May 10, 2015

News Roundup: FMLA Decisions, Discrimination, Decoding Bullies & More

ABA's Summary of 2014 FMLA Court Decisions -- An Excellent Resource for Employers
Jeff Nowak of FMLA Insights says, "Every February, the American Bar Association’s Federal Labor Standards Legislation Committee publishes a comprehensive report of significant FMLA decisions handed down by the federal courts in the previous year ... I highly recommend it as a valuable FMLA reference for HR professionals and employment attorneys."

Is hiring for “digital natives” age discrimination?
Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer's Law Blog: "Let’s say you’re looking to fill a position at your company that requires a certain degree of technical proficiency. Or, you just want to make sure that the person you hire is comfortable with a computer, an email account, and an iPhone. Is it legal to advertise that the position requires a “digital native?” According to, some companies have begun using this term as a hiring criteria in job postings. Yet, is “digital native” simply code for “younger?”

Outsmart Your Own Biases
Jack B. Soll, Katherine L. Milkman, John W. Payne - Harvard Business Review: "One solution is to delegate and to fight bias at the organizational level, using choice architecture to modify the environment in which decisions are made. (See “Leaders as Decision Architects,” in this issue.) Much of the time, though, delegation isn’t appropriate, and it’s all on you, the manager, to decide. When that’s the case, you can outsmart your own biases. You start by understanding where they’re coming from: excessive reliance on intuition, defective reasoning, or both. In this article, we describe some of the most stubborn biases out there: tunnel vision about future scenarios, about objectives, and about options. But awareness alone isn’t enough, as Kahneman, reflecting on his own experiences, has pointed out. So we also provide strategies for overcoming biases, gleaned from the latest research on the psychology of judgment and decision making."

Decoding The Personality Of Workplace Bullies
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, FAST Company: "One of the reasons for the high preponderance of bullies at work is that they often exhibit positive character qualities, which co-exists with their dark side. For instance, studies have shown that bullies are often outgoing, gregarious and assertive. They are also quite fearless and confident, and those qualities tend to be rewarded in most corporate environments, particularly in the Western world. Furthermore, bullies are often quite high on thrill-seeking, which tends to be linked to higher social status especially among younger employees. In fact, recent evidence suggests that some bullies may have higher emotional intelligence, which may enable them to read and influence colleagues to their own advantage. Thus, the combination of higher social skills and lower moral standards may result in more manipulative and mischievous actions at work, especially if people get a kick out of this."
Related Results of the 2010 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey

How Do Fortune 500 Companies Use Twitter for Recruitment? [Study]
Undercover Recruiter: "The value of social media for recruitment has become increasingly clear over the years and although LinkedIn is still the front runner for professional networking, Twitter and Facebook are hot on its heels, proving themselves handy tools for hiring talent.
Twitter in particular has seen an increase in the number of people using the platform for job search and recruiting and as a result, a number of Fortune 500 companies, such as AT&T and Disney have created separate accounts specifically for recruitment purposes."

Employee Feedback: Why It Matters and How to Use It
Kirill Tšernov, Weekdone : "One of the more overlooked tools at team managers’ disposal is feedback. Quite often, it presents a make-or-break situation. When done right, feedback can greatly improve engagement and productivity and boost team spirit. Do it too sloppily, however, and you will end up doing more harm than good."

ADA: When do disabilities pose a ‘direct threat’ in the workplace?
Charlie Plumb, HR.BLR : "A “direct threat” involves a “significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the [employee] or others that cannot be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation.” If an employer can prove a disabled person poses a direct threat to himself or others, it isn’t required to hire or continue to employ the individual.
For some time, there has been uncertainty on exactly what an employer must establish to use the “direct threat” defense in ADA discrimination claims. A recent U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals—which covers Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming—decision that applies to Oklahoma employers provides valuable guidance."

How to Talk to a Reporter
Written for lawyers, but a helpful reference guide should a reporter come calling about any type of situation in your workplace.

Litigation Risk: Liberty! Fraternity! Liability!
Jonathan McGoran, Risk & Insurance
Universities, fraternities and their local chapters, and individuals may face liability for sexual assault, alcohol abuse or other actions.

Brief takes

Workplace Wellness

Looking for the most comprehensive and effective wellness program for your employees? ESI TotalCare Wellness pairs Behavioral Health Clinicians with certified Wellness Coaches to provide employees and their families with the help, motivation, tools and support to make changes and improve their lives. Call 800-535-4841 for more information.

April 26, 2015

News Roundup: Report on managers, salary negotiations, distracted driving policies and more

The State of the American Manager Is…Weak
Brandon Roghi, Risk Management Monitor: "Gallup’s State of the American Manager report is one of those inputs that should compel organizations to look inward. Gallup lays out startling data on the woeful state of American managers: most are disengaged, compelling their employees to perform at much lower levels. Prevailing promotion and hiring practices are big culprits, as a small minority of people given management roles actually have the skills to succeed with leadership responsibilities. A lot needs to change to recover all of the lost productivity.
According to Gallup, about 82% of managers lack the appropriate skills for their positions. Poor hiring practices beget low engagement with the job and organization: 65% of managers say they are either not engaged, or actively disengaged.

More from Gallup: Only One in 10 People Possess the Talent to Manage

Related: Study Shows Half Of Managers Don't Set Effective Employee Goals - Victor Lipman looks at a recent Towers Watson study, Effective Managers: Your Critical Link To Successful Strategy Execution.

Some Companies Fight Pay Gap By Eliminating Salary Negotiations
Yuki Noguchi, NPR: "Some of my clients are now making all of their salaries transparent, up to the executive level," she says.
That includes Elevations Credit Union, based in Boulder, Colo. The company sets salary level based on title, which it publishes online. So effectively, there is no salary negotiation during hiring or promotion.
Annette Matthies heads human resources and says Elevations did this after hearing complaints from employees. She says it also has helped with recruitment and retention.
"And that loyalty then increases profits for our company," she says. "The company's more profitable, they can then give back more to their employees, and so it's a symbiotic relationship."

This Is the Silver Bullet to Reducing Workplace Stress
Martha C. White, TIME: "New research finds that a half-hour walk at lunchtime promotes increased relaxation and reduced stress among office workers. “Walking… seems to have both energizing and relaxing properties in the workplace,” writes lead author Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani, an associate professor in the Psychology and Speech Pathology School at Curtin University in Australia.
In an experiment with 75 university administrative staff members that asked participants for frequent, real-time feedback over the 10-week course of the study, subjects reported being more relaxed, more enthusiastic and less nervous on afternoons following the lunchtime walks they took three times a week."

The Case For Being A Generous Leader
Tim Stevens, Fast Company: "My experience with selfish people is that they are often stressed, tense, bitter, angry, critical, argumentative, and bullying. Generous people, on the other hand, are genuinely happy. They aren’t constantly determining their self-worth by how far they are above others. They have a great day when they’ve had the chance to add value to others."

Protect Workers From The Number One Cause of Workplace Deaths – Distracted Driving
Valerie Butera, National Law Review: "Distracted driving is the number one cause of workplace deaths in the United States. OSHA has partnered with the National Safety Council to call employers’ attention to this issue and urge the adoption of safe driving policies. Failure to adopt and enforce such policies in the workplace leads to tragic results and OSHA has made it perfectly clear that employers who do not take this issue seriously should expect OSHA citations. On its distracted driving webpage, the agency has stated that employers “have a responsibility and legal obligation to have a clear, unequivocal, and enforced policy against texting while driving.”
But to truly protect your employees from the hazards of distracted driving, your policy should cover more than just texting."

Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care (PDF)
U.S. Office of Personnel Management's newly released handbook for federal employees "Our handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care provides scenarios and tips to give employees realistic and specific examples about how these policies can and should be applied. It was developed with the help of representatives from more than 40 federal agencies, and it is an important milestone in achieving the president's vision for federal working families."
See Director of OPM Katherine Archuleta's remarks on Workplace Flexibility Guides for Working Families in Huffington Post.

Quick takes


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

March 30, 2015

News Roundup: Swearing, Innovating, Engaging & More

Let's swear off rudeness at work
Leah Eichler, The Globe and Mail:
"A man eager to get to his job interview pushes another public transit user out of the way and tells him to go forth and multiply – with himself. The commuter arrives at his appointment, only to discover that the gentleman he swore at is none other than the executive waiting to interview him.
This actually happened recently in London and not surprisingly, the story went viral. It obviously touched a nerve, since many of us can relate to being mistreated by our fellow commuters and quietly hope for retribution. But such incivility doesn’t stop when we get off the train. Rudeness permeates the workplace, too, and it’s just plain bad business."

Athletes Help Cheerleader With Down Syndrome Defy Bullies
Bill Chappell, NPR
If you have time to read or listen to only one story today, make it be this one. It's really heartwarming.

The 10 Best Ways HR Can Improve Workplace Creativity and Innovation
Cliff Stevenson, i4cp
"In i4cp's newest report, Human Capital Practices that Drive Innovation, human capital professionals were asked to rate their organizations' effectiveness across eight types of innovation, including often overlooked elements such as product development and process effectiveness innovation. By creating an index of effectiveness scores, combined with i4cp's Market Performance Index rating for each respondent, i4cp was able to determine the top ten human capital practices that not only drive innovation, but are also correlated to overall market performance.
The best news is that all of the practices that were found to be the most effective were those on which HR could have immediate impact -- from seemingly small things like promoting values to major changes such as the creation of online forums to foster new ideas."

What You Owe Your Employer - And What Your Employer Owes You
Liz Ryan, Forbes contributor
"Nearly every day someone asks me “Now that the old working world is gone, and the corporate ladder is sawdust under our feet, what does a paycheck actually buy an employer? What does a working person owe his or her job, and what does the job owe an employee?”
This is a great question. I answer this way:
"An employee’s job is to give his or her best work every day. A manager’s job is to give the person a reason to come back to work tomorrow."

The casual workplace is making sexual harassment harder to identify—and stop
Vivian Giang, Quartz
"A lewd text in the middle of the night, disturbing comments made in the waning hours of some work event, offhand jokes about sexual escapades in company-wide emails—decades after the Mad Men era of patriarchal office etiquette, data suggests our more casual workplace may be making it difficult for some employees to identify and protect themselves against gendered harassment.
Take, for example, Ellen Pao’s closely followed lawsuit against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers."

Moving the Engagement Needle
Steve Boese, Human Resource Executive
"It could be the most vexing paradox in HR and talent management today: Employee engagement has emerged as one of the most pressing challenges—if not the most—for business leaders, while overall employee-engagement levels remain depressingly low in most organizations. The most commonly cited “macro” employee-engagement survey from Gallup reports about 31 percent of U.S. employees as “engaged,” with more than half (51 percent) of workers “not engaged,” and a worrisome 17.5 percent “actively disengaged” in 2014. These engagement levels, while up a bit from 2013, still remain stubbornly low when compared to most HR leaders’ goals.
It is a troubling set of circumstances—we know engagement levels are too low (and have been for a long time); and we know that increasing engagement levels will improve productivity, increase innovation and enhance customer service. But for many organizations, moving the needle on engagement has proven difficult. "

CEOs, They're Just Like Us: The Secret Lives of Company Executives
Kristen Felicetti, AOL Jobs
"The fictional CEOs and top executives on film and television live fantasy lives of luxury and indulgence. Think Miranda Priestly's chauffeured town car and high-fashion wardrobe, Christian Grey's private helicopter, Don Draper's expensive scotch, or Jack Donaghy's finely tailored suits. However, when it comes to your own office, the company CEO is probably living more modestly.
CareerBuilder released a lighthearted survey that took a look at the preferences of those who command the corner office. The study was conducted online from November to December 2014 by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder among more than 500 executives (hiring and human resources managers in senior leadership positions including CEOs, CFOs, COOs and Senior VP)."

More noteworthy news
Meetings that should be e-mails, and e-mails that should be meetings

A CEO shares the most impressive question a job candidate can ask

Biggest Failures, Best Advice and Defining Success From 14 Inspiring Entrepreneurs

Preparing for the unthinkable: Violence in the workplace

By the Numbers
6 Beautiful and eco-friendly offices that make work seem like a dream

6 Proven Strategies That Move The Needle On Gender Equality In Corporate America

10 punctuation essentials for every writer

9 Additions You Need to Make to Your HR Manual Right Now

10 easy ways to age-proof your brain

11 Quotes That Perfectly Sum Up The Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

12 The Dirty Dozen Tax Scams, 2015 Style

20 Embarrassing Things Never to Say in a Job Interview

Compliance Corner
Employers: What You Need to Know if You Conduct Background Checks - Despite its name the FCRA does not just apply to credit reporting

The Importance of Tracking Employee Time – Simple Practices to Avoid Big Headaches

What Factors Bear Upon The Enforceability Of Noncompete Agreements?

Employer's Lack of FMLA Compliance in Handling FMLA Leave Request is a Lesson for the Rest of Us

Workplace Wellness
10 Best Practices to Staying Healthy at Work

Is Stress at the Office Contagious?

What Happens To Our Brains When We Exercise And How It Makes Us Happier

Healthy eating in the workplace

esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

March 7, 2015

News roundup: Harassment, leadership, fatigue costs, Millennials & More

Why it is important to have multiple ways to report harassment
Michael Haberman, Omega HR Solutions
"When you craft your harassment policy there are two important aspects of the policy that many companies miss. First is there has to be a way for someone to report the harassment. Secondly that reporting method has to have alternatives available for the person reporting the harassment. Let me explain why that is important."

Decoding leadership: What really matters
Claudio Feser, Fernanda Mayol, and Ramesh Srinivasan, McKinsey Quarterly
"Our most recent research, however, suggests that a small subset of leadership skills closely correlates with leadership success, particularly among frontline leaders. Using our own practical experience and searching the relevant academic literature, we came up with a comprehensive list of 20 distinct leadership traits. Next, we surveyed 189,000 people in 81 diverse organizations4 around the world to assess how frequently certain kinds of leadership behavior are applied within their organizations. Finally, we divided the sample into organizations whose leadership performance was strong (the top quartile of leadership effectiveness as measured by McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index) and those that were weak (bottom quartile).
What we found was that leaders in organizations with high-quality leadership teams typically displayed 4 of the 20 possible types of behavior; these 4, indeed, explained 89 percent of the variance between strong and weak organizations in terms of leadership effectiveness (exhibit)."

Wake-up Call: Why Everyone Needs More Sleep
"Years’ worth of studies show that real dangers come with one’s deficit in the amount or quality of sleep. Circadian, the Massachusetts firm specializing in staffing, scheduling, training and risk-management issues relating to worker fatigue, lists among them: slower response times, increased errors and mispronouncing or slurring words; driving impairments; an increase in risky behavior, and an inability to develop new strategies based on incoming information. These kinds of concerns have long been known to employers like trucking firms, train operators and medical institutions, with long shifts and lives hanging in the balance. But worry has now spread into the white-collar realm."
Related: Stress, Fatigue and Reduced Productivity: The True Cost of Sleepless Workers

Hospital-Based Active Shooter Incidents: Sanctuary Under Fire
Eli Y. Adashi, MD, MS; Hans Gao, BA; I. Glenn Cohen, JDJAMA
"Apart and distinct from federal law, most states have enacted laws with an eye toward protecting health professionals. Some states (Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Texas) as well as some local governments have recognized hospitals and other medical facilities as gun-free zones by prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons on such premises. Even the state of Texas, often thought of as hostile to restrictions on gun use, has limited the carrying of concealed weapons in hospitals conditional on posting appropriate signage. These state statutes add both tangible and symbolic dimensions to the recognition that health professionals occupy a uniquely beneficent position in society deserving of such protection."
Related' The dynamics of violent behavior in the workplace

Be Careful What You Promise Employees Who Leave Your Employment
Angela Bohmann, Stinson Leonard Street
"Clients sometimes like to ease the transition for employees who are retiring or whom the client would like to encourage to leave. One strategy is to continue the employee “on payroll” for a period of time with the expectation that all benefits will remain in place. However, the practice makes benefits lawyers nervous because the benefits that are supposed to continue may be offered under plans that do not recognize an employee who has stopped working as eligible for continued benefits."

Millennials in Charge
Andrew R. McIlvaine. Human Resource Executive
"Generation Yers, or millennials -- generally, those born between 1980 and 1999 -- may be one of the most-studied generations in history. In the United States, they're 80-million strong and will soon represent the majority of the active workforce. This is not a cause for celebration among all, however: A 2013 survey by New York-based consulting giant EY found 36 percent of managers from multiple generations described millennials as difficult to work with.
The good news is many of those survey respondents perceive Gen Yers as tech-savvy and smart about ways to leverage social media. They're also seen as inclusive leaders who can build "culturally competent" teams. And they're seen as enthusiastic, adaptable and interested in knowing just how well they're performing.
"Millennials are used to getting lots of feedback and tend to want lots of it -- lots of positive, constant feedback," says Ilene Siscovick, a partner and human capital consultant at New York-based Mercer."

Take The ACE Quiz — And Learn What It Does And Doesn't Mean
Laura Starecheski, NPR
"An ACE score is a tally of different types of abuse, neglect, and other hallmarks of a rough childhood. According to the Adverse Childhood Experiences study, the rougher your childhood, the higher your score is likely to be and the higher your risk for later health problems."

Workplace sanity is withing reach
S. Chris Edmonds, SmartBlog on Leadership
"Leaders need to place as much importance on workplace sanity and civility as they do on workplace productivity. When leaders invest time, energy, and passion in the health of their team or company’s work environment, amazing things happen. There is undeniable proof that when work environments demonstrate trust, respect, and dignity to every player in every interaction, engagement goes up, customer service goes up, and results and profits go up."

Caregiver stress equals higher healthcare costs for employers
Sue Salach, TheWorkingCaregiver
"One out of three American workers is also managing the care of an older relative. Loss of productivity resulting from time off to care for an aging relative is estimated at $6100 per employee per year. Caregiver stress accounts for a 27% increase in use of company health insurance benefits. Seventeen percent (17%) of caregivers quit their jobs to provide care for aging family members, and another 15% reduce their work hours to assist their loved ones.
This shocking loss of employee productivity is hitting businesses very hard as more Boomers have senior parents who require caregiving."

Brief Takes


Looking for the most comprehensive and effective wellness program for your employees? ESI TotalCare Wellness pairs Behavioral Health Clinicians with certified Wellness Coaches to provide employees and their families with the help, motivation, tools and support to make changes and improve their lives. Call 800-535-4841 for more information.

February 15, 2015

News roundup: Workforce cost, women leaders, executive compensation & more

The Total Cost of Your Workforce
Stacia Garr, Bersin by Deloitte: "Headcount figures are important, no doubt, but this data alone only tells part of the story. Executives and line managers want to know how much they are spending on talent, and how different decisions will impact these costs. HR, in partnership with Finance, needs to take the initiative to calculate and report these costs."

The Art of Not Working at Work
Roland Paulsen, The Atlantic: "Two years ago a civil servant in the German town of Menden wrote a farewell message to his colleagues on the day of his retirement stating that he had not done anything for 14 years. “Since 1998,” he wrote, “I was present but not really there. So I’m going to be well prepared for retirement—Adieu.” The e-mail was leaked to Germany's Westfalen-Post and quickly became world news. The public work ethic had been wounded and in the days that followed the mayor of Menden lamented the incident, saying he “felt a good dose of rage.”

Signs You’re Being Passive-Aggressive
Muriel Maignan Wilkins, Harvard Business Review: "And while it’s easy to recognize a passive aggressive co-worker — the colleague who is agreeable to your face but badmouths the idea behind your back or the sarcastic direct report whose constant retort is “but it was just a joke” — recognizing one’s own passive-aggressive behaviors at work can be quite difficult."

Fostering women leaders: A fitness test for your top team
Lareina Yee, McKinsey Quarterly: "I’ve distilled some forward-leaning practices into five questions that can serve as a fitness test for your top team. In my experience, an organization that is making progress on such issues tends to explore them in concert. At the very least, these questions can help generate the kinds of challenging conversations that executive teams around the world should be having. The stakes are too high not to have them."

Most Companies Miss Easiest Ways to Boost Workplace Cybersecurity
Hilary Tuttle, Risk Management Monitor: "Despite increasing attention to cybersecurity and a seemingly constant stream of high-profile data breaches, the primary security method used in businesses worldwide remains the simple password. According to a recent study, the average person now has 19 passwords to remember, so it is not surprising that the vast majority of passwords are, from a security perspective, irrefutably bad, including sequential numbers, dictionary words or a pet’s name."

Happy and productive workers
Wally Bock, Three Star Leadership Blog: "Are happy workers productive workers? The academics have rolled out their heavy artillery on both sides of that one. A lot of companies have bought the idea that if they make their workers happy, they’ll become more productive.
Usually, when they do that they load up on the hygiene factors. They look at salary and benefits and ping pong tables and perks. But the reality is that hygiene factors don’t make people happy. People get used to that new salary pretty quick. After they spend the bonus, they still have to go back to work.
If you’re thinking about productivity, that’s where you have to look. You have to look at what it’s like to go to work."

Mortality risk 'two times higher' in people with mental disorders
"A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry finds that the risk of mortality among people with mental health disorders is more than two times higher than that of individuals without such conditions and the general population."

Executive Compensation 101: What to Consider
Bridget Miller, HR Daily Advisor: "Creating an appropriate executive compensation package is vital to getting and keeping the best-suited executives for your organization. As with any role in the business, the compensation package should be tailored not only to the skills required but also to organizational needs. It should also factor in market-driven criteria such as competitive pay scales."

Pros & Cons of Unlimited Vacation Time for Employees
Brian Anelante, Undercover Recruiter: "Companies around the world including Virgin Group, Netflix, Groupon, Glassdoor, HubSpot & many others offer their employees unlimited vacation time. If this vacation policy goes as expected, Virgin Group’s Richard Branson plans to recommend it to his company’s subsidiaries as well as companies all around the world."

Smoking's Death Toll May Be Higher Than Anyone Knew
Richard Harris, NPR: "The U.S. surgeon general lists 21 deadly diseases that are caused by smoking. Now, a study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine points to more than a dozen other diseases that apparently add to the tobacco death toll. To arrive at this conclusion, scientists from the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and several universities tracked nearly a million people for a decade and recorded their causes of death."

Brief takes

January 25, 2015

News roundup: Sick leave, Wellness, Compliance & more

Who Has Paid Sick Leave, Who Doesn’t, and What’s Changing
Gretchen Gavett, Harvard Business Review blog:
"It’s in this climate that Obama is proposing up to seven earned paid sick days for all Americans, citing Connecticut’s 2011 law as precedence. While many expected that law to lead to costly abuse — with employees calling in sick whenever they felt like taking time off — according to data from the Center for Economic Policy and Research, those shenanigans never materialized. In addition, only a third of eligible employees even used the benefit, and they used fewer days on average than they were allotted."

Related: Valerie Jarrett on LinkedIn: Why We Think Paid Leave Is a Worker's Right, Not a Privilege

Why Employees Participate—or Don't—in Wellness Programs
Findings from the 2013 EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Consumer Engagement in Health Care Survey, published in a December 2013 EBRI Issue Brief, highlight factors influencing participation in workplace wellness programs, including health-risk assessments, health-promotion initiatives and biometric screenings.

How Would You Define HR in 2015?
Robin Schooling, HR Cloud Blog:
"We do, however, have opportunities to redefine the role of HR in our organizations as we move to a more strategic focus on talent management and organizational capability while also controlling the cost (and time!) spent on transactional work. And part of that is the ‘culture’ thing. It’s important enough that Merriam-Webster even named ‘culture’ as the 2014 word of the year."

The Challenge of Dealing with Difficult People and Difficult Conversations
David Lee, TLNT blog:
"When I shift from feeling afraid of the potential conflict to accepting the role of leader, role model, and facilitator, I let go of my desire to “win” or get back at them. When I’m able to do that, my focus shifts to asking what actions on my part will most likely foster a productive conversation. It shifts from my personal agenda to asking, “What actions on my part are for the greater good?”"

Artificial intelligence meets the C-suite
Technology is getting smarter, faster. Are you? Experts including the authors of The Second Machine Age, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, examine the impact that “thinking” machines may have on top-management roles.

What We Can Learn from the Biggest Corporate Hacks
Eric Ravenscraft, Lifehacker:
"Companies often seem like they're monolithic titans that can't be touched. Underneath all the branding, though, they're made up of people. People who can make mistakes, overlook something, or even get lazy. Whether you're one of the people who works for a big company, or just an average Jane looking to protect her chat logs, we can all learn a thing or two from these slip-ups."

Compliance Corner

Brief takes

Looking for the most comprehensive and effective wellness program for your employees? ESI TotalCare Wellness pairs Behavioral Health Clinicians with certified Wellness Coaches to provide employees and their families with the help, motivation, tools and support to make changes and improve their lives. Call 800-535-4841 for more information.

January 10, 2015

News roundup: Whistleblowers, Empathy, EEOC, Kodak moments & more

How Companies Should Respond to Whistleblower Complaints
"Even for companies that have not yet encountered a whistleblower, steps can be taken to minimize the potential exposure to such complaints. For instance, companies that operate in highly-regulated industries, such as finance or health care, should ensure that their compliance manuals are up-to-date and employees are aware of and in compliance with all relevant regulations."
- via Paul B. Murphy, Amelia R. Medina and James L. Michaels, Risk Management

Corporate Empathy Is Not an Oxymoron
"Enlightened companies are increasingly aware that delivering empathy for their customers, employees, and the public is a powerful tool for improving profits, but attempts to implement empathy programs are frequently hamstrung by the common misconception of it as “wishy-washy,” “touchy-feely,” and overtly feminine. So empathy is de-prioritized, and relegated to the status of just yet another HR initiative that looks good in the company newsletter. It is seen as a soft and frilly add-on rather than a core tool."
-via Belinda Parmar, Harvard Business Review blog

Rookie Talent: Avoiding a Kodak Moment
The Kodak name became synonymous with a resistance to change, but it’s not just innovation the company lacked. In 2011, Kodak made the list of Top 10 Fortune 500 Employers With Older Workers, called out for employing a disproportionately high percentage of mature workers.

I can’t help but wonder: If Kodak had paid attention to its aging workforce trend, would the company have maintained market share and avoided bankruptcy?
- via Sarah Sladek, Leadership Now blog

California: On-call workers entitled to pay for all hours spent at job, court rules - "Employees who while on call are required to stay at a worksite should be compensated for all their hours, including sleep time, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday."

Might Your Workers Be Eligible For Medicaid? Start-Up Helps Employers Find Out
"The Gold ‘N Silver Inn in Reno, Nev., has long offered health coverage to its employees — but many of the cooks, dishwashers and waiters who make close to minimum wage can’t afford the $100 monthly premium.

Last January, when Nevada became one of more than two dozen states to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, 10 of the diner’s 55 employees qualified for the government insurance program for low-income Americans. None of them realized it, however, until the family-run restaurant hired BeneStream, a New York-based start-up funded partly by the Ford Foundation. BeneStream uses software to quickly determine which employees are eligible for Medicaid, then helps those workers sign up for the state-federal health program that covers 70 million people."

EEOC issues you’ll want to keep an eye on in 2015
2014 was a pretty tough year for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But that doesn’t mean employers can relax. Employment law firm Littler Mendelson recently released its Annual Report on EEOC Developments – Fiscal Year 2014, and while the results indicate the EEOC suffered some setbacks, it’s apparent that employers need to keep an eye on several key issues in 2015.

15 for ’15: Employment and labor resolutions for the new year

News Briefs

What is the Mileage Reimbursement Rate for 2015?

Do the ADA and FMLA Provide Protections to LGBT’s in the Workplace?

On the importance of being accommodating

Progressive Discipline - How Organizations Address Performance Issues

FMLA FAQ: How Do I Calculate FMLA Leave Where My Employee's Work Schedule Varies From Week to Week?

Your 5-Day Plan to Learning Twitter

Top 4 states with highest opioid use

Yoga: A Treatment For Grief?

FAQ: What Are The Penalties For Not Getting Insurance?

The Secret to Keeping Your New Year’s Health Resolution

The 2 Most Powerful Words A Manager Can Use

Blessed are the caregivers

6 Rules for Effective Peer-to-Peer Communication


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

January 4, 2015

HR Trends & Issues for 2015

Minimum Wage Hikes Hit 21 States via Michelle Maslowski, JDSupra

Gazing Into the Crystal Ball via David Shadovitz, HRE Online

Emerging Human Resource Trends in 2015: Is Your Business Ready?, Margaret Jacoby, Huffington Post

Psst… the 2015 Employment Issues Are Just Around the Corner. via Eric Gabrielle, BeLabor the Point

2015 is lurking: are your health and welfare and cafeteria plans up-to-date?, via Seth Hanft, EmployeeBenefitst Law Report

Nine emerging HR trends for 2015 via Tom Haak, HR Trend Institute

Top Tips for a Healthier, Happier Workforce in 2015, via Terry Banks, Occupational Health & Safety

EBN: 26 items plan sponsors should focus on in 2015

Seyfarth Shaw: EEOC-Initiated Litigation Case Law Developments in 2014 and Trends To Watch for in 2015 (PDF)

Jackson Lewis: What to Watch for at National Labor Relations Board in 2015

5 retirement plan trends for 2015: How many are you on board with? via Christian Schappel, HRMorning

HR Ringleader: Workplace Observations for 2015: The Year of Employee Aptitude

Workplace Wellness Issues to Consider in 2015 via Colin Bradley, The Employee Benefits Blog

5 Key Recruitment Trends For 2015 via Ron Stewart, TalentCulture

A Look Ahead: Paid Family & Medical Leave Insurance Program - via Daniel Schwartz, Connecticut Employment Law Blog

Disrupting HR in 2015 - via Steve Boese, Human Resource Executive

What Big Things Are Coming in 2015? Top Minds Give Their Predictions via Amy Chen, LinkedIn Blog

Experts forecast 5 recruiting trends for 2015 via Catherine Conlan, Monster

New Year, New Laws: Laws that Take Effect on January 1, 2015 via Marci Harris, LinkedIn Pulse

Visier Predicts Top Recruitment, Retention, and Compensation Trends for 2015

What's Ahead for Americans in 2015? via Frank Newport, Gallup

Larry Ferlazzo - Nine education predictions for 2015

Six 2014 Tech Stories that Will Matter in 2015 via Vauhini Vara, The New Yorker

McAfee Labs Predicts Top Cybersecurity Threats for 2015


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.

December 30, 2014

Reviewing 2014's Biggest Workplace Stories

A Year Worth Remembering - HRE picks 10 people, places and things that will finish the year in the winner’s circle.

Better to Forget - HRE's annual list of 10 people, places and things that will finish 2014 as losers

SHRM: Top 10 Employee Relations Articles of 2014

Top 13 Workplace Legal Issues Of 2014

2014 Employment and Labor Law Legislation

LinkedIn: The 25 Hottest Skills That Got People Hired in 2014

EBN: Top trends in the benefits industry in 2014

Leadership Now: The Best Leadership Books of 2014

CEO: The 5 Best Leadership Infographics Of 2014

CEO: The 5 Best Leadership Articles Of 2014

10 healthiest states in America (2014)

Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards

Year in Risk 2014

Most Popular Insurance Journal National Stories of 2014

Social Media
LinkedIn's Best Company Pages 2014

Google 2014: A Year in Search

Google Trends List 2014

The Year on Twitter

Facebook Year in Review

The Year in Social Media: Four Big Workplace Developments from 2014

CNN: 2014 In Review Fast Facts

Humor: Dave Barry's Year in Review

2014 Year in Pictures: Part I; Part 2; Part 3

December 21, 2014

News Roundup: DOJ transgender protections; racial tension; winter smackdown & more

DOJ extends legal protections to transgender employees
"The Department of Justice has officially expanded its legal definition of sex discrimination – prohibited by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act – to include discrimination based on gender identity, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday.
The decision, circulated in a memo to all DOJ components and U.S. attorneys, marks a reversal in position, and bars the department from making arguments in court that transgender people are not covered under Title VII, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in employment. It also enables the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division to file Title VII claims against state and local public employers on behalf of transgender individuals."

Related: Dave Shadovitz on the DOJ’s Move to Protect Transgender Individuals

Guidance for HR when racial tension spreads from streets to workplace
Tammy Binford, HR Hero: "As anger peaks around the country, it’s likely some of the emotions displayed in protests will erupt at work. When that happens, HR has a job to do to keep potentially emotional conversations from escalating into workplace disruption and even discrimination or harassment claims. Effective antidiscrimination policies and training programs are a start."

How You Should Manage Depression in the Workplace
At Inc., Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas talks about holiday depression and enlists the help of Counselor, Stephanie Meldrum: "Of course, if you suspect you should act, but from a business standpoint. Meldrum emphasizes that it's critical to keep the relationship professional and business focused. "My general recommendation would probably be to have a conversation about the work performance issues only, and then ask a question like 'Are there any contributing factors that are getting in your way of making changes? Would a referral to the EAP for support be helpful?'"

11 Tricks Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, And Other Famous Execs Use To Run Meetings
"Americans sit through some 11 million meetings every day — with the unproductive ones costing companies $37 billion a year ... So we decided to look at how some of the most effective executives in history — from GM czar Alfred Sloan to Apple prince Steve Jobs to Facebook queen Sheryl Sandberg — run the meetings that invariably fill their calendars."

Winter Smackdown!
Sandy Smith at EHS Today: "Whether it's a polar vortex or simply a blizzard, winter weather can be tough on our bodies, our cars, our travel schedules and our psyches. Here are some tips to protect yourself and employees during the winter months."

Another Reason Mondays Are The Worst
"In 2013, Mondays were responsible for about 167,000 instances of someone getting hurt at work — more than any other day. And this is a trend that holds up pretty well: Monday has been the most injury-prone day of the week in all but two years since 2007."

Holiday focus
The 12 Days of Employment Law Christmas (2014)
Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer's Law blog has posted his annual “The 12 Days of Employment Law Christmas," amusing and informative, as he includes links to his coverage or important law related issues.

Santa Sued for Disability Discrimination Due to Reindeer Harassment
Reindeer co-workers harassed Rudolph on the basis of a perceived disability, and Santa failed to take prompt corrective action to stop the harassing behavior.

Get the Santa Tracker App

How Grinchy are employers this year?

News Briefs:


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.

November 29, 2014

News Roundup: E-mail policies; High performers; Maternity & paternity leave & other notable news

Top 5 awesome corporate email policies
At The Chief Happiness Officer Blog, Alexander Kjerulf points to a University of California study on stress and its relation to e-mail. He says, "Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against email. It’s an awesome communication tool, but in many workplaces it is used poorly, and mostly the burden has been put on employees to figure out strategies for dealing with the resulting email onslaught.
I think it’s time for workplaces to take responsibility for this issue at a corporate level and fortunately, some workplaces have done just that and are trying new and better email policies."
He offers five of the best policies that he's found.

What High Performers Want at Work
Karie Willyerd, Harvard Business Review:
"A high performer can deliver 400% more productivity than the average performer.

Despite this, when most managers look at workforce statistics, all employees tend to be lumped together into a category so broadly defined that it becomes difficult to take meaningful decisions. If your average employee tenure is six years, is that good or bad? You could benchmark the Fortune 500 and find that indeed you would look pretty good, tied at 40th place. But if the people you are keeping are the low performers and your high performers are leaving, would that be really so great?"

The Whole World Is Fat! And That Ends Up Costing $2 Trillion A Year
Jason Beaubien of NPR Health :
"The McKinsey report estimates the economic impact of obesity around the world at $2 trillion a year. Part of that figure is the cost of caring for diseases that are linked to obesity, like Type 2 diabetes. But there's an even bigger cost in "the loss of productivity," Dobbs says. "People suffering from obesity often work less. They have to take more time off sick. They retire early or even die early."

The United States has the highest obesity rate in the world: 34.9 percent. And while Americans are known for enjoying fast food and being "big," the other countries in the top five fattest nations might surprise you: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and South Africa."

Maternity and Paternity Leave in the United States
The U.S. lags behind most other nations in terms of how much guaranteed maternity and paternity leave is provided to employees. Bridget Miller of HR Daily Advisor notes that, "Similar to the fact that vacation time is not a benefit mandated by federal law, maternity and paternity leave is often left up to the will of the employer. Some employers do provide such leave, and some even provide it with pay. Others have no provision at all and instead require employees to either use personal and/or vacation days or rely on the provisions allotted by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)." She offers and overview of some U.S. laws that cover the gaps.

If you have not updated your handbook this year you are way behind

Michael Haberman, Omega HR Solutions:
"There are a number of new issues that employers need to pay attention to now and some that are coming in the near future. According to a report written by XpertHR some of the trends that need some attention include: “LGBT protection, medical marijuana and no-fault attendance policies are just a few of the trends that employers need to consider when developing or updating their employee handbooks”.

Probably one of the more important policies that need to be addressed is BYOD (bring your own device). As companies either allow or require employees to bring their own mobile devices to work in order to do work, policies need to be put in place and communicated. BYOD is not just a matter of security, though that is a huge issue, it also includes some wage and hour issues. And what about social media use?"

Secrets of the most productive people
Fast Company interviews a senator, a chef, 4 CEOs and a DJ superstar to learn about how they get the most out of their days

News Briefs

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.

November 9, 2014

News Roundup: Election Aftermath, NLRB, Bias, Dress Codes & More

Last week's election saw five states approving ballot measures to raise the minimum wage . Beyond that, there has been no shortage of speculation about what the congressional "regime change" will mean for various aspects of our governance and policies. In the National Law Review, Barnes and Thornburg look at What A Republican Senate May Mean for the NLRB. Robin Shea says that Tuesday’s GOP “shellacking” may not change much for employers and explains why in a post at her blog, Employment & Labor Insider.

While folks were still processing election results, on Friday, we learned that a challenge to Obamacare will be taken up by the Supreme Court, a move that surprised even many legal experts. While conventional wisdom held that the Affordable Care Act could reach the Supreme Court again at some point, most though that the higher court would defer action until challenges played out in lower courts. Lyle Denniston of the SCOTUS Blog reports on Friday's decision: Court to rule on health care subsidies. For a quick overview, Ezra Klein at Vox offers this: The huge new threat to Obamacare, explained in 2 minutes. The upshot: Obamacare is in peril. Healthcare policy analyst Jonathon Cohn offers his take: Obamacare Returns to the Supreme Court. Hold on to your hats.

Other news of note
The NLRB creates another test for Independent Contractor Status
Michael Halberman, Omega HR Solutions
"In a big move to restrict “misclassification” of employees as independent contractors the USDOL and the IRS have been stringent is applying the rules for determining independent contractor status. Now the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has weighed in on the fray and added an additional factor."

Implicit Bias: A Brave New World
Michael Fox, Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer
"Implicit bias as a concept has been bubbling around the world of employment discrimination for a few years now. Although the fact that Google is seriously studying the issue as it applies to its own workforce may not mean that the concept is now main stream, I do think it means it is an issue that we will be hearing more about."

Is Your Dress Code Legal?
Bridget Miller, HR Daily Advisor
"Many businesses find it appropriate to implement a dress code to ensure that everyone within the organization dresses appropriately and to a companywide standard. But the way an individual chooses to dress is a very personal decision, and an employee’s choice of clothing is one that can involve many factors, including the cost of the clothing, religious observations, cultural influences, and more. How far is too far when a company requires employees to wear (or not wear) specific attire? What legal considerations must an employer take into account?"

Realizing the power of talented women
Michelle Angier and Beth Axelrod, McKinsey Quarterly
In 2010, eBay embarked on a journey to bring more women into its top ranks. It found that commitment, measurement, and culture outweigh a business case and HR policies.

Brief takes


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.

October 18, 2014

News Roundup: Dress code, personality tests, training, harassment & more

Exercise as a prescription for depression: Here's how it works
Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times: "Their findings, published Thursday in the journal Cell, not only illuminate the link between chronic stress and depression; they help explain how a known anti-depressive agent -- in this case exercise -- works to prevent or mitigate the debilitating mental condition. That's more than can be said for many antidepressant medications, which clearly help many with depression, but whose mechanism of action is not all that well understood."
Related: How exercise may protect the brain against stress-induced depression

6 questions for companies changing a dress code
Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady: "Walmart's (WMT) recent decision to enforce a new dress code for employees by the end of September has put a spotlight on the issue and raised some thorny questions. For instance, what's the difference between a dress code and a uniform? Plus, the move has many Walmart employees upset because buying new clothes is an expense many either don't want or can't afford. / However, dress codes aren't unusual at all. In fact, the company you're working for probably has one. / Still, as Walmart is showing, when making a decision to change a dress code, it can be fraught with consequences. That's why companies in that situation should first think about these six things..."

Mediating When Communication Breaks Down Between Coworkers
Dianna Booher, Huffington Post: "When coworkers are caught in conflict, do you know how to re-open the lines of communication without getting trapped in the fallout? Do you care--or do you just stay clear? As a leader, here's what you can do to help minimize the grumbling, reduce the stress, and resolve the issue."

Do personality tests pass the ADA-compliance test?
Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer's Law Blog: "The ABA Journal (hat tip: Overlawyered) is reporting that the EEOC is investigating whether several well-known companies are violating the ADA by using pre-employment personality tests to screen applicants ... The use of personality tests raises complex legal and business issues, even more so now that this issue is on the EEOC’s radar. If you are considering using personality tests to screen applicants or current employees, tread carefully and not without the input of your employment counsel."

Making virtual teams productive
Wally Bock, Three Star Leadership: "When you’ve got a virtual team member, you have to work harder to have those encounters that build relationships. That’s important. Researchers at MIT studied what great business teams look like and how virtual teams differed from co-located teams. They found that all great business teams have some things in common, but that building relationships is much harder in a virtual environment."

Lack of corporate training to blame for ‘skills gap’ says new study
HR BLR: "Are employers doing enough to close the so-called skills gap? According to a survey of employed and unemployed Americans by Mindflash, the answer is “No.” While some employers have partnered with academic institutions and federal and state agencies to help equip workers with the skills needed to fill available jobs, survey respondents pointed to lack of corporate training as the top reason for many Americans remaining unemployed and many jobs remaining unfilled, according to the survey. Also, 31 percent of survey respondents said that employers are unwilling “to train new hires for the specific skills they need.”

Knowledge of “touchy-feely” plant manager means negligence liability for sexual harassment
Brandi O. Brown, J.D, Walters Kluwer: "One of the workers testified that when she told them about the manager touching her, they told her to look for another job and also told her that they did not believe her. They told another one of the workers that they had cameras at the facility and that if she did not like her job, that she should find another one. They told yet another that they were not going to prefer her over the plant manager. Further, the translator purportedly refused to translate one of the worker’s complaints because he did not believe her."

Communication Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs
Lolly Daskal, INC.: "Communication is at the core of almost everything we do. If you want to build better communication skills, a good first step is identifying and avoiding these common problems."

Employers Who Prohibit Use of Company Technology for Non-Business Purposes Have Dodged a Bullet—For Now
Benesch, JDSupra Business Advisor: "As a result of the Board’s punt in Purple Communications, Register Guard remains controlling law. And until the NLRB revisits the issue (most probably after midterm elections in November), employers may continue to operate as if they have a property right in their email systems and may therefore lawfully prohibit employee use of such systems for non-business reasons."

The complete guide to stress relief at the office
Jeanne Kim, Quartz "Called the “health epidemic of the 21st century” by the World Health Organization, stress is a factor in nearly half of work-performance issues and costs US businesses an estimated $300 billion a year “through absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover and direct medical, legal and insurance fees,” according to the American Psychological Association."

Brief Takes


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

September 20, 2014

News Roundup: Pot, FMLA, Coaching, Same Sex Benefits & More

Nearly 10% of Americans Go to Work High on Weed
From Mashable: "About 9.74% of Americans have gone to work under the influence of marijuana, according to a survey conducted by SurveyMonkey for Mashable. About 534 Americans shared their marijuana and prescription drug taking habits when it comes to the workplace. "

Ten Unbelievable But True Workplace Incidents
Evil Skippy at Work blog offers "...ten crazy, hard-to-believe things that I have experienced during my tenure in the wonderful worlds of H.R. and employment law. Believe!"

Should Employers Ban Email After Work Hours?
Jim Harter, Gallup Business Journal: " Mobile technology has created a "new normal" work life for a lot of us: Gallup research reveals that nearly all full-time U.S. workers (96%) have access to a computer, smartphone, or tablet, and 86% use a smartphone or tablet or both. A full two-thirds of Americans report that the amount of work they do outside normal working hours has increased a little to a lot because of mobile technology advances over the last decade.
But is this a net gain or net drain on our well-being? And how should leaders manage this after-hours work?"

FMLA FAQ: Can We Terminate an Employee for Working a Second Job While on FMLA Leave?
Jeff Nowak at FMLA Insights replies to this reader query: "Q: One of our employees has taken FMLA leave for anxiety attacks. Recently, we found out that she is working a similar job for another employer at precisely the same time she should be working for us. Can we deny her the right to return and terminate her employment because of this leave abuse?"

How (and How Not) to Conduct Backdoor Reference Checks
Candidate-supplied references don’t always provide you with an objective perspective. To find out what makes a candidate truly tick, backdoor reference checks can be much more revealing.
Post includes Walk-Through Guides for Conducting Backdoor Reference Checks

Knowing What Matters to You Instead of Living by Default
Steve Spring at Tiny Buddha: "I am sharing my story with you today because I don’t want you to experience what happened to me. I want you to spend your time on the things that matter most to you before it is too late. I want you to decide what is important to you, and create a plan to get there."

Coaching Your Employees
Video webcast: "Ed Batista, experienced executive coach and co-author of the HBR Guide to Coaching Your Employees, shares insights from this Guide and from his extensive coaching experience. Batista describes how you can improve your coaching skills, create realistic and inspiring plans for people’s growth, customize your approach, and provide employees the support they need to achieve peak performance."

Update on Same-Sex Employee Benefits
Jenny Kiesewetter, Butler Snow LLP: "In recent months employers around the country, have been scrambling to keep up with developments with respect to the evolving rights of employees in same-sex relationships. This articles touches on some recent guidance in this regard from federal agencies."

The 10 Commandments of HR
William Tincup, Fistful of Talent: "As an interesting experiment, I decided to create a list of “thou shalts/thou shalls” for HR pros. The list is similar to the “original” 10 Commandments List, of course. That said, my list is completely subjective… "

Brief Takes

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.

September 7, 2014

News Roundup: Analytics, HR trends, Gen Z, ERISA & More

Predict What Employees Will Do Without Freaking Them Out
John Boudreau: "But companies are looking beyond cost savings—to driving outcomes. HR predictive analytics is touted as transforming HR from retrospective and reactive administrative reporting to strategically integrated modeling to predict behaviors, attitudes and capabilities that drive tangible organizational outcomes. Some evidence shows a correlation between HR predictive analytics and organizational performance."

5 big trends shaking up the job market
"The job market is not exactly smokin' hot, but it's an improvement over recent years. Let's zoom out a bit. Here are five important trends in the labor market that you should be thinking about beyond the monthly unemployment figure."

Report: Temp jobs at all-time high in U.S.
"A record 2.8 million Americans are working in temporary help jobs, according to a new report by the National Employment Law Project, a non-profit organization that advocates for low-wage and unemployed workers. ... temp jobs make up 2 percent of total employment in the U.S, the highest percentage ever."
Related: View from HR: Rise in temp workers creates challenges for employers and job seekers

Brace Yourself For Gen Z
Suzanne Lucas (AKA Evil HR Lady): "A new survey says that today's teens, also known as Generation Z, have some very distinct ideas about what they expect in a job. Are you prepared?"

ERISA: A landmark law at 40: How well is it protecting workers' retirements?
Mark Miller: "Since ERISA’s passage, we have seen a profound shift from defined benefit pensions to defined contribution plans, mainly 401(k)s. Pensions are a promise by employers of lifetime income in retirement; 401(k)s are a promise to contribute a certain amount to your account while you are working.
Evidence is mounting that we need to get focused on income again."

The One Word Men Never See In Their Performance Reviews
Kathleen Davis: "There's one adjective that's never used to criticize men, yet it shows up at an alarming rate in women's performance reviews."

Workplace stress 'destructive' for productivity
Employees suffering from high levels of work related stress have lower engagement, are less productive and have higher absentee levels than their peers, according to research from professional services firm Towers Watson.

Perception of Control Helps Determine Resiliency
Rick Nauert: "Discovering why some bad news makes one person work harder while other disappointing news causes someone else to quit or give up is the topic of a new research study. In the new study, researchers found different outcomes may result from how much control we feel we have over what happened. "

News Briefs



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.

August 24, 2014

News Roundup:HR Tech Trends, Harassment Mistakes, Upward Bullying & More

Top Trends in Tech & HR Management
"SHRM subject matter experts (SMEs) have laid out the top tech trends they see as having the biggest impact on the workplace & HR profession."

The “Dirty Dozen”: Top 12 employer harassment mistakes
Employment law attorney Robin Shea says, "In my continuing quest to make sure that none of our readers ever get sued — or, if that fails, never lose a lawsuit — here are my “Dirty Dozen” employer harassment mistakes. Are you guilty of any of these? If so, cease and desist!"

Upward Bullying
"We tend to perceive intimidating behaviors as moving only downward, where a person of authority victimizes a junior person. But clearly, managers can be targets of troubling behaviors in the workplace on the part of their own subordinates. Colloquially, this behavior has been known as “boss bashing;” experts now call it “upward bullying.”

American Horror Story: Violence in the Workplace
"The setting: Rikers Island correctional facility in New York City. The scene: A group of inmates gather around a cell where an employee has been locked in a cell, while other inmates pass around a ‘hit list’ of other employees they plan to target."

Americans are taking fewer vacations than they used to
"The average American gets 14 days off from work, according to an annual survey by the travel company Expedia, but actually uses only 10 of those days each year. It's an open question why Americans don't use it all. They say their bosses are supportive and that scheduling got in the way. Others say they're are just stockpiling it for some future trip —but wouldn't someone, then, eventually take that trip?"

8 Tips for Avoiding Your Leadership Blindspots
"Savvy leaders understand that blindspots, while they vary in severity and are different for each individual, are not the exception — instead, they “come with the territory.” The question then becomes: How do I surface and address the blindspots that matter? One way is to ask the right questions in the right way. Here are some guidelines for identifying blindspots."

Benefits Employees Wish Employers Would Offer
"Forget the foosball table in the break room and the gourmet snacks in the kitchen. The benefits employees really want from their employers are much more basic – and in many cases they center around being treated like trustworthy adults capable of getting work done without so much oversight. Here are eight of the benefits employees most want."

News Briefs

Cool tool to share:

August 9, 2014

News Roundup: Honda Case History,Marijuana, Obesity & More

How Honda Drives Its Workforce- from Jeffrey Rothfeder, Newsweek
"One reason for the success of Honda as an automobile maker in the US is its unconventional approach to hiring key executives. In this excerpt from his new book, Driving Honda: Inside the World’s Most Innovative Car Company, Jeffrey Rothfeder describes how Honda concluded that a former Marine Reservist would make a great manager."

Should Managers Focus on Performance or Engagement? -Annamarie Mann and Ryan Darby, Gallup Business Journal
"What we discovered is that managers don't have to choose between creating strong, positive teams or focusing on high performance and accountability. High-performance managers do both. They are strengths-based, engagement-focused, and performance-oriented. They develop deep interpersonal relationships with their employees and focus on performance. Managers who emphasize one approach while ignoring the other risk alienating their team members, lowering engagement, and damaging performance."

Drug-Free Workplaces In The Era Of Medical And/or Legal Marijuana Use - Alexander P. Berg of Kollman & Saucier, P.A.:
"This post is designed to provide a basic snapshot of the current state of the law, and the prominent issues that employers face. As detailed below, employers are generally blanketed by the protections of the at-will employment doctrine, as the vast majority of state marijuana laws alter only the criminal sanctions facing those who legitimately use and possess medical marijuana."
Related: Medical Marijuana 101: Doctors, Regulators Brace For ‘Big Marijuana’

Obama signs executive order protecting federal contractors' employees
"President Obama signed an executive order on Thursday designed to protect employees of federal contractors. The order will require contractors to disclose any violations of labor law within the last three years before receiving new federal contracts, and it will adjust procurement procedures to protect contractors with no record of violating the law. "We expect our tax dollars to be spent wisely on these contracts," the president said. "Our tax dollars shouldn't go to companies that violate workplace laws, they shouldn't go to companies that violate workers' rights."

Firefighter obesity a big problem - Astead Herndon, CNN
"More than 70% of domestic firefighters are overweight or obese, a rate slightly higher than the general population, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ....Those extra pounds are taking a toll.
Cardiovascular events account for nearly half of the deaths of on-duty firefighters, and obesity has been linked to an increased risk of job-related disabilities, according to the CDC."

Obesity Linked to Increased Fatigue in the Workplace
"U.S. workplaces may need to consider innovative methods to prevent fatigue from developing in employees who are obese. Based on results from a study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH), workers who are obese may have significantly shorter endurance times when performing workplace tasks, compared with their non-obese counterparts."

LinkedIn’s $6M FLSA settlement provides a good lesson to employers (updated) , employment law attorneyJon Hyman of Ohio Employer's Law Blog says that "LinkedIn will pay nearly $6 million in back pay and liquidated damages to 359 current and former employees following a Department of Labor investigation, reports the DOL." He offers two lessons for employers drawn from this suit.

Distracted and Overwhelmed Employees Are Costing You Big. Try These 3 Fixes.
Terri Egan and Suzanne Lahl, Entrepreneur
"The Deloitte research found that “this constant and frenetic level of activity costs money, perhaps $10 million a year for mid-size companies. More than half (57 percent) of interruptions at work resulted from either social-media tools or switching among disparate standalone applications.”
What’s more, more than half of the respondents to Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends survey believe “that their organizations are not doing a good job helping workers address information overload and today’s demanding work environment.”

Online Breaks Enhance Productivity
Rick Nauert, PsychCentral
"The study suggests that managers consider organizational policies to tap into the positive potential of online work breaks but also establish policies encouraging responsible behavior, such as providing limits on the time spent on online breaks, or holding training on effective strategies that bring benefits from online breaks."

News Briefs


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.

June 29, 2014

News Roundup: Family Leave, Bonuses, Free Speech & More

What paid family leave looks like in the three states that offer it
"California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states that offer paid family and medical leave to workers, a policy that is getting a high-profile boost this week from President Obama." Washington Post

An Employee Dies, and the Company Collects the Insurance
"But critics say it is immoral for companies to profit from the death of employees, while employees themselves do not directly benefit. And despite a law enacted in 2006 that sought to curb the practice — companies now are restricted to insuring only the highest-paid 35 percent of employees, who must give their consent — it remains a growing, opaque and legal source of corporate profit." New York Times

Bonuses Are Back
A new survey finds organizations' use of bonuses to attract and retain talent is at an all-time high. But compensation experts caution that bonus programs need to be well-planned and fully transparent in order to be effective. Human Resource Executive

The Talent Shortage Continues (PDF)
Manpower Group's Ninth Annual Talent Shortage Survey found 36% of emplyers globally report talent shortages in 2014, the highest percentage in seven years. Learn more about what the survey found.

‘Free Speech’ Can Be Costly in the Workplace
It’s a common misconception among employees that their First Amendment rights of free speech carry over to the private workplace. The expression of a political opinion can lead to the loss of a job. Workforce

4 elements of your social media policy that may be illegal
"A study from Proskauer, a business-focused law firm, revealed that companies routinely take action against employees for their behavior on social media platforms, even when it’s their own account used on their own devices on their own time.
Although the infractions that prompted the disciplinary action may have been consistent with the companies’ social media policies, the policies themselves could be illegal. It’s time for companies to revisit their social media policies."

Software That Sees Employees, Not Outsiders, As The Real Threat
"A growing number of companies are under pressure to protect sensitive data — and not just from hackers lurking outside the digital walls. They're also looking to protect it from insiders — employees who may want to swipe information such as customer bank account numbers or electronic medical records." NPR

The Walls Shouldn’t Have Ears: Ruling on Eavesdropping Puts Burden of Prevention on Employers
"Are your employees surreptitiously recording conversations? It's a frightening thought. But based upon a new Illinois Supreme Court ruling, they are now free to do so. To discourage this behavior, Illinois employers should consider implementing a policy prohibiting such surreptitious recordings." The National Law Review

News Briefs


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.

June 15, 2014

News Roundup: Certification, English-Only, Fatherhood, Compliance briefs & More

Reflections on HR Certification vs. Competence
"The Society for Human Resource Management's certification announcement raises a simple but important question: What is the role of certification (vs. competence) in the development of a field?"
Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank, Human Resource Executive Online

EEOC cracks down on employer’s "English-only" rule
"The EEOC yesterday announced that it has filed a lawsuit against a Wisconsin metal and plastic products manufacturer, claiming that it fired a group of foreign employees because of their national origin. According to the lawsuit, each of the 10 fired employees received overall satisfactory ratings on their annual performance evaluations, but received mark-downs for their English skills, which the EEOC alleges were not needed to perform their jobs."
John Hyman, Ohio Employer's Law Blog

Want to Reduce Health Care Cost? Improve Manager Performance
"The work environment created by first-line supervisors and managers has a direct effect on employee well-being and, consequently, on health and health care cost.

A growing body of studies shows, for example, that supervisor and manager behavior affects individuals’ blood pressure and risk of heart disease. To test this relationship, researchers at the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University in Sweden tracked the cardiovascular health of male employees aged 19 to 70 over nearly a decade.

Those who deemed their managers to be the least competent had a 25 percent higher risk of a serious heart problem. In a British study published in 2005, the researchers found that men who described their supervisors as fair and just had reduced stress and a 30 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease than those who said they were treated unfairly at work."
Thomas O. Davenport, TLNT

Why Zappos Is Getting Rid of Job Listings
"The Amazon-owned, Las Vegas-based online shoe retailer sees the move as a way to move its recruiting toward personal relationships and networking. Job listings, Bailen said, put too much focus on the listing and not enough on the people who might fill the very job being listed."
Adam Vaccaro,

5 facts about today’s fathers
"As the American family changes, fatherhood is changing in important and sometimes surprising ways. Recent Pew Research Center studies show that fathers who live with their children are taking a more active role in caring for them and helping out around the house. And the ranks of stay-at-home fathers and single fathers have grown significantly in recent decades. At the same time, more and more children are growing up without a father in the home.

The changing role of fathers has introduced new challenges, as dads juggle the competing demands of family and work. Here are some key findings about fathers from recent Pew Research Center reports."
Kim Parker, Pew Research

For addicts, there may be another road to wellness
NPR: "The Betty Ford Center, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation clinic, is famous for its intensive rehabilitation that takes patients out of their regular lives. New thinking in the medical community, however, advocates treating addiction as a chronic illness that requires lifelong care."

Reviewing Your Personnel Policies
"Whether a company employs 10 or 10,000 people, personnel policies and procedures are often the first line of defense in an employment lawsuit. Depending on the business’s culture and needs, an effective employee handbook can be as short as a few pages, or as long as a small novel. It is not the size, but the content that counts. Every handbook, at a minimum, should contain the following five elements, and risk managers need to be sure they are written in a way that appropriately complies with applicable federal and local laws."
Tonya G. Newman and Sonya Rosenberg , Risk Management

Workplace Bullying: A Cautionary Trip Around the World
"Research has found that workplace bullying, an internal occurrence undertaken by manager and/or co-workers, leads to more workers leaving their job than violence, which is typically inflicted by sources external to a company. Research has also found that workers who witness bullying can have a stronger urge to quit than those who experience it firsthand. Findings from a July 2012 study of nurses in Canada showed that all who experienced bullying, either directly or indirectly, reported a greater desire to quit their jobs than those who did not. The 2014 Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) survey of the U.S. workplace found that it appeared those who vicariously experienced bullying found that the severity of emotional injuries were similar in severity to injuries suffered by bullied individuals."
Ellen Pinkos Cobb, J.D., OH&S

Will California's Ruling Against Teacher Tenure Change Schools?
[In Vergara v. California} "... a California superior-court judge ruled that the state’s teacher tenure system discriminates against kids from low-income families. Based on testimony that one to three percent of California teachers are likely “grossly ineffective”—thousands of people, who mostly teach at low-income schools—he reasoned that current tenure policies “impose a disproportionate burden on poor and minority students.” The ruling, in Vergara v. California, has the potential to overturn five state laws governing how long it takes for a teacher to earn tenure; the legal maneuvers necessary to remove a tenured teacher; and which teachers are laid off first in the event of budget cuts or school closings."
Dana Goldstein, The Atlantic

Myth vs. Fact: Violence and Mental Health
"To separate the facts from the media hype, we talked to Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, and one of the leading researchers on mental health and violence. Swanson talked about the dangers of passing laws in the wake of tragedy ― and which new violence prevention strategies might actually work."
Lois Beckett, ProPublica

Tapping into the Potential of Your Company's Superstars
"Your business is full of imposters posing as high-potential employees, but if you dig a little deeper, you can separate those posers from the real deal."
Tomas Chamorro_premuzic, Dast Company

Are you in an unhealthy office relationship?
"If you spend more waking hours in your office than with your significant other, you and your workspace had better be a good match. Studies have shown that office buildings aren't benign containers but active contributors to good — or poor — health, mood and productivity. Your office can do you right or wrong in many ways, till demolition do you part."
Bonnie Berkowitz and Laura Stanton, Washington Post

Compliance Corner

News Briefs

Looking for the most comprehensive and effective wellness program for your employees? ESI TotalCare Wellness pairs Behavioral Health Clinicians with certified Wellness Coaches to provide employees and their families with the help, motivation, tools and support to make changes and improve their lives. Call 800-535-4841 for more information.

May 11, 2014

News Roundup: HR Spending; Toxic Employees; Hiring Algorithms; Compliance Corner

HR Spending on the Rise
Eric Short: "Human resources spending is on the rise at many organizations, according to a new report. HR spending per employee jumped to $1,995 in 2013, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers Saratoga practice study, compared with $1,923 in 2012. The study, PwC’s “Human Capital Effectiveness Report,” surveyed 375 companies."

Did you hear the joke about the CEO?
Peter McGraw: "And any good HR manager can tell you that workplace satisfaction — not compensation — is the best predictor of employee retention. Humor can be a powerful tool in inter-office communications, as research has shown that it’s a useful way to cope with pain, stress and adversity (in other words, staff meetings)."

Managers Beware: What Toxic "Jane" or "Joe" Can Do to Your Team
Dr. Marla GottschalkInfluencer: "The interpersonal dynamic established within any team is a "make it or break it" element. As we all know, establishing this critical balance can be hard fought. But, when that dynamic is held hostage by the negative behaviors of one team member — everything the team is working toward can be put at serious risk."

In Hiring, Algorithms Beat Instinct
Nathan R. Kuncel, David M. Klieger, and Deniz S. Ones: "Humans are very good at specifying what’s needed for a position and eliciting information from candidates—but they’re very bad at weighing the results. Our analysis of 17 studies of applicant evaluations shows that a simple equation outperforms human decisions by at least 25%. The effect holds in any situation with a large number of candidates, regardless of whether the job is on the front line, in middle management, or (yes) in the C-suite."

Conversations and stay interviews are the work of a leader
John Keyser: "The stay interview is one of the most important conversations we can have with our valued team members. It is a very positive approach to keeping our good people, and we gain key insights, ideas and advice which we can definitely use as we continue to strive for improvement. In essence, a stay interview is saying to a person, “We appreciate your good work and dedication, you are an important member of our team and we would like to learn from you.”

The Surprising Secret to Employee Engagement
Matt Tenney: "Ever since the Conference Board began studying it in 1987, employee engagement has steadily declined. A recent Gallup Poll reported that only 30 percent of Americans are actively engaged while at work. Have you ever wondered why this is happening?"

Leading Across Cultures: Learn to Adapt Your Style
Erin Meyer: "In today’s global business environment it is not enough to be either a low-power-distance leader or a high-power-distance leader. You may find yourself leading a team with both Dutch and Chinese employees (as well as Italians, Swedes and Mexicans). You need to develop the flexibility to manage up and down the cultural scale. Often this means going back to square one. It means watching what makes local leaders successful. It means explaining your own style frequently. It may even mean learning to laugh at yourself. But ultimately it means learning to lead in different ways in order to motivate and mobilise groups who follow in different ways from the folks back home."

De Blasio Daughter Talks Depression and Addiction
NY Mayor de Blasio's 19 year-old daughter Chiara recently began speaking about her struggle with depression and substance abuse. It's testament to the fact that a loving family, money and privilege are not insulation from mental health issues. Here are her own words in an essay that she wrote: I'm Chiara de Blasio And I'm A Young Woman In Recovery.
Related: We Must Change the Way We View Addiction - Joe Avellone, Democratic candidate for Governor of Massachusetts and Steve Tolman, President of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO: "The ability to stop this tragic epidemic is within our means. But, it must start with removing the stigma. Changing our approach virtually pays for itself, and can save the lives of so many of our fellow citizens. We need a call to arms."

Compliance corner

News Briefs


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

April 27, 2014

News Briefs: Testing, tracking, trust & more noteworthy news

Making the Grade: Employers make jobs conditional on physical fitness.
Risk & Insurance, Roberto Ceniceros: "Increased nationwide hiring, the rising cost of treating workplace injuries and a less physically fit job applicant pool are driving more employers to employ the practice known as post-offer employment testing.
Post-offer employment testing, or POET, involves simulating the lifting, pushing, pulling and other physical activities that make up a job’s essential functions. Employers are increasingly making employment offers conditional upon a job applicant’s physical ability to perform those activities."

Those Corporate Trust Exercises Aren’t Working
Wall Street Journal's At Work blog:
"U.S. employers have a trust problem.
Only about half of U.S. workers feel their employers are open and upfront with them, according to a survey about work and well-being set to be released this week by the American Psychological Association. And one-quarter of Americans say they simply don’t trust the companies they work for."

How to Track Your Employees' Productivity Without Becoming Big Brother
Daniel Enthoven at Inc.: "The Quantified Self movement has tremendous potential in the workplace--just don't use data analytics technologies to monitor people's bathroom breaks."

The Ins and Outs of Changing Culture - Robert Pater in Occupational Health & Safety: "The title of my book, "Leading From Within," reflects our view that no matter how effective an outside resource might potentially be, change ultimately has to be driven and sustained internally--whether within an individual, site, business unit, or an organization overall. No matter how "positive" it may seem, external methods have to become part of a company's cultural DNA; otherwise, an intervention likely won't take, and it actually can set up another round of internal disappointment or (further) erosion of management credibility. Ideally, an outside resource helps shift the culture into one-step-ahead territory, not just give out more of the same (in effect actually hunkering down the culture). In other words, it has to go beyond providing more refined ways to basically do the same old things."

Study: New fathers struggle with depression, need interventions, too = The Pump Handle, Kim Krisberg: "Women aren’t the only ones at risk for depression and in need of screening services when a new baby comes into their lives. Young fathers face significant mental health challenges as well, according to a new study.

Published in the May issue of Pediatrics, researchers found that fathers who live in the same households as their children experience a decrease in depressive symptoms in the period immediately before their children are born. However, depressive symptoms among young fathers, who were around 25 years old when they became fathers, increased an average of 68 percent throughout their children’s first five years of life."

April 28 - April 28 is Workers Memorial Day, dedicated to reminding us that every death, injury, or illness on the job represents a human tragedy. For a toolkit or list of events, see the AFL-CIO Workers Memorial Day site.

Short Takes


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

April 26, 2014

10 Health & Wellness Shares

Here's a grab bag of 10 health & wellness items that we thought were worth sharing. If you'd like to share these with your employees, too, you can forward this post via this link: or share our Wellness Twitter feed, @WellnessESI

5 signs you should get tested for Type 2 diabetes

The right combination of stomach microbes could be crucial for a healthy mind

Why Chocolate Is Good for Us

Best apps for meditation

Ask the Pharmacist: Being Your Best in the Worst Allergy Season

Nicotine Addiction Quiz

The Limits of ‘No Pain, No Gain’

Study shows link between added sugars and heart disease

How 9 Philly Nutrition Pros Prep for a Healthy Week

Texture of foods may influence calorie perception

Looking for the most comprehensive and effective wellness program for your employees? ESI TotalCare Wellness pairs Behavioral Health Clinicians with certified Wellness Coaches to provide employees and their families with the help, motivation, tools and support to make changes and improve their lives. Call 800-535-4841 for more information.

April 13, 2014

News Briefs: Companies saying "no" to HR; Scarcity of good managers; Open offices & more

We are so pleased that our own ESI EAP's Maureen Negron, is featured in the Olean Times Herald's Leadership Reflections. Maureen is SPHR-vice president of client services at ESI Employee Assistance Group. She's interviewed about her job and about her perspective on various leadership issues.

Companies Say No to Having an HR Department
"Companies seeking flat management structures and more accountability for employees are frequently taking aim at human resources. Executives say the traditional HR department—which claims dominion over everything from hiring and firing to maintaining workplace diversity—stifles innovation and bogs down businesses with inefficient policies and processes. At the same time, a booming HR software industry has made it easier than ever to automate or outsource personnel-related functions such as payroll and benefits administration."

Why Good Managers Are So Rare
Randall Beck and James Harter note that, "Gallup has discovered links between employee engagement at the business-unit level and vital performance indicators, including customer metrics; higher profitability, productivity, and quality (fewer defects); lower turnover; less absenteeism and shrinkage (i.e., theft); and fewer safety incidents. When a company raises employee engagement levels consistently across every business unit, everything gets better." The problem is in finding the good managers. This article points to a set of traits that are found in the best managers.
But not so fast - In his Leadership & Learning blog, Kevin Eikenberry disputes some of the findings of the Gallup research; See Gallup is Wrong, and You Should be Happy

Toxic workplaces override wellness efforts: Stanford professor
Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s graduate school of business, says that “Many of the individual behaviors you are focusing on in your health and wellness programs [such as] stop smoking, eat better, exercise more, are in fact the consequences of the environments in which they [employees] are working,” Pfeffer says. “If you work people to death, of course they are going to smoke more, drink more and eat worse.” Pfeffer outlined his concept of “social sustainability,” where companies invest more in making their human capital sustainable.

Seven Things Great Employers Do (that Others Don’t)
Peter Flade, James Harter and Jim Asplund studied 32 exemplary companies (collectively employing 600,000 people) across seven industries including hospitality, banking, manufacturing, and hospitals over 5 years. They found seven elements in place at the companies with spirited employees which are notably lacking in the others.

Open-Office Backlash: Seeking Productivity in a Noisy World
Given economies of scale, the open office is probably here to stay. This article offers some tips and ideas for minimizing the downside and maximizing the strengths.

Americans only take half of their paid vacation
"Employees only use 51% of their eligible paid vacation time and paid time off, according to a survey of 2,300 workers who receive paid vacation. The survey was carried out by research firm Harris Interactive for the careers website Glassdoor. What’s more, 61% of Americans work while they’re on vacation, despite complaints from family members; one-in-four report being contacted by a colleague about a work-related matter while taking time off, while one-in-five have been contacted by their boss. "

Short Takes:

Looking for the most comprehensive and effective wellness program for your employees? ESI TotalCare Wellness pairs Behavioral Health Clinicians with certified Wellness Coaches to provide employees and their families with the help, motivation, tools and support to make changes and improve their lives. Call 800-535-4841 for more information.

March 23, 2014

News Briefs: Chocolate is healthy; Brutal ageism; Religious accommodation tips & more

Good wellness news - Chocolate does indeed have health benefits. In the LA Times, Monte Morin reports on recent chemical research that confirms the long-held belief that dark chocolate has a positive effect on cardiovascular health: "...researchers at meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in Dallas said they had solved the confection conundrum: Specific chocolate-loving microbes in the gut convert an otherwise indigestible portion of the candy into anti-inflammatory compounds, they said."
And here's more positive wellness news: A recent study in the UK demonstrates a correlation between happiness and productivity. We see some potential here: keeping employees happy, productive and healthy with occasional dark chocolate treats -- sounds like a plan.

Rewards and engagement - Mark Royal of the Hay Group says that, "a sense of balance between what employees contribute to an organization and what they get back in return is fundamental to sustaining the extra efforts that come with an engaged workforce." He posts about the role of rewards in building employee engagement. He discusses insights from a recent survey with reward professionals and offers recommendations for employers.

More on age discrimination - We recently posted 26 million more reasons to ensure your organization does not discriminate by age. It would seem this is a message that needs to be posted on billboards and PSAs in Silicon Valley based on the recent story by Noam Scheiber in New Republic, The Brutal Ageism of Tech: Years of experience, plenty of talent, completely obsolete. It's a shocking story of how 30- and 40-something managers in the tech industry are getting plastic surgery in an attempt to appear youthful -- and how the venture capitalists are aiding and abetting this hyper-youthful culture. Here's a brief excerpt:

"Silicon Valley has become one of the most ageist places in America. Tech luminaries who otherwise pride themselves on their dedication to meritocracy don’t think twice about deriding the not-actually-old. “Young people are just smarter,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told an audience at Stanford back in 2007. As I write, the website of ServiceNow, a large Santa Clara–based I.T. services company, features the following advisory in large letters atop its “careers” page: “We Want People Who Have Their Best Work Ahead of Them, Not Behind Them.”

Religious Accommodation - While on the topic of discrimination, attorney Chastity Bruno tells us that there's been a dramatic increase in EEOC complaints based on religious discrimination. "According to the EEOC, there were 1,709 complaints of religious discrimination in 1997 and 3,721 complaints in 2013." At Employment Law Matters, she offers 6 Tips for Employers When Faced with Religious Exemption Requests.

Get a Move On - If you are concerned about the reports that sitting is a lethal activity, you may find Lauren Weber's article/video in the Wall St. Journal's At Work Blog interesting: The Long-Run Benefits of Treadmill Desks. She discusses a recent yearlong study of finance workers at a company in St. Paul, Minn. that found while productivity dropped at first as users acclimated to the desks, "within four to six months, all three measures of performance—quality and quantity of work, and quality of interactions with colleagues—rose steadily, according to weekly surveys of participants." Related: See our prior post on exercise balls, standing desks and treadmill desks: Wellness and work environments: when gyms and offices collide

Brief Takes:
Monster Thinking: Should you disclose employee salaries? Eight founders weigh the pros and cons.

Fast Company: 50 Highest Rated CEOs in 2014

Jenna McGregor at the Washington Post: Why people really leave their jobs

Julie Beck, The Atlantic: The Optimal Office. How better design could fix your workday—and your life

Mike Haberman: Are Wearable Cameras at Work a “We vs Them” Situation?

Suzanne Lucas, Evil HR Lady: How to stop bullying in the workplace

Peter Bregman. Harvard Business Review blogs: How to Have Friends at Work When You’re the Boss

Making the Grade: Employers make jobs conditional on physical fitness

Death on a Georgia Railroad Trestle Sparking Calls for Safety Reforms in Hollywood

8 ways to celebrate National Nutrition Month

Leadership is earned, not demanded

CT legislative committee approves PTSD proposal for Work Comp


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

March 9, 2014

News Briefs: Caregiver Discrimination, Fitness Tests, OSHA Audits & More

Focus on Family-Caregiver Discrimination Growing
Kristen B. Frasch, Human Resource Executive Online
"What's more, the number of employees claiming they were treated unequally because of their caregiver status rose by nearly 400 percent in recent years, according to the Center. The current number of FRD cases -- through the middle of 2013 -- in the Center's database sits at about 3,600, according to Cynthia Calvert, a senior adviser there and founder of Workforce 21C, a group that provides consulting and training to employers who want to prevent caregiver discrimination."

5 C's of crisis communications
Brad Phillips Ragan Communications
When you’re scrambling to save face after a disaster, remind your leaders to demonstrate these five behaviors. The five C’s of crisis communications detail the five attributes that executives and spokespersons must convey during their press conferences and interviews.

How to Survive an OSHA Audit
Jim Rhoad, Risk Management
“Hello. I’m from OSHA and I am here to help you.” If you own or operate a business, chances are very good you’ve heard these dreaded words before. Next to, “Hello. I’m from the Internal Revenue Service,” there are few greetings more inclined to make your knees weak. But it doesn’t have to be that bad. Even with the seven million workplaces they cover each year, OSHA will most likely find their way to your location. When they do, here are some tips to help you survive your OSHA audit."

Employers make jobs conditional on physical fitness
Roberto Ceniceros, Risk & Insurance
"Post-offer employment testing, or POET, involves simulating the lifting, pushing, pulling and other physical activities that make up a job’s essential functions. Employers are increasingly making employment offers conditional upon a job applicant’s physical ability to perform those activities.
And in another recent trend, employers are expanding the strategy to help determine when to return an established employee to their duties following a workplace injury or a non-occupational disability leave."

Following doctor’s orders helps employer win ADA case
Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer's Law Blog
"In Horn v. Knight Facilities Management-GM, Inc. (2/25/14), the 6th Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Horn’s disability discrimination claim. In determining whether the employer could reasonable accommodate Horn’s disability, the court started, and ended, with the limitation imposed by Horn’s doctor—“no exposure to cleaning solutions.” Horn claimed that the company either should have: (1) eliminated restrooms on her cleaning route, or (2) provided her a respirator. The court disagreed."

The Interactive Process under the ADAAA means you actually have to talk to someone
Michael Haberman, Omega HR Solutions
"Companies are not paying attention to the interactive process. Of course this is not a big surprise since HR documentation is probably at the bottom of the list of favorite things to do in a company. According to attorney Lorene Schaefer, despite the fact that the ADAAA has been in place since January 1, 2009, two court cases as recent as the fall of 2013 stress the importance of the interactive process."

Job descriptions: Not including essential functions can be costly
Leigh Anne Benedic HR,
"The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals—which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee—recently ruled that summary judgment (pretrial dismissal) in favor of an employer was inappropriate because the employer failed to include an essential job function in the employee's written job description. "

Court Finds Retaliation Based on When Employee Was Replaced
Jonathan I. Nirenberg, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog
"There are many different ways to prove a causal link in a retaliation case. Some of the most common ways include evidence your employer fired you quickly after you objected, a decision-maker was angry about your objection, or the company’s explanation for firing you is false. A recent New Jersey case, Goldsmid v. Lee Rain, Inc., finds another potential way to prove retaliation: Based on evidence the employer had someone ready to replace you very quickly after it fired you."

Flexible Work Arrangements Fact Sheet
This fact sheet from the LEAD Center describes various best practices for employers when making job modifications to enable employees with disabilities to stay on the job or return to work.

The most common mistakes that derail a woman’s career
Vickie Elmer, Quartz
"Women don’t negotiate for themselves, which could be the biggest career mistake they make—but there are plenty of others. In her new book, Nice Girls Still Don’t Get The Corner Office, Lois Frankel, an executive coach and public speaker, has identified 133 errors women make that derail their career. This new edition covers 33% more errors in how women self-sabotage their career from when the book debuted a decade ago."

More Noteworthy News


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.

January 18, 2014

News Briefs: Crisis Lessons from Bridgegate; Retention; Workers' Comp & Other News Worth Noting

Crisis Management - Employment Law attorney Robin Shea says, "If you are an employer, you will probably get sued from time to time, whether or not you did anything wrong. But don't make it worse by actually doing something wrong." She dissects Chris Christie's recent press conference and offers Three workplace lessons from Chris Christie's "Bridgegate."

Workers' Comp - Workers’ Compensation Issues to Watch in 2014 - Rising rates, a move to integrated disability, the effects of the ACA, state legislative efforts and more: Mark Walls of March tells you what to expect in the coming year. Related: OSHA;s Top 10 List. (Also see our last week post: Compliance Matters 2014 for other trends.)

Retention - Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, informs us about a new survey showing that one in five workers are looking to leave their current employer. She asks, Are Your Employees Looking for a New Job? -- and offers suggestions for how to keep them. That is, if you want to keep them. Scott Gerber polleds eleven entrepreneurs for signs that it is time to get rid of a key player on their team.

Tobacco Use & Cancer - Dan Diamond, managing editor of the Advisory Board’s Daily Briefing offers an overview of progress in the 50 years since as a nation, we declared war on smoking - "Smoking rates have since fallen, a lot. More than 40% of adults smoked in 1964; today, it's less than 20%" - but tobacco use is still too high. In his post Where there's smoke, there's cancer, he presents geographic maps depicting current smokers and cancer. Related: OSHN on Tobacco use in the United States: Basic facts and trends

Stress - Stress is part of everyday life and can be beneficial. But high levels over a long period can be seriously bad for our health. The British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy designed a test to help you spot symptoms of stress and find out how well you are coping with the pressure of everyday life. Take the Stress test

Diabetes Prevention - A new study found that taking an extra 2,000 steps a day cuts heart attack risk for pre-diabetics by 8 percent. The study showed that "people who are already on the way to developing diabetes could significantly reduce their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by walking for just an extra 20 minutes a day for a year."

More news of note


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

December 22, 2013

2013: A Workplace Year in Review

From now through New Year's Day, there will be a series of 2013 retrospectives focusing the major news stories of the year. We're offering a head start but with a primary focus on business and workplace stories. Here are some of the best we've found so far.

LinkedIn - Best of 2013 - The 20 Stories That Mattered Most to Professionals This Year

Lucky '13 -- or Not? - Human Resource Executive's picks of the people, places and things that are going to finish the year on a high note -- and the people, places and things that find themselves on the other end of the spectrum.

2013 Employment and Labor Law Legislation

Pared-down EEOC still manages to rake in the dough in 2013

OSHA's 2013 TOP TEN Most Frequently Cited Violations

2013: A Year in HR

Ten Favorite Blog Posts of 2013

A New Normal: how HR salaries fared this year - SHRM

The 10 Most Dangerous Jobs in America

The Most Overused Buzzwords Used On LinkedIn

Top 10 CEO Infographics Of 2013

The Best Infographics Of 2013 – So Far

Entrepreneur's Top 10 Infographics of 2013

Top 10 craziest business expenses of 2013

The Worst CEO Screw-Ups Of 2013

Don't tell customers they're fat: 2013's biggest corporate goofs

The top 16 social media fails of 2013

The top 10 tech stories of 2013

The Best Business Journalism of 2013

Longform’s Best Business Stories of 2013

Top 10 Business Books: 2013

Best Business Books 2013

The 5 Most Inspirational Business Books of 2013

Yahoo: Top 10 News Stories

AP Poll: Obama Health Care Overhaul Top 2013 Story

Google: What did the world search for in 2013

November 17, 2013

News Briefs: ADA, Fraud, Bullying, Retention & More

Firing Alcoholic Employee for Relapse Is Not ADA Violation, Third Circuit Holds
"The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has ruled that a freight transportation company did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other antidiscrimination laws when it fired an alcoholic employee who violated a Return to Work (RWA) agreement. In Ostrowski v. Con-way Freight, the RWA violation occurred when the employee suffered a relapse after returning from a leave of absence to undergo rehabilitation for alcoholism."

The Top Five Areas to Monitor for Employee Fraud
"The most recent edition of The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) “Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse,” issued in 2012, states that the median loss of each instance of employee fraud in their study was $140,000. More than one-fifth of these cases caused losses of at least $1 million. Even in a large, multi-billion dollar organization, that amount is significant."

How to Let Someone Go
"Firing someone will never be the high point of your career, but there are ways to do it with class...Here's how to handle an employee’s termination fairly while staying consistent and most of all, lawful."

Workplace bullying more common than most think
"Bullying among kids and teens often makes the headlines, but the harassment is common among adults, as well. / A 2010 survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute found that 35 percent of the U.S. workforce reported being bullied at work. Other studies have reported that 1 in 4 people have experienced some form of bullying at work."

Depression 'second leading cause of disability worldwide'
"...disability as a result of depression was found to mainly affect people in their working years, and women were more affected than men."

Want to Boost Retention? Adopt an Early Recognition Strategy
"Retaining employees within the first five years of service can be a challenge. / In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average job tenure of American workers across all industries is 4.6 years, with the highest levels of retention occurring in the public sector (7.8 years) and the lowest in Leisure and Hospitality services (2.4 years). Millennial workers reported the lowest overall average tenure of 3.2 years."

Addicts may be seeking relief from emotional lows more than euphoric highs
"Cocaine addicts may become trapped in drug binges – not because of the euphoric highs they are chasing but rather the unbearable emotional lows they desperately want to avoid."

Stress At Work Contributes To Poor Job Performance More Than Personal Or Financial Worries
"Stress at work contributes to poor job performance more than stress at home or financial worries, according to a study by the Integrated Benefits Institute. IBI is the leading workforce health and productivity research and measurement organization. / Employees’ job performance—as assessed through self-reported ratings on how often the employee was not careful, had difficulty concentrating, got less done than others and at times got no work done—steadily declines as stress at work increases. Among employees who never experience stress at work, 68% perform at or above the average performance of the overall sample. At the other end of the spectrum, just 41% of employees who experience permanent or continual workplace stress perform at that performance level."
Related: Four Ways Bosses Cause Stress in the Workplace

Quick Takes


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

September 29, 2013

News Roundup: Applicants with parents; Depression, Aging, ADA and more

Bringing Mom and Dad to the Job Interview?
At the AARP Blog, Carole Fleck notes the recent phenomena of parental involvement at the workplace:
"According to a 2012 survey of more than 500 college graduates, 8 percent said they had a parent go with them to a job interview. And 3 percent had Mom or Dad sit in on the actual interview, according to Adecco, a human resources firm, which conducted the study. Another study from the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers said 6 percent of recent U.S. college graduates wanted their parents to get a copy of their job offer letter and 2 percent wanted their parents to get a copy of their performance review. That study polled 44,000 people from more than 20 countries, a report in the Wall Street Journal said."

Improving working conditions may reduce depression costs: Study
The sum total of adverse working conditions explains a substantial portion of the risk of depression in working-age adults, suggests a recent study out of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM). “These findings add to the growing body of evidence that employment is an important source of divergence in mental health across midlife,” according to the report by Sarah Burgard and colleagues of the Institute for Social Research at University of Michigan.

‘Entitled’ Employees More Likely to Claim Bosses Mistreat Them
"Employees who have a sense of unjustified entitlement are more likely to say that their bosses are abusive and mistreat them than their less entitlement-minded coworkers, according to new research from the University of New Hampshire."

Why a Standing Desk Could Save Your Life—for Under $200
"Today's office culture of sitting at a desk for eight hours daily, then, is downright frightening. Just four hours of daily sitting, researchers have found, is the tipping point into risky sedentary behavior, but even one to two hours of daily sitting increases a person's mortality rate. So, what can you do? Sit less and be more active! For starters, get a standing desk."

6 Reasons to Ignore a Bad Reference
"Evil HR Lady" Suzanne Lucas tells us that when it comes to references, don't just blindly believe everything you hear. She outlines some circumstances in which a bad reference may not be a deal breaker.

The Age Factor
With a growing number of Americans expecting to continue working well past the traditional retirement age, employers are confronting the challenges of an aging workforce.
Related: Protecting The Boom - Baby boomers are delaying retirement, which has benefits as well as risks for employers. Progressive return-to-work programs can help risk managers lower injury claims costs and keep older workers productive.

The joint-employer test: Who is an employer under the ADA?
Employment Law Attorney Michael P. Maslanka looks at the issue of whether an entity is an "employer" of the employees of a contractor with which it does business in the context of a recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in EEOC v. Valero Refining - Texas LP.

Bank of America to pay almost $2.2 million for racial discrimination
"The ruling represents a major victory in a case that has spanned nearly two decades, during which Bank of America repeatedly challenged the authority of the department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. Bank of America is a federally-insured financial institution that provides a variety services and products, making it a federal contractor under the purview of OFCCP's regulatory requirements."

News Briefs

September 8, 2013

News briefs - Workplace gamification; Paid vacation declines; Work fatalities decline; More news of note

Workplace gamification trends - Monster Thinking notes: "With the rise of the mobile workforce and the plugged-in employee, how can human resource professionals keep employees engaged and productive? Many HR pros are looking to solve those problems by using innovative practices, such as gamification — bringing game-like elements to non-game tasks — to increase engagement and productivity among employees. Other HR areas in which gamification can be of help include training, communication, attracting and retaining top talent." They've linked to 5 articles on how HR is employing gamification in the workplace.

Paid vacation declines - According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percent of private employers offering paid vacation has declined from 82% in '92-'93 to 77% today. The biggest declines occurred for people working part time and for people working at establishments with fewer than 100 employees. For most other kinds of paid leave, though, employees’ access has increased.

HR role in oil & gas industry - According to a recent Price Waterhouse Cooper survey, Human Resources roles in the oil and gas industry are gaining in importance: "Eighty-three percent of oil and gas chief execs surveyed say their talent management strategies need to change, but most feel they don’t have the human resource data they need, PwC reported in its 14th Annual CEO Survey. / Oil and gas companies are increasingly shifting their human resources (HR) operations from a back office function to a key partner in corporate strategy, PwC noted in the report. An oil and gas company’s ability to gather comprehensive hard data in a central system has become increasingly critical as companies face a shortage of talent, complex workforce needs and a large number of Baby Boomers exiting the workforce."

Work Fatalities Drop - According to the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Summary, 2012, the total of worker fatalities in 2012 was the second lowest since 1992m when the census started. A preliminary count of 4,383 fatal work injuries were recorded in the United States in 2012, down from 4,693 fatal work injuries in 2011. Despite this good news, there were some population that suffered reversals: Fatal work injuries involving workers under 16 years of age nearly doubled; fatal work injuries in the private construction sector increased 5%, and fatal work injuries in the private mining sector rose in 2012, led by an increase in fatal injuries in oil and gas extraction industries rose 23 percent to 138 in 2012, reaching a new high.

Cancer survivors and depression - Survivors of cancers of the head and neck, including those of the tongue and thyroid, often suffer from depression but rarely seek treatment, according to a new study. "Doctors are increasingly recognizing depression in cancer survivors, according to lead author Dr. Allen M. Chen, though it's still unclear exactly how common mental health issues are following cancer treatment."

Addressing employee grief - Blogger Justin Lee writes about a difficult topic that may be helpful to supervisors or co-workers who are dealing with a colleague who recently suffered a loss. It can be very difficult to find the right words or know the way to help. See his post: My mom just died. Here’s what you should say.

At-risk population - In The American Prospect, Monica Potts notes that for most Americans, life expectancy continues to rise — but not for uneducated white women. She discusses this in ther article: What's Killing Poor White Women?: "These women can now expect to die five years earlier than the generation before them. It is an unheard-of drop for a wealthy country in the age of modern medicine. It is an unheard-of drop for a wealthy country in the age of modern medicine. Throughout history, technological and scientific innovation have put death off longer and longer, but the benefits of those advances have not been shared equally, especially across the race and class divides that characterize 21st--century America. Lack of access to education, medical care, good wages, and healthy food isn’t just leaving the worst-off Americans behind. It’s killing them."

News Briefs


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

August 23, 2013

Grace Under Pressure: Inspiration of the week

On Tuesday, a disturbed 20 year old gunman entered a Georgia elementary school armed with an AK-47 type assault rifle and nearly 500 rounds of ammunition. He fired some shots and took school bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff hostage, telling her he was off his medication, was not mentally stable and was ready to kill and be killed.

Remarkably, Tuff stayed calm and respectful and persuaded the man to stay with her, diverting him from going into the school yard where children would be in danger. Her diversion afforded precious time for the children to escape. She called 911 and interceded between the police emergency dispatcher and the gunman. Throughout the extended ordeal, she listened to the gunman and appealed to him on a human level, extending hope to him and relating to him by talking about her own troubles. She explained how she had contemplated suicide but that things got better for her and they could for him, too. In a compassionate and motherly fashion, she showed him a way out and appealed to his better nature.

The incident ended when she talked the man through surrendering without anyone being hurt. You can read more about this story and listen to the extraordinary 911 tapes in full on the Atlanta Constitution coverage of the incident

In one of the many news interviews she later conducted, she described a technique she had learned in her own life that helped her to cope with tragedy and fear: you just have to "push through the pain" and go on. Below is a video clip of an interview with Tuff explaining how she got through the ordeal.

Alert: this is an embedded clip from WSBTV that is preceded by advertising. If your organization blocks videos, here is a link to the story and the clip:

People often throw around the word "hero" rather loosely - this is a real-life example of heroism - grace under pressure, courage under fire. The world needs more heroes like Antoinette Tuff and more appreciation for our hard-working school personnel. This woman kept herself in harm's way to protect children in her charge - incredible bravery.


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

August 18, 2013

News briefs - Violence training, wellness, cool tools, office humor & more

Healthcare - violence prevention - From the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health comes a free on-line Violence Prevention Training for Nurses. NIOSH worked with nursing and labor organizations, academic groups, other government agencies, and Vida Health Communications to develop a new free on-line course aimed at training nurses to recognize and prevent workplace violence. The training incorporates text, videos depicting workplace violence incidents, testimonials from real nurses, and module quizzes. Nurses can also receive free continuing education credits for completing the online course. The course has 13 units that take approximately 15 minutes each to complete. It can be accessed here: Workplace Violence Prevention for Nurses

Cool Tool - The No Excuse List points you to the best places on the web to learn anything free. Resources range from academics and languages to do-it-yourelf and sources for free eBooks. There's also an accompanying blog that offers details about updates and what's new.

Affordable Care Act - A new report from the Kaiser Foundation looks at the issue of tax subsidies and their effect on overall insurance cost. The average subsidy will reduce premiums by $2,672, or about 32% of the total cost. Among the approximately half of current enrollees who will be eligible for tax credits, the average subsidy would be $5,548 per family, which would reduce their premium for the second-lowest-cost silver premium by an average of 66%.

ADA/ADAAA - Managing disability accommodation processes under ADA/ADAAA: Building an employer framework - Denise Fleury of Sedgwick offers five steps that are critical for creating an organizational framework for ADA compliance. In part 2 of her series, she discusses identifying the right stakeholders in developing a program.

Vacation - In Risk Management magazine, Emily Holbrook writes about Working in a No-Vacation Nation: "According to a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and 17 European countries mandate that employees receive between 10 and 30 vacation days per year. But in the United States, in the absence of any legal requirements, nearly one in four employees get no paid vacation and no paid holidays. As the report states, “the sum of the average paid vacation and paid holidays—16 in total—offered in the private sector in the United States would not even meet the minimum required by law in 19 other rich countries.”

Humor on the job - Sue Shellenbarger at the Wall Street Journal's Work & Family blog looks at the Secrets of Effective Office Humor. She notes that, "A 2011 study at Pennsylvania State University found that a good laugh activates the same regions of the brain that light up over a fat bonus check ... But making colleagues laugh takes timing, self-confidence—and the ability to rebound from a blooper."

How to end up in the headlines when you fire somebody - People are fired from jobs every day so it takes a special technique to wind up in the headlines. Here are two types of terminations that made headlines recently: Termination by texting and firing somebody while on a conference call with hundreds of employees as AOL CEO Tim Armstrong recently did.

Quick Takes

Wellness Notes


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

July 12, 2013

Summer Linkapalooza: Supremes on Same Sex, Google Glasses, Leadership Lessons & More

Fallen behind on news during vacations? We can help you catch up. We're cleaning out our bookmark file and bringing you some of the most noteworthy items that we've accumulated.

First out of the gate, a Supreme Court DOMA ruling roundup:

What Google Glass Means for Workplace Policy
Sharlyn Lauby says: "By now, most of us know about Google Glass. It’s a wearable computer with a head-mounted display that kind of looks like a pair of eyeglasses. You can take pictures, record video, get directions, send messages, share what you’re looking at and much more. It comes in multiple colors, and let’s face it — it’s neater than Jell-O. We all want to test drive a pair. But from a business perspective, we have to view Google Glass (and similar kinds of wearable tech) a little differently. Despite the fact that Google Glass is not yet available to the public, several types of businesses — including restaurants, bars, night clubs, casinos and theaters — have already banned it from their premises. "

6th Circuit’s definition of “supervisor” under the NLRA has broad implications
Jon Hyman of Ohio Employer's Law Blog: "In Vance v. Ball St. Univ., the U.S. Supreme Court held that for purposes of vicarious liability for harassment under Title VII, a supervisor must have taken a tangible employment action (i.e., hiring, firing, failing to promote, reassignment with significantly different responsibilities, or a decision causing a signifi­cant change in benefits) against the victim."

After the Shooting: A Tale of Two Recoveries
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates that 75% of companies without well-conceived and tested business continuity plans will go out of business within three years of being affected by a major disaster. In Risk Managment magazine, Will Kramer looks at the aftermath of two shootings - the Brookfield, Wisconsin spa and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater.

Not Quiet Before the Storm: Calming Employees' Pre-Hurricane Fears
A researcher at Florida State University examines the fears experienced by Florida workers as the 2013 hurricane season gets underway.

Work Makes People Miserable
"New research based on surveys using a smartphone app found that workers were unhappy and stressed while on the job. In fact, respondents ranked being sick in bed as the only activity more unpleasant than working. When offered dozens of options ranging from leisure, such as going to a concert, to personal paperwork, such as paying bills, workers preferred cleaning the house or waiting in line to being on the job."

Redefining work-life balance
A case history of how Dow Chemical's work-life balance philosophy empowers managers and employees, plus four factors for employers and employees considering telework options that fit the individual and company needs.

Safety & Training: Do you have a 90-second plan for your organization?
Workers Comp Insider offers lessons that should be learned from the recent Asiana Airlines crash.

More news of note:

June 9, 2013

News roundup: Wellness, excellence, having it "all", cool tools & more

A roundup of recent news items and articles that have come to our attention. We hope you'll find them useful, actionable, thought-provoking or interesting.

Wellness - A new study in the American Heart Association journal Stroke demonstrates that small lifestyle changes may have big impact on reducing stroke risk. Researchers assessed stroke risk using the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7 health factors: be active, control cholesterol, eat a healthy diet, manage blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, control blood sugar and don’t smoke. Among other things, researchers found that every one-point increase toward a better score was associated with an 8 percent lower stroke risk.

Profile of excellence - Can the rest of corporate America become more like Costco or will Costco be forced to become more like everyone else? "Despite the sagging economy and challenges to the industry, Costco pays its hourly workers an average of $20.89 an hour, not including overtime (vs. the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour). By comparison, Walmart said its average wage for full-time employees in the U.S. is $12.67 an hour, according to a letter it sent in April to activist Ralph Nader. Eighty-eight percent of Costco employees have company-sponsored health insurance; Walmart says that “more than half” of its do. Costco workers with coverage pay premiums that amount to less than 10 percent of the overall cost of their plans. It treats its employees well in the belief that a happier work environment will result in a more profitable company. “I just think people need to make a living wage with health benefits,” says Jelinek. “It also puts more money back into the economy and creates a healthier country. It’s really that simple." Costco CEO Craig Jelinek Leads the Cheapest, Happiest Company in the World

Having it "All" - Can you have it "all"? - "It’s one of the questions that women in business get asked a lot but men are never asked." Andrew G. Simpson of Insurance Journal reports on a panel of women insurance industry executives who discussed thier views on what women and the insurance industry can do to improve gender diversity in the industry’s executive ranks.

Autism - Thinking differently: Autism finds space in the workplace - An interesting article talking about how people diagnosed as "on the spectrum" are suddenly in demand by tech companies seeking a competitive advantage. "SAP says its global autism recruitment drive, which aims to employ 650 autistic people - around 1 percent of its workforce - by 2020, comes after successful pilot projects in India and Ireland. It is a collaborative project with Specialisterne, a Danish consultancy that gets people with autism into jobs where they can shine." See our related piece on Temple Grandin Thinking differently - why the world needs visual thinkers and a follow-up post, A Hidden Talent Pool: Employees with Autism

Banishment Rooms - In Japan, where the concept of lifetime employment remains a strong value, some large companies are reported to be trying to make life less comfortable for "redundant" employees, hoping they will leave on thier own. Takuro Chiba and Hisashi Naito write about so-called "banishment rooms" in which employees are stripped of privileges and relegated to menial tasks

Cool Tools
ACA Compliance Timeline for Employers - Track Affordable Care Act guidance, deadlines, changes and updates as they happen. Understand the impact of key requirements on your business.

Farmers' Market Search - help your employees find healthy local foods.

Free Wellness Handout - What is the Glycemic Index?

Verify U.S. Federal Government Social Media Accounts - enter a URL to see if a social media account is managed by the U.S. federal government.

From our bookmark file


esi.JPG Want to ensure a winning team in your organization? In addition to help for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. If you want to learn more about how ESI can provide more employee EAP benefits and more employer services, call us at 800-535-4841.

April 18, 2013

News Roundup: Crazy Boss Requests, Negotiating, Procrastinating, Leadership & More

Remove my stitches! And 14 other all-time crazy requests from the boss - Eric B. Meyers shares the results of a recent CareerBuilder survey at The Employer Handbook.

How To: Have a Performance Conversation With An Employee - Sharlyn Lauby of HR Bartender offers an excellent outline to help you plan a productive conversation with an underperforming employee.

How to Procrastinate at Work: A Complete (Research-Based!) Guide - At The Atlantic, Anna Codrea-Rado tallies up the pluses and minuses of procrastinating on the job.

5 Tips for Making Workplace Policy Changes Work - At, Catherine Dunn references the recent brouhahas, pushback, and public criticism that Yahoo and BestBuy were subjected to when changing work policies. She notes that changing policies can put employers at higher risk of disparate treatment, which can result in lawsuits. She offers a path that employers can take to ensure a better work policy transition.

7 Types of Negotiation And 1 Big Myth - Anna Mar of Simplicable says that negotiations should all be win-win, but that it is a myth that every negotiation has a potential win-win outcome. She says that is important to consider which type of negotiating you're facing because each demands a different strategy, and outlines seven types of negotiations.

A Legendary CEO for the Rest of Us - Wally Bock offers a profile of Costco CEO James Sinegal and talks about why he's a good model of leadership.

‘Please don’t be a Muslim’: Boston marathon blasts draw condemnation and dread in Muslim world - an article by Max Fisher in the Washington Post discusses the fear of discrimination, typecasting, and retaliation that many Muslims have when a violent event occurs.

Growing numbers of workers with disabilities bring challenges, opportunities - At HR Hero, Tammy Binford syas that, "It’s clear that employers need to be ready to not just accommodate workers with disabilities but also capitalize on the strengths those employees can bring to the workplace." She links to a recent report from the Conference Board and includes some steps for employers wanting to attract and keep employees with disabilities. See also: “Disability” is increasing…why?

Is your job killing you? How Job Type Impacts Wellness And What You Can Do To Change It - According to the recently released Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey, physicians were found to have the highest well-being index score, followed by teachers, business owners, and other professionals. At the bottom of the index were transportation and manufacturing or production workers.

Roger Ebert did not lose his battle with cancer - Michael A. Wosnick makes the case for why we should think about the way we talk about a person's death. "Cancer is not a game of winners and losers. If you live you win and if you die you lose? How inappropriate is that?" He says that while it’s not quite victim blaming, "it does have ring of placing the ultimate responsibility for having died in the hands of the deceased."

The Manager Who Kept a Six-Year Diary of Her Mistakes - "For more than six years, Elaine Wherry, 35, the co-founder of chat site Meebo (acquired by Google last summer) carefully jotted down nearly every mistake she made as an employee and manager. Wherry described her experience as a chronicler of error during the SXSW Interactive conference earlier this month."

Other Noteworthy items

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.

April 7, 2013

News Roundup: Bonuses, Trauma, Tools, Humor & More

Forget About That Cash Bonus - Ray Fisman posts about tchotchkes, gifts, bonuses and other motivation mechanisms at Harvard Business Review Blogs. He looks at recent research and offers thoughts on the secret to motivating workers:

"A study published last year by German and Swiss researchers took a more literal position on the gift exchange hypothesis, suggesting that economists' focus on cash might often be misplaced. The researchers found that gifts were far more motivating to short-term employees than unexpected cash bonuses, effectively paying for themselves by improving productivity. The findings provide some guidance on the types of gifts that are likely to engender the greatest motivation and loyalty."

All trauma is not the same - In an article in Counseling Today, authors Tara S. Jungersen, Stephanie Dailey, Julie Uhernik, Carol M. Smith talk about how the origin of a disaster - whether it is an act of nature (tornado or flood) or an act of man (a mass shooting or a war) - can result in very different response and recovery - and that counselors need to be aware of those differences. Here's an excerpt:

Disasters of human origin, particularly those that evoke fear, uncertainty, helplessness and loss of control, have greater emotional consequences than disasters that are not preventable. Not surprisingly, these events tend to produce higher levels of emotional distress than any other natural or human-caused disaster. As a result of human-caused acts of mass violence, trust within one’s community is broken. Furthermore, unlike natural disasters, which have a beginning and an end, human-caused disasters involve a seemingly ongoing danger that is unpredictable and potentially everywhere. Coping takes longer as people consider retaliation, seek justice, feel a need for equity and struggle to rebuild trust within their communities.

Top 10 questions asked by HR professionals - What HR topic or employment issue do you have the most questions about? If it's the Family and Medical Leave Act, you aren't alone. That was the top area of questioning that the Employers Resource Association received in more than 8,000 telephonic queries over the last year. Learn what numbers #2 through #10 were and see how you match up.

BYOD is not for everybody, and especially not for executives - There's a lot of attention given to employees on the matter of "bring your own device" or BYOD but less focus on the managers. Sean Doherty of Tech Republic explains why directors, managers and anyone with an employment status making them a candidate for potential litigation definitely out to think twice before bringing their own tech tools to work.

Cool Tools

  • Free violence prevention poster (PDF) - Safety Services Company offers a free download for a poster to raise workplace violence awareness.
  • Locate a Clinical Trial Near You - created to help patients and physicians find one another in an increasingly complex health care landscape where clinical trials proliferate but may be difficult to navigate.
  • Census Bureau's Extraction Tool for Local Employment Dynamics Data - beta version of a tool providing access to all 30 Local Employment Dynamics Quarterly Workforce Indicators, including measures of employment, turnover, hiring, job creation, job destruction and average monthly earnings.
  • Tabula - extract data from a PDF table and convert it to a CSV file.
  • Howjsay - A free online Talking Dictionary of English Pronunciation. Ever insecure about how to pronounce that new word? Find out here.

Short takes

And just for fun ...


esi.JPG ESI EAP offers more benefits for employees and more solutions for supervisors than any other EAP. View our online brochure to learn more about why we have a 99% customer satisfaction rate and renew more than 95% of our member organizations every year. Give us a call to learn more about how we can help your organization: 1-800-535-4841.

March 23, 2013

Tips, Tricks & Advice from our bookmarks file

With spring in the air, we're starting our spring cleaning with our bookmark file. In this post, we're including a grab-bag of tips, tricks, and advice that we've had bookmarked to post.

Most Wanted Office Perks and What Motivates Workers to Stay With Companies

7 Things Your Employees Think About You (But Would Never Say

Small errors in employee handbooks can cause big trouble

Are You Cut Out To Be a Boss?

INFOGRAPHIC: Affordable Care Act Timeline

Employee Engagement: What makes a company desirable to work for?

Background Checks and the EEOC: Navigating the Minefield

What are the characteristics of a high-potential employee?

10 Most Cringe-Worthy Career Mistakes

The Ideal Praise to Criticism Ratio

Establishing and Employee Expense Account

10 Tips to Make BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) A Success In Your Enterprise

Handling Difficult Customers in a Public Service Environment

Job Seekers Went Mobile, and Left Small Employers Standing Still

Social media background checks? 'I'm Not a Fan'

Stressed At Work? 10 Easy Ways To Get Calm During Your Lunch Break

You Can Inspire Great Employee Referrals

Do employees have any privacy rights in personal emails sent from corporate accounts?

Managing Team Conflict: The ACES Method

How_To Guide for LinkedIn

12 health-focused apps to help you start 2013 the right way

What 5 insights can you learn from the single best book on management?

Communicating Across Cultures: 4 Approaches to Increase Understanding

Where your cubicle came from

Aiming for 50 percent women in workplace: 'A tough goal'

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.

March 10, 2013

News Roundup: Bullying, Working Like a Spy, the Harlem Shake & More

Bullying: the next battleground in employment law? - The Washington Post features a story on how workplace bullying is getting a higher profile as a movement grows to limit worker abuse. The article discusses the growing number of states that are contemplating legislation which would enable workers to sue for harassment that causes physical or emotional harm. In a 2011 SHRM survey on workplace bullying, half of all surveyed employers reported incidents of bullying.

"The management association survey found that 56 percent of companies have some kind of anti-bullying policy, usually contained in an employee handbook or code of conduct. Most said their response to bullying allegations depends on the circumstances but could include suspension, termination, reassignment or mandatory anger management training.
Employers say the vast majority of bullying incidents are verbal abuse, such as shouting, swearing and name-calling, along with malicious gossip, rumors and lies. Bullying through technology, such as Facebook or other social media, accounted for about 1 in 5 incidents, the survey found."
Related: Employment law attorney Michael W. Fox writes about this in his blog Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer The March Toward a Bullying Cause of Action Continues

Work Like a Spy - When you think of working at the CIA, you might think of stress and danger - but the federal organization has a low turnover rate. At Fast Company, former counterterrorism agent J.C. Carleson explores how the CIA keeps employees happy. In a related article, Work Like A Spy: An Ex-CIA Officer's Tips For Business Success, Danielle Sacks interviews Carleson about the parallels between being in corporate America and being in the CIA.

Attitudes about the Mentally Ill - a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that Americans have a contradictory view of mental illness. "While most Americans believe people with such ailments are the victims of prejudice and discrimination, a substantial portion of the public say they have qualms about working in the same place or having their children attend a school where someone with a “serious” mental illness is employed."

Domestic Violence - We've talked about how domestic violence can carry over into the workplace and we've offered webinars and suggestions for what employers can do to help protect a victim of abuse. To add to the arsenal of tools, we've found a report on state laws about Removing Guns from Domestic Violence Offenders (PDF). The report is an analysis of state level policies aimed at preventing future or continued abuse that was issued by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.

Harlem Shake craze results in firings - The Internet births some crazy memes that spread like wildfire. For the last few months, it was Gangnam Style dancing, but that has been supplanted by a series of 30-second clips set to 2012 song called the Harlem Shake. Each video follows a pattern: One person - often wearing a helmet or some other crazy headgear begins moving to the music while a few seemingly oblivious people in the background go about their business. At one point, the beat changes and the scene does as well - suddenly, a large crowd in bizarre costumes are dancing in a wild and crazy fashion. About 4,000 variations of the Harlem Shuffle are posted to YouTube each day, and it's a global phenomena, cropping up in such diverse groups as the Swiss Army to the English National Ballet. But when 15 Australian miners tried to join in the craze, they were fired for violating safety rules. Fair or too harsh? Is your workplace prepared for any outbreaks of the Harlem Shake? Besides safety issues, there may be another HR -related issue: not everyone finds it amusing - there have been charges of cultural appropriation , with some saying they feel mocked by the dance.

News Briefs

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.

January 13, 2013

News Briefs: Language discrimination, FMLA, CTE, Weird Interview Questions & More

More Workers Claiming Job Discrimination Over Language, Accents
From the Insurance Journal: "More people in the workforce are claiming discrimination over their English-speaking ability or foreign accents, according to federal officials...The EEOC attributes the trend to a more ethnically diverse labor force — about 45 million Americans speak a language other than English at home. Civil-rights advocates say workplace environments have grown more hostile in states enacting tough new immigration laws."

Scrutiny of workplace policies affecting employees' rights will continue
Kristin R. Erenburg attorney in the Labor and Employment Group of Walter & Haverfield talks about employee-friendly trends in EEOC and NLRB and what we are likely to see for the future.

FMLA as Vacation Suspicion
An employee requests and vacation leave but is denied that leave. Later, the employee takes FMLA leave for the same time period. Employers can push back - Jeff Nowak of FMLA Insights explains how.

Should Employers “Ban the Box”?
"There are an increasing number of jurisdictions that are joining the “ban the box” movement, the most recent being the state of Delaware. The “ban the box” campaign is the movement to get the question about criminal convictions or history removed from all employment applications." Michael Haberman of Omega HR Solutions discusses whether employers should "ban the box."

For Americans Under 50, Stark Findings on Health
According to an extensive new report from a panel of experts convened by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, "Younger Americans die earlier and live in poorer health than their counterparts in other developed countries, with far higher rates of death from guns, car accidents and drug addiction, according to a new analysis of health and longevity in the United States." Sabrine Tavernise talks about the study in The New York Times. For more on the study, read the full report.

NFL player Junior Seau had degenerative brain disease CTE
Post-mortem studies of the brain of retired pro-football player Junior Seau reveal that he did in fact suffer from the degenerative brain disease CTE. Boston University’s center for study of the disease reports that 34 former pro players and nine who played only college football suffered from CTE. Of the findings, his wife said, "‘You can’t deny it exists, and it is hard to deny there is a link between head trauma and CTE. There’s such strong evidence correlating head trauma and collisions and CTE.’’
Related: Images of Brain Injuries in Athletes. Also, see our prior post: Junior Seau's suicide raises the issue of traumatic brain injuries

Think Like Zuck: Leadership Insights From Facebook's Early Years
"When Mark Zuckerberg first started Facebook, he knew he didn't have the experience necessary to run a major company, Ekaterina Walter says in her forthcoming book "Think Like Zuck." Here's how he triumphed anyway."

25 weirdest job interview questions of 2012
Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, brings us this annual roundup from Glassdoor. And in turnabout is fair play, see the 13 Worst Interview Blunders of 2012. Hint: Job candidate, you should not call in sick to your current employer during the interview, faking an illness.

How to Handle Employees Weaknesses
"Think you’ve found the perfect employee? Think again. Nobody’s perfect — not your star programmer. Not even your top sales gal. That’s why you need to focus on building a truly exceptional team of people whose strengths offset each others’ weaknesses ... Managers — you’re coaches, too. Pair employees with complementary strengths and weaknesses to build exceptional teams that completely dominate."

Journalism is Among Top 10 Occupations to Most Likely Attract Psychopaths
That's the bad news. The good news is that they only come in third, after CEOs and Lawyers.

Brief Takes


esi.JPG In addition to more benefits & more services for your employees, ESI EAP offers a full suite of tools for supervisors and managers, including our ESI Management Academy. Trainings cover compliance issues, management skills and more. To learn more about how ESI EAP can help, give us a call: 800-535-4841.

December 31, 2012

2012 "Best Of" Retrospective - Plus, a Peek Ahead

Best Books of 2012, According to Business Leaders

Best Leadership Books of 2012

100 Most Creative People in Business 2012

The Worst CEOs of 2012

The 20 Most Inspiring Companies Of 2012

Oops! The Seven Worst Predictions About 2012

The Globe and Mail - The Lunch, replated: The best business interviews of 2012

25 Best Small Business Apps for 2012

Biggest Social Media Moments of 2012: Infographic

Google Zeitgeist 2012 - What people searched for

Human Resource Executive's Winners and Losers, 2012 Edition

The Top 10 HR stories of 2012

The Best of the Compensation Café 2012

Top 10: HR Daily Advisor Year in Review

EBN's Top Stories in 2012

Minding the Workplace: Popular Posts from 2012

Ohio Employer's Law Blog - Best of of 2012 #10 and #9
#8 and #7; #6 and #5; #4 and #3; #2 and #1

Most popular "Ask a Manager" posts, 2012

Top 10 Recruiter Blog Posts of 2012

The Top 7 Recruiting Fails For 2012

Obamacare to flesh-eating bacteria: Top 2012 healthcare stories

Advances In Cancer 2012

The Crystal Ball
Omega HR Predictions for 2013

Top 10 Predictions for HR Technology in 2013

The Top 10 Workplace Trends for 2013

Top Skills for the Most In-Demand Jobs in 2013

Top 5 Trends in Workplace Safety Management for 2013

9 insurance resolutions to ring in the New Year

November 24, 2012

News Briefs: Recruiting best practices, harassment, tips to de-escalate tense situations, oversharing, and more

Benchmarking best practices for recruitment - HR Daily Advisor sheds light on current best practices in recruitment based on the results of a recent survey conducted by and BLR’s HR Daily Advisor and HRhero Line. The first article on survey results - Big Job Boards Are Now the #1 Recruiting Source - discusses recruiting sources, typical advertising expenditures, and the use of computer/software Applicant Tracking Systems. The second article about the survey results focuses on Best Practice for Internet Background Checks, and how employers are using social media and Google background checks in their hiring practices.

Harassment - Can an employer be liable for the harassment of employees by nonemployees, even though an employer's control over nonemployees is limited? The issue of liability hinges on the reasonableness of corrective actions taken by the employer, according to a recent letter issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for guidance. The folks at Wolters Kluwer discuss the EEOC letter on Title VII liability for non-employee harassment of employees and its implications.

The art of de-escalation - A recent issue of Occupational Health & Safety offers excellent tips for Handling Difficult Customers in a Public Service Environment - situations in which there is a potential safety concern about the angry or menacing customer. The author's tips appear useful in a variety of other potentially confrontational settings, too, including management settings. Author Carol Fredrickson says that "The most important thing to remember is that the angry person wants to be heard! He will not calm down until he believes you are truly interested in listening to his point of view or his problem."

Obsessive sharing disorder? - In the age of social media, many people live in public in a way that never occurred before. That means we are often learning more about our coworkers, much of it stuff that we never wanted to know. Daniel Schwartz of Connecticut Employment Law Blog looks at potential legal issues related to this in his post Oversharing at Work: When Gossip Turns Into Something More. The post includes an interesting 20-minute video discussion on issues related to oversharing in the workplace, moderated by Nancy Redd of HuffPost. Participants include Schwartz, Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, and Eric B. Meyer Partner at the Labor and Employment Group at Dilworth Paxson and Publisher of The Employer Handbook.

Innie or an Outie? - Are you an introvert or an extrovert, and how does that personality type affect your management style? offers an excerpt from the book “Managing for People Who Hate Managing.” Author Devora Zack discusses distinguishing features of introverts and extroverts and looks at ways that they communicate differently, including strengths, go-to styles, and challenges.

Managing Multigenerationals - Chip Luman notes that today’s work force encompasses four distinct generations, with more than 50 years separating some employees. He cautions about making assumptions about people based on these generations, noting that, "...singling out certain individuals for key roles based on their age tends to drive division rather than bring people together." For example, recent college grads may be expert at social media, but that expertise doesn't necessarily translate into an understanding of how to apply that knowledge to business use.

Cool Tool - The 2012 College Rankings from Washington Monthly are a different kind of college guide. It factors in social responsibility issues such as cost and the institution's value for a commitment to service into its rankins. The intro says, " Every year we lavish billions of tax dollars and other public benefits on institutions of higher learning. This guide asks: Are we getting the most for our money?"

Tackling Obesity - Research shows that by 2010, all 50 states will have obesity rates exceeding 44%, leading to millions of additional cases of type 2 diabetes, stroke and coronary heart disease, as well as arthritis and hypertension. Jennifer Lubell of amednews looks at how 4 states are fighting obesity by targeting younger populations to encourage healthy weights and physical activity.

Quick Takes


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.

October 27, 2012

News Briefs: Opioids, Halloween, Handbooks & Politics

Prescription Drug Abuse - In Opioids in the Office, Emily Holbrook of Risk Management Monitor reports on a new study about prescription narcotics by the Workers Compensation Research Institute. The report, "Longer-Term Use of Opioids," found that one in 12 injured workers who started prescription narcotics were still using them three to six months later. The study examined long-term narcotic use in 21 states, and how often doctors followed recommended treatment guidelines for monitoring injured workers under their care.

Just in time for Halloween - Margaret Heffernan of CBS Moneywatch offers 6 Truly Frightening Bosses.

Politics at Work - With the election approaching, things at work can get heated. In How to Avoid a Political Minefield, Eilene Zimmerman looks at such question as whether it is O.K. to express your views at the office and if you’re a manager, are the rules different for you?

NLRB decisions - Kecia Bal of Human Resource Executive says that it may be time for HR managers to update employee handbooks to reflect recent National Labor Relations Board decisions. In What You Can't Say in an Employee Handbook, she notes that "A handful of restrictions and rules -- many of which are standard in employee handbooks across the country -- may be considered to impede an employee's protected rights, as indicated by a Sept. 20 decision by an NLRB administrative law judge." And in a related story from HRE's Leader Board, Kristen Frasch posts employment law tips from Fisher & Phillips: Social-Media Do’s and Don’ts You’d Better Know.

Email stress test - A UC Irvine professor conducted a study that separated 13 people from their email for five days and recorded what happened when they unplugged. People said they felt liberated, and the euphoria lasted for a few days. The study found that they were more productive and less stressed without email, but that they quickly reverted back to their old ways.

Career Options for the Deaf - Jobs, Careers and Callings: Deaf and Hard of Hearing People at Work a site by Karen Putz that shows the variety of jobs, careers and callings that deaf and hard of hearing people are doing each day. Karen is a speaker, a writer and a deaf Mom who is raising three deaf and hard of hearing kids, and who wants to offer role models and career choices.

Life without Insurance - Nicholas Kristof relates the story of a friend who pays a steep price for going without insurance in A Possibly Fatal Mistake.

Quick Takes

October 14, 2012

News Briefs: Kindness, Reasonable Accommodation, Violence Red Flags & More

A little kindness goes a long way - At HBR Blog Network, Bill Taylor continues his exploration of the theme, "What is it about business that makes it so hard to be kind? And what kind of businesspeople have we become when small acts of kindness feel so rare?" in his post Catch People in the Act of Doing Things Right.

Reasonable Accommodation - Michael Haberman has a useful post on Telework as a Potential Reasonable Accommodation at the Omega HR Solutions blog. He includes links to guidance from the EEOC as well as links to his past posts and related posts by employment attorneys.

Violence prevention - Ross Arrowsmith says that workplace violence is often preceded by red flags. He cites Dr. Kristine Kienlen, a forensic psychologist, who says the tragedies typically have warning signs that need to be reported. "Kienlen says warning signs that follow include isolation, threats, bizarre behavior, talking about violence or suicide, assaults or property destruction. It can also include strange cyber activity, losing a temper, bringing weapons to work, or bullying. She tells employers to proactively develop a clear workplace violence prevention policy, where people feel comfortable reporting concerns to their boss or even police."

Harnessing technology to reduce suicides - National anti-suicide plan emphasizes mobile technology - a joint project between the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, has a goal of saving 20,000 lives over the next five years. As part of that effort, mobile technology and social networks will be used to identify and help people at risk of harming themselves. "The strategy is targeting its outreach to at-risk populations, including military veterans, drug and alcohol abusers, native Americans, gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender communities and young people in general. A key part of the strategy is to find ways of overcoming the stigma of discussing suicide. New communication platforms can help, according to the report and National Action Alliance participants."

Legal Brief - Workplace Prof Blog explores a wrongful termination, sex discrimination and violation of First Amendment rights suit: Is being a former lingerie model grounds for dismissal?

Political matters - HR Daily Advisor is doing a series called "Eye on the Election" which are focused on helping employers prepare for post-election changes, no matter who is elected. The first post focuses on Labor Law Under Obama or Romney--Employers Brace for Post-Election Changes and the second post is Obama and Romney Agree, Affirmative Action Needs to Change.

Quick takes

September 30, 2012

News Briefs: Language litigation, worker hygiene, political pitfalls, and other news of note

Language litigation - Language lawsuit costs hospital nearly $1 million - an English-only policy put a California hospital on the wrong side of the EEOC to the tune of nearly one million dollars, one of the largest discrimination settlements that the EEOC has ever negotiated. "The case stems from allegations by 69 Filipino-American workers at the hospital that they, alone among employees who spoke other languages, were harassed and disciplined for speaking, even among themselves, in Tagalog, Llocano or other languages common in the Philippines."

Hygiene discussions - The Difficulties of Discussing Hygiene - at Human Resource Executive, Keisha-Ann Gray looks at the legal implications of addressing hygiene concerns with employees. For more on coping with this difficult issue and handling other tough conversations with workers, see our July post When your employees stink.

Survey Smarts - If you are planning any employee or customer surveys, who better to get advice from than Gallup? In Executives: You're Leaving Money on the Table, authors David Helvadjian and Allan Watkinson talk about why emotional engagement is essential in any surveys, and how measuring, managing, and focusing on your customers' and employees' emotional engagement can significantly boost your company's performance.

Death on the job - Workplace fatalities declined in 2011, according to preliminary results from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2011, 4,609 workers died from on-the-job injuries, down from a final count of 4,690 in 2010. On average, 13 workers die at work every day.

Surviving the political season at work> - In a series of seasonally handy posts, HR Daily Advisor offers election season guidance for employers: What You Can and Can't Do About Workplace Campaigning and Can You Ban Campaign Posters and Buttons?.

Brief News Bites

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.

September 8, 2012

HR links from our files: hiring, motivating people, adapting to change & more

We're cleaning out our bookmark file. Here's a smorgasbord of Human Resources-related articles and tips that we enjoyed and we think you will too!

Why Firms Should Care About the Plight of Un-Free Agents - "For many temps and contractors, contingent work is a last resort rather than a first choice. As a result, they probably enter into work assignments with an engagement deficit."

How to Hire Backwards with Boomerang Employees - "A couple decades ago if an employee voluntarily resigned and left the company they would seldom be given an opportunity to rejoin the organization. They would be considered disloyal by many members of management. Many job counselors would often recommend against rejoining because of the possibility of being the first to be let go in times of cut backs. But today companies have realized that boomerang employees are a good bet."

Tightrope: Looking for gratitude in all the wrong places - a reader asks, "I do all kinds of wonderful things for my employees, but I don't think they appreciate my generosity. In addition to decent pay, I give holiday gift baskets, I often take them to dinner and I always buy meals when we work late. These perks cost money. Is it asking too much to expect them to show me that they appreciate my efforts?"

Put the Carrots Away - What really motivates people at work.

Let Your Employees Know It's OK to Leave - "Want to grow your business? Map out as clear-cut a strategy for employee exits as employee hires. Here's how."

Mentally Ill Often Targets of Violence - "This meta-analysis of 21 studies found an increased prevalence of violence against adults with disabilities, particularly against those with mental illness."

Onsite Health Center Survey 2012 Report - Towers Watson's 2012 survey of employers that have established or are planning to establish onsite health centers provides up-to-the-minute insights on how these centers are perceived and used.

The Worst Types of Resistance to Change That Get in the Way of HR Efforts (and What To Do About Them) - "HR leaders are often responsible for perhaps the single most important component for orchestrating organizational change: overcoming resistance to change."

Employers save big on wellness programs - "Employers betting on wellness programs seem to be making the right call. They’re seeing $1 to $3 decreases in their overall health care costs for every dollar spent, finds a report from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans."

Nurse staffing, burnout linked to hospital infections - "Nurse burnout leads to higher healthcare-associated infection rates (HAIs) and costs hospitals millions of additional dollars annually, according to a study published in the August issue of the American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC)."

More Links of Note


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.

August 17, 2012

News Briefs: litigation costs, FMLA, Geographic Stereotypes & more

Litigation Costs - How much will you pay in employment litigation? It will depend on how many plaintiffs and how horrible the facts. Mark Toth of The Employment Blawg breaks down the numbers of what employment litigation costs in one handy infographic.

Geographic Stereotypes - What stereotypical assumptions are made about the state you live in? To answer this question, Renee DiResta turned to Google's autocomplete function to learn what the aggregate users think of each state. With the results, she produced a fascinating clickable map of state stereotypes. Hover over states to see the results. She says: "The single most common result of all was “boring,” which appeared for 18 states with no particular regional concentration. Other popular terms (returned for >10 states) were “humid”, “windy”, “expensive”, and “liberal”. Strangely, Connecticut and Pennsylvania both returned “haunted”; apparently there are a lot of ghost sightings (and related walking tours). My favorite result of all was “enchanting”: New Mexico is beautiful."

FMLA Case Law - Employment law attorney Jeff Nowak of FMLA Insights discusses the case of Scruggs v. Carrier Corp., in which the employee's claims of FMLA interference and retaliation were dismissed. Carrier Corp. had conducted surveillance on 35 employees suspected of FMLA abuse, part of an overall campaign to clamp down on excessive absenteeism. In the case of Daryl Scrugss, surveillance turned up suspicious and inconsistent behavior and the employer terminated Scruggs. In dismissing Scruggs' claims, the court pointed out that an employer can "refuse to reinstate the employee based on an ‘honest suspicion’ that she was abusing her leave." Nowak also points to two earlier posts that he made offering tips to combat FMLA leave abuse: Giants Beat Patriots in the Super Bowl! Can I take FMLA Leave Today? and As FMLA Absences Mount, the Employer Must Lay Down the Law

Balancing Act - Can You Be a Tough Boss Without Being a Jerk? - "You want your employees to perform at their best, but there's a fine line between being a tough boss with high expectations and being an unreasonable jerk. Business coach Mike Staver advises using these four rules to avoid crossing the line."

OSHA - Is a Bloodborne Pathogens Program Required For First Aid Providers? An employer asks, "We have employees who are designated to render first aid. Are they covered by the standard?" Response: Yes. Learn more about the requirements.

Medical Identity Theft - You've heard of identity theft, but are you aware of medical identity theft? Bloomberg's Tech Blog reports that hackers recently stole health care records and held them hostage. Records were stolen from a surgical medical practice in Illinois. The hackers encrypted the data and posted a "digital ransom note." Jordan Robertson, author of the news item, notes that, "... the spiraling cost of health care and lack of insurance for millions of people have made medical identity theft a growing problem. Security and privacy risks are also emerging with the creation of "health information exchanges," which are vast databases that states are setting up to handle all the electronic medical records."

Eating Disorders Affect Men, Too - On , Anny Ellen posts that men are stepping out of the shadows when it comes to binge eating.: "Mr. Walen is one of an estimated eight million men and women in the United States who struggle with binge eating, defined as consuming large amounts of food within a two-hour period at least twice a week without purging, accompanied by a sense of being out of control."
"While about 10 percent of patients with anorexia and bulimia are men, binge eating is a problem shared almost equally by both sexes. A study published online in October and then in the March issue of The International Journal of Eating Disorders found that among 46,351 men and women ages 18 to 65, about 11 percent of women and 7.5 percent of men acknowledged some degree of binge eating."

Swine Flu - The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report that US Swine Flu cases are on the rise, saying that "this is not a pandemic situation." Most cases have occurred in children who have been at county fairs handling livestock. The CDC plans to monitor and offers tips and precautions for prevention.

More News of Note

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 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 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

June 24, 2012

News briefs: Recruitment & PR, Grammar Gaffes, Prescription Monitoring & more

What your recruitment practices say about you - Some companies spend big bucks to advertise and run PR campaigns every year to shape public opinion, but forget to plug the leaks that may be occurring with one very significant public: job applicants. A recent CareerBuilder study shows that what goes on in the hiring office doesn't stay there: Bad recruitment experiences can go viral or at least spread throughout someone’s personal network. "Three-in-four workers – 78 percent – said they would talk about a bad experience they had with a potential employer with friends and family. Seventeen percent said they would post something about their negative experience on social media and six percent said they would blog about it." In addition, in another survey, 32 percent of applicants said they are less likely to purchase a product from a company who didn’t respond to their job application.

Grammar gaffes - In this age of Twitter and online abbreviations and emoticons, are your employees losing the ability to speak and write well? Sue Shellenbarger looks that how employers are coping with the impact of poor grammar in the workplace in her column, This Embarrasses You and I*. She notes, "Some bosses and co-workers step in to correct mistakes, while others consult business-grammar guides for help. In a survey conducted earlier this year, about 45% of 430 employers said they were increasing employee-training programs to improve employees' grammar and other skills, according to the Society for Human Resource Management and AARP." Be sure to take the accompanying interactive quiz to see how you fare.

Prescription Drug Monitoring - Opioid abuse is a growing issue in workers' comp and other disability programs. Joe Paduda at Managed Care Matters offers the skinny on one of the latest tools aimed at controlling prescription drug abuse: What's a Prescription Monitoring Program and why you should care.

25 years - Kudos to Human Resources Executive on its 25 year anniversary. In commemoration, they are serving up some interesting retrospective content. See the Top 25 HR Milestones (PDF), as well as the Top 25 Most-Read HREOnline Stories. They also speculate about what the work world will look like when they hit the 50 year mark.

Ergonomics & obesity - Ergonomic Strategies for Managing Obesity in the Workplace: "Increased obesity in the workplace means more arthritis, larger waist circumferences, additional work limitations, compromised grip strength, decreased lower limb mobility and medical risks. Obese employees might be more vulnerable to falls and their manual material handling ability may be compromised. Obesity also can impact self-esteem, motivation, absenteeism, presenteeism, premature mortality and more."

E-mail and stress - When you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and experience less stress. That's one of the findings of a recent University of California, Irvine and the U.S. Army study, which Rachel Emma Silverman discuses in the Wall Street Journal's At Work blog in her post When Email Takes a Holiday. "The researchers said that the findings could be useful for boosting productivity and suggested that techniques such as checking messages in batches or only logging in at certain times may be helpful for employees and companies."

Weather and absence - Work absences due to bad weather (PDF) - The Bureau of Labor Statistics crunches the data from 1977 to 2010

Quick Takes


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.

May 20, 2012

News briefs: Benchmarking benefits, medical marijuana, fraud & more news of note

Benefits benchmarks - Want to see how your benefits stack up with other organizations in your size, industry, or geography? Try the Benefits Benchmarking Tool from Metlife, which allows you to benchmark benefits objectives and offerings and employee attitudes to those of similar companies and employee populations. Also see and download the recently released 10th anniversary edition of MetLife's Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends. Some of the study's key take-aways: 9 out of 10 employers don't plan to reduce benefits, seeing them as a retention tool. Nevertheless, the loyalty gap widens: "The percentage of employees who feel a very strong sense of loyalty towards their employer is at only 42% – a seven-year low."

Medical Marijuana - Employment law attorney Daniel Schwartz offers the scoop on Connecticut's recent medical marijuana bill. He notes employer restrictions: "...employers are prohibited from refusing to hire, firing, penalizing or threatening an employee “solely on the basis…as a qualifying patient or primary caregiver.” The law does have an important caveat; the employer can act if ”required by federal law or required to obtain federal funding.” Thus, if there are, for example, commercial driving laws in your industry that restrict the use of marijuana, it appears that law will trump state law." The law is still awaiting the Governor's (expected) signature. Here is a list of the 16 legal medical marijuana states with links to the respective laws. This chart also lists the 12 states where legislation is pending.

5% Lost to Fraud - A new study says that fraud is costing business an average of 5% of annual revenues yearly. Emily Holbrook of Risk Management Monitor highlights some of the key findings and offers a link to the report. One of the key points is that occupational fraud is more likely to be detected by a tip from employees than by any other method. The report notes that most internal fraud perpetrators are first offenders with clean employment histories. Banking and financial services, government and public administration, and manufacturing sectors were among the industries most commonly victimized. More than three-quarters of the fraud in the study was committed by individuals working in one of six departments: accounting, operations, sales, executive/upper management, customer service and purchasing. The report also notes that, "...the fraudster displayed one or more behavioral red flags that are often associated with fraudulent conduct. Living beyond means (36% of cases), financial difficulties (27%), unusually close association with vendors or customers (19%) and excessive control issues (18%) were the most commonly observed behavioral warning signs."

Let the games begin - If you're looking for a way to turbo-charge your health and wellness program, borrowing videogame-style techniques might be just the ticket to motivate people and bolster results. In Pitting Employees Against Each Other … for Health, Anna Wilde Mathews of the reports on how some employers and insurers are creating healthy enthusiasm by the use of contests, games, teams, and incentives.

A Winning Culture - How do you create and maintain a positive work culture at your organization? In a series of articles, OPEN Forum experts focus on a winning company culture - ranging from how to identify the right model for your organization to tips on building a strong culture in your workplace, as well as some case histories of organizations that are fostering strong cultures.

Disability & comorbidities In Too Much Sitting Plus Comorbidities = Big Trouble, Jon Coppelman of Workers Comp Insider looks at a recent court case that demonstrates the complexity and cost that employee health issues such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes can have on workers compensation. He also cites a recent study on comorbidities, which showed - among other things - that claims with comorbidities cost twice as much as those without.

EEOC State Charge Data Tool - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently announced the availability of private sector workplace discrimination charge statistics by state and U.S. territories for fiscal years 2009-2011: Access EEOC charge data by state.

More News of Note


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.

April 29, 2012

News briefs: New EEOC guidance; Obesity; Violence; Talking about bad news; Motivating employees, and more

New guidance from EEOC - the past week was a busy one at EEOC, with two important releases. Connecticut Employment Law Blog offers an overview of the EEOC Guidance on Use of Criminal and Arrest Records By Employers and Ohio's Employer Law Blog discusses the EEOC protections for transgender workers. Recently, EEOC also issued revised publications on Employment of Veterans with Disabilities.

New study on the cost of obesity - Obesity now accounts for 21% of healthcare costs - a new Cornell University study finds that obesity costs more than twice what had been previously thought, raising the cost of treating nearly any medical condition: "An obese person incurs medical costs that are $2,741 higher (in 2005 dollars) than if they were not obese, according to the newest study. Nationwide, that translates into $190.2 billion per year, or 20.6 percent of national health expenditures."

Obesity discrimination - Victoria Hospital in Texas instituted a recent policy stating they won't hire very obese workers. Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas asks whether it is okay to discriminate against obese workers, offering five reasons why such a policy is misguided. The hospital is basing its hiring guidelines on the Body mass Index and Lucas points out that many health professionals consider the BMI a faulty health metric.

Workplace violence - Recent research by AlliedBarton Services reveals that as many as 1 in 2 U.S. employees report having been exposed to workplace violence. These events included open hostility, abusive language or threats; 28% of responding workers workers reported a violent event or one that can lead to violence happened to them at their current place of employment or they have been personally affected this type of event, and overall, 12% reported witnessing, hearing about or being aware of an incidence of significant physical harm to another person, with 5% having had this happen to them or having been personally affected by this type of incident. The survey also revealed that employers appear reluctant to take aggressive actions when violence occurs. Only 53% took disciplinary actions in response to the reported violence, and even fewer implemented training for employees or supervisors, made changes to the physical environment or revised company policy.
Related: Violence in the workplace often happens on a continuum and the tone is often set at the top. See HR Bartender's post, How To Tell If Your Boss Is a Bully or Just Tough.

Age discrimination - Susan M. Heathfield of Human Resources notes that age discrimination lawsuits are up over 18% - the fastest rising of any lawsuit. People over the age of 40 who have been displaced in the current tough job market have a difficult time finding new work. She asks Do You Discriminate Against Older Workers - Even Subtly?, issuing a reminder that "age discrimination is illegal at any phase of the employment relationship including job postings, job descriptions, interviews, hiring, salaries, job assignments, merit increases, performance management and evaluation, training, disciplinary actions, promotions, demotions, benefits, employment termination, and layoffs." For strategies older job seekers can implement to help expedite a job search, see job search tips for older workers

How to talk to someone who is facing bad news - At KevinMD, physician Kate Land writes about how to handle a conversation when the news is bad. When someone we know faces bad news, the tendency for many well-meaning people is to respond with their own story. That is perhaps better than other all-too-human tendencies, like taking flight or avoidance, or minimizing the event. She suggests we learn to keep things simple and learn to be comfortable with a moment of silence. She also points to an excellent article by Bruce Feiler about Six Things You Should Never Say to a Friend (or Relative or Colleague) Who’s Sick. And Four Things You Can Always Say.

Effective motivation - CEO Greg Lederman notes that the all-too-common carrot-and-stick pathway to motivating employee performance is inefficient, costly, and does not produce the desired results. In What Really Motivates People at Work, he suggests three strategic and simple ways to manage behavior. that will help to increase employee engagement, strengthen the work culture and improve the experience provided to customers.

The high cost of bullying - A New Jersey school will pay $4.2 million in settlement fees for failing to comply with a state anti-bullying law. The school was sued after a middle school student was paralyzed by a punch from another student. The student had repeatedly complained of being bullied. In addition, the perpetrating student had other instances of violent behavior, but this had not been documented or dealt with by the school. While this case represents a settlement rather than a court judgement, it points to the high potential cost that bullying can represent, both in a human toll and an expense to the educational institution.

Cool Tool - Next time you plan a trip, give Google flights a try. Whether you have a specific destination with dates in mind or not, Flight Search can help you quickly find the best options for your trip, including a tool to help you find the cheapest flight and best duration options when you have flexible travel dates. Learn more about this service on the Google Flights support and FAQ page.

More news of note

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.

March 4, 2012

New briefs: EEOC on disabled Vets, GINA, health information, solo workers & more

Veterans and the ADA - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently released a new Guide for Employers on Veterans and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). EEOC says that, "The revised guides reflect changes to the law stemming from the ADA Amendments Act of 2008, which make it easier for veterans with a wide range of impairments – including those that are often not well understood -- such as traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to get needed reasonable accommodations that will enable them to work successfully." John Hyman of Ohio's Employment Law Blog talks about The ADA and reverse discrimination, or whether employers can give hiring preference to a disabled veteran.
In addition, the EEOC released a Guide for Wounded Veterans which answers questions that veterans with service-related disabilities may have about the protections they are entitled to when they seek to return to their former jobs or look for civilian jobs.

Do you know GINA? - The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which took effect in late 2009, makes it illegal for employers to fire or refuse to hire workers based on their "genetic information" — including genetic tests and family history of disease. Adam Cohen of TIME Ideas reports: According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s annual report, released last month, there were 245 genetic-discrimination complaints in fiscal year 2011, up more than 20% from a year earlier. At the same time, the EEOC reported that the "monetary benefits" it helped collect related to genetic discrimination — in damages, back pay and other penalties — jumped more than sixfold, from $80,000 to $500,000.

Making sense of Health News - Can you believe what you read in the news about health studies? Journalists ought to know, right? Well, not always. It's a complex topic that may or may not be handled clearly. Plus, the waters are muddied by reports from special interests. But increasingly, there are tools to help consumers weigh health information. is one such tool. It's a website dedicated to reviewing the accuracy of news stories about medical treatments, tests, products and procedures and helping consumers evaluate the evidence for and against new ideas in health care. See, for example, the recent reviews on these health news stories: Vitamin A may slash melanoma risk and citrus and strokes. And of particular use for consumers, don't miss the Toolkit, which includes tipsheets, primers, links and other resources to help journalists and consumers do a better job of evaluating claims about health care interventions.

Caring for the Caregivers - Carol Harnett of Human Resources Executive offers three lessons for HR leaders to help workers balance caring for loved ones with their productivity at work.

Solo workers & safety - Do you have employees who regularly perform their work offsite or at remote third party locations? You are still responsible for their health and safety. In a pair of articles, The Safety Daily Advisor offers advice and tips for how to protect off-site Workers and decrease your liability:Safety Issues for Off-Site Employees and
Safety Precautions for Solo Workers.

In the "Yikes" Department - While this story isn't specifically work-related, it is one for the insurance fraud hall of fame. For more incredible tales about the lengths people will go to be larcenous, see the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud's annual Insurance Fraud Hall of Shame.

Office toy of the week - You know those little squishy stress balls that you get at trade shows? Well here's a little variation: infectious disease stress balls. Available in four varieties: Bubonic Plague, Cooties, Smallpox, and Zombie Virus.

Quick Takes


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.

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?

January 12, 2012

New briefs: Shredding, Unlimited Vacation, Gender Gap & more

Grief & Health - The loss of a loved one is one of life's most stressful events. A new study shows us just how stressful it can be - particularly for those who have an existing health risk. A study of 1,985 adult heart attack survivors found that heart-attack risk spikes days after loss of a loved one, rising to as much as 21 times higher than normal within the first day after a loved one has died. See also Broken Heart Syndrome. Even for people who don't have presenting heart disease, grief is intensely stressful. If an employee suffers a loss, it's a good time for an HR director to send a sympathy card, and why not tuck a card or a number for your Employee Assistance Program with it.

Gender Gap - Are women themselves to blame for a gender gap in careers or is the system stacked against them? The conventional wisdom is that women "don't ask" but a recent study of the career experiences of thousands of MBA graduates from top schools around the world by Catalyst shows that women do indeed speak up to ask for raises and promotions, but they don't get the same rewards as men who ask. Moreover, the study found that, "Women who initiated such conversations and changed jobs post MBA experienced slower compensation growth than the women who stayed put."

Knock, Knock - DOL Calling - The start of a new year is a good time to make sure that your records are in good order so that if you win the Department of Labor audit lottery, you won't have to panic. Daniel Schwartz of Connecticut Employment Law Blog talks about what to expect when you’re expecting the Department of Labor, which suggests the information you should be tracking. He notes that what is said during DOL meetings can be used against you so you might consider consulting with an attorney early in the process who can coordinate the investigation and serve as a conduit between the DOL and you.

Shredding - How long should you retain files before you can feel safe in trashing them? Compensation Cafe suggests that you take a look at your retention policies and make sure they are up to date with federal and state laws before you break start feeding files to the shredder. They offer a handy list of federal records retention requirements for the IRS, DOL, FMLA, and FLSA.

Responding to Background Checks - When you're on the receiving end of a reference check, do you know what to say about your former employee? "Most states offer employers a "qualified privilege" to provide references regardless of how negative they may be -- but that won't protect an employer who provides misleading or false information about a former employee." Keisha-Ann G. Gray of Human Resource Executive offers an excellent overview of best practices in reference checking.

Unlimited Vacation - Michael Halberman of HR Observations Blog writes about unlimited vacation and asks whether it will work for your company. Not familiar with the concept? Go check out his post. Halberstrom likens it to ROWE, or Results Only Work Environments. While there are some compelling arguments in its favor, Haberman notes that it's a concept that will only work for companies with some pretty special circumstances ... so special that the field is pretty narrow. But it's something to think about. And as with many business concepts and trends, some morphed version often filters down to the everyday work world over time.

Unusual Workplace of the Week - No matter how much we like our jobs, few of us would call our workplace a wonderland. Except maybe the people at Davidson International. "Its interior, which followed a year-long, $5 million renovation, is intended to encourage creativity and a positive attitude among staff." Hat tip to The Future of Work for the pointer.

Quick Takes

December 29, 2011

Listo-licious, 2011 style - year-end recap

October 30, 2011

New briefs: sick days, scent-free policies, psycho bosses, staying out of court & more

Sick days - Jon Hyman of Ohio Employer's Law Blog talks about a recent CareerBuilder survey in which 29% or employees admitted to taking sick days when they really weren't sick - using the days for other purposes. He notes that only 28% of businesses report that they check on "ill" employees. He proposes what we think is a great solution: getting rid of sick days entirely and using a different system altogether. See Are you checking in on your “sick” employees? Maybe you should be (or not) for more.

Scent-free workplaces - The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety tackles the topic of fragrance sensitive people in the workplace in when fragrances offend. They offer advice and tips for establishing a scent-free policy for the workplace. For more on how this might relate specifically to the ADA, see: Accommodation and Compliance Series: Employees with Fragrance Sensitivity from the Job Accommodation Network (JAN).

Psycho bosses - The bad news: A new study says that one in 15 corporate managers qualify as psycopaths. The good news: Psychopaths had very high ratings on communication, strategic thinking, and creative abilities.

Wellness - in Health Care's Brave New World of Compulsory Wellness, Ezra Klein reports on Cleveland Clinic's wellness program, which offers a strong combination of carrots and sticks to influence and change employee health behaviors. Is it working? "Not only has the clinic cut its health-care costs, but its employees are also getting healthier in measurable ways. Workers have lost a collective 250,000 pounds since 2005. Their blood pressure is lower than it was three years ago. Smoking has declined from 15.4 percent of employees to 6.8 percent."

Age Diversity - In Human Resource Executive, Katie Kuehner-Hebert writes about a new report that highlights some innovative ways companies are beginning to create age-diversity strategies that positively impact the bottom line.Dee: Managing through the Life Stages.

Avoiding litigation - Hr Daily Advisor recently offered a pair of posts from plaintif attorney Whitney Warner on avoiding litigtion - and who etter to learn from? The first post suggests 5 Ways You Attract the Attention of Plaintiffs' Attorneys, and the second is 6 secrets...from the dark side.

Cool Tool - transportation and auto expenses are a big slice of any family's budget. According to the Department of Labot, car ownership costs are the sedond largest household expense after shelter. It makes sense to try to control those costs any way that you can - including considerations about the type of vehicles that you buy. If you are considering a new car, check out the Edmunds True Cost to Own Calculator, which figures in the "hidden" costs, such as depreciation, interest on your loan, taxes and fees, insurance premiums, fuel costs, maintenance, and repairs.

News Briefs

August 13, 2011

New briefs: Social media litigation & costs; regulatory matters; cool tools

Facebook firings - Employees use social media like Facebook and Twitter to vent about their jobs, and employers often retaliate with termination. But employers need to ensure they are not breaking the law for such firings. "A new analysis by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of more than a hundred charges recently filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) involving social media and the workplace. Many of the complaints filed with the federal agency were brought by workers who felt they were illegally let go or otherwise disciplined for their Facebook musings. Others alleged that their companies had "overly broad" policies regarding social media that undercut their rights as workers."

See also:
Social media and workers comp - Workers' Comp Insider looks at how social media being used in fraud investigations.

The use of social media at the workplace is on the rise - A recent survey by Robert Half reveals that more than half of those employers surveyed allow some form of social media use at work if it is work-related, up 19% from 2009. But 32% still prohibit social media use at work.

Social media incidents cost the typical company $4 million over past 12 months - according to security specialist Symanatec's 2011 Social Media Protection Flash Poll, leaked data, litigation and other problems related to lax social media policies are costing employers dearly.

Excuse me? - Workplace incivility is a growing problem, according to researchers at the American Psychological Association. "The academics define workplace incivility as "a form of organizational deviance… characterized by low-intensity behaviors that violate respectful workplace norms, appearing vague as to intent to harm." Research reveals that 75% to 80% of people have experienced this type of incivility at work.

Regulatory compliance
The Six Most Common Wage/Hour Violations
The top 10 industries for OSHA complaints
Blanket attendance policies could cost employers millions

Cool tools

  • Everything you ever wanted to know about organizational charts and then some can be found at Find everything from the history of the organizational chart to data visualization and free chart samples.
  • ProPublica offers a Dialysis Facility Tracker for dialysis patients and others who want to learn about the quality of care at individual dialysis clinics. Among other things, you can learn how often patients treated at a facility have been hospitalized, report certain types of infections or are placed on the transplant list. The information is submitted by facilities and collected by contractors of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees most dialysis care.
  • Suicide Survivor Resources - resources for people who have lost loved ones to suicide.
  • The Full Wiki has quizzes on more than 44,000 topics. Test your knowledge on arcane topics. Teachers and managers can access printable sheets to share quizzes with students.

July 9, 2011

News roundup: Bad bosses, Google+, phishing, caregiver resources & more

Pantheon of bad bosses - We haven't seen the risque movie Horrible Bosses yet, but the topic of bad bosses is a universally popular theme. A recent survey of 2,000 workers across the UK revealed that 55% of those interviewed thought their managers were incompetent. In the truth is stranger than anything Hollywood can dream up category, Business Reader offers 10 real life horrible bosses that make Jennifer Aniston look like a pushover.

Caregiver resource - Minding Our Elders is a blog Carol Bradley Bursackby that offers information, support and shared experience for caregivers and seniors on topics ranging from Alzheimer's and dementia to general senior issues. In addition to offering practical tips and advice on day-to-day caregiving issues and challenges, good resources and blogs on related topics can be found in the sidebar.

Google+ - If you aren't yet aware of search behemoth Google's new foray into the world of social media, you will be soon. Google+ is going toe to toe with Facebook. Thus far, it had been rolled out on a by-invitation beta test, but even with that limitation, it is creating a stir. Should your organization jump on the Google+ bandwagon? Not yet, says Google. The company revealed that it is working on a Google+ experience for businesses and therefore suggests that organizations not create profiles yet. Should you jump on the bandwagon? While many of the pioneer users are singing the praises, some reviews suggest going in with your eyes wide open about privacy issues and concerns.

Managing people with personality disorders - Peter Cappelli of Human Resource Executive talks about a recent study which found that about one in five workers have a personality disorder that negatively impacts their career and the workplace. In managing the difficult employee, he discusses the challenge that this poses for organizations, particularly since a diagnosed personality disorder would be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act and potentially other state-level legislation. He suggests a few ways of dealing with this issue: "Maybe it means making new and different use of employee-assistance programs to help these individuals identify their problems and seek treatment. Maybe it means helping to redesign their tasks and jobs to find those that truly "fit" what they are capable of doing."

We have met the enemy and he is us - One of the greatest threats for a data security breach that an organization faces comes from the ignorance of its own employees about safe email practices. In a recent phishing experiment conducted by a national security firm, 29,000 employees at 3,037 businesses received a phishing email, and in 500 of those companies, employees clicked on a link in an email, potentially exposing the employer to a serious breach had the mail been real. The best protection? training your employees in e-mail security.

Health care costs - The high cost of healthcare is an issue of concern to employers and employees alike. Workers' Comp Insider features a post on the wide disparity in costs for common medical procedures as revealed in a 2010 Healthcare Transparency Index. How big a disparity? Patients can pay as much as 683% more for the exact same medical procedure in the same town. The post includes a variety of some healthcare education tools / resources to help educate consumers.

Limiting Liability - At Evan Carmichael's Blog, Ari Rosenstein talks about the importance of educating managers to ensure that your organization stays in compliance with labor laws and offers seven steps to minimize liability. He notes that because managers act as a direct extension of the executives and ownership of the organization, any misstep by a manager may expose the entire organization to an employment lawsuit."

Quick takes

June 19, 2011

Transgender policies, dog days, talent trends, bad supervisor of the month & more

Transgender policies - Currently, only about 4 in 10 Fortune companies have gender-identity-inclusive policies but that may change soon since the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has recently issued guidelines on transgender workers. David Shadovitz of Human Resource Executive notes that with more than 2 million employees, OPM's actions might spur other organizations to follow its lead. "In addition to clarifying the meaning of terminology such as gender identity and gender transition, the OPM memo outlines how managers, supervisors and co-workers should address issues such as privacy, dress and appearance, restroom access, recordkeeping and insurance benefits."

It's Lightning Safety Awareness Week - June 19 to 25 is Lightning Safety Awareness Week and Consumer Insurance Blog offers some tips and resources that might be good to share with employees through your health, safety & wellness programs. Knowing what to do in electrical storms is particularly important information if you have employees who work all or part of their time outdoors.

Employment issues and trends - Talent Edge 2020: Blueprints for the new normal features results from an October 2010 Deloitte survey that polled 334 global senior business leaders and human resource executives at large organizations about employee trends as we emerge from the global downturn and confront the next decade's challenges. Retention, the race for talent, and leadership development are seen as key issues.

Working like a dog has a new meaning - Friday, June 24 is Take Your Dog to Work Day. This event was created to celebrate the great companions dogs make and to encourage their adoption from humane societies, animal shelters and breed rescue clubs. But if you don't do it for the dogs, how about for your employees? Pets can offer an important health benefit by helping to reduce stress and depression. Here are some ideas for how your workplace can get involved. Visit the Professional Pooch Gallery - you can also enter your submissions to win a potential cash prize.

ADA - Marlene Prost of Human Resource Executive looks at the issue of whether there are limits to ADA leave requests. She reviews a hearing between the EEOC and employers earlier this month and the guidance that the EEOC provided. The EEOC says companies must be flexible in going beyond their attendance policies but some employers still find a lack of clarity in this issue.

A stitch in time - At E.L.I's Blog, Stephen M. Paskoff offers 3 phrases - 12 words to help you avert a major organizational disaster. In looking at corporate crises, he notes that most "are not the result of random, unpredictable acts. Instead, they arise from repetitive practices which are ignored or a few outrageous acts. In either instance, retrospective analysis reveals problems which usually raised complaints but, too frequently, resulted in inaction or harm to complainants rather than steps to address the problems."

Uninvited guests - Bill Pokorny of Wage & Hour Insights has good advice for employers on what to do when the DOL makes an unannounced visit. The long and the short of it is: call your lawyer!

Bad supervisor of the year award - An egregious case of sexual harassment led to a $95 million verdict (explicit language alert) for a Missouri plaintiff. John Hyman of Ohio Employer's Law blog notes that, "...this verdict underscores the importance of prompt and thorough investigations into complaints of harassment by employees. The jury did not subject the employer to this verdict because of the acts of a rogue supervisor, but because the company did not do anything about him when the plaintiff complained."

June 5, 2011

News roundup: social media & engagement; Lady Gaga & Mother Theresa; cancer survivors & more

Employee engagement - At SmartBlogs Andy Sernovitz posts about how Wal-Mart engages with employees using social media. His post includes a 25 minute video presentation by Walmart's Lisa Thurber who talks about how her team is tasked with communicating with the more than 1.2 million employees. Related: 12 questions to measure employee engagement.

Leadership icons: the angel and the monster - The Economist looks at what Lady Gaga and Mother Theresa have in common: "leadership projection" or charisma. Both have the power to build emotional commitment in their followers and both are worth studying for what they can teach us about leadership.

Cancer survivors and the workplace - Kristen Frasch of Human Resources Executive Online posts about the challenges that HR managers are facing with more cancer survivors returning to the workplace. Data from Unum's long-term and short-term disability customers shows that as medical treatments improve, the number of cancer survivors who are returning to the workplace is trending up, forcing a national dialogue on how to craft return-to-work policies in the case of serious, chronic disease. According to the article, "Already, cancer is the second-leading cause of long-term disability and the sixth-leading cause of short-term disability in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society." In addition to flexible leave policies, it requires training managers and coworkers in creating a supportive environment. (Related: Cancer in the Workplace: resources for managers and colleagues. )

The carrot or the stick? - In light of increasingly aggressive actions on the part of employers to discourage smoking - including the refusal to hire smokers - director of risk management for the Palm Beach County Board of County Commissioners Nancy L. Bolton explores various carrot and stick alternatives and questions how far punitive measures against smokers should go. While acknowledging the health care costs that smoking can add, she also asks "What kind of talent do we forfeit when we fail to retain, or refuse to hire altogether, because we've chosen one personal vice and made it an employment matter?"

Social media policies - Jon Hyman Of Ohio Employer's Law Blog has been regularly covering the issue of social media policies and the National Labor Relations Board: See his posts: are you better off without a social media policy?; NLRB issues another complaint over a Facebook termination and Ho-hum … another NLRB social media complaint?

June wellness focus - June is Men's Health Month. Here are a few resources: Men's Health Facts (PDF) and The Silent Health Crisis (PDF) - one-page information sheets to give you facts for your wellness promotions or to use as handouts; and useful screening checklists (PDF) for both men and women that offer age and frequency screening guidelines for various health issues.

Panic buttons - After a few recent highly publicized sexual assaults on hotel housekeepers, at least one New York hotel has decided to take action to protect workers and to send the message to future guests: we arm our workers with a panic button. Manhattan's Pierre hotel met with union workers after a recent on-premise attack, and agreed to equip all room attendants with panic buttons that operate much like the ones used by the elderly. Other ways to protect workers from sexual harassment and assault: "increased surveillance in hallways and elevators, additional training for supervisors and room attendants, and taking better advantage of electronic-key technology to check up on housekeepers who stay in any room for an unusually long time."

May 22, 2011

News briefs: DOL app, zombie apocalypse, PTO, Milliman Medical Index & more

Somebody's watching you - Wage and hour violations? There's an app for that. Employer's Lawyer Michael Fox posts about the Department of Labor's new time sheet i-phone app, which is intended to help employees track the hours they work and the wages they are owed. The DOL says that, "This information could prove invaluable during a Wage and Hour Division investigation when an employer has failed to maintain accurate employment records." See more at Compensation Cafe: An Apple A Day May Not Keep DOL Away

Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse - In trying to pique interest in the topic of emergency preparedness, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tried a new strategy: it tapped into the current public mania for all things zombie by framing the issue as Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Guide." It's a good study in creative communications. An item in the Wall Street Journal Health Blog notes that the page has "... nearly 1.2 million page views, compared to about 1,000 to 3,000 hits a CDC blog post usually gets over its entire lifespan of 10 days or so." The CDC is now following up with a video contest.

$20k healthcare price tag for families - According to the 2011 Milliman Medical Index, the healthcare cost for a family of four covered by a preferred provider plan is $19,393, an increase of $1,319, or 7.3% over 2010. The report notes that although "...the rate of increase is slowing from prior years, it has taken fewer than nine years for such costs to more than double. In 2002, the cost of healthcare for the typical family of four was $9,235." The report also notes that "the employees' share of the total cost is at an all-time high, having increased from 36.8% in the first year of the MMI (2005) to 39.7% in 2011." See more at 2011 Milliman Medical Index.

The PTO approach - In the latest Risk Management, Alex Korotin talks about how the "paid time off" (PRO) approach is gaining traction and that many organizations are choosing to this approach over the more traditional vacation-sick-personal days approach. He discusses pros and cons of this approach, as well as alternatives for establishing arrangements coordinated with 401ksm profit sharing plans, and credit based flex plans.

HR's Top 10 concerns - Workforce covers the top 10 HR concerns as reported by the Employers Resource Association. These issues are compiled from the more than 8,000 hotline calls made by the organization's membership of 1,300 companies in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana.

Wellness & retention research - Fiona Gathright posts about a new study that shows that wellness programs can bolster employee retention. Accordiong to Gathright, the top employee reasons for participation in wellness programs were listed as: reduced personal health care costs (30%), increased longevity and health maintenance (30%), employer incentives (28%), and reduced stress (28%). Related The Los Angeles Times offers a good roundup of ways that various employers are encouraging employees to move more during the workday, including low-budget, easy-to-implement options. The article notes: "In an April survey by the corporate benefits group Workplace Options, 36% of employees said their jobs offered perks such as wellness coaches, on-site health screenings and fitness programs. And 70% of Fortune 200 companies offer physical fitness programs, according to the National Business Group on Health, with many saving on healthcare as a result."

Protecting teens from harassment - We recently posted tips for keeping teen workers safe. Since that time, we found a good related post on HR Daily Advisor that suggests teens may be particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and many not know what to do if it occurs. They suggest that additional training may be in order, and offer a lost of suggestions from the EOC. Related: How to handle a sexual harassment claim, including an infographic.

Security - How secure is my password is an interactive tool that offers an estimate of how long it would take a desktop PC to crack your password. I just learned that the password I use most often would take about 150 days to crack. The site also offers a link to a good essay on how to pick a safe password. Here's another good site to bookmark an share with employees: Stay Safe Online.

Other noteworthy news

April 28, 2011

News briefs: religion at work, wellness penalties, addiction, are your employees videotaping you, and more...

Religion at work - Although religion remains a taboo topic at some companies, more employers are allowing workers to embrace their spiritual beliefs while on the job. At Workforce (free subscription required), Fara Warner explores some of the ways that companies are finding ways to fit religion in their corporate culture in the article Professionals Tap a Higher Power in the Workplace. Related: In a recent post at the Connecticut Employment Law Blog, Daniel Schwartz used Easter and Passover as a springboard to revisit the topic of religious discrimination issues.

Legal ruling & wellness penalties - Can an employer impose a penalty for non-participation in a health risk assessment? In a brief Employee Benefit Advisor podcast, Karen McLeese talks about a recent legal case, in which the court found for the employer in a court challenge related to a wellness program's financial penalty. She discusses the implications for employers and their wellness programs.

Of mice, men and addiction - "Recovering addicts are often told to avoid the people, places, and things connected with their addiction — tried-and-true advice that may be gaining support from neuroscience." Is an addiction a learning and memory disorder? Scientific American reports on new neurobiology research, which found that, "...repeated use of alcohol can make the brain more susceptible to forming reward-based associations. Mice given a weeklong binge of alcohol were more likely to remember the environment in which they later received cocaine. In human addicts similar associations could explain why certain environments are apt to trigger relapse." See: Mouse Study Suggests Why Addictions Are Hard to Forget.

Lights, camera, action - At Ohio Employer's Law Blog, Jon Hyman asks Are your employees recording you? He suggests steps that you can take to protect yourself and your business against these covert tactics.

When men are the abused partners - Although most domestic abuse is committed by men, sometimes men are the victims and not the perpetrators. At Domestic Violence and the Workplace, Kim Wells posts about two new papers published by the American Psychological Association which show that men who are abused by their female partners can suffer significant psychological trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Sleepy workers - As a follow up to our recent post on Shift Work Sleep Disorder, we note that Human Resource Executive's Michael O'Brien has an article on the topic: Asleep at the Shift-Work Wheel. He discusses shift work, biological clocks, and the impact on safety.

Salary secrets - At Compensation Cafe, Chuck Csizmar talks about organizational transparency vs. secrecy when it comes to the compensation program. He asks: "Why not disclose the key elements of your job evaluation and base salary structure? What's the harm in letting employees know where they stand, and what their career progression could look like? What's the harm? What's the big secret?" He also discusses the two key elements that secretive companies most frequently tend to guard.

Silly fun - What?! You haven't been exposed to Business Cat yet?! It's an internet meme that is sort of a cross between lolcats, Dilbert and the ubiquitous motivational posters. It's a cat in a tie that thinks like your boss would if your boss were a cat. Here is The Absolute Best of the Business Cat Meme.

Quick takes

April 16, 2011

News briefs: transgender suit, COPD, exec pay, incentives & more

Transgender suit - in a legal first and a case to watch, a a man is challenging his having been terminated for being transgender. Plaintiff El’Jai Devoureau was hired as a male urine monitor in a drug-testing program. Upon learning of Devoroureau's transgender status, he was fired as being unqualified for the job since, according to his employer, he was not male. The lawsuit challenges the termination as a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, which protects transgender people from employment discrimination. New Jersey is one of 12 states to offer employment protections to transgender people. More: New Jersey Transgender Man Says Firing Was Discriminatory.

Pop quiz: 4th leading cause of death in U.S.? - #1: Heart disease. #2: Cancer #3: Stroke #4: COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. COPD is also significant cause of long-term disability. More than 12 million people are currently diagnosed with COPD and it’s estimated that another 12 million may have COPD but not realize it. According to a story in Employee Benefit News, approximately 70% of people living with COPD are working and the economic burden for employers is great. DRIVE4COPD is a public health initiative aimed at increasing awareness and identification of COPD for treatment. Employers can participate by encouraging employees 35 and older take its COPD Population Screener, a simple five-question survey, to determine if their employees are at risk for COPD. Here's an online employer COPD toolkit.

When less is more - At Corporate Wellness, Fiona Gathright posts about survey results on the trends in incentives for health risk assessment completion. Here's a hint: it may not be as costly as you think.

When more is more - Equilar and New York Times report on the compensation of the nation's top 200 CEOs. The median pay for these executives was $9.6 million last year, a 12% increase over 2009. According to NYT, "In the fourth quarter, profits at American businesses were up an astounding 29.2 percent, the fastest growth in more than 60 years. Collectively, American corporations logged profits at an annual rate of $1.678 trillion." The accompanying article says that so far, this executive boon has not trickled down to hiring.

Retaliation - Mark Toth at Manpower Employment Blawg talks about "everything you could ever possibly want to know about the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Kasten v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corporation" in his post Rhe Supremes on Retaliation. The issue at hand: Does the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provision that prohibits retaliation against employees who "file" a complaint cover verbal complaints?

Favorite motivational phrases? - In Ask MetaFilter, a popular online community blog where users post queries to other users, one particpant asked What is your favorite motivational phrase? There are some great responses from a variety of sources. (Warning: this is great resource, but as a public web board, note that you might encounter a word or two that may be objectionable.)

Quick takes

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

February 20, 2011

News Briefs: leadership, guns, pot, jargon, court rulings & more

Leadership - Richard Branson shares his thoughts on empowering employees to break the rules. The founder of the Virgin Group and companies such as Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile and Virgin Active, regularly shares his thoughts on various aspects of leadership at Entrepreneur - you can see an archive of his articles, which range from taking chances to effectively harnessing social media.

The big picture - Do your employees understand your organization's mission, goals, and strategic plan? Do they get the big picture? Dan McCarthy says that a leadership failure to impart and communicate the "big picture" can result in a team that under delivers, that works on the wrong things, that makes poor decisions, or that is demoralized. He offers 5 questions to test understanding of strategy and the big picture.

Guns on TX campuses - Texas could soon become the second state (Utah was the first) to give students and professors the right to carry guns on campus if a recent measure put forth by the Texas House passes the Senate, as is expected. "Similar firearms measures have been proposed in about a dozen other states, but all face strong opposition, especially from college leaders. In Oklahoma, all 25 public college and university presidents declared their opposition to a concealed carry proposal."

Medical marijuana - Last week, Michigan court rulings dealt a double blow to medical marijuana. One of the Michigan rulings upheld the firing of a Walmart employee who had been proscribed the drug to control symptoms of his brain cancer. Expect to see more court rulings on the intersection of medical marijuana and the workplace. As of now, 15 states and DC have enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana and another 9 have pending legislation dealing with legalization.

Bankruptcy and employment - Can you refuse to hire someone who had a prior bankruptcy? Yes, if you are in in Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and the Virgin Islands, according to a recent ruling by the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in Rea v. Federated Investors that it's legal for a private employer to refuse to hire someone based on a bankruptcy. But experts suggest that just because you can doesn't mean you should. Employment law attorneys suggest taking care if employing bankruptcy checks in the pre-hire background screening process, particularly in this time of financial stress. Also note: "The rule does not apply to government agencies, which are not allowed to reject an applicant because of bankruptcy. In addition, it's illegal for a public or private employer to fire an employee who files for bankruptcy, say attorneys."

Job market - According to a Labor Department report assessing job trends, as of December, nearly five unemployed workers for every job opening. And a rather worrisome trend line shows that advertised job openings and actual new hires are diverging.

FMLA Abuse - In SHRM, Dolly Clabault, J.J. Keller & Associates Inc. offers tips for minimizing the abuse of FMLA. Many of the excellent suggestions revolve around knowing the law, training managers in the basics of the law, and documenting and administering absences appropriately and consistently.

Telecommuting can save money - Did you know there was a national Telework Week? We didn't, so we are a bit late in acknowledging, but the Telework Research Network suggests that by adopting a model in which companies allow workers to work from home one day of the week, a savings of as much as $6,500 per once-a-week teleworker worker could be realized. To find out how much your community or your organization could save, calculate the potential with their Telework Savings Model.

Taking care of business - Having trouble competing for your employees' attention in this information-laden era? In Employee Benefit News, Tina Whitelaw suggests an innovative way to get the attention of a worker while they are "stalled," so to speak. She offers tips for best practices in bathroom communications.

Jargon watch - Forbes offers a glossary of the most annoying business jargon, along with an accompanying article which encourages putting a stop to the linguistic gobbledygook has taken over America's conference rooms. We think that's a big, hairy audacious goal because business jargon is the new normal. You've barely opened the kimono on this topic, Forbes. At the end of the day, when it comes to corporate jargon, we think you need a little more thinking outside of the box to come up with best in breed examples.

Innovative workplace - For those of us who never want to grow up, we think we've found the ideal job: Take a rare tour of what it's like to work in Pixar's animation studio. It's a fun glimpse into a work environment that fosters creativity.

January 30, 2011

News briefs: Work violence, hiring the overqualified, state of unions & more

Workplace violence - In the aftermath of the Tucson shooting, a story in the New York Times reminds us of the lingering effects of violence on its victims: Tucson attack reawakens pain from Virginia Tech. Four years after the Virginia shooting, this article talks about the long and ongoing process of healing for one of the families who lost a loved on in the shooting.

In another follow-on to the Tuscon events, Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas makes a timely and excellent post about what a company can do with a dangerous employee? She offers guidance for what managers need to do if they face an employee that scares them.

Related: Preventing workplace violence

The case for hiring the overqualified - in Human Resource Executive, Katie Kuehner-Hebert talks about why conventional wisdom about hiring overqualified candidates may be wrong. Employers generally shy away from overqualified candidates, thinking they will jump ship at the first opportunity, but according to a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology, this is not necessarily the case. The study was based on analysis of the labor-force behavior of more than 5,000 U.S. adults over a 25-year period. "The authors found that, in positions with low cognitive demands, such as garbage collectors or car washers, employees with higher cognitive ability were less likely than others to voluntarily leave." The authors suggest that in evaluating overqualified candidates, employers should dig deeper. Candidates may want to trade in for a lifestyle or health issue, or because they have a particular interest in the company's mission or values.

State of the Unions - Jeffrey Hirsch gives us the latest report on union density for 2010: "Overall union density went down from 12.3% to 11.9%; in the private sector, union density went down from 7.2% to 6.9%, and in the public sector, it went from 37.4% to 36.2%." See more at his post on Workplace Prof Blog. To delve beneath the numbers and take a look at the current status and views of labor, see State of the Unions, authored by James Surowiecki in The New Yorker.

More on the NLRB Facebook case - the Social Media Employment Law Blog weighs in on the NLRB Facebook complaint: Following The NLRB On Facebook Firings.

Winter Wellness - Studies show that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy so make sure that you take those extra steps to add physical activity, even in the dead of winter. Why not kill two birds with one stone? Add a little creativity to your winter fitness regime and get rid of the snow in your front yard at the same time with a A do-it-yourself bicycle powered snow plow? If you decide to clear the snow in a more traditional fashion, these snow shoveling and snow removal safety tips might come in handy.

Cool Tech Tool - If you've ever had trouble working on multiple computers or accessing files, DropBox might be the right tool for you. It descibes its service as " that syncs your files online and across your computers. Put your files into your Dropbox folder on one computer, and they'll automatically appear on any of your other computers that also have Dropbox installed. You can even download Dropbox apps for your smartphone or mobile device (iPhone, iPad, Android, and Blackberry). Everything in your Dropbox is available from the Dropbox website, too."

Quick Takes

January 28, 2011

Facebook NLRB case postponed

In November, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that Facebook posts are legally protected speech despite a company having a policy that prohibits employees from discussing the company on social media sites. The ruling came in a case involving Dawmarie Souza, who was fired after criticizing her supervisor at American Medical Response of Connecticut on her Facebook page. The NLRB announced its intent to prosecute, and scheduled a hearing January 25. The complaint hearing on the case was postponed to February 8.

According to the New York Times story in November:

"Lafe Solomon, the [NLRB] board’s acting general counsel, said, "This is a fairly straightforward case under the National Labor Relations Act — whether it takes place on Facebook or at the water cooler, it was employees talking jointly about working conditions, in this case about their supervisor, and they have a right to do that."

That act gives workers a federally protected right to form unions, and it prohibits employers from punishing workers — whether union or nonunion — for discussing working conditions or unionization. The labor board said the company’s Facebook rule was 'overly broad' and improperly limited employees’ rights to discuss working conditions among themselves.

This case could have far implications for all employers, regardless of union involvement. Until further clarification is issued, employers should be cautious about their social media policies. In November, Morgan Lewis Employment Law issued an alert about what the NLRB ruling means to employers (PDF), along with this recommendation:

"All private sector employers should take note of this issue, regardless of whether their workforce is represented by a union. Employers should review their Internet and social media policies to determine whether they are susceptible to an allegation that the policy would “reasonably tend to chill employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights.” In addition, employers should consider whether disciplining an employee for violating such a policy could lead to a charge that the discipline violates the NLRA. An employee who is disciplined for engaging in conduct that is protected by the NLRA may challenge the discipline by filing an unfair labor practice charge, even if the employee is not represented by a union."

January 3, 2011

List-o-licious: The Best of 2010

Here are links to some of the best recaps of 2010

And looking forward...

Thanks to Fimoculous, the source for many of these links, and more: 2010 Year Lists.

December 12, 2010

HR news briefs

Eight tips for meeting with a potentially violent employee - tips from attorney Robert Bettac's recent presentation at BLR's National Employment Law Update are posted at HR Daily Advisor.

Do you have a severe weather policy? - John Hyman of Ohio Employers' Law Blog offers thoughts on the matter. Here are some additional tips for drafting your severe weather policy

The Impact of the 2007-2009 Recession on Workers with Disabilities - New data available from the Current Population Survey (CPS) indicate that between October 2008 and June 2010, job losses among workers with disabilities far exceeded those of workers without disabilities; this labor market volatility resulted in the proportion of employed U.S. workers identified as having disabilities declining by 9 percent.

IRS announces 2011 Standard Mileage Rates - the big headline: 51 cents per mile for business.

Long Term Insurance - Mary Forgione of the Los Angeles Times writes about how long term care insurance is getting costlier and more scarce just as baby boomers are reaching an age where this insurance is given serious consideration.

President Signs Federal Employee Telework Legislation - Bill Leonard recaps the path the legislation took in an article at SHRM.

Safe holiday shopping tips - seasonal consumer protection tips for you and your employees.

The New Old Age - Adults over age 80 are the fastest growing segment of the population, and most will spend years dependent on others for the most basic needs. This New York Times blog explores the "unprecedented intergenerational challenge" of baby boomer children caring for their parents.

Sick-Day Bounty Hunters - Are more employers hiring private detectives to catch employees who are abusing their benefits? Eric Spitznagel of the Wall Street Journal looks at the issue.

An interesting bit of corporate communications. We All Fall Down is a short video clip/commercial from General Motors for the holiday season, thanking the public for helping them get back on their feet.

Employment Law - Everyone is waiting for the outcome of the Supreme Court decision in Dukes, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., a dispute that could award billions in back pay for as many as 1.5 million women who are or were employees. The case could also affect other employment-related class-action lawsuits. Here's are some legal commentaries and recent articles on the case:
Daniel Schwartz of Connecticut Employment Law Blog
Gerald Maatman of Seyfarth Shaw LLP
The Atlantic: Wal-Mart Sex Discrimination Heads to the Supreme Court

November 14, 2010

News briefs: GINA regulations, Facebook filing, Google raises & more

GINA roundup - Daniel Schwartz of the Connecticut Employment Law Blog tells us that Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued final regulations for the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), which goes into effect in January 2011. He notes that CT employers should exercise caution because the state has its own regulation. In his second post on GINA, he offers more resources and talks about how employers should engage in "Safe Harbor" provisions. Manpower Employment Blog's Mark Toth also has GINA in his sights. He offers a helpful summary of GINA regulations, along with a handy GINA Cheat Sheet.

The Facebook filing buzz - Is criticizing your boss on Facebook protected activity? Several law blogs are weighing in on the matter about this important case that is scheduled to be heard in January and is expected to have implications for the future direction of corporate social media policies. Chris McKinney of HR Laywer's Blog looks at the upcoming case filed under the National Labor Relations Act alleging that an employee was illegally terminated for badmouthing her supervisor on Facebook. In Minding the Workplace, David Yamada looks at how the NLRB’s Facebook firing complaint might relate to the struggle against workplace bullying. And John Hyman of Ohio Employer's Law Blog offers a huge and helpful roundup of links to legal opinions, blog posts and news articles on the Facebook firing.

Google's misplaced incentive? - Back in 2007, we posted about Google as being one of the best places to work. In 2010, the challenges are very different. Competition from emerging tech giants and a difficult economy have posed new challenges. Last week, the tech behemoth announced that it would give a 10% raise to all 23,000 employees in an effort to lift staff morale and to retain talent. Sounds great? Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas doesn't think so. She explans why the move may send a wrong signal, one that says we don't care about our employees.

Straight talk from the judge - HR Daily Advisor offers a pair of posts with advice from the bench. Denny Chin, former U.S. District Court Judge, now Court of Appeals judge talks about exposure you may have even when you feel certain the law is on your side. In a follow-on post, he offers HR managers tips for staying out of his court.

Union update - Micahel Vandervort of The Human Race Horses offers a guide to the changing face of leadership in organized labor. One significant change: many of the top new labor union leaders are women.

Dos and don'ts of firing - Susan M. Heathfield of's Human Resources Blog talks about firing employees with civility, including her list of the top 10 don'ts.

October 9, 2010

News briefs: caregiver suits, social media threats, occ docs, lessons from ants & more

Caregiver discrimination: the next frontier in suits? - In a 2020 study, the Center for WorkLife Law in San Francisco found that lawsuits by caregivers have increased 400% over the last 10 years. Such suits are also referred to as "family-responsibility discrimination." The study found that the majority of such suits revolve around pregnancy and maternity leave (67%), but other issues such as elder care, caring for sick children, caring for a sick spouse, time off for fathers of newborns or newly adopted children, and caring for family members with disabilities can also be a catalyst for a suit. Jared Shelly of Human Resource Executive covers the topic of how unfair treatment of workers with family responsibilities can lead to costly lawsuits.

Crafting positive recruitment messages - At HR Observations, Michael Haberman notes a trend that some employers are refusing to hire the long-term unemployed - including some that actually include "need not apply" notices in job ads. Yikes, that appears to be a pretty ham-fisted approach to recruiting the best candidates. Would you want to work at a company that puts such a mean-spirited message out there in these tough times? Haberman offers several reasons why this is a bad idea, along with concrete suggestions for asserting your needs and screening out unqualified applicants in a more positive way.

We have met the enemy, and he is in our social networks... Steve Boese points to a dastardly new plot to lure your highest performing employees away. No wait, he's talking about that valuable social networking tool, LinkedIn. Hmmm. It looks like it's a desert topping AND a floor wax... head on over to Fistful or Talent to learn more about how LinkedIn's new career planning and visualization tool might pose another challenge to retaining your key employees: Fear and Loathing on LinkedIn.

And in other social networking news... Twitter hits 1 billion queries per day. Search guru Danny Sullivan talks about the implications of this growth as well as the new search technology that Twitter is unveiling. Whether your organization is Twittering or not, you can't ignore the billion-query elephant in the room.

Benchmarks for women - The number of U.S. women with six-figure incomes is rising at a much faster pace than it is for men: "Nationwide, about one in 18 women working full time earned $100,000 or more in 2009, a jump of 14 percent over two years, according to new census figures. In contrast, one in seven men made that much, up just 4 percent." While that's a welcome benchmark of progress, many women's groups say that the wage gap persists, and point to the fact that only 3% of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office shows that there are still too few women in management.

Finding the right occ docs - The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) joined forces with the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) to produce an 11-page "best practice" summary: A Guide to High-Value Physician Services in Workers' Compensation - How to find the best available care for your injured workers. It includes some of the best thinking and contributions from a diverse group of workers' compensation system stakeholders, including employers, insurers, policymakers, and physicians.

The high cost of obesity - Speaking of workers' comp, Yvonne Guibert of talks about how obesity is supersizing the cost of workers' comp claims. In 2008, obesity added $62.7 billion in direct medical costs and $56.3 billion indirect costs, including lost work days.

The power of visualization - In recent years there's been a lot of talk about infographics and creative data visualization used in communications, no doubt due to the expanded capabilities of web-based information display. Here's one fascinating example from the BBC: Dimensions interprets current and historic events in a human scale by overlaying them onto a map of where you are. Powerful stuff. When presenting important information to your employees, particularly in complex areas like benefit comparisons, it might be helpful to explore some infographic resources to get ideas for effective communications.

Learning from nature - Ndubuisi Ekekwe talks about leadership lessons we can learn from ants at the Harvard Business Review blogs.

Quick takes

September 12, 2010

News briefs: Tough talks, social recruiting, decorating tips, cruise from hell & more

Tough Talks - You could land in hot water if your supervisors and managers are avoiding an important part of setting the right work climate: having a difficult conversation with an employee about unacceptable behavior. If your supervisors are tongue-tied or uncomfortable, you may be able to help them by providing some scripts. Maybe even a little role playing? Time Warner Cable's VP of Employee Relations Paul Falcone can help you get started with his post about scripting difficult conversations at HR Daily Advisor. He also talks about how to handle "requests" for resignation. More Falcone "difficult conversation" tips in prior posts: inappropriate off-the-record comments, body odor, and attitude problems and handling excessive absenteeism and FMLA abuse.

Going graphic -In other communication news, if you are looking for a way to give your new hire orientation presentation a little pizazz or to overhaul your employee benefits communication program, Steve Boese has a few ideas for you: Consider
going graphic or adding interactivity.

Recruiting: How the cool kids do it - Amybeth Hale gives a window into how Twitter recruits and hires in a great post at She goes right to the source, interviewing Oliver Ryan, Twitter's People Wrangler (that's "Director of Recruiting" for you old school types). Good post, and the short takeaway: "Twitter practices what it preaches. It uses its own product effectively to recruit, but focuses on what’s most important: the people and the relationships."

Catching up with labor - For his Labor Day posting, John Hyman of Ohio Employer's Law Blog asked if organized labor is making its resurgence with a roundup of links to recent news blog postings on the matter.

Grace under pressure - Executive coach Scott Eblin has a posting about what we can learn about leadership from the Chilean miners that is well worth a read.

Law of Unintended Consequences? - At Human Resource Executive, David Shadovitz asks if smoking bans are hazardous? He reports on a recent study that finds reduced smoking in the workplace may lead to higher rates of obesity. This points to a need for employers to do a better job approaching things in a holistic fashion, including issues such as stress and weight gain as a part of smoking cessation initiatives.

Pop Quiz: Are You Hiring and Breeding Greedy and Selfish Employees?

Executive decorating tips - The current decor is a tad drab for our taste, but you have to admit that it has a certain authority. Vote for your favorite.

In case you missed it... - Life gets busy so you might have missed the terrifying cruise from hell video that was making the rounds this past week - take your anti nausea medication first. Related: the follow-on investigation report.

August 8, 2010

News briefs: bereavement leave, lactation, creativity, picking fights, & more

Bereavement leave and family matters - Kudos to Texas Lawyer Michael P. Maslanka, who has penned a great bereavement leave policy for the 21st century. Simple and flexible, it reflects the changing view of "family" and gets our vote. And speaking of changes in the concept of family, Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer notes that the DOL is offering an expanded definition of son or daughter under FMLA.

Obligation to nursing moms - Workplace Prof Blog offers a reminder that the healthcare reform law includes a provision that employers must provide lactation breaks and space for nursing mothers and provides a link to a Department of Labor publication which explains the obligation: Fact Sheet #73: Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA.

Unleashing creativity - Looking for fresh ideas to unleash worker creativity? How about sitting int he CEO's office? Every summer, PR firm Conover Tuttle Pace holds a summer-long office swap - a fun idea that shakes things up and fosters more inder-departmental interaction. Leadership coach Mary Ellen Slayter might call this "getting out of your comfort zone," rule number one in her tips for unleashing your creativity.

A brave face - We've witnessed it time and again - the human spirit's incredible resilience in the face of overwhelming odds and the ability to survive and thrive after terrible catastrophe. In just such a vein, we were moved the story of Chrissy, gunshot wound survivor who recently got a new face, thanks to the miraculous and creative work of dedicated health professionals.

How to fight - In any organization, it's inevitable that there will be disagreements. Becoming a skilled fighter can take practice. At Harvard Business Review blogs, Robert Sutton offers tips for ensuring that dissension is handled productively in his post It's Up to You to Start a Good Fight.

Taking the pulse - What are your HR peers doing when it comes to issues like telecommuting, flextime and casual dress? BLR offers results from their survey of compensation and benefits professionals.

OSHA on safety programs - Does your company have a safety incentive program? If so, be aware that OSHA is scrutinizing safety incentive programs. They are looking for promotions that might discourage workers from reporting injuries. It might be a good time to review your policy. And speaking of OSHA, SafetyNewsAlert offers offers 10 dos and don'ts for OSHA inspections from 2 OSHA inspectors.

By the Numbers
101 social media marketing terms explained
7 of the biggest recent corporate image catastrophes
5 inexpensive ways to fly first class
10 expert tips for Microsoft Word 2010
5 grammatical errors that make you look dumb
7 summertime tips for people with diabetes to avoid heat-related illnesses

July 11, 2010

News briefs: mental health parity, telecommuting, social media & benefits, scam alerts & more

Mental health parity - Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance reports that pending issuance of mental health parity rules, the Labor Department will establish "an enforcement safe harbor under which authorities will not take any enforcement actions against employers that divide outpatient mental health benefits into two sub-classifications — office visits and all other outpatient items and services — as long as that arrangement applies to 'substantially all' outpatient medical/surgical benefits as well." For the full article, see Employers get more time to tweak mental health cover

Survey: keep your benefits stuff out of my social media - At Daily Diversion, Kelley Butler is mystified at the results of a recent survey by the National Business Group on Health, in which about 4 out of 5 of the social media users surveyed said "... they’re not interested in receiving information about their employer-provided health benefits, or tips on how to exercise, eat healthy or save money on health care via Twitter or text messaging. In addition, three in four said they had no interest in getting this information via Facebook." She speculates if this reluctance is due to privacy issues - wanting to keep a firm line between work and personal life - or if wellness is not something they care about.

Scam alert - Consumer Insurance Blog alerts us to recent FBI warnings about phone and social networking scams. It includes good links and resources to share with your employees. And member employers should make use of ESI's tools for online safety - see our newsletter describing ESI's Cyber Safety Resource Center

Telecommuting - Business Green reports that a recent study by the Telework Research network finds that telecommuting saves companies $10K per employee yearly, or a cool million for every 100 workers. The report also points to a $6,800 per year employee savings. Where do the employer savings come from?

"About half of the $1.1m that a company would save ($576,000) with 100 workers telecommuting halftime would come from increased productivity from fewer interruptions, better time management and employees putting in more hours by working when they would have been commuting.

Companies would also save $304,000 a year in electricity, real estate and related costs from parking lot leases, furniture, supplies, maintenance and space consolidation. About $113,000 would come from fewer unscheduled absences, less sick time and from employees working while sick or waiting for personal appointments (cable installation, delivery, etc.) that would normally result in a full day off of work. Lastly, $76,000 would be saved due to lower employee turnover."

More on obesity - following up to our recent post about the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we have another report on the nation's obesity problem from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Trust for America's Health: F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America's Future (PDF). Here's a bit of a preview:
"Adult obesity rates rose in 28 states over the past year. Only D.C. experienced a decline in adult obesity rates. More than two-thirds of states (38) now have adult obesity rates above 25 percent. Eight states have rates above 30 percent – Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and West Virginia. In 1991, no state had an obesity rate above 20 percent. In 1980, the national average of obese adults was 15 percent."
Financial aid - Monster Thinking recently featured a series of posts on financial planning, financial aid and scholarship advise that would likely be of interest to any of your employees who are parents. It answers many common questions parents and students have about planning and paying for college: Part one: Making Financial Aid Pay Off; Part 2, and Part 3

ADA - How to Stop Accessibility Lawsuits Before They Stop You - employment law firm Jackson Lewis on what small businesses should know about the ADA.

June 13, 2010

News briefs - social networking suit, trust building, oil spill resources, 50 fancy words, & more

Social networking - Andrew R. McIlvaine of Human Resource Executive discusses a lawsuit that could have far reaching ramifications for social networking sites, depending on the ruling. The staffing firm TEKsystems charges that a former employee, one of their recruiters, breached the terms of a non-compete by communicating with people on LinkedIn, many of whom are former co-workers and clients. The recruiter now works for a competing firm, and according to charges, has engaged in email solicitation. It should be interesting to see how the court rules on this issue.

Trust building - As the economy improves, it's pretty normal for there to be some disruption in a work force. Many employees stick with their current employer during a downturn out of fear rather than loyalty - most people don't want to be the newest one in the door in a bad economy, so are reluctant to switch jobs. But as the job situation improves, more and more employees may be looking to change jobs. This may be particularly true if you've had to take any harsh measures to sustain your company during the downturn. Michael Stewart of Workforce discusses this and offers a prescription for Four Crucial Steps to Regain Employees' Trust.
Related: The art of apologizing.

Oil spill resources - Organizations with employees in any of the gulf states affected by the BP Oil disaster may want to brush up on oil spill resources available from NIOSH. Resources include information and training for protecting workers and emergency responders. Also see state government specific resources for gulf coast residents: Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
Related HR Lessons Flow from BP's Crisis

Health care reform - A User's Guide to Health Care Reform - AARP does a good job with this guide, which breaks down information that various groups need to know: If you’re now on Medicare;if you are uninsured or buying your own insurance; if you run a small business or work for one; if you have moderate or low income.

NY's Domestic Worker Bill of Rights - New York's Bill #S2311D may prove to be the nation's first domestic worker bill of rights: "It’s estimated that there are about 200,00 domestic workers in New York, 93% of which are women and 95% of which are people of color. Because the Bill covers all domestic workers – both legal and illegal – it’s been fairly controversial. Opponents decry the increase in regulation, which some say will result in fewer jobs. Many opponents also bridle against any protection for illegal workers, feeling that offers a legitimacy. Proponents say that it will go a long way to regulating an industry that has no standards or oversight and afford basic worker rights to a largely ignored worker population. Many of those in favor of the bill also think that shedding light on some of unregulated business segments which have historically been magnets for undocumented workers will be an important step in coming to grips with the hiring of illegal workers."

Word up - How does your vocabulary fare in comparison to the average new York Times reader? Check out the 50 most frequently looked-up words on the NYT, and check out the accompanying post on the topic, Fancy Words.

Making the grade - thanks to Evan Carmichael for including HR Web Cafe in his listing of the Top 50 HR Blogs to Watch: 2010 - check out the list for more good blogs.

April 25, 2010

News briefs: sexting with the Supremes; domestic violence; DOL focus, and more

Digital privacy - Christopher McKinney of HR Lawyer's Blog gives us the background documents for the employee digital privacy case that is before the Supreme Court. The case centers on sexting by employees on digital devices supplied by the employer. It involves a police chief who read several SWAT team members' text messages without their consent because he wanted to see if what he deemed as excessive use of their pagers resulted from personal or work-related activities. The ScotusBlog offers a recap of the oral arguments that were presented. The Supremes seemed a bit stymied by some of the technology issues. According to Rob Salkowitz: "It wasn’t pretty. This band of geriatric jurists may know its habeas from its corpus, but they are non compos mentis when it comes to the fundamentals of modern communication." Hopefully, they will be quick studies - the case is expected to be decided this session. See also City of Ontario v. Quon at the SCOTUS Wiki.

Domestic violence - Kim Wells alerts us to a June PBS documentary Telling Amy's Story that puts a spotlight on domestic violence. It tracks the events leading up to a domestic violence homicide in central Pennsylvania. Parents, co-workers, law enforcement officers, and court personnel share their perspectives on what happened to Amy in the weeks, months, and years leading up to her death. Learn more and see a trailer here. Wells notes that Amy was a Verizon Wireless employee, and Verizon Wireless is a sponsor of this documentary. (See Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence)

Department of Labor - HR Lori has the lowdown on the new DOL guidelines on unpaid internships. And in another DOL initiative, employers can expect a heightened focus on employee misclassification, with a push on both the federal and state levels. Risk & Insurance reports that the Obama administration recently earmarked an additional $25 million in the DOL's proposed FY 2011 budget for a misclassification initiative. The plan calls for hiring 100 additional enforcement personnel to address the problem and to provide grants to aid states in addressing the problem. Prior studies have indicated that more than 3 million employees may be misclassified. A 9-state study by the DOL found as many as 30% of audited employers misclassified at least some employees.

Gender & leadership - Katie Kuehner-Hebert of Human Resource Executive reports on a new study on gender and leadership. OnPoint Consulting released the results of a two-year study of the "influence skills" of 223 leaders in organizations across the country, to examine the extent to which there are gender differences. Jennifer Forgie, a managing partner at OnPoint: "The conventional thinking was that female leaders tend to have more of a focus on relationships and have a more participatory style, whereas men tend to focus more on results, and the tasks at hand," Forgie says. "Some of our findings were consistent with conventional thinking about male and female leaders, and some were somewhat surprising."

10 ways to trigger a lawsuit - At HR Daily Advisor, Attorney Barbara Meister Cummins offers her picks for the 10 most lawsuit-attracting lines she hears from managers, part 1 and part 2.

New HR 'zine - Check out IFRACTAL Buzz Worthy - brought to you by the same organization that brings you the KnowHR Blog.

The Men of HR - The men of HR are semi-baring it all in a keepsake calendar to raise money for Haiti Relief and the Orchid Cancer Appeal (fighting male testicular cancer). Check out the promo video or order a calendar.

Short Takes

March 25, 2010

News briefs: health care reform, lessons from Hollywood, interns, & more

Health care reform
At the Washington Post, Ezra Klein explains how the exchanges work. Also see How big is the bill, really?

For employers, Anne Freedman of Human Resource Executive suggests that uncertainty reigns. While most changes for employers won't be in effect until 2014 to 2018, she outlines some changes that go into effect this year.

The New York Times Prescription blog answers reader questions on the Health Care overhaul

At Kaiser Health News, Phil Galewitz offers a Consumers Guide to Health Reform. Kate Steadman and Julie Appleby talk about the immediate effects of the Health Reform Bill.

The Washington Post offers a cost calculator to help consumers learn the impact on their situation: What does the health care bill mean to me?

Specifics about the legislation - from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's page

U.S.A. Today looks at how health care overhaul affects taxpayers.

Kaiser Family Foundation has excellent information on health reform and its implications.

Other news of note
What you can learn from the movies - At Harvard Business Review Blogs, Rebecca Keegan looks at Avatar director James Cameron's business leadership style: " ...Cameron rarely fires people. "Firing is too merciful," he says. Instead he tests their endurance for long hours, hard tasks, and harsh criticism. Survivors tend to surprise themselves by turning in the best work of their careers, and signing on for Cameron's next project."

Campus violence - Assessing the campus threat - a risk management counselor says that workplace violence threat assessment teams are in place at most universities since the 2008 Virginia Tech shootings - but the challenge is in how to get people to report potential threats safely and legally.

Post recession landscape? How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America - the introduction to The Atlantic's article by Don Peck says that while the recession may be winding down, an era of high joblessness is probably just beginning, and it will likely change the life course and character of a generation of young adults and the character of our society for years to come.

Compensation costs - Employer costs for employee compensation - December 2009 (PDF) - Private industry employers spent an average of $27.42 per hour worked for total employee compensation in December 2009, according to a report issued last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wages and salaries accounted for 70.8 of these costs, while benefits accounted for 29.2%. Of the benefits, 8.2% were for the cost of legally mandated benefits.

Planning for summer interns? HR Morning offers a set of 6 ironclad rules from the DOL about interns - noting that a violation of these rules could result in fines or legal fees.

Bad employees of the month - We've heard some creative excuses for why an employee needs to miss work, but one put forth by an officer at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office takes the prize. We should say former officer.

March 5, 2010

News briefs: EEOC suits, parity, quizzes, fun at work, and more

High-dollar EEOC suits - and a new trend
Wal-Mart - $11.7 million in sex discrimination suit - "According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Wal-Mart’s London, Ky., distribution center denied jobs to female applicants from 1998 to February 2005. During that time period, EEOC contends, Wal-Mart regularly hired male entry-level applicants for warehouse positions, but excluded female applicants who were equally or better qualified. The EEOC alleged that Wal-Mart regularly used gender stereotypes in filling entry-level order filler positions. Hiring officials told applicants that order filling positions were not suitable for women, and that they hired mainly 18- to 25-year-old males for order filling positions, EEOC said."

Sears Roebuck & Co. - $6.2 million under ADA - the award will be distributed to 235 former employees who were denied reasonable accommodations when they tried to return to work after workers' compensation-related absences.

Male-Male Sexual Harassment Claims on the Rise - EEOC reports that charges by men have doubled since 1992, accounting for 16% of the 12,696 sexual harassment charges filed in the 2009 fiscal year. Cheesecake Factory learned the hard way with a $1.9 million settlement on a case of this nature in 2008.

Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act - confused about the changes in regulations and your obligations? Listen to Employee Benefit Advisor's 19 minute podcast by benefits attorney Cheryl Risley Hughes: Mental health parity rules: Heavy lifting ahead.

Quiz corner

  • Having trouble communicating with your younger workers? Take the Pew Research Center's how millennial are you? quiz. Compare your answers to nationwide respondents, and see how you stack up against others your age.
  • Now that you know your standing with the millennial crowd, how do you fare with the over 40 set? Take HRHero's short age discrimination quiz to see how well you handle some potentially litigious situations.
A culture of excellence - How do you create a culture of excellence at your workplace? Jason Daley of Entrepreneur looks at the issue, and finds that the common denominator for success is that the person at the very top has to be the motivator-in-chief. His article offers tips and advice from PKM, Atlanta's top accounting firm, which boasts a 98% positive rating from employees, 11% turnover rate and awards for being one of America's psychologically healthiest workplaces. He also cites examples of 10 small to medium-sized companies that are getting it right.

Sign of the times - Even Spider-Man joins the ranks of the unemployed. Maybe somebody out there has an opening for someone with a skill-set like his? He seems pretty talented.

Having fun - Cathy Leibow of Employee Benefit News says that instilling a sense of fun in the workplace builds loyalty and boosts output. She offers some concrete ideas for "fun at work" events. And related to fun, employment law attorney Mark Toth suggests that one of the best ways to avoid needless law disputes it so stay in touch with what your employees are thinking, feeling, and doing. He offers a fun list of potential March Employee Celebrations. (Did you know there was an international Mirth Month?) And if fun is on your agenda, you will want to periodically check in with funsmith Bernie Dekoven's Deep Fun blog for new ideas. On the other hand, some would suggest that the way to happiness is to work like a dog.

Handy privacy tools - This Guide to Facebook security & privacy settings was developed by The Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center to help parents minimize their kids' problems with Facebook - particularly cyberbullying. Even if you aren't a parent, it's good to be aware of some of the pros and cons of the privacy settings. Security experts at Sophos offer a more in-depth guide and recommendations for privacy settings.

February 4, 2010

News briefs: sudden acceleration, unions, recession, work-life, too much fun & cool tools

Safety news your employees can use - In the light of the massive Toyota recall, here's some useful safety advice you may want to get to your employees: Sudden acceleration: what to do if it happens to you - this includes a video for how to handle such a situation, as well as advice from Consumer Reports.

Union demographics - the union density rate was essentially unchanged in 2009 - 12.3% vs 12.4% in 2008. Among private sector employees, the rate dropped to 7.2% from the 2008 rate of 7.6%. See more union info at Workplace Prof Blog.

Impact of the recession on benefits - How did the recession affect large and midsize companies and what are their recovery expectations for the coming year? Read the new Towers Watson report of a recent employer survey: From Recession to Recovery: How Far, How Fast, How Well Prepared. Here's a peek at a few things that struck us: more than half of the responding employers - 51% - have seen an increase in employee hardship withdrawals from retirement savings. Last year, 23% of the reporting U.S. companies reduced their contributions to employee retirement plans, versus a global average of 10%.

Work-Life - Organizational consultant CV Harquail posts a thoughtful discussion on why Work-Life initiatives are the foundation of authentic organizations. She tackles three myths which often keep work-life as a side issue rather than a central issue in organizations: (1) Work-Life is a women’s issue, (2) Work-life initiatives are only for employees who can’t keep up, and (3) Work-life initiatives are 'nice to have' but not critical.

Too much fun - at the Harvard Business Review blogs, self-proclaimed humorless grinch Grant McCracken looks at the problem of forced fun as evidenced by corporate cultures like Zappos, and asks if it makes a corporation less well-informed and less responsive. His commentary has sparked a pretty lively conversation in the comments.

Cool tools

  • Social Media Policies Database - Doug Cornelius, Chief Compliance Officer at Beacon Capital Partners presents a collection of 144 Social Media Policies from organizations ranging from media and nonprofits to government agencies and private businesses at Compliance Building. Thanks to Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer for the pointer.
  • SlideFinder - Struggling with ideas for that upcoming presentation? SlideFinder is a specialized search engine that allows you to search and view publicly available PowerPoint presentations at the slide level. Search on numerous topics and get ideas for content, presentation style, and more.
  • Affirmative and negative phrases when speaking about people with disabilities - the Office of Disability and Employment Policy offers a chart with helpful examples of language for communicating with and about people with disabilities. They also offer a list of etiquette suggestions for interacting with people with disabilities.

January 19, 2010

News briefs: texting & sexting, job dissatisfaction, green disputes & more

Privacy & sexting - Do your employees have a right to privacy when sending explicit text messages on company-owned devices? Employee Benefit News reports that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of City of Ontario v. Ouon in the spring. The case involves a police chief who read several SWAT team members' text messages without their consent because he wanted to see if what he deemed as excessive use of their pagers resulted from personal or work-related activities. In June 2008, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the police chief's actions represented a violation of the SWAT team members’ Fourth Amendment rights. Get your popcorn ready - this will be a case to watch.

Dueling pollsters - A recent poll commissioned by the Conference Board reported that American job satisfaction hit an all-time low. Given the economic climate and the overall tenor of the times, that's not too hard to believe. Unless, as Carol Morello of the Washington Post notes, you read competing surveys by Gallup and the University of Chicago, which show that job satisfaction has been remarkably stable over several decades. So your workforce is either very content - or it's not.

Obesity - In the L.A. Times blog Booster Shots, Shari Roan asks whether obesity is inevitable. A recent book on the topic answers affirmatively, saying that without major societal changes, it will be nearly impossible to reverse obesity trends. According to Martijn B. Katan, one of the book's authors, "Studies show that even the most motivated, thoughtful, strong-willed people have a hard time losing weight when huge portions of cheap, tasty, convenient food are available at every turn of the road, and when walking and other forms of exercise are superfluous or impossible." One of the major societal changes needed might be a serious shift in the way we spend our leisure time. A recent study by Australian researchers showed that each hour a day spent in front of television is linked with an 18% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and an 11% greater risk of all causes of death, and a 9% increased risk of death from cancer. The culprit here is long periods of inactivity and sitting - true also of extended periods of computer use.

Green disputes - Leslie Kaufman of The New York Times reports on a new type of lifestyle issue that is surfacing in marriage counseling offices: an increase in green disputes. Couples are arguing about conflicting values related to recycling, exercise, diet, and overall commitment to the environment:

"While no study has documented how frequent these clashes have become, therapists agree that the green issue can quickly become poisonous because it is so morally charged. Friends or family members who are not devoted to the environmental cause can become irritated by life choices they view as ostentatiously self-denying or politically correct.

Those with a heightened focus on environmental issues, on the other hand, can find it hard to refrain from commenting on things that they view as harmful to Earth — driving an oversize S.U.V., for example."

Workplace bias - While workplace discrimination charges dropped by 2.2% in 2009, the EEOC reports that 2009 was the second highest year for workplace bias claims. The most frequently filed discrimination allegations in 2009 were based on race (36%), retaliation (36%), and gender (30%), which the EEOC said followed recent trends. Stephanie Thomas presents a pictorial analysis of EEOC charge statistics from 1997 to 2009 on her blog The 80% Rule and Other Fallacies.

Violence & the economy - the Christian Science Monitor raises the question of whether the economy plays a role in workplace violence in its coverage of the shooting rampage by a disgruntled worker of manufacturer ABB Group in St. Louis. The shooting left three dead and several wounded. There have been some studies that point to a link between financial stress and domestic violence as discussed in a recent article about domestic violence in Connecticut. While most experts agree that the economy isn't what creates a batterer, economic stress can often be an ignition point or a catlyst for domestic abuse.

The benefit of placebos - The Wall Street Journal Health Blog reports on a recent JAMA study showing that some popular antidepressants are no more effective than placebos:

"It suggests that both placebos and drugs help alleviate depression, and that the benefits of both placebos and drugs increase as the severity of the depression increases. As you move along the spectrum from mild to severe disease, the benefits of the active drug increase more than the benefits of the placebo. So for patients with severe depression, the active drug works significantly better than the placebo."
Pop quiz - How well versed are you in health care terminology? Test your savvy in this quick quiz on health care phrases.

January 14, 2010

Haiti resources for HR managers: finding loved ones; ways to help; managing trauma

We've received notice that several of our clients are concerned about relatives and loved ones who are missing in Haiti. Other clients have asked us about ways their organizations can help. We will use this post to link to helpful resources, and will update our list when we find additional resources:

Looking for loved ones in Haiti
The U.S. Embassy in Port Au Prince has set up a task force at the Embassy which is taking calls as conditions permit. The Embassy is working to identify Americans in Haiti who need urgent assistance and to identify sources of emergency help.

  • Americans are urged to contact the Embassy via email at to request assistance
  • Americans in Haiti can call the Embassy’s Consular Task Force at 509-2229-8942, 509-2229-8089, 509-2229-8322, or 509-2229-8672.
  • The State Department has also created a task force to monitor the emergency. People in the U.S. or Canada with information or inquiries about U.S. citizens in Haiti may reach the Haiti Task Force at 888-407-4747. Outside of the U.S. and Canada, call 202-501-4444. Note: due to heavy volume, some callers may receive a recording.
  • To reach or find Haitian residents, the Red Cross recommends that callers continue to call or text family members who live nearby.
CNN ireport: looking for loved ones in Haiti - Are you searching for a family member or friend in Haiti? Upload his or her photo on CNN's ireport.

Family Links - The aim of the Family Links website is to accelerate the process of restoring contact between separated family members. It is managed by the ICRC, in cooperation with the tracing services of the Haitian Red Cross Society and of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies throughout the world. At this stage, the website offers the possibility for persons in Haiti and abroad to publish the names of relatives with whom they are striving to restore contact. It will progressively incorporate information offering responses to those queries. (Note: The ICRC has no means of verifying the information sent through the network. It is not responsible for any inaccurate information given through the services made available on this site.)

How you can help:
Red Cross: People can make an unrestricted donation to the International Response Fund at , or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS (1-800-733-2767). The public can also help by texting “Haiti” to 90999 to send a $10 donation to the Red Cross, through an effort backed by the U.S. State Department. This donation will be charged to your next cell phone bill. Funds will go to support American Red Cross relief efforts in Haiti.

Clinton Bush Haiti Fund:

  • Online donations page
  • Text the word "QUAKE" to 20222 to donate $10 to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, charged to your cell phone bill
  • Mail to: Mail: The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund / c/o William J. Clinton Foundation / Donations Department / 610 President Clinton Avenue / Little Rock, AR 72201 - OR -
    The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund / c/o Communities Foundation of Texas / 5500 Caruth Haven Lane / Dallas, TX 75225

Other resources:

Scam alert
FBI warning of Haiti earthquake scams

  • FBI says don't click on links or files in unsolicited donation request e-mails
  • Do not ever donate cash; don't give your credit card info to people phoning for donations
  • Ask if charity is registered and what percentage of money goes to victims

News resources

Managing trauma in the workplace
Workplace Critical Incident Resources from the Employee Assistance Professional Association. In particular, see their page on Haiti resources and the following information on traumatic events:

Also see our prior post: The aftermath of Katrina: HR lessons learned

November 30, 2009

Short takes from the blogs & beyond: bad work attire, holiday tips, restaurants behaving badly & more

Joseph Grenny of Crucial Skills teams up with his HR Manager to offer tips for handling a prickly issue: Addressing Inappropriate Work Attire

If your budget is tight this year - and whose isn't? - it may threaten to tank any holiday celebrations. Roy Sanderson of MANAGEsmarter offers 10 ideas for saving the holiday party.

Fionna Gathwright of Corporate Wellness Insights suggests tips of staying healthy during the holidays. Also see holiday health tips from The Monster Blog.

Workforce reports on two recent surveys that track employee discontent. The upshot? People are expressing frustration. In a a survey of 904 workers in North America by advisory firm Right Management, 60% of those surveyed said they intend to leave their firms as the economy improves. In a survey of 1,627 employed executives by consulting firm Finnegan Mackenzie and business network ExecuNet, more than 50% said they are looking for a new job.

Susan M. Heathfield of Human Resource explores what causes employee negativity. She also offers links to posts on tips and cures for negativity. Go weigh in with your opinion of what causes negativity in her reader poll.

HR Daily Advisor offers the reminder that how you treat employees in their time of greatest personal need can have an impact on their overall attitude to their employment: Bereavement Leave Can Make or Break Employee Loyalty

Mark Toth of Manpower Employment Blog tell us that ICE recently announced it is targeting 1,000 employers to audit hiring records for compliance with employment eligibility requirements. He offers employer tips and links to resources to ensure compliance.

From violating fair wage and labor laws to sending threatening, obscenity-laden e-mails to the workforce, it seems like the NYC eateries could use some refreshers in basic HR. In our bad-employers-of-the-week category, see this Village Voice article on When restaurants behave badly (Note: objectionable language alert for this article).

July 27, 2009

Short takes from the blogosphere: Zappos, texting game, minimum wage, interviewing vets & more

Follow up - No sooner did we post about Zappos great corporate culture when Jeff Bezos of Amazon up and bought the company "...for 10 million shares of Amazon stock, worth nearly $900 million at its current level," in addition to $40 million in cash and stock for employees. Coincidental timing, we had no insider knowledge! Kris Dunn of HR Capitalist posts about the cultural changes that are likely to ensue.

Safety game - Take the text while driving game to see how you fare when you multitask while driving.

Minimum wage - As of last Friday, the federal minimum wage increased to $7.25 download an updated Minimum Wage posting notice.

Best practices
KnowHR is featuring a three-part guest post on "what's right with HR" anonymously authored by a senior HR executive at a well-known company. Part One: Great HR is invisible; Part Two: Great HR is invisible because Great HR people like it that way; and Part Three: Great leaders expect their HR people to be great.

Minding the Workplace offers the “Eightfold Path” to a Psychologically Healthy Workplace, a questionaire designed to help determine whether or not a workplace is psychologically healthy, productive, and socially responsible towards its own workers.

Legal matters - Mark Toth of Manpower Employment Blawg posts about the $35 million settlement Wal-Mart will pay in a class action suit which alleged that 88,000 Washington employees were forced to skip rest and meal breaks or work off the clock.

Military matters - Fistful of Talent notes that an estimated 185,000 military service members will be entering the work force this year and offers a good post on how to interview a veteran.

Wellness - Fiona Gathrwight of Corporate Wellness Insights posts that the proposed Senate Health Reform Bill would expand wellness incentives.

Bad bosses - In HR Daily Advisor, author Lynn Taylor offers some tips from her book Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior.

July 6, 2009

Short takes: court cases, flexibility study, public speaking and more

Michael Fox of Jottings By An Employers Lawyer discusses the recent Supreme Court ruling in the New Haven firefighter case. Mark Toth of Manpower Employment Blawg also offers his thoughts what the Supreme Court ruling means to employers.

David Greenspan of Suits in the Workplace talks about a recent Supreme Court ruling that makes it more difficult for workers to establish age discrimination. That is, unless a careless email actually makes the case for a prospective applicant.

Mark Harbeke of Winning Workplaces posts about a research study on Flexibility best practices for shift workers and admins.

Jay Shepherd of Gruntled Employees asks: Does your company need a smartphone policy?

HR Daily Advisor notes: Mid year poster compliance check - are you in compliance?

Looking to improve your public speaking and communication skills? Six Minutes is a public speaking and presentation skills blog which offers tips, analysis, insights, and links to some of the blogosphere's best weekly public speaking posts.

David Silverman offers some practical tips for keeping your e-mail inbox under control at HarvardBusiness.

June 15, 2009

Weblog Roundup: recent posts from around the blogosphere

At George's Employment Blawg, attorney Ellen Simon has a great post on stereotyping as discrimination. She notes that there have been numerous gender discrimination cases won by women and turns her sights to a recent, rare example of a successful gender stereotyping case filed by a male in Sassaman v. Gamache.

Fiona Gathwright at Corporate Wellness Insights posts about how Safeway's wellness program cuts costs - while other employers have seen premiums increase by 38% over the past four years, Safeway has held costs level over the same period. Related: HR Daily Advisor featured two recent tips on building effective wellness programs: Effective Wellness Means Branding, Integration and Corporate Wellness—Real World ROI of '4 Plus 5'.

Ah, we've just learned that Evil HR Lady has an alter ego at U.S.News, where she also posts - go catch up on some of her great articles over there.

Visit last weeks' Health Wonk Review over at Managed Care Matters to get a broad sampling of opinions on healthcare reform from the perspective of healthcare policy bloggers.

Ever had that disagreeable person in your group when you are giving a presentation or a training? Thoughts from Training Time offers some good tips on how to deal with disruptive trainees.

Wally Bock's Three Star Leadership Blog is a frequent source of good business links and this week, is no exception - he points us to: Employees linking work, social media, an article about how some employers are dealing with policies related to web-based social media, and a post from an organizing expert with tips for decluttering your life.

Jay Shepherd of Gruntled Employees offers a swine flu prescription for employers: eliminate sick days.

The tough economy is forcing employers to make tough choices when it comes to benefits. Jeffrey Hirsch of Workplace Prof Blog posts about what some might arguably see as the unkindest cut of all.

Resources for your wellness program: Healthy Eats - a blog by a team of team of culinary and nutrition professionals offering healthy tips, nutrition news, low-calorie recipes and more, and Balanced Health & Nutrition - a blog by a registered dietitian offering food, nutrition and exercise information.

May 15, 2009

Short takes: Political change, social media, wellness incentives and disincentives, gender identity, work-life

Change is in the air - Michael at Human Race Horses tells HR managers that, "Your world is going to change one way or the other. Get ready!" Check out his must-read post about 7 People Who Will Change Human Resources in 2009.

To tweet or not to tweet? - Melanie Holmes of Contemporary Working has some interesting statistics about the prevalence of social networking tools. But should we be concerned about the ubiquity and 24/7 nature of work communication that these new tools afford? Are social networking tools addictive? Jeffrey Hirsch of Workplace Prof Blog raises the issue of whether employers could have any liability for technology addiction. Related: Charlotte Huff has an excellent article that discusses Staying Afloat in a Digital Flood at Workforce.

Wellness incentives - Fiona Gathright of Corporate Wellness Insights looks at a recent study on the use of incentives in wellness programs. She also reports that there is some political support for incenting employers to enact wellness programs, but notes that it will be important to set the right tone for such programs. David Williams of Health Benefits Blog talks about the flip side of the coin in his post on the ethical considerations of financial penalties for unhealthy behaviors.

Gender identity - Michael Fox of Jottings by an Employers Lawyer posts about transgendered workers in the mainstream press, citing a statistic that 322 major companies have added gender identity to their diversity programs.

Work-life balance - Thoughts from Training Time reports that a fear of layoffs is affecting employee vacation plans - many are deferring because they fear a temporary absence from the workplace could lead to a permanent one. The post suggests several tips for managers to help their employees allay their anxiety and avoid burning out. Related: Freek Vermeulen makes the case for work-life programs in Harvard Business.

Longevity - There are about 250,000 centenarians alive today, including several hundred "supercentarians" aged 110+ years. Find out your chances of reaching 100.

April 24, 2009

Short takes: conflict study, diabetes pilot, productivity tools, social media & more

Unleash the power of conflict - A new study found that groups work better if they are infused with a "socially distinct newcomer" - someone different enough to bump the rest of the team out of their comfort zone. Jared Shelly of Human Resource Executive reports on the study.

The Top Five Innovation Killers - "Innovation has never been more important to companies as it is now. The recession is creating new needs and new forms of value are needed to fulfill them. Yet there remains a yawning gulf between business leaders’ rhetoric on innovation and the reality on the ground. So what holds our companies back, and why is breakthrough innovation so rare?"

Diabetes pilot program yields big cost savings - Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance tells us that the results of the "10 City Challenge" pilot were so promising (average reductions in per-patient health care costs of $1,079 a year, for example) that the program will be extended to employers nationwide.

10 Worst Employees of 2008 - we offered a few suggestions for 2009 earlier in the week - CareerBuilder gives you their list from 2008.

A twitterable Twitter policy - Jay Shepherd of Gruntled Employees offers a sensible Twitter policy in 140 characters or less.

Social Media for HR Professionals Beyond LinkedIn - Jennifer McClure, aka CincyRecruiter offers a great overview of a recent presentation she made on harnessing social media for HR.

BlackBerry Tips From The Top - "Secrets from CEOs for whom the little hunk of hardware is the life breath of work efficiency."

Reinventing the conference call - Seth Godin has a suggestion that might help to improve your next conference call.

Cardiovascular risk calculator - estimate your chance of a cardiac event, dying from heart disease, and your overall chance of dying in the next 10 years. This might be a good tool for your employee wellness program since some portion of the risk can usually be ameliorated by lifestyle changes.

March 24, 2009

Short takes: social collaboration, thoughts on bosses, telecommuting, FMLA & more

Social media done right - Wondering how your company can harness social media in its communication efforts? Jason Corsello of The Human Capitalist points us to this example of a company that is an innovator in social collaboration.

Bosses - Susan M. Heathfield of Human Resources Blog offers a post highlighting one of her reader's comments about
micro-managers. See other thoughts on bad bosses elicited from reader comments after a poll on the topic. And while on the topic of bosses: Corporate Wellness Insights weighs in with thoughts on three effective management styles. And Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership Blog reminds bosses everywhere that now is not the time to hunker down - the times demand leaders who are leading from the front.

Telecommuting - Jim Ware of The Future of Work Weblog considers the question of whether telecommuting is dangerous for your future in today's economic times - does the out-of-sight-out-of-mind principle apply, or is it a useful alternative to layoffs. He links to a roundup of recent stories on telecommuting in the business press.

FMLA compliance - The folks over at Suits in the Workplace have been doing a superb job posting about new FMLA regulations - they are midway into a 5-part series.
Part 1: Employer Notice Requirements - New FMLA Regs
Part 2: Employee Notice Requirements - the Bright Side
Part 3: The Certification and Recertification Process: The Who? The What? & The When?
In upcoming postings, they will cover the topics of military caregiver leave and qualifying exigency leave.

Job descriptions - HR Daily Advisor offers some excellent advice on job descriptions in two recent postings: Non-Prejudicial Language for ADA Job Descriptions and 'Other Duties as Assigned’ Won't Cut It in 2009

Identity Theft - Consumer Insurance Blog reports on a recent study on identity theft. The bad news: it's on the rise. The good news? The per incidence cost is decreasing. The study also showed that most compromised data is due to low-tech methods, such as lost or stolen wallets, checkbooks, and credit and debit cards.

Training - Thoughts from Training Time posts about the good, the bad, and the ugly in recent news reports that cover employee training issues.

By the numbers
14 Tips for Employers Seeking Alternatives to Pink Slips
10 Things You Can Do About Domestic Violence
10 Business Words to Ban
5 Winning [Recruiting] Strategies for Managers in Tough Times
5 Tips for Managing Change
4 strategies that young and first-time managers can use to tackle new responsibilities

February 15, 2009

Short takes: Bullies, leaders, conflict, humor, and more

Bullies - Forbes talks about Corporate Bullies, noting that while some executives may find an aggressive style helps them claw to the top, they often can't sustain their reign. Don't miss the story's sidebar: The bully bosses hall of fame.

Leadership - How to lead through change - an interview with Kevin Cashman, leadership author. The Human Capitalist talks about critical skills that differentiate leading-edge HR executives.

Conflict - a recent Canadian study on workplace conflict identifies the causes and effects of workplace conflict in Canada. While conflict can have crippling effects on productivity, staff engagement and working relationships, the report also found that when properly managed, conflict actually benefits organizations, leading to major innovations and better solutions to problems.
Related: the Vertabase Blog offers a simple trick to end team turmoil - the "say it to my face" policy.

*If you didn't yet see the CareerBuilder Super Bowl ad, it is indeed pretty funny: If you hate going to work every day....(video)
*A creative new use for those sticky notes (video)
*Having trouble getting up in the morning? the Nanda clock might cure what ails you.

By the numbers
*Three mistakes to avoid when cutting jobs
*5 must-use social media tools for HR & recruiting professionals in 2009
*5 more must-use social media tools for HR & recruiting professionals in 2009
*10 mistakes trainers make

January 12, 2009

Short takes: biking, fraudies, forms, stress, memory and more

Bike to work - While falling gas prices have temporarily taken some of the economic sting out of a commute, tight budgets still cry out for frugality. Plus, there is more at stake than just economy - many are looking to establish commuting habits that are more environmentally friendly, such as biking, which also offers health and fitness advantages. There is good news for employers who want to foster the healthy "bike to work" habit work among their employees and offer a new benefit to boot. Beginning this year, the Bicycle Commuter Act will allow employers to provide employees a tax deductible benefit of up to $20 per month for riding to work. Employees can use the money for bicycle purchase and upkeep.

Economic stress and health - According to a recent AARP survey, one in five adults ages 45 and older are suffering health problems due to financial stress. "Right now people are increasingly concerned about their jobs, retirement savings and simply being able to provide for their families and it's taking a major toll on their health," said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois Senior State Director. "It's a harsh irony that worrying about being able to afford health care is actually causing health problems."

The "Fraudies" of 2008 - Dawn Wolfe of George's Employment Blawg presents a new award for dubious achievements called "The Fraudies." Employee fraud winners were chosen based on "cunning audacity" and "the farcical nature of their career-limiting schemes."

Memory screenings - Wellness Corporate Insights posts that in November, the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) gave free memory screenings at over 2,000 health fairs across the country. Early identification of Alzheimer’s allows individuals to start treatments that slow the development of symptoms. The post offers a reminder that disease-specific screenings and fairs are often tied to specific months, and suggests keeping a health awareness calendar on hand and alerting employees to local health screening events.

Form I-9 - Mark Toth of Manpower Employment Blawg reminds us that a new year means a new I-9 Form. Thoughts from Training Time offers advice on ensuring compliance.

Cool tool - Google has a new, free 411 service that is fast and easy to use. Dial 1-800-GOOG-411 from any phone. State what you're looking for and GOOG-411 will connect you with the business you choose. If you are calling from a mobile device, the service can even send you a text message with more details and a map. Simply say "Text message" or "Map it." Learn more at Goog411.

Quick takes
IRS: 2009 Employer's Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits (PDF)

The 10 worst presentation habits

10 Universities Offering Free Writing Courses Online

This fellow may get our nomination for the worst boss of 2008.

January 6, 2009

Best and worst jobs

What do mathematicians and lumberjacks have in common? According to an article in the The Wall Street Journal, they represent the two extremes in a recent study of the best and the worst jobs. The study evaluates 200 professions against five criteria: environment, income, employment outlook, physical demands and stress. According to WSJ:

"The findings were compiled by Les Krantz, author of "Jobs Rated Almanac," and are based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau, as well as studies from trade associations and Mr. Krantz's own expertise."

You can find a complete listing of the 200 jobs that were analyzed at, a new job site. We did not find human resources manager on the list but thought that maybe the role could be extrapolated from some that are on the list: Personnel Recruiter (58), Parole Officer (14), Sociologist (8), Corporate Executive (88), and Psychiatrist (100).

It's fun to look at the various jobs and where they fall on the list, but the real interest and potential usefulness lies in the methodology that was used to assess and rate the jobs. You might think about measuring the most common jobs in your organization against this matrix to see how they stack up, and think about ways to narrow the gap between the best and the worst in your own organizations. At the very least, the employees who hold the "worst" jobs in your organization might merit a referral to an EAP - we found the 21 factors that comprise the stress ratings particularly interesting because many of these stress factors are cited by employees that we counsel.

December 30, 2008

Workplace retrospectives and resolutions

Year end is a time for a look back and a look ahead. For a good wrap-up of major work-related stories of 2008, Human Resource Executive offers The Year in Review, which helpfully links back to the original stories. compiled a list of Naughtiest and Nicest CEOs of 2008.

And for a look in the "how not to do things" department, HR Blunders offers their list of the top 10 HR blunders of 2008. In a similar vein, see The Globe and Mail's The office awards 2008.

For a pictorial review of news events in the year, see's year in review from The Big Picture: Part 1, part 2 and part 3. It's not specifically work-related in focus, but pretty awesome nonetheless.

With 2008 nearly over, many are looking at how to do things better in 2009. Here are a few lists that we found noteworthy:

Gloria Ju of HR Soapbox offers HR resolutions for 2009 aimed at keeping you on the right side of the legal tracks.

Reliable Plant weighs in with their list of top 10 professional resolutions for the new year.

With the lines between work life and home life converging, journalist Judy Martin offers her top 10 work-life resolutions for 2009.

Everyone is feeling effects of the bad economy to a greater or a lesser degree. In Financial Resolutions and retirement resolutions, personal finance experts weigh in on getting your financial house in order by reducing your spending and planning for your short- and long-term financial goals.

Susan M. Heathfield of's Human Resources offers her top ten resolutions for the new year. We should note that we are still working on her excellent list of resolutions for 2008

Forbes offers a pictorial slide show of New Year's resolutions for CEOs. These tend to focus on large company CEOs.

Business guru Tom Peters reflects on the business meltdown and offers "back to the basics" advice for going forward.

Green Options suggests five smart and fast office resolutions to help your organization be more environmentally responsible in 2009.

If your resolve for change is failing, you might check out 10 reasons to design a better corporate culture an excerpt from The Ownership Quotient, a book by Harvard Business School professors Jim Heskett and Earl Sasser and coauthor Joe Wheeler. Thanks to Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership for the pointer.

December 20, 2008

Assorted links of note

From our bookmark file, here's a grab bag of links that we thought were worth sharing:

Communications - Meridith Levinson of CIO posts about 10 Things You Should Never Write in an E-Mail or Instant Message:
1. "I could get into trouble for telling you this, but…"
2. "Delete this e-mail immediately."
3. "I really shouldn't put this in writing."
4. "Don't tell So-and-So." Or, "Don't send this to So-and-So."
5. "She/He/They will never find out."
6. "We're going to do this differently than normal."
7. "I don't think I am supposed to know this, but…"
8. "I don't want to discuss this in e-mail. Please give me a call."
9. "Don't ask. You don't want to know."
10. "Is this actually legal?"
Check out her excellent post for further elaboration.

Compliance - Workforce notes: "As employers consider adopting nontraditional schedules, what some of them are not doing is taking a clear-eyed look at the wage and hour ramifications of these arrangements. There are potential pitfalls—under both federal wage and hour law and the requirements of other jurisdictions—that demand close attention." The Legal Implications of Nontraditional Workweeks

Productivity - For inspiration motivation, and just because it's interesting, check out Daily Routines, a blog about how writers, artists, and other creative people organize their days. Featured items are culled from books, newspapers, magazines, and Web sites.

Social networking - many of you are texting and instant messaging with abandon already, but for those of you who feel left behind, Dennis Kennedy's Get the (Instant) message, Dude is a good primer. Also see Everything You Need to Know About Twitter but Are Too Chicken to Ask from Traction Marketing.

Survey reveals economy is taking a toll on middle manager morale - Nearly two-thirds of U.S. middle managers say the economy is having a negative impact on their work environments - according to a recent survey by Accenture.

Cool tools
Translation - Do you have a multi-lingual work force? If so, then Nice Translator might be a useful tool. First, pick from one of about 30 languages, and then begin typing in English and your words will be translated in real time as you type. We tested it on Spanish and it worked pretty well.

Connections - If you work at home or in a small office, making conference calls can be a challenge. Try Once you register, you will get a dedicated call in number and access code, available 24/7, with no need to schedule or make reservations. Each conference call can have up to 96 callers and last for up to 6 hours in duration. It also comes with free conference call recording.

September 27, 2008

Weblog roundup - posts from around the blogosphere

The Office - Mark Toth of Manpower Employment Blawg offers a lawyer's perspective on the premiere of this season's The Office. He thinks it is a great employment law training aid because you just have to watch it and do the exact opposite of everything you see.

Positive feedback - Kris Dunn of The HR Capitalist talks about praising employees and suggests that HR should try to facilitate a way to get customer feedback directly to the employee who performed the service.

Theory X - Wally Bock of Three Star Management talks about "Theory X," the old-school view that workers are inherently lazy and will avoid work if they can. He notes that although most managers have adopted more progressive viewpoints today, computerized efficiency programs that reduce everything to time and keystrokes can lead to a resurgence in this type of regressive thinking.

USERRA - Lou Michaels of Suits in the Workplace discusses the case of an army reservist who ran into some problems when trying to return to his job at the Nashville Police Department on his return from Iraq. His job was reinstated by the courts, and Michaels reminds us that. "Reinstatement rights under USERRA are intentionally rigid and always construed in favor of the returning service member. Prompt reinstatement to the employee's escalator position is mandatory absent very narrow (and difficult to establish) exceptions."

For your employees
Smart tips for spotting retirment scams - download free brochures from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.

Monster's Career Blog notes that in a tough economy, it's important to make the most of your money, linking to tips and articles with practical advice.

By the numbers
10 ideas about what employees want
10 universal principles of the workplace
10 things HR needs to do in an economic downturn
100 things to do during a money free weekend
1000 voices: family values at work

August 25, 2008

Short takes: motivation, surveillance, mutual mentoring, and more

Motivating the work force Bryan Alaspa of Management Issues has an excellent post about one simple way that many senior managers miss the mark by simply being thoughtless when it comes to the people who work for them. They often lose touch with the rank and file by forgetting to acknowledge their employees and showing that they care. Thoughts from Training Time offers a related post on the importance of employee recognition during tough times - the age-old tried-and-true motivator, the compliment. And perhaps one of the reasons why managers and supervisors often forget these people management basics is that they haven't had enough training in interpersonal skills. Wally Bock of The Three Star Leadership Blog discusses the importance of ensuring that Interpersonal skills are a critical a part of leadership development.

Sick leave - lawmakers in 12 states are considering legislation that would require businesses to provide sick days to some of the 46 million workers who lack the benefit. Many workers' advocates believe paid sick time should be an employment standard, like the federal minimum wage. State legislatures began considering the legislation when a federal proposal failed. According to the Department of Labor, about 39% of service workers have such a benefit, in contrast with about 80% of management workers. HR Lori recently write about how a sick leave mandate recently failed in California.

Surveillance and the FMLA - Jeffrey Hirsch of Workplace Prof Blog posts about employers' increasing use of surveillance against employees who are out on FMLA leave. He notes that while employers have the right to raise reasonable suspicions of abuse, there is a risk of crossing over into retaliation or intimidation.

Handling resignations - Susan Heatherfield of Human Resources at tackles a reader question about best practices for an employee resignation. She offers advice on areas you need to be sure to cover, such as exit interviews, transitioning the work load, and communicating the news to other employees.

Intergenerational mutual mentoring - Are your older workers having trouble adapting to Web 2.0 technologies? Why not start a cross-generation mentoring program pairing senior staffers with younger workers? Stuart Mader of Grow Your Wiki posts about how Wachovia has just such a program. Mader suggests that technology can be a connector for multiple generations. He notes that, "Between the two workers one has the technology knowledge, one has the business experience, and both are needed to be successful."

Cohabiting employees - If you think your job as an HR manager is tough now, consider your Japanese counterpart. What if among the other benefits you manage, corporate dormitories for your single employees were part of the package? HR Blunders posts about how some larger Japanese companies are bringing company-sponsored dormitories back as a way to attract and retain younger workers.

August 1, 2008

Short takes: instant messaging, diversity, HR hate, compliance, and more

EAP relevant blogs - Here at HR Web Cafe, we're delighted to have made the cut at the Employee Assistance Professional Association's Annotated List of 10 EA Relevant Blogs.

Instant messaging reduces interruptions - it would seem logical to think that instant messaging would pose another workplace distraction. Aren't employees juggling enough interruptions with phone calls, e-mails, and faxes? But a study by researchers at Ohio State University and University of California, Irvine found just the opposite: that instant messaging often replaces or is a substitute for more disruptive interruptions. While instant messaging led to more conversations, the conversations were briefer.

Diversity - Why are so many employers better at recruiting people of color than retaining or promoting them? Carmen Van Kerckhove was recently interviewed for a Crain’s New York Business article on diversity in the workplace that explored this topic.

Feel the love - not! - If you have been feeling a little lonely and under appreciated lately, you might find a clue in HRagitator's take on the top 5 reasons why people hate HR.

Compliance - Michael Fox at Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer discusses and points us to two new compliance documents:
EEOC's updated Compliance Manual section on Religious Discrimination
NLRB's Guideline Memorandum Concerning Unfair Labor Practice Charges Involving Political Advocacy.

The despot school of management - A recent poll found that one out of every four U.S. worker describes their workplace as a dictatorship. What's even worse, only about half of those surveyed think that their workplace promotes creative or inventive ideas or that their co-workers are motivated at work.

Economical motivators - If you are feeling budget challenged this year (and who the heck isn't?), Training Time suggests employee incentive ideas on a budget. We'd like to see the "simple thank you" gain wider traction.

By the numbers
10 habits that bosses love
5 rules of style for business casual
4 ways to a win-win solution in resolving workplace conflict
12 ways to fight fear in the workplace
20 tips for more efficient Google searches

June 16, 2008

Short takes: caregiving, HR Blunders, wellness, sleep research

Free seminar on caregivers - If you have employees who are caregivers, their health is at risk, this free presentation by CMS entitled Health Implications of Caregiving may be of interest to you. It is geared to those who help caregivers identify and utilize resources that help them preserve and improve their own health including case managers, social workers, employers, health care providers and those in the aging network.
It is scheduled as a Satellite Broadcast - Wednesday, June 25, 2008, 1-2:30 PM, est - Register or learn more

HR media - An online publication that's become a daily read for many of us here at ESI is Hr Blunders, a combination blog and news aggregator covering a variety of HR-related matters from benefits and recruiting to legal matters and tech news. And of course, as the headline promises - lots of blunders, HR pitfalls, and tricky questions ... don't miss the HR Blunder of the Week, which includes items like new reference check scams even HR pros are falling for. We also like the dubious decisions category.

Wellness - Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance informs us that National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) is developing a wellness accreditation and certification program for wellness service providers. Through June 30, NCQA is seeking public comment on proposed standards, which can be accessed at at the NCQA site.

Fatigue follow up - Last week, we featured an item on the high price of fatigue in the workplace. Over the weekend, we noticed an article in Time on the matter of how much sleep you really need. If you aren't logging your full 8 hours of sleep a night, don't stay awake fretting over it. While conventional wisdom has always said that 8 hours or more of sleep is a recipe for health, new research says that people who sleep in a range of 6.5 to 7.5 hours a night live the longest. Research is also showing that too much sleep (8.5+ hours) isn't much better for your health than sleeping too little.

June 9, 2008

Short takes: retaliation, common documentation mistakes, wellness, commuter benefits, global benefits

Legal matters: retaliation - We've often directed your attention to Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer where attorney blogger Michael Fox discusses legal issues related to employment law. Recently, he has featured a series of posts about recent court decisions on the matter of retaliation, a hot issue. First, he posted about the Supreme Court's recent decisions on retaliation. One case dealt with age and one with race. He next reports on a retaliation decision by a jury in Cambridge, Mass that resulted in a $4.5 million award being granted to the plaintiff. Finally, he deals with a case heard by the 5th Circuit related to retaliation under the FLSA.

Supervisor mistakes - HR Daily Advisor brings us more in the way of supervisor mistakes - this time, related to documentation. Part one deals with 6 Common Mistakes That Weaken Documentation and part two deals with mistakes that are easy to make but hard to defend.

Firefighter wellness program saves dollars - Orange County Fire Authority has seen a 90% participation level after instituting a comprehensive voluntary wellness program that includes disease screening, fitness testing, blood work, and other components. Since instituting the program, its workers' comp reserve has dropped by approximately $1 million.

Gas costs - We recently posted about the price of gas and its effect on worker productivity, along with some suggestions for employers to help mitigate commuter pain. Lydell Bridgeford of Employee Benefit News reports on SHRM research on enhanced commuter benefits that employers are putting into place. For example, 42% of companies increased their mileage reimbursement to the Internal Revenue Service maximum of 50.5 cents per mile, which is a marked increase over the 13% of employers who met the IRS mileage reimbursement cap last year. The research polled employers on other measures they are taking to help lessen the economic burden on commuting employees.

Global benefits - Employee Benefit News takes a look at employee benefits around the world - useful if you have global offices, but also interesting in examining benefit trends. For example, it is interesting to see that in Japan, the government is now requiring started requiring that companies scree employees aged between 40 and 74 years old for metabolic syndrome, a combination of medical disorders, including obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels and high blood fat levels.

May 12, 2008

Short takes: Bad HR habits, new MA law, worker engagement, and more

Bad habits - Scarlet Pruitt of HR World discusses 15 bad habits of HR Professionals. These run the gamut from gossip and leaking information to failing to confront rule breakers and underperformers. The latter is something we often see - managers who wait to deal with a performance problem until the employee is unsalvageable, even though an earlier intervention might have led to a resolution of the underlying issue causing the performance drop, often a matter that is rooted in a personal or family situation. One other weakness we might add to the list is the "rescue syndrome" - HR managers who take the weight of the work force problems on their own shoulders, playing confidant or counselor to troubled employees. Getting involved in an employee's personal problems can be like stepping in quicksand, the better course of action is to ensure that good professional counseling resources such as an EAP are available and are used.

More bad habits - as long as we're enumerating bad habits, we also call your attention to HR Daily Advisor's post about 8 common failures in hiring and recruiting, as suggested by an employment attorney.

Massachusetts employers take note: you have a new reason to ensure strict compliance with wage and hour laws. Jay Shepherd of Gruntled Employees talks about a newly enacted Massachusetts law that requires trebles damages for an employer's violation of wage and hour laws. He notes that previously judges had discretionary powers in determining whether or not an employer had malicious intent in violating the law but under the new law, treble fines are mandatory.

Watch your language - Evil HR Lady talks about why she favors a strict workplace.

Disengagement - Are 20 percent of your workers disengaged? Perfect Labor Storm 2.0 discusses a recent report on The State of Employee Engagement 2008 issued by global consultant BlessingWhite, which reports that only one in three of your workers are fully engaged. And if you are looking to determine what this looks like, Frank Roche of KnowHR offers his nomination for the best definition of employee engagement.

Flexible schedules - Ken Nowak of Envisia Learning discusses how flexible work schedules and telecommuting might increase worker productivity. Thanks to Wally Bock, who always points out worthwhile reading matter on his excellent Three Star LeadershipBlog .

What Mom is worth - In case you missed it, last week, issued their annual calculation of what a typical Mom's salary ought to be. They determined that the time mothers spend performing the 10 most popular "Mom job functions" would equate to an annual cash compensation of $116,805 for a Stay-at-Home Mom. They note that the primary driver of mom's six-figure salary is the amount of overtime clocked. Stay-at-Home Moms work a 94.4 hour "workweek"and Working Moms averaged a 54.6 hour "mom work week" in addition to their paying jobs. Use the Mom Salary Wizard to determine your Mom's market value.

April 6, 2008

Short takes: free HBR, unpopular employees, FMLA, bullying, and more

Free Harvard Business Review in April - Thanks to Wally Bock's Three Star Leadership Blog for alerting us that Harvard Business Review is free during the month of April. He also reminds us that even if you don't have a subscription, it's worth checking back because there are a few feature-length articles available free each month.

Unpopular employees - The Chief Happiness Officer responds to a query about how to deal with unpopular employees - and he responds with a good question ... how did the situation manage to get that bad and why hadn't a manager dealt with the employee before it reached such an impasse? He notes that because one unhappy, unproductive employee can pull down the whole department , sometimes you have to send that worker packing. While we wouldn't disagree, we would suggest trying your EAP first - it's amazing how many employees can be restored when they identify and deal with problems that are at the root of performance issues.

FMLA - George Lenard at George's Employment Blawg has an excellent two part post on FMLA. Part one focuses on military family leave rights and in part two, he offers a summary of proposed revisions to regulations. The latter are in a
“notice-and-comment” stage of an open rulemaking process.

Bullying - Tara-Parker Pope of the New York Times Well blog discusses a recent research study which suggests that workplace bullying may be tougher on employees than harassment: "The researchers found that workplace aggression had severe consequences on employee well-being. Compared to employees who had been sexually harassed, bullied workers were more likely to quit their jobs, be less happy with their work and have less satisfying relations with their bosses. Bullied employees also were more likely to report job stress and be less committed to their jobs." She follows this post up with a second post featuring a Workplace Aggression Research Questionnaire. Also, see Erica Mauter of Race in the Workplace who also writes about the bullying study, noting that there are legal remedies for sexual harassment, while bullying can be more insidious.

Employee retention - Training Time cites a recent SHRM survey to discuss reasons why employees leave your organization. The main reason? Employees don’t see opportunities for advancement at their current employer.

Sample HR letters - Susan Healtherfield of's Human Resources offers sample letters for common HR events such as job offers and employee recognition. She also links to other resources, such as sample policies, checklists, and forms. These can be great starter tools to provide a framework for developing customized letters and policies.

March 25, 2008

Short takes: state depression rankings, PA vets, training, bias, health care, and more

Depression - How sad is your state? MSNBC reports on a recent study that ranks depression and suicide by state, noting that "Researchers found that states with easier access to mental health resources had lower suicide rates." The top 10 saddest states in order: Utah, West Virginia, Kentucky, Rhode Island, Nevada, Oklahoma, Idaho, Missouri, Ohio and Wyoming. Check your state's depression ranking.

Returning vets - The Philadelphia Inquirer recently featured an excellent series on Alpha Company two years after their return from Iraq. This National Guard unit based in Northeast Philadelphia lost six members during their 11 month deployment and has 131 survivors, who are police officers and college students, construction workers and drug store clerks. More than half have been treated for PTSD. This series tracks their experiences since returning home in their own words.

Training blog - In our travels, we've just discovered Thoughts from Training Time, a blog about ideas and issues for corporate and government trainers and human resource managers. A few sample posts we found noteworthy: Harassment training may save you millions; Employee reward ideas from the Tooth Fairy; and Training the trainer: tips for public speaking.

Wellness - One of the problems your employees may face in getting good healthcare is simply finding access to a primary care doctor, according to a recent story in U.S. News and World Report. As a sidebar to the story, they offer 7 Tips for finding a doctor. Some other resources: AMA Doctor Finder and WebMD Physician Directory.

The high cost of bias - Race in the Workplace features an excellent post by Adina Ba about Workplace bias costing companies $64 billion annually. Among other things, she discusses results from the recent Corporate Leavers Survey (PDF), which found that over 2 million managers and professionals leave their jobs every year solely due to unfairness in the workplace - things like being passed over for promotions, being publicly humiliated or bullied, receiving unwelcome questions about skin, hair or ethnic attire, and being compared to a terrorist.

Healthcare - Tom Lynch of Workers Comp Insider has been writing on healthcare in the US, comparing how we rate against other OECD countries on a variety of measures such as cost, quality, and longevity. Part 3: What do we get for the money? looks at whether we live longer or have better health in the US given that we spend 250% more than the average OECD country. It's eye opening.

Sleep deprivation - Human Resource Executive features an article by Scott Flander on how your sleep deprived employees may be hindering your organization's productivity. Some companies are addressing this by offering on-site nap rooms. In a recent survey, " ...more than one-third of those polled said their workplace permits napping during breaks, and 16 percent said their employer provides a place to do it."

FMLA - Workplace Prof Blog discusses New Jersey's recently enacted paid family leave bill and links to a report from the national Partnership for Women and Families which lists some interesting facts about FMLA, such as " ...only 31% of people take FMLA leave (which is unpaid) to care for a seriously ill family member, and only 18% take leave to care for a new child. The majority of people who take the leave take it for their own serious health problem."

By the numbers
7 Hidden Traps in Managing Workers with Disabilities, and Dealing with the ADA
10 Ways to Know When It’s Time to Get Out of HR
6 More Ways to Know When It's Time to Get Out of HR
10 Steps for Boosting Creativity
25 Health Tips for Computer Nerds

March 9, 2008

Short takes: mental health parity, wellness incentives, teleworking, and more

Mental health parity - A bill that levels the insurance benefits playing field for mental health benefits moved one step closer to reality last week when the House of Representatives approved a measure that would require group health plans to apply the same treatment limits on mental health and addiction coverage as for other medical benefits. The Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007 would amend the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996. Currently, most insurance plans have caps on the number of visits and limitations on coverage for mental health services and addiction treatment. The House version of this measure is facing opposition from business groups because it is stronger and more encompassing than a similar measure passed by the Senate last year. For more information see:
-New York Times: House Approves Bill on Mental Health Parity
- SHRM: House Passes Mental Health Parity Bill
- Business Insurance: Mental parity bill steps closer to law

Wellness incentives - According to Risk and Insurance, when it comes to obesity and weight loss, cash is the ultimate incentive. The publication reports on a recent study by researchers at RTI International and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which suggests that moderate financial incentives can promote employees to stay healthy on the job.

Georgia gives a boost to teleworking - Georgia employers who start or expand their employee teleworking programs have a good incentive to do so. The state offers tax credits of up to $20,000 to cover program start-up costs and credits of as much as $1,200 per new teleworker. Last month, the Georgia Department of Revenue announced that 135 employers have been approved to take tax credits in 2008 for creating and expanding telework programs. These credits —- currently capped at $2 million a year —- will provide a tremendous return on the state's investment in the form of increased employee productivity and morale, fewer cars on our traffic-choked roads and less pollutants in our skies.

Work web usage - HR Capitalist suggests that if you're firing someone for excessive use, the problem is probably you..... Kris Dunn discusses an AMA survey on employer concerns and practices regarding employee misuse of the Internet and e-mail. The HR Capitalist take? Excessive Internet use isn't a policy issue, it's a performance issue.

Talent pool shortage - A U.S. News and World Report suggests that middle managers are in short supply, particularly in industries like healthcare, IT, finance, engineering, and sales. A recent survey of HR executives at Fortune 500 and smaller companies found they expect mid- and senior-level employees will be more difficult to hire in 2008. Most said they'd probably be paying 5 to 15 percent salary premiums to fill accounting, finance, marketing, sales, engineering, information technology, clinical, and midlevel management positions.
Hat tip to Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership for the pointer.

Workplace Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month - March is a good month to redouble your eye safety efforts. More than 800,000 eye injuries occur while workers are on the job, and close to 36,000 of those will require time off from work. Prevent Blindness suggest the following tips to promote eye safety in the workplace:

  • Safety eyewear must have “ANSI Z87” clearly marked on all glasses or goggles and should be worn at all times whenever eye hazards are present.
  • Workers should know where the nearest eye wash station is at their job site and how to use it.
  • Employers should be notified immediately if safety hazards are discovered.
  • Employees should have regular eye exams to make sure their vision is adequate to do their jobs safely.
  • Those who already have reduced vision should ask their employers if prescription glasses or goggles can be provided.

Nix on carnivores - As if it's not hard enough to find the right worker for the job, HR Lori features an interesting item about a job listing for software development interns that has an unusual job requirement: applicants must be vegetarians. She notes that this is the flip side of a recent California court case that found employers can discriminate against vegetarians.

February 22, 2008

Short takes: religious accommodation, wellness, and cool tools

Reasonable religious accommodations - Lou Michels discusses reasonable accommodation and religious beliefs in the context of a recent decision by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals. He notes that religious accommodation suits seem to be on the rise, and that " ...this decision provides some well thought out guidance on the limits of what an employer has to do to satisfy its obligations under the law in dealing with these claims."

A modern conundrum - When Work's Invisible, So Are Its Satisfactions - "In the past, people could see the fruits of their labor immediately: a chair made or a ball bearing produced. But it can be hard to find gratification from work that is largely invisible, or from delivering goods that are often metaphorical." (thanks to Race in the Workplace for the pointer.

Wellness compliance - Does your wellness program pass muster in terms of compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act? The Employee Benefits Security Administration has recently issued a Wellness Program Checklist to help you determine if your program is compliant.

An unhealthy duo - New research indicates that the combination of depression and hostility may be factors that contribute to a person's risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The study measured the levels of some inflammatory proteins that have been predictive of future heart disease, finding that those who reported feeling both depressed and hostile had especially high levels of the inflammatory proteins in their blood over the six year study.

Avoiding duds - Whether you are hiring for a HR Manager/Director position, or interviewing to become one, Kris Dunn offers helpful advice to help you avoid hiring or being an HR dud.

Your Rip Van Winkle moment - Wally Bock talks about the challenges of waking up as a boss - making the transition from being a worker to a manager after a sudden promotion.

A fruity idea - Employee Benefit News pointed us to a fun wellness resource - The Fruitguys, a service founded on the idea that bringing healthy brain food to the office can boost productivity and help companies improve their bottom lines. Their service allows you to have crates of mixed fresh fruits delivered to your workplace - a simple but great idea.

Cool work tools

  • PDF Hammer is a free online PDF editor that allows you to edit PDF documents right now inside your browser.
  • Marker board walls - nothing better for a brainstorming session than a big white board. Why not build a whole wall?
  • Ta-da lists is a free tool that allows you to create and share simple online to-do lists.
  • 10 smart and lazy ways to save your workday - some productivity tips from Lifehacker.
  • The printable CEO - be your own CEO with a series of printable forms that help manage the day-to-day chore of achieving your goals.

January 28, 2008

Short takes: deadbeats, EEOC, third places, medical marijuana, and more

Problem employees - Susan Heatherfield of Human Resources of talks about how to manage deadbeat employees: "You know the occasional employee I am talking about. He doesn't show up for work, calls in sick, and milks the time off policy, always walking on the edge, but never falling off. He walks the edge of the work policies and processes, too."

EEOC - Attorney Jonathan Segal lists 6 killer EEO mistakes employers most commonly make in investigating discrimination or harassment complaints in HR Daily Advisor. In a related post, HR Lori shares results of a recent survey, which found that most companies have formal anti-discrimination policies in place, but communicate these policies poorly to managers and employees. Of the organizations responding, 43% reported that they have faced EEOC-protected class harassment charges, discrimination charges or litigation at some point. Also related, Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer points us to a recently issued EEOC Fact Sheet on On Employment Tests and Selection Procedures to Screen Applicants and Workers.

Third places - Jim Ware of The Future of Work links to a recently published article on the trend to "third places" - alternatives to the first place, the formal corporate office, and the second place, the home locations - and the need for employers to include the concept of the third place in a comprehensive workplace strategy.

Medical marijuana and discrimination - Paul Secunda of Workplace Prof Blog discusses an interesting California case involving an employee who filed a discrimination suit for being terminated after revealing marijuana use, a right the worker claimed under doctor's recommendations and the state's Compassionate Use Act. Secunda notes that "Plaintiff’s position might have merit if the Compassionate Use Act gave marijuana the same status as any legal prescription drug. But the act’s effect is not so broad."

Dubious practices - Chris McKinney of HR Lawyer's Blog awards a Grand Prize in the Questionable HR Management Award to Packaging Corporation of America in Counce, Tenn. for its inadvisable termination of an employee in response to said employee’s election to the Mississippi State Senate. Read his comments about why this was a bad move.

Productivity - MindGym offers 8 Management tips that can stretch your time in The Ninety Minute Hour at Management Issues Workplace Blog.

January 24, 2008

Heath Ledger's perfect storm

Fueled by nonstop media coverage, rumors and speculation abound about the untimely death of talented actor Heath Ledger. Autopsies and tests are being conducted, but the truth is, when drugs are involved, it may be difficult to arrive at a definitive conclusion as to whether his death was accidental or intentional. Many signs indicate that this may well have been an unintentional ingestion of a fatal pharmaceutical cocktail. Regardless, an otherwise healthy young man was cut down in the prime of his life. And as is often common in cases of self-inflicted, premature, or unexpected deaths, many of the decedent's friends, family, and colleagues will be left with a residue of guilt and uneasy questions as to whether there was anything they might have done to prevent this.

While those who knew him express shock and surprise at the news of his death, stories are peppered with what those of us in our line of work see as danger signs. Ledger had reportedly been battling substance abuse problems, and although most reports state that he had stopped drinking, those who know about substance abuse would see an abuser's use of any pills as potentially problematic. He was suffering from significant personal stress, having recently split from Michelle Williams, the mother of his two-year old child. He expressed distress and concern about the break up to his friends, as well as fears as to what the changes would mean in his relationship with his young daughter. He was also under significant professional stress, recently completing back-to-back roles in films. His role as the Joker in the new Batman film apparently exacted quite a toll. In a recent interview with the New York Times, he talked about battling exhaustion and sleep disorders during the making of the film, noting that he could only sleep two hours a night and had begun taking over-the-counter sleep aids. Self-medication, stress, and sleep disorders can fall into a self-perpetuating, cyclical pattern. Even prescribed drugs can be a problem without appropriate treatment for the root causes.

Personal and professional stress, sleep disorders, substance abuse - each one of these issues is a potentially debilitating problem in and of itself, made infinitely more complex by throwing pharmaceuticals into the mix, whether prescribed or over the counter. A perfect storm. For Ledger, the mix proved deadly.

Could anything have been done to prevent this death? Perhaps not. But for those of us in the helping profession, we will continue asking the question because Ledger's untimely death is another public reminder of the terrible toll that untreated personal problems can take. In cases such as this, there are often warning signs that are quite clear in retrospect - the mission we all have - for our loved ones and colleagues - is identifying and dealing with potentially harmful personal problems prospectively

January 10, 2008

Short takes: 2008 crystal ball; tuition reimbursement; maternal profiling; minimum wage; ethics

2008 Prognostications - Last week, we talked about HR events of 2007, posting several year-end reviews from around the Web and a few prognostications for 2009. This week, George Lenard of George's Employment Blawg produces and interesting roundup of even more Workworld Forecasts and Big Picture Trends for the coming year.

Tuition reimbursement - Evil HR Lady offers her thoughts on establishing tuition reimbursement programs. Among other things, she notes the importance of treating newly degreed or certified employees as external candidates when it comes to promotions. Some employers have ceilings on pay raises, which can sabotage retention since the newly person with enhanced credentials or new degrees will command a higher salary on the open market.

Minimum wage - The Department of Labor posts a helpful clickable map of minimum wage laws in the States - January 1, 2008. It's color coded to show states that are higher, lower, or the same as federal rates, as well as states with no minimum wage laws.

Maternal profiling - Have you heard any buzz about Maternal profiling yet? If not, you will - Michael Fitzgibbon of Thoughts from a Management Lawyer brings us up to date on the topic.

Teen ethics - Inside Human Resources has a depressing post telling us that 38% of teens recently surveyed believe that cheating is OK. In a recent Junior Achievement / Deloitte Teen Ethics Survey conducted among American teens ages 13-18, indicated that 38% of the respondents think it is sometimes necessary to cheat, plagiarize, lie or even behave violently in order to succeed.

December 3, 2007

Short takes: Wellness, Santa, employment law, and bad employer of the year

Mandatory wellness - Workplace Prof Blog tells us that the numbers of employers that require employees to participate in health and wellness programs are increasing, and that some attorneys are predicting a related a barrage of discrimination and privacy lawsuits. Employer programs range from the carrot of incentives to the stick of penalties, such as fines for failure to participate in health screenings and termination for those who test positive for nicotine.

Speaking of wellness ... U.S. Surgeon General Rear Adm. Steven K. Galson thinks that Santa should abstain from cookies this year because he sets a poor example for the nation's kids. Santa's average weight is 256 pounds. While he gave up the pipe a few years ago, health experts are saying it's time for the jelly belly to go too. If you would like to help Santa in this quest, be sure to leave him carrot sticks or fruit as a snack this year - the cookies have got to go!

Employment law - Lou Michels discusses two recent cases which he thinks are significant for employers seeking to prevent age discrimination claims. Both cases had to do with signed releases associated with severance packages which were later found non-compliant by courts in California and Minnesota. Michels suggests "... if you're going to hand out release documents that tell people they have 45 days to consider their options and that they should consult with an attorney, as required by the OWBPA, it's generally a bad idea to encourage or even suggest that people should immediately sign the waivers."

Shoutout to Wally Bock - If you want to stay up on some good business reads and news headlines, you can't do better than a visit to Wally Bock's Three Star Leadership Blog. Wally filters some of the best stories, particularly on weekends when most business blogs are quiet. Thanks, Wally!

When your job stinks - Evil HR Lady gives advice on a smelly problem. Personal hygiene issues are difficult to deal with. Maybe the company's EAP could get to the root of the matter.

Nomination for bad employer of the year - Call us prudes, but we just don't think it's wise to ask your female employees to come to work in their underwear. And just in case you think skivvy-related employment issues don't surface in the good old U.S. of A., think again.

Really short takes

November 19, 2007

News briefs: Wellness programs, absenteeism, CDHPs, employee empowerment

Wellness programs - Michael Moore of Pennsylvania Employment Law Blog offers some helpful advice on how to stay within your legal limits when embarking on health incentive programs as part of your wellness program. See his blog posting Sizing Up Obesity: Can Wellness Programs Curb BMI ?

Absenteeism - A must read this week is Shirking Working: The War on Hooky - charting measures that some large employers are taking to manage absence. But do these programs go too far? For another perspective, be sure to read the comments at the end of the article. Also, Jon Coppelman at Workers Comp Insider takes one employer to task for absence management practices that terminated a disabled worker for repeated tardiness.

Health insurance - Are Consumer-Directed Health Plans (CDHPs) the wave of the future? Joe Paduda doesn't think so, and he discusses their limitations in a Business Week article entitled CDHPs: No Rx for Health Care. Essentially, he states that these plans may look good on paper, but explains why the financial burden on plan members is too high.

Management styles - Susan Heatherfield at is always worth a read. One of her recent columns offered some insight on employee empowerment and motivating employees. She cites a study that suggests that different leadership styles might be appropriate for different phases and stages of an organization.

October 26, 2007

Short takes: managing; planning for emergencies; politics, multiculturalism, and more

What do managers do, anyway? Casey Stengle defined management as "getting paid for home runs that someone else hits." What's your definition? Ask a Manager offers a breakdown of what managers are responsible for.

Give this man a job for a week - One Week Job - Sean Aiken is attempting to work 52 jobs in 52 weeks and blog the results. He says he will travel anywhere and invites employers to hire him for a week.

One of our favorite stops - Susan Heatherfield always has well-researched information on her Human Resources blog on This week, she experienced a nearby tornado and used the occurrence as a springboard to discuss the importance of every workplace having an emergency plan. A timely post as it coming as it does in the midst of hurricane season and on the heels of the California fires.

Health & Wellness - Nursing Online Educational Database offers a list of the top 100 health and wellness blogs.
The Visual Medical Dictionary is an interesting way to explore medical issues. Enter a disease, therapy or drug and begin exploring relationships.

Love me, love my candidate - as we gear up to the upcoming election year, it might be helpful to think about how politics can affect things at work. Scott Flander of Human Resource Executive discusses potential impact on the work force when the boss talks politics. Also, see our past post on When politics spills over into the workplace.

Multiculturalism - The Multicultural Advantage looks to be a good resource. It offers " ... a wealth of articles, job opportunities, event listings, research, tools, downloads, links and other resources for professionals from diverse backgrounds. The site also addresses the needs of diversity recruiting and workplace diversity professionals who are seeking to reach & understand them."

Communication - The American Sign Language Dictionary is a great visual learning tool. Pick a word from an alphabetized list to view a short video clip of someone making the sign for that word. It's both useful and rather fun.

October 5, 2007

Short takes: great workplaces, domestic violence, overtime litigation, and more

Winning workplaces
What makes an organization a great place to work? The Wall Street Journal spotlights fifteen companies in its report on the Top Small Workplaces 2007. It's a great list, because often awards of this type focus on really large organizations, but these profiles feature companies that range from 12 to 492 employees. In selecting the companies, the article notes some commonalities:

These small businesses tend to let employees at all levels make key decisions, and they groom their future leaders from within. They offer generous traditional and untraditional benefits (how about a six-week sabbatical?). And they constantly hunt for new ways to improve the employee experience or engage employees.

And many share a sizable slice of their profits with employees, teaching them to read company financial statements so they grasp how their job is connected to the success of the organization.

Domestic violence in the workplace
In June, we posted about the role that employers play in curbing domestic violence. This week, Michael Fox at Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer asks why this issue hasn't received more attention, and points to an article an article on the role that employers play in preventing domestic violence that appeared in the Birmingham Business Journal. Here are two good reasons the article cites as to why many employers are taking an active role in prevention:

  • Studies estimate that 40 percent of violent events at the workplace result from domestic violence, and according to the National Workplace Safety Institute, 94 percent of corporate security directors rank domestic violence as a high security problem at their company.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, domestic violence costs approximately $727.8 million in lost productivity annually and more than $4.1 billion annually in health care costs.

Overtime litigation
George Lenard at George's Employment Blawg has a must-read post on the increasing trend of litigation related to overtime issues. He offers this good advice: "More than ever, employers are well advised to engage in systematically reviewing, or "auditing," the classification of employees for overtime purposes."

The wisdom of crowds
Ask Metafilter is a very popular site where members pose practical questions and other members offer answers. Questions span an endless range of topics, and often include questions about work or job-related issues. Here are a few work-related questions and threads with responses. (work warning: responses are "vernacular" occasionally including profanities.)

Really short takes ...

September 20, 2007

News notes from around the HR blogosphere

In HR world, the word "prank" is very frightening. If you haven't been following the developments of the legal brouhaha surrounding the firefighters who fed a coworker dog food as a prank, George's Employment Blawg has the scoop.

And while we're on the topic of legal matters, HR Lori calls our attention to 3 recent California law employment decisions that you should know about if you have California employees.

Meet your future work force. They think water always came in bottles. Human Resources Blog points us to the annual Beloit College Mindset list for the Class of 2011.

Speaking of mindsets, are rising health care costs occupying a big share of your mindset these days? A good way to follow what's going on in the health care arena is to check in to Health Wonk Review, a biweekly roving carnival that features the best recent posts from health policy bloggers. Check out this week's issue at Managed care Matters.

Evil HR Lady answers a question about how to fire someone with a medical condition. By the way, we've come to think "evil" is a misnomer here.

Bootstrapper lists the Top 100 HR Bloggers, and we are happy to be on the list. But there goes our productivity today - there are so many blogs we haven't discovered yet!

One blog we recently discovered, not from the Boostraper list but from a thoughtful comment left on one of our recent posts, is Wally Bock's Three Star Leadership Blog. This looks like it will be a regular stop for us - check it out.

It's wonderful how the web gives us access to so much good compliance information. Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer has recently authored an article on plant closings and the WARN act.

Yvette Bethel of The Games People Play at Work has a good question for you. She wants to know: What is your idiot switch?

August 14, 2007

Short takes: healthy workforce, toxic complaining, obesity, wealth, and more

Occupational Hazards reports on proposed legislation that would bolster employee health and company savings. The Healthy Workforce Act, introduced by cosponsors Senators Tom Harkin and Gordon Smith, would provide a 10-year tax credit of up to $200 per employee to businesses that offer robust wellness programs. Programs would need to include such components as "health awareness programs and health risk assessments, behavior change programs, meaningful incentives for program participation and an employee committee that tailors programs to meet workforce needs."

Chief Happiness Officer thinks that "Constant complaining in the workplace is toxic. It can drain the happiness, motivation, creativity and fun from a whole company. Wherever it's going on it must be addressed and handled properly." He offers the top 10 reasons why constant complaining is so toxic in the workplace.

Lou Michaels of Suits in the Workplace discusses recent case law that illustrates that at least when it comes to pay scales, inconsistency is a hobgoblin.

Is your state overweight? MSN offers a state-by-state comparative time line based on data from the CDC that dramatically depicts the rising tide of obesity. The chart is accompanied by a 4-part series on fighting obesity, with articles on how to change the trend. This might be a good information to share with your employees.

Workplace Prof Blog points us to new minimum wage posters in English, Spanish and Chinese. Thanks, Prof!

Ever wonder how your income stacks up in the great scheme of things? Find out how rich you are on the global rich list.

April 24, 2007

Short takes: equal pay, future trends, guns at work, dental health, and a few tools

Today is Equal Pay Day - When it comes to equal pay, the gender pay gap persists, according to research by the American Association of University Women Educational Foundation. What's more, the research finds that this pay gap begins right at the starting gate and gets worse over time. One year out of college, women working full time already earn only 80 percent of what their male counterparts earn, even after controlling for hours, occupation, parenthood, and other factors known to affect earnings. By ten years, comparable women's pay falls to 69 percent of what men earn.

The AAUW research also shows that this pay gap exists despite the fact that women outperform men in school—earning slightly higher GPAs than men in every college major, including science and mathematics. See state-by-state data on pay equity. (Via The HR Blog).

A look ahead - Anne Freedman sees increased globalization, and more workers who are modular and remote when she looks in her crystal ball. In "The Next 20 Years", which appears in the current issue of Human Resource Executive, she identifies managing across international borders and accommodating cultural diversity as some of the challenges facing HR managers. Here's a brief excerpt:

"Managing people will entail a different can of worms, however, as many may not be working full-time. Many of the experts see significant increases in project-based work, with HR being cast in the role of producer, bringing together the talent necessary to get specific jobs done before each individual takes off for the next project.

A related scenario includes a renaissance in the creation of guilds and unions, where loyalty to a profession, such as a software engineer, for example, replaces loyalty to an employer."

The rewards of being nice - We enjoyed this anecdote about coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, first impressions, and how it pays to be nice - a brief parable from The Group Guy.

Guns at work - Chris MCKinney at The HR Lawyer's Blog revisits the guns in the workplace in the aftermath of Virginia Tech. (See our recent post - Should employers have the right to ban guns at work?)

Dental health - Are dental plans a part of your wellness program? There's a lengthy article in the Los Angeles Times (free registration may be required) that discusses the relationship between gum disease and serious health conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and pregnancy complications. Several recent research studies demonstrate a relationship between dental health and overall health. In the light of this research, some large insurers are revising health plans to offer additional services for high-risk individuals. But the bad news is that more than 100 million people have no dental insurance.

Business tools

April 16, 2007

Short takes: fear of firing, maverick organizations, tough, HR questions and work etiquette

Fear of firing - An article in Business Week uses the recent $11.1 million judgment against General Electric for retaliation in firing an employee as a springboard for a discussion about the reluctance many employers have in terminating under-performing employees. Many employers are immobilized by fear of lawsuits, with the end result being that problem employees are often kept on the payroll. The article notes that suits based on retaliation are on the rise: "Retaliation suits are a hot growth area in employment law. In 2005 and 2006, retaliation claims represented 30% of all charges individuals filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a required first step before most discrimination cases can go to federal court. That's up from about 20% just 10 years ago."
Thanks to Michael Fox at Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer for the pointer.

Great workplaces - Here's a video profile of another fun, creative place to work - Cranium, the game company. In addition to a visit to the company, the clip also includes an interview with Polly LaBarre, co-author of Mavericks at Work, which sounds like a business must-read. In the interview, LaBarre lists several characteristics of "maverick" organizations: they don't just think about making money, they think about making a difference; they don't just think about product, but standing for important ideas; they have distinctive and disruptive sense of purpose; and they have a value system and are passionate about advancing a cause. (Thanks to The Chief Happiness Officer for the pointer - visit his happy links roundup.)

Tough HR questions - Susan Heatherfield of Human Resources at presents the Top 10 Toughest Questions - Asked and Answered based on reader e-mails. The toughest questions also tend to be the ones that are asked about most frequently, such as "how to deal with a negative coworker" and "why employees don't do what you want them to do." Not only is this a great list, but Susan has developed thorough "how-to" guides to answer each question.

Work etiquette

Bad employee of the week - We nominate John Awesome.

April 11, 2007

HRE's Best of the HR Web - we're honored to be included!

Human Resource Executive lists what it considers to be the leading Web sites and blogs for HR professionals today in a compilation by Tom Starner - and we were pleased and honored to discover that HR Web Cafe has made this list - we appreciate being included among such great sites. Check out the list - your bookmarking finger should get some exercise with this list of 10 general sites and 10 blogs - we know our day is shot now since we'll be doing some heavy surfing to check out these good links.

And speaking of good sites, it's time to update our blogroll with some of our recent blog discoveries. Just a reminder - if you haven't noticed our sidebar, we have a growing compilation of blogs, tools, widgets, and general HR resources. We'll no doubt be adding some from HRE's "best of" lists soon, too.

The Cenek Report, which bills itself as "Uncommon Commentary on the World of Work," is authored by Robert Cenek, a 30-year HR pro whose career includes positions at large organizations such as Bristol-Myers and General Mills. A sampling of recent posts that we liked from his thoughtful and stylish blog include:
Workforce at Circuit City Gets Short Circuited Again
More Fiction About Generational Differences
Another View on Web Usage At Work

The Group Guy is an informative blog by by Dan Buckle, health and welfare consultant, billed as "Independent Thought On Employee Benefit Matters For Employers." A sampling of recent posts we liked include:
Rx Plan Design and Diabetes
The Cost of Unhealthy Behavior: Got Wellness?
The Black Hole in Your Benefit Plan

Evil HR Lady is the entertaining and informative blog of an HR professional in a Fortune 500 Company. Her blog title sets the tone. Some recent posts we liked include:
Circuit City's Mistake
Business Decisions, or what to do when you discover you are riding a dead horse.
One Size Fits All - what gas masks and benefit plans often have in common.

March 30, 2007

Making the blog circuit on the Circuit City layoffs

Company layoffs have always been reported in the media, but these announcements often fly under the radar on a busy news day and tend to have a short shelf life beyond those directly or indirectly affected. But with the Internet, it's a brand new day. Boardroom decisions get a thorough airing out in the court of public opinion as they reverberate through the blogs and discussion boards. The current employment topic du jour is Circuit City's announcement of a layoff of 3500 of its highest paid workers. Apparently, the laid-off workers will later be allowed to reapply for these vacant positions at lower salaries. According to the company, the salary cuts and some other restructuring moves will save the company some $110 million. In a memo to employees, the company stated that it "made a business decision, with respect to certain positions, to separate from employment hourly associates whose pay rate is 51 cents or more above (an) established pay range."

Eve Tahmincioglu of MSNBC discusses whether this move is a bold strategy or a black eye for the company. She notes that Circuit City employees who included their salary information on reported making anywhere from $8 to $15 an hour for sales work.

In an article headlined For Circuit City staff, good pay is a bad thing, Abigail Goldman and Molly Selvin in the LA Times note that:

The move put Richmond, Va.-based Circuit City, which has more than 40,000 employees in the United States, at the forefront of a new way of controlling labor costs in the service industry. Employers determine the prevailing market wages for particular jobs in various geographic regions and then find ways to make sure that their workers' salaries stay within that range."

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for example, last summer capped the pay of its veterans at levels consistent with competitors' top wages. Wal-Mart didn't lay off those who earned above a certain amount but did stop giving them raises, saying that would encourage them to advance through the ranks to higher-paying positions.
Circuit City is being more aggressive about it, said Peter Doeringer, a professor of labor economics at Boston University. "What's unusual is to say we're doing this deliberate swapping of high for low."

The blog buzz
As is so often the case with layoffs and restructurings, Wall Street gave its nod of approval with stocks closing up .35. But if the talk in the blogosphere is any indicator of a wider consumer sentiment, longer term effects of the move may be less positive. A Google search shows this story has a lot of legs in the blogosphere. It is difficult to find any company defenders. Heres a sampling of the reactions:

HR Lori wonders if a better strategy than the layoffs might have been to cut all salaries, including executive salaries. She notes:

This plan really does not make any sense to me, particularly since I am incredibly risk averse. When you terminate higher paid employees in order to hire those at a lower rate, you run the risk of running afoul of a number of statutes - the ADEA particularly comes to mind as a distinct possibility. Never mind the other concerns such as the time and cost of recruiting 3400 replacements or even things like administering COBRA for 3400 people.

Workplace Prof Blog is skeptical about the company spin. He asks:

Whatever happened to loyalty to your employees and rewarding them for past service provided and a job well done? Shoot, corporate strategies like these could singlehandedly revive American unions with their promise of just cause protection. At-will employees like these have no protections against arbitrary dismissals.
I wonder whether enough people will be outraged by this labor strategy that they will not shop the store and any gains made from savings in labor costs will be lost in terms of good will from customers. I also wonder whether the loss in remaining employee morale will significantly affect productivity.

David Becker at one of Wired's blogs wryly titles his post "Circuit City Shields Customers From Too-Smart Sales Clerks." He notes: "Circuit City has revealed plans to lay off more than 3,000 of the retail chain's most highly paid and experienced employees, thus solving that nagging problem of clerks being overly helpful and knowledgeable."

A discussion thread on Metafilter entitled Stupid Management Tricks offers more interesting commentary on the matter. (warning: posts include some unedited, salty language)

One poster sources Circuit City's Chief Executive Officer W. Alan McCollough's pay through Executive Paywatch:

In 2005, W. Alan McCollough raked in $5,470,049 in total compensation including stock option grants* from Circuit City Stores Inc. From previous years' stock option grants, the Circuit City Stores Inc. executive cashed out $3,052,902 in stock option exercises. And W. Alan McCollough has another $20,773,329 in unexercised stock options from previous years.

Another poster comments:

" ... the thing that's distasteful to me is that Circuit City is insuring that all their sales staff remain at the bottom rung. They're sending the message that they don't have room in the payroll for employees that stick with the company long enough to earn some raises/promotions. Since it's safe to assume that longer-term employees perform better for the company, either through familiarity with the product or a improved salesmanship, it's strange that CC would place their bet on the beliefs that: consumer electronics can sell themselves, a warm body is only needed to work the register, and that the customer's questions are a impediment to doing business. I think the same management strategy is what caused Hechinger's to be wiped out by Home Depot."

Another poster notes that this is standard industry practice, though it usually occurs in less noticeable numbers:

"The only difference between what Circuit City has done and standard retail practice is that they were stupid enough to announce it to the world. Big Box retailers have been doing this for as long as Big Box retailing has existed. Maintaining a steady turnover among "senior" sellers is a standard practice and percentage of employee churn is often one of the performance metrics for retail units."

Another posters suggests that this announcement does not bode well for the company:

"Squeezed by direct sales via Internet on one side and Wal-Mart on the other, big-box electronics retailers don't have a bright future selling to consumers. As for this specific story, when "cutting costs" means firing your (presumably) most experienced customer service staff, you're not trimming fat any longer, you're chopping bone. Start the Circuit City deathwatch."

March 21, 2007

Short takes: gambling, flextime, motivation, ADA, and more

Gambling at work - Some seasonal sports activities generate a spike in workplace gambling. BLR features an article on the dangers of NCAA tournament pools that suggests some ways that a company might harness these pools more productively. Thanks to Strategic HR Lawyer for the pointer.

It's about time - Thinking about flextime? If so, you might enjoy this case study about how Best Buy is rethinking the time clock. Under a program called Rowe (results-only work environment) workers set their own schedules. The program has been a whopping success at the corporate headquarters, where 60% of the employees participate and productivity has soared by 35%. Best Buy is about to roll the program out to its retail operations, hoping to make a dent in one of the industry's greatest Achilles' heal, high turnover.

By the numbers - "Do your employees do their best when you're not around? Do they make a beeline to get in on your team? Do they go that extra mile to do that task more efficiently without being asked? Do they have nice things to say about you, even when you're not within earshot?" Business Intelligence Lowdown offers 73 surefire tips on how to be a manager that your employees respect. If you have a large tech work force, here are 8 things intelligent people, geeks and nerds need to work happily. And conversely, here's a list of 50+ ways a manager can get employees to quit that were compiled by an IT manager who polled colleagues about the things a former manager did to demotivate his team.

Legal matters - Chris McKinney of HR Lawyer's Blog posts about a a million dollar ADA verdict recently levied against DuPont. It might be a good time to review employer responsibilities under the ADA. Also timely, Labor and Employment Law Blog has a pertinent post: Frequently Asked Questions About Reasonable Accommodation.

New blog discovery - Check out Suits in the Workplace - an employment law blog by attorneys Lou Michels and Rod Satterwhite. Lots of interesting items, from a recent post about E-mail policies potentially opening the door to union activity to the latest on computer privacy in the workplace.

Who are you? - Susan Heatherfield asks and answers the question What Does a Human Resources Manager, Generalist, or Director Do?. Roles vary depending on the size and maturity of an organization - from benefits manager and employee advocate to strategic partner and change champion. Susan offers a good general overview of common responsibilities, a discussion of the emerging role of HR managers, and links to many related resources.

Short takes

February 27, 2007

Trend watch: video resumes, caregiving, benefits, and teleworking

Video resumes - Are you ready for the video resume? In a series of posts covering the topic, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen of Time magazine's Work in Progress blog gives us the rundown. In her first post, she discusses the rise of the video resume and offers a good sample clip. In her second post, she tells us why many recruiters hate the video resume. Today's post offers a sampling of winning video resumes from a contest sponsored by the Vault, along with how-to list of the dos and don'ts for creating a good video resume.

Elder care - Mark Willaman of HR Marketer talks about a recent CBS segment on caregiving and the increase in the numbers of companies that are adding eldercare benefits similar to those that have been offered for child dependents. He wonders why many EAPs are slow off the mark in offering such benefits. (note: ESI offers both child and elder care benefits.)

Benefits - Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer offers Benefit Trends to Watch from Watson Wyatt.

Teleworking - Benefitnews looks at the recent results of a survey of federal managers on teleworking that demonstrates that most view teleworking favorably. Excerpt: "The majority of federal managers who oversee teleworkers found the concept favorable (63%) and rated teleworkers just as productive as their in-office counterparts."

How does the U.S. stack up in family-friendliness? - Brent Hunsberger of At Work posts some highlights from a report from Harvard and McGill Universities finding that the U.S. is failing working families. An excerpt: "The United States is one of only five nations surveyed that doesn't provide moms paid maternity leave. Nearly 170 countries do, and nearly 100 offer more than 14 weeks of paid time off to care for a new baby. Lesotho, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland, along with America, don't. 66 countries extend paid leave to new dads."

February 20, 2007

Short takes: Chocolate, A$&*@s, terminations, handbooks, meetings, and flus

Sweet news - If your wellness efforts led you to replace all the candy in your vending machines with more healthful choices such as yogurt, nuts and granola, you may want to rethink that decision. A recent study issued at the American Association for the Advancement of Science demonstrates that eating chocolate might sharpen up the mind and give a short-term boost to cognitive skills. Study results also show that cocoa flavanols found in chocolate might also offer vascular and heart benefits and help in reducing the effects of aging.

There's one in every crowd - Forbes asks an important workplace question: Are You An A$&*@^? In her article, Tara Weiss discusses people who go beyond mere jerkiness into a realm of meanness and cruelty that brings the whole office down and evokes strong feelings of dislike and disdain. She interviews author Robert Sutton, a professor at Stanford University who wrote the book The No A------- Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. Read the interview and then take the quiz to find out if you are an A$&*@^. Related: How one bad apple can create a toxic team

Handling terminations - We believe that with the right intervention by a good EAP, most employees can be salvaged, but occasionally, things just don't work out. Once that decision is made, your focus needs to switch to not why you are doing it, but how. A mismanaged termination can lead to problems and lawsuits. George Kittredge of Labor and Employment Law offers suggestion on how to handle an employee termination

Briefs - Attorney Jacqueline McManus discusses the Benefits of Employee Handbooks in the Montery Herald. The Chief Happiness Officer offers Five weeeeeeeeird tips for great meetings. Scientific American: Employers urged to plan for flu pandemic.

January 30, 2007

Short takes: extreme work, discrimination, home workers, pet peeves and more

Extreme work - Chris McKinney of HR Lawyers' Blog discusses the the dangers inherent in a culture of extreme work.

Discrimination research - Workplace Prof Blog calls our attention to a disturbing study that finds skin-tone prejudice against darker-skinned legal immigrants.

"Light-skinned immigrants in the United States make more money on average than those with darker complexions, and the chief reason appears to be discrimination, a researcher says.
Joni Hersch, a law and economics professor at Vanderbilt University, looked at a government survey of 2,084 legal immigrants to the United States from around the world and found that those with the lightest skin earned an average of 8 percent to 15 percent more than similar immigrants with much darker skin.
"On average, being one shade lighter has about the same effect as having an additional year of education," Hersch said."

OSHA logs - Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer reminds us not to forget to post OSHA 300 logs, a requirement as of February 1. She provides a link to the form.

Working at home - Jon Coppelman of Workers Comp Insider discusses recent class action suits by home-based workers alleging that the arrangement violate basic employment laws. Jon makes the point that there is a difference between an independent contractor and a home-based employee, and suggest employers ensure that their status is clarified.

Declining union membership - According to a recently released Department of Labor report, union membership fell by 12.5 percent in 2006, a decrease of more than 300,000 members. In 2006, 12.0 percent of employed wage and salary workers were union members.

Work environments - Many think that a greener workplace can be a healthier and more productive place to work - as well as good news for the bottom line. Wondering where to start? How to Green Your Work offers tips, ideas, and resources.

Pet peeves - Workers ask for help dealing with irritating co-worker behaviors.
How to deal with a loud-mouthed coworker.
My bookkeeper stinks!! Bad!!
Stopping a non-stop talker
My co-worker poisons the office

January 19, 2007

Short takes: Avoiding mistakes in hiring, FMLA, cell phone policies, the lighter side

George Kittredge of Labor and Employment Law offers seven personnel policies to avoid when hiring.

Tracey Levy at Human Resource Executive Online answers some reader questions about employer obligations under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Susan M. Heatherfield of Human Resources at offers a cell phone use sample policy.

Liz Ryan of offers five practical tips for dealing with the coworker who is constantly complaining about the boss.

Earlier this month, we discussed seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the workplace. We just recently came upon a discussion about Seasonal Affective Disorder and light therapy, and how light therapy can be useful in addressing other issues such as jet lag and shift work.

A new survey by Staples reveals some important information about managers. This is the kind of information we all need!

The office can be a dangerous place: When office supplies attack

January 12, 2007

Short takes: NY law, employment trends, happiness at work, and "by the numbers"

NY public sector employers, take note - Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer covers the essentials of the New York Workplace Violence Prevention Law which affects public sector employers in New York State beginning on March 7, 2007. The Law is designed "to ensure that the risk of workplace assaults and homicides are regularly evaluated by public employers and that workplace violence protection programs are implemented to prevent and minimize the hazard to public employees."

Happiness pays off - Thanks to The Chief Happiness Officer for pointing us to a BBC article which discusses the importance of happiness at work: "Forget salary, location, prospects - happiness is the new weapon in the drive to recruit the best and brightest new workers." In an accompanying chart, the article lists the 10 things that make us happy at work:

  • Friendly supportive colleagues
  • Enjoyable work
  • Good boss or manager
  • Good work/life balance
  • Varied work
  • Doing something worthwhile
  • Making a difference
  • Part of a successful team
  • Achievements recognised
  • Competitive salary
Is the pendulum swinging? - Michael W. Fox of Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer notes that long-time employement law practitioners know that how the law is interpreted tends to swing back and one forth from one side to another just like a pendulum, and cites examples that he has recently noted that would indicate this swing is in progress.

Buckle up - According to a recent national survey by Yahoo HotJobs, employers could be in for a bumpy ride this year. In an online survey of 5,331 workers, 45 percent of the participants indicated they plan to change jobs in 2007. Only about one-third were so satisfied with their current position they were not expecting to look.(via The HR Lawyer's Blog).

By the numbers
Employment Laws - The 10 Most Common Mistakes Made By Employers from George Kittredge of Labor and Employment Law Blog

Top 10 Stupid Hiring Mistakes by Nick Corcodilos from Ask the Headhunter

10 Toughest Career Dilemmas Solved - With advice on everything from how to get a raise, to where the tech jobs are now, to the best way to get a rude co-worker to shut up, here are excerpts from Fortune's Anne Fisher's top Ask Annie columns of the year.

100 Best Companies To Work for
-The updated list for 2007 from Fortune. Related: What makes a job great, from Workplace Fairness.

January 4, 2007

HR humor: work excuses, cheap bosses, on-the-job exorcisms, and statistics

When it comes to work absurdities, we ascribe to an equal opportunity philosophy - so in today's post, we are highlighting some stories that take both bosses and employees to task.

"I accidentally flushed my keys down the toilet" - Heard any good excuses for why an employee can't come to work lately? We're sure you have. Kathy Gurchiek compiled some of the best excuses that hiring managers polled by SHRM heard in 2006 in an article entitled Runaway horses, charging buffalo kept workers home in '06. The list is amusing, with excuses ranging from being locked in a restroom stall to being cornered by a snake. But some seem almost reasonable. For example, post-holiday, I can definitely relate to this one: "I'm too fat to get into my work pants." Have you heard any unique excuses lately? Feel free to add them to the comments.

Bah, humbug - We missed Slate magazine's pre-Christmas announcement about the winners in the Corporate Scrooge Contest, but think the article about America's worst office Christmas parties, gifts, and bonuses is worth posting even at this late date. Maybe some of the winners can have a second chance to show their employees some love on Valentine's Day.

A word to the wise - Workplace Prof Blog offers this sensible advice: Don't perform exorcisms at work ... anointing your demonically-possessed colleague's cubicle with olive oil might get you fired, and the courts are unlikely to be sympathetic to your religious discrimination suit.

Lies, damn lies, and statistics - Need some statistics for your boss that just don't seem to exist? No problem - eSolutions data lets you create your own. You might want to test your luck out with these HR manager salary statistics in your next job review.

December 21, 2006

Short takes: holiday pay, lift-outs, health-care reform, and more

Holiday pay: legal requirements -'s blog features attorney Mel Muskovitz addressing common questions and answers related to holiday pay practices.

"Lift outs" - an emerging trend? - Jay Shepherd of Gruntled Employees discusses the practice of "lifting out" an intact team of workers from another company and the problems that can ensue. This practice, which is perhaps more commonly known as employee raiding, seems to be on the increase. Jay's post discusses and comments on a recent article on the topic that appeared in The Boston Globe.

American bosses come in second - American managers may want to take a lesson from Avis and embrace the "We try harder" slogan as a mantra. In a survey of 70,000 respondents in 28 countries conducted by Kelly Services, Mexican bosses rated highest on a 10 point scale, with U.S. bosses coming in second. One potential area for improvement? About 29 percent of the U.S. workers said they were are rarely or never rewarded for a job well done. See the full study results (PDF).

Worker burnout - Douglas Eisenhart of HR Blog points us to a recent study on employee burnout that is discussed in Human Resources Executive. According to study authors, it is not the job that causes burnout, but the organization. One of the biggest employee complaints? They don't get enough respect. They don't feel they are valued or sufficiently recognized for the jobs that they do. We may have a recurring them here. Have you thanked your employees today?

Worker interruptions are expensive - according to recent studies, it is estimated that U.S. office workers get interrupted as often as 6 to 11 times per hour and the price tag for these interruptions may be as high as $588. While technologies like phone, e-mail, and instant messaging are intended to create efficiencies, the downside may be a drain on productivity.

How much does an employee cost? - Joseph G. Hadzima Jr., senior lecturer at MIT Sloan School of Management, offers a broad guide for planning employment costs based on analyzing various expense categories.

Health care reform - If the topic of health care is on your radar screen, you may want to follow a new reform proposal from Senator Ron Wyden that is under discussion in the blogosphere. Joe Paduda at Managed care Matters has been following this issue - he offers an overview and comments on the plan and follows up with a roundup of reactions and commentary from blog health care pundits. He then offered yet more thoughtful commentary on some of the proposal's core provisions. Keep an eye on Joe's blog if you want to follow emerging health care policy issues.

Holiday doo-wop - OK, we can't resist one more cute holiday greeting featuring Santa and a chorus of his reindeer crooning a holiday classic. You need flash and be sure to turn up your speakers.

November 28, 2006

Short takes: background checks, bonuses, turnover, and more

Background checks and diversity - Employers that regularly conduct criminal background checks as part of the new hire process are more likely to hire a black applicant, or so says a new study reported in The Journal of Law and Economics. The study authors state that "The results are consistent with the proposition that in the absence of a criminal background check, employers use race to infer past criminal activity, especially employers with a strong stated aversion to hiring ex-offenders." (Thanks to Workplace Fairness for the tip.)

Holiday and end-of-year bonuses - Are employee bonuses a part of your compensation plan this year? Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer reminds us of the need to stay compliant with tax laws: IRS Guidelines on Bonuses and Special Awards (PDF).

The graying of America - Chris McKinney of HR Lawyers Blog asks if your organization is prepared for the aging workforce. He posts about a recent AARP survey entitled "Business Executives' Attitudes Toward the Aging Workforce: Aware But Not Prepared?" In the survey, only one in seven respondents believe their organization is very committed to retaining employees who are approaching retirement, yet nine out of ten agreed that it is challenging to find the skills and experience that they need. Chris notes that employers will need to bridge this disconnect between what they know they need to be doing and what they actually are doing.

How does your turnover compare? - Whatnot at Work posts on the latest voluntary employment turnover rates as released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics through August 2006. The report notes:

"Overall U.S. voluntary turnover increased slightly to 23.4% annually, up from 22.7% the previous year. The highest turnover by far is still in the Accommodation and Food Services sector at 56.4% and the Leisure and Hospitality sector at 52.2%. Sectors that saw the highest increase in turnover were Accommodation and Food Services, up 7% from the previous year, Leisure and Hospitality, up 5.4% and Information, up 4.5%. The only sectors seeing a (slight) decrease in turnover were Real Estate, Natural Resources and Mining, and Professional and Business Services."

What Homer Simpson can tell you about distinguishing exempt vs nonexempt workers - Workforce features and amusing and instructive article by Robert S. Nelson entitled All You Need to Know About Overtime Exemptions You Can Learn From TV. He suggests that when it comes to the legal complexities that govern the distinction between salaried and hourly workers, popular TV might be a better teacher than labor lawyers because it provides powerful archetypes and common frames of reference to aid decision making. Thanks to Workplace Prof Blog for the pointer, as well as for this expensive real-world lesson about what can happen when a company makes misjudgements in this area: IBM resolves overtime-pay lawsuit with $65M.

And on the lighter side...

November 17, 2006

News briefs: workforce planning, ADA, fabulous perks, Friday fun , and more

People planning - Human Resources: "Right" Sizing - an article in Industry Week uses the experience of Corning Company as a springboard for a discussion on strategic workforce planning, offering 12 tips for how to implement the practice. The article defines this as:

"Strategic workforce planning is not a new name for some old practice, emphasizes Mary B. Young, a senior researcher at the Conference Board. Strategic workforce planning, for example, assumes the business environment is constantly changing. It includes, she notes, asking such questions as, "What if the price of oil drops?" or "What if the Democrats win the election?" What's more, "you can look at the differences between different operating businesses, or different locations or even under different managers," she says.
In contrast, workforce planning of the past has often focused simply on headcount and produced a static projection of the number of people likely to be needed sometime in the future, Young says. "Too often, the net result was a humongous report, blinding spreadsheets and a dizzying amount of data that provided very little value to the business."

Up, up, and away - Joanne Wojcik of Business Insurance reports on a recent survey conducted by the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers on employer health-care costs for 2007. Among the findings:

"According to the survey, while 41% of large employers (501 or more employees) saw rate increases ranging between 6% and 10% for 2007, only 16% of small employers (50 or fewer employees) saw rate hikes that low at renewal.
At the other end of the spectrum, 50% of small employers saw rate hikes between 11% and 15% for 2007, while only 19% of large employers saw similar increases at renewal."

Accommodating employers - Jonathan O. Hafen discusses How Employers Can Address Mental Illness Claims Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in an excellent article in Here's an excerpt:

"Recent cases suggest that employers should do more to confirm that an alleged mental illness qualifies as a "disability" under the ADA before proceeding to discuss potential accommodations. The process of confirming a qualifying disability will also often narrow the range of required accommodations, thereby benefiting the employer. When an employee requests an accommodation based on a mental illness, the employer should make the following determinations prior to addressing potential accommodations: 1) has the alleged mental illness been properly diagnosed?; 2) is the mental illness a long-term pervasive problem which substantially limits a major life activity?; and 3) can the employee, with or without reasonable accommodation, continue to perform the essential job functions in light of the mental illness?"

Comparing workers comp costs - Workers comp is regulated by 50 separate laws. and each state has different benefits and costs. In Workers Comp Insider, Tom Lynch discusses various tools for a state-by-state workers comp cost comparison. Alaska just took the title away from California for the state with the highest cost and North Dakota has the lowest cost. See where your state falls on the list. (PDF)

Fabulous perks - at Ask MetaFilter, a member asks what types of jobs have awesome perks/benefits? and other members respond. Educational benefits are frequently cited.

Friday fun - Addressing Employee Complaints, a YouTube video clip brought to you from the wonderful folks at

November 13, 2006

Short takes: data security, "gruntled" employees, voter preferences, and more

How secure is your employee data? - Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer discusses how data for 60,000 Starbucks employees is missing. Corporate security breaches of confidential employee records are becoming increasingly common - how secure are your organization's employment records?

Good new blog find - We recently discovered a great new blog called Gruntled Employees by Jay Shepherd, CEO of a Boston law firm that specializes in employment issues. Check out some recent posts we enjoyed: The Cost of Employee Turnover and Workplace romance: love affairs and lawsuits. We'll be adding this blog to our sidebar.

What the voters want at the workplace - Brent Hunsberger of The Oregonian's At Work blog discusses some initiatives that recently passed at the polls: six states approve minimum-wage hikes and San Francisco voters embrace mandatory paid sick days.

What do you love about HR? - This amusing video parody lampoons the benefits of a career in human resources.

Top HR concerns - Are compliance issues your biggest worry? If so, you aren't alone. George’s Employment Blawg discusses a recent compilation of surveys that amalgamate the top concerns of HR practitioners.

Compliance - Speaking of compliance, do you need a source to check for and order your state's mandatory posting requirements? Try Labor Law Poster.

Bullies at work - Workplace Prof Blog discusses a recent study about bullies in the workplace. " ... bullied employees likened their experiences to a battle, water torture, a nightmare or a noxious substance. Understanding the seriousness of workplace bullying and what it feels like to get bullied could help managers put the brakes on the behavior, shown to afflict 25 to 30 percent of employees sometime during their careers."

October 31, 2006

HR practitioners wanted: submit your entries

Winning Workplaces - Are you one? WSJ wants to know - Are you an independent company with fewer than 500 employees and no more than $200 million in annual revenues? Have you been in business at least 5 years? Is your workplace outstanding? If so, Wall Street Journal wants to know for its first annual ranking of the Top Small Workplaces. They are looking for "small employers that foster teamwork, flexibility, high productivity and innovation while also treating their employees with respect, providing opportunities for professional growth and advancement, and providing benefits, both traditional and nontraditional, that make the employee experience better." To nominate an employer, fill out the online nomination form by January 31, 2007.

Benefit News Benefit Blockbuster Poll - Thanks to Benefit News Connect newsletter for the above tip. We get this newsletter twice a week, free, and you can too - as well as having free access to most of the site simply by registering as a member. And while there, you might take part their ‘Benefits Blockbusters’ poll. If you are a veteran HR practitioner, Employee Benefit News is looking for your feedback on the most significant events or trends that have shaped employee benefits and your career in the last 20 years. Send one or more “nominees” for what should be included in their “Benefits Blockbusters” list for the January issue. They invite you to "... consider all aspects of benefits, including technology, laws, industry, business and societal trends. Blockbusters may be positive or negative. We’d also like to know why you think your picks deserve to make the list." Send nominations - which will be confidential - to

Participate in a HR benchmarking survey - Are you asked to do more and more every year, and given less resources to do it with? If so, you aren't alone. The Boeing Company and Best Practices, LLC, are conducting a survey to establish comprehensive performance and cost benchmarks for HR functions in large organizations. If you are an HR practitioner in a Fortune 500 company, you may want to participate before November 15. Access the benchmarking survey and past survey results here.

Events in November - two events that should be on your radar screen this November include: National Diabetes Month and the Great American Smoke Out on November 16. For other seasonal events, see our post on free resources for wellness programs.

October 27, 2006

Short takes: harassment, Halloween, hiring, and more

Hip-hop harassment - At Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer, Michael Fox discusses a recent $15.5 million court decision in a sexual harassment and gender discrimination suit against The Source, a prominent hip-hop publication. The suit was filed by Kim Osorio, the former editor in chief, who was fired because she refused to drop her complaints against the publication. The defense essentially amounted to "it goes with the territory," but the court decided otherwise.

Halloween at work - At George's Employment Blog, George posts about Halloween in the workplace. Does your organization encourage Halloween frivolity? Here's a nice tale of how some nurses celebrate Halloween at work. William Wyberg of the Des Moines Register discusses some local workplaces that celebrate Halloween and offers employees some tips for appropriate costumes. And Joni Lucas of HR Magazine offers her tips on Halloween Parties: A Tricky Treat - office parties. Here are some truly gruesome recipes should you opt for the party route. On second thought, they aren't very PC, but we couldn't resist passing them along.

Learning from Google - HRMarketer examines ways that Google is honing its hiring practices as it grows, drawing lessons for other employers in how to expeditiously build a talent pool.

Keeping workers safe - Workplace Prof Blog posts about the Top 10 Violated OSHA Standards. Wonder how you stack up? Here's a tool so you you can learn the most frequently violated OSHA standards for your business size and industry class.

Friday FMLA fun - How well do you know the law? Take the Family Medical Leave Act Quiz.

Are you a bad boss? - Are you trying to be friends with the people you manage? If so, you top the list of Bosses' 10 biggest sins as revealed in a recent survey of 900+ employees. Take the quiz to see how good a boss you are.

Texas non-compete agreements - At HR Lawyers Blog, Chris McKinney discusses a recent Texas Supreme Court decision that changes the nature of non-compete agreements.

October 19, 2006

News briefs: compliance, nightmares, business tips from Google

One-stop regulatory resource. Researching federal regulatory information just got a whole lot easier. The fed's new website bills itself as the U.S. government's official link to business and a one-stop compliance resource. The site is managed by the US Small Business Administration in collaboration with more than 20 other federal agencies. The stated purpose is to serve as a gateway or single access point to government services and information.

Legal issues that keep HR managers awake at night - In an article in Human Resource Executive entitled Liable Nightmares, legal experts pinpoint and discuss five major areas of concern to human resource executives: class-action lawsuits, harassment claims, retaliation claims, leave issues, and wage-and-hour class-action cases.

More Employee Problems at Wal-Mart - It's not easy to maintain the market position as the lowest cost retailer. Its a hard fought battle, and some think that all too often, employees are the casualties. Earlier in the week, we learned how a Pennsylvania court levied a $78 million dollar judgement against the retail behemoth for requiring employees to go off the clock during lunches and breaks. Now, Business Week brings us a story about 200 Florida workers who walked off the job to protest new policies and procedures. Among the grievances: cutting the hours of full-time employees from 40 hours a week to 32 hours, with a corresponding wage cut; a policy that workers be available for shifts around the clock; and a move to computerized rather than human scheduling, which workers felt would result in erratic schedules. According to the article:

The scheduling changes, which have been rolled out in Wal-Mart stores around the country in recent weeks, are a sign that the retailer is acting on ideas outlined in an internal document that was leaked last year. In the memo, a Wal-Mart executive said it would find ways to rid its payroll of full-time and unhealthy employees who are more expensive for the company to retain.
Wal-Mart executives have recently told Wall Street analysts that the company wants to transform its workforce from 20% part-time to 40%.

This employee action has all the flavor of unionization, although Wal-Mart is strong in its anti-union stance, even closing a Canadian store that had voted in a union.

How to run a meeting like Google - You can't argue with Google's success, so you might as well learn from it. Marissa Mayer, Google's vice-president of search products, holds an average of 70 meetings a week. She shares her tips on six key steps to running an effective meeting.

Alphabet soup - Do employee benefit acronyms leave you flummoxed? Can't keep your ADA straight from your ADB? Atty. B. Janell Grenier has compiled a handy Benefit Acronym Lexicon. Also, for the latest in tax, benefits, and ERISA law, visit her blog, Benefitsblog.

October 16, 2006

Short takes: brands, body art, lunch breaks, and more

Your employees are critical to your brand - Regina Miller at HR's Brand New Experience asks how a company can design and build a customer experience program without considering the employee experience. Her essay reminds us that building a good brand and a solid and authentic corporate reputation should start from the inside and work its way out.

A hefty lunch tab - Workplace Prof Blog discusses the recent Pennsylvania ruling, a $78.47 million judgement against Wal-Mart, for making employees go "off the clock" during lunch and rest breaks. Last year, Wal-Mart was also slapped with a $172 million judgement in California for failing to provide legally-mandated meal breaks to some 200,000 employees. Both judgements are still subject to appeal.

More on drugs - Labor and Employment Law Blog comments on Drug Free Work Week and adds a discussion about drug testing, including some helpful steps employers can take to minimize the legal risks of drug testing. While much of the emphasis of Drug Free Work Week will be on drugs, employers shouldn't forget that alcohol is arguably the drug that is most frequently abused, both on and off the job. Try the Alcohol Cost Calculator to assess the costs to your company.

To tattoo or not to tattoo - Making the rounds of the blogosphere this last week was a photo and story about Bruce Potts, a University of New Mexico instructor who sports a full-face tribal tattoo. (Another story is available at the Daily Lobo, but free registration may be required) While not commenting specifically on this person, Jack Yoest at Small Business Trends notes that one third of the population 18 to 29 has a tattoo and discusses issues related to hiring job candidates with tattoos and piercings. According to a survey conducted by Vault, 58% of employer respondents said they would be less likely to hire someone with visible tattoos or body piercings, while 38% said it would have no effect on their decision. We'd be interested in hearing your thoughts. If your company has a policy about body art, leave a comment to tell us about it.

Tenure report - The median number of years that wage and salary workers have been with their current employer was 4.0 years as of January 2006, unchanged from January 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report on Employee Tenure. More information is available in the report by demographic.

Powerful women - Fortune issued a list of the 50 most powerful women in business. How are women faring in your organization?

On the lighter side
The "Evil Human Resources Director's" take on salaries - When we compiled our list of HR calculators the other day, we were remiss in overlooking the invaluable Catbert Salary Calculator.

Power napping - We talked about sleep deprivation and the importance of sleep to good productivity the other day. Regina Miller at HR's Brand New Experience brings things to to a whole new level - perhaps your organization needs napping pods to ensure maximum productivity?

October 5, 2006

Interesting stories from the blogosphere

Recruitment: the good, the bad, and the ugly - What do Google, Starbucks, MGM Grand, and the U.S. Army have in common? Apparently, they all have refined the art of recruitment. HR Blog points us to an article by Dr. John Sullivan discussing the 12 best recruitment practices to copy. And Workplace Prof Blog points us to an article in the Wall St. Journal's Career Journal that discusses the antithesis of best practices: A Rude Selection Process Can Mirror Working Conditions

Family-friendly workplaces - Working Mother names the 100 best companies to work for, and discusses the practices that earned them a place on the list - well worth a read. Thanks to Chris Mckinney at The HR Lawyer's Blog for the pointer.

Grief in the workplace - Our sincere condolences to Brent Hundberger and his co-workers on the recent untimely death of a colleague. We often spend as much time with our work colleagues as we do with our families so a loss can be a painful and traumatic event. We've found a couple of articles that offer some words of advice for handling grief in the workplace: Coping with the Death of a Coworker and When a Co-worker Dies (PDF).

Preventing harassment - George Kittredge at Labor and Employment Law Blog reminds us that "... it generally is necessary and good business practice for employers to establish, publicize and enforce anti-harassment policies and complaint procedures. As the Supreme Court stated, "Title VII is designed to encourage the creation of anti-harassment policies and effective grievance mechanisms." He offers Six Elements Of An Anti-Harassment Policy.

Speaking of harassment - be sure to tell your managers that strip searches are against company policy - In our "what were they thinking" story of the week, we have a lawsuit dealing with restaurant managers who face criminal charges for conducting strip searches of a fellow employee. Apparently, dozens of fast-food managers throughout the country have been the victim of a bizarre hoax. Callers posing as police name an employee who is supposedly involved in a crime such as theft or drug possession. The caller directs the manager to detain that employee, and subsequently orders the manager to conduct a progressively invasive strip search of the alleged criminal. If you think this all sounds too bizarre to be true, you are sadly mistaken - just conduct a simple Google search to learn how many people have been taken in by this, and the headaches that it causes for employers ... to say nothing of the hapless victims who are subject to shocking humiliation and degradation.

Trend watch: medical tourism - The folks at Workers Comp Insider discuss the growth of medical tourism as more and more people travel to India, Malaysia, Thailand, and other countries to have surgery performed at a fraction of what such surgeries would cost here in the U.S. At least one cost-conscious employer tried to get an employee to travel abroad for an expensive procedure, raising the ire of the employee's union, which put a halt to the plans. Workers Comp Insider wonders if we will see more employers seeking to "offshore" expensive medical procedures.

On the lighter side... The Human Capitalist points us to an engaging little musical video clip that demonstrates synchronizing talent and performance management raised to an art form.

September 22, 2006

Web smorgasbord: Worst summer job contest, morbid obesity, "just cause" terminations & more

You think your job is bad? just announced the finalists for their "Worst Summer Jobs" contest - go cast your vote for the "winner." I think many readers find it amusing to read these horror stories, but for those of us in HR, it is truly cringe-worthy stuff in the "how not to treat your employees" genre. Reading it also made us better understand why so many teens get injured on the job, yikes. Thanks to Brent Hunsberger of OregonianLive at Work for the pointer.

Speaking of bad jobs - Quit complaining about your job.

What is just cause? - George Kittredge at Labor and Employment Law Blog offers a "Just Cause" Checklist - seven questions that employers should ask themselves before discharging or disciplining an employee. George notes that many employers believe that their employees are employed "at will" and can be fired anytime, but the reality is that federal and state statutes offer some form of protection to virtually every employee that can cause nightmares for the careless employer. (Note - George's blog came to our attention when he was kind enough to comment on one of our posts. We've added it to our blogroll in the sidebar on the right.)

How much does problem drinking cost your company? Get an estimate at the Alcohol Cost Calculator for Business. Choose your industry, type your total number of employees, and choose your primary state of business.

Morbid obesity - Workers Comp Insider has an interesting post entitled Morbid Obesity and the ADA: Maybe Protected, Maybe Not that deals with a recent court ruling about whether morbid obesity is a condition that falls under the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It involves the case of a 400+ pound driver and freight handler for Watkins Motor Lines who filed a wrongful termination suit with the EEOC. Jon Coppelman offers some good advice to employers about where to keep the focus to stay on the right side of these thorny issues.

Tired from spending too much time reading weblogs? - Too much time working at the computer can take its toll. check out these RSI exercises for preventing and healing carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive stress injuries - you can do most of them at or near your desk. If yours is a computer-intensive workplace, you may want to share these exercises with your employees.

September 6, 2006

Notes from the blogosphere

Here are some items of note that we've found on other weblogs this week.

The whole world may be watching - Chris McKinney at The HR Lawyer's Blog discusses the case of a a whistle-blowing employee who uses YouTube as a vehicle for his message. In an environment where technology allows anyone to have a soapbox, Chris reminds employers to "... handle workplace issues as if the whole world is watching because... they just might be."

Genghis Khan, management guru? - What lessons can we learn from the Genghis Khan school of management? While they may not exactly fall into the "I'm OK, you're OK" school of management, Jon Coppelman of Workers Comp Insider thinks there are several lessons to be learned, and most of them positive. It's a worthwhile read.

Using social networking sites for background checks - George Leonard hosts George's Employment Blawg, a great employment law weblog that is one of our favorite regular reads. We note that he has just authored an article for on the legality of employers using MySpace, Facebook and other social networking sites for background checking. Some employers use information gained from such sites as the basis for firing employees or rejecting job candidates. In the article, he explores such issues as discrimination and invasion of privacy. We think his summary is worth quoting:

"I would advise employers to cut applicants and employees some slack. You were once young too and maybe did similar things -- if not publicly on the Internet. Ask yourself how relevant the information creating the negative impression is to job performance. If you are going to do Internet searches and use them as a basis for employment decisions, you better document them and do it consistently, without regard to any legally protected classifications, e.g. race, sex, age. I also agree 100% with Steven's suggestion to use social networking sites and blogs in a positive fashion in your search to find good candidates. Consider the whole person, of whom the Internet persona is not always a fully accurate reflection."

Labor Day wrap-up - Kudos to the editors of Workplace Prof Blog for compiling an excellent Blawg Review for Labor Day 2006 - a wrap-up of labor-related stories from HR, labor, and employment law blogs. There's a wide variety of interesting approaches to posts commemorating the holiday. If you are new to HR-related blogs, this is a good way to get a sampling.

More from the "U R fired" file - Diane Pfadenhauer at Strategic Human Resources Lawyer points us to another case of termination by technology. Should companies be issuing pink slips to 400 people via e-mail? We noted a similar case recently - see the last item in this post.

August 24, 2006

HR News and views

Dangerous work - What are America's most dangerous jobs? (free registration may be required) The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its annual report on workplace fatalities (PDF), complete with graphs and charts about what types of events cause fatalities and in which industries fatalities occur most frequently. Transportation incidents lead the list, accounting for 43% of all fatalities. At 14%, homicides are the second most frequent cause of work-related deaths. While the raw number of fatalities seems to have taken a slight dip, work fatalities have increased for Hispanics, blacks, and women.

E-mail burden - A typical office worker gets more than 100 e-mail messages a day. In an article entitled Businesses Struggle Under Growing Weight Of E-Mail, Information Week explores issues of productivity, confidentiality, archiving, and e-mail monitoring. And as if the burden of e-mail weren't bad enough, a Rutgers study is suggesting that workers can become "techno-addicts," potentially creating new employer liabilities. Is information and communication technology (ICT) addiction the stress claim of the future?

Workers comp fraud - Workers Comp Insider talks about claimant fraud and how to avoid it. But workers aren't the only perpetrators of fraud - fradulent employers cost the system $30 billion a year.

Unhappy workers? - Are your professional workers good targets for recruiters? Yes, if they aren't happy with their current job. Workforce Week reports on a recent survey that points to a downturn in employee satisfaction. At least one-third of the survey participants were noncommittal about staying in their present job. The article suggests that employers need to be proactive in establishing programs and communications to ensure worker retention.

Susan Heatherfield of's Human Resources talks about employees' most frequent complaints, and offers a unique prescription for employers to enhance satisfaction and ensure retention: Put more fun and humor in the workplace.

Another reason to keep employees happy - An article by Leah Carlson Shepherd in Employee Benefit News discusses the link between disability and depression and suggests that integrating mental health and disability benefits can help to lower costs and improve health outcomes.

August 4, 2006

HR news and views

HR people are busy folks, so keeping up with news and trends can often get the short end of the stick when competing with very real human issues. We think one of the important functions that this blog can serve is to find and filter some of the best resources that we find out there on the Web. From time to time, we’ll feature a collection of links from other blogs that we like and read, as well as links to news stories that we think are noteworthy.

Mistakes to avoid - Susan Heatherfield of's Human Resources blog talks about twenty dumb things organizations do to mess up their relationship with people - it's well worth a read. Here's a sampling - one that we see all too often:

“Fail to address behavior and actions of people that are inconsistent with stated and published organizational expectations and policies. (Better yet, let non-conformance go on until you are out of patience; then ambush the next offender with a disciplinary action!)”

Need-to-know info re: harassment - Workforce Management features an article that discusses the Supreme Court's recent ruling, which expanded the view of what the law considers retaliation against workers who complain about sexual harassment. Managers everywhere, take note. (note: free registration may be required)

Don't get caught short - Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer reminds us how critical it is for businesses to have a disaster preparedness and response plan that deals with employee-related issues. Summarizing an article from one of the largest law firms in Louisiana, she provides some concrete recommendations that employers should take before and after a crisis.

Breast-feeding at work - Do you have a breast-feeding policy in place? Brent Hunsberger of At Work reports on a new Department of Health and Human Services initiative designed to help employers accommodate mothers who are breastfeeding. He notes that returning to work has been cited as one of the top three barriers to new mothers breastfeeding exclusively for six months after their baby is born, the length of time that the Centers for Disease Control recommends.

Baseball's been very, very good to me - What do HR and baseball have in common? A lot. If you haven't yet visited author Jeff Angus's entertaining and informative blog, Management by Baseball, check out his two part series White Sox Lesson Part I:Coaching Your Players, Don Cooper Style, followed by Part 2.

Insurance at a glance - Is insurance part of your managerial purview? If so, you can follow along with important news at Business Insurance Breaking News.

eXTReMe Tracker