues are within a manager's bailiwick, it isn't a manager's responsibility to try to diagnose underlying issues or root causes of performance-inhibiting issues - that's when an EAP can be your best friend.

More resources:

Smell Ya Later, along with Seven Tips On Tackling Employee Hygiene Problems

Tough Conversations to Have with Your Employees—What to Say

‘Bob, you smell’: What to say to employees about embarrassing personal issues

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ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.
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