Category Archives: HR profession

Hiking the ‘Living Wage’ in NYC

According to the New York Times, Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to sign an executive order today designed to “significantly expand” New York City’s living wage law, covering thousands of previously exempt workers and raising the hourly wage itself, to $13.13 from $11.90, for workers who do not receive benefits.

The executive order will immediately cover employees of commercial tenants on projects that receive more than $1 million in city subsidies going forward. Workers who receive benefits such as health insurance will earn $11.50 an hour, compared with $10.30 before, the paper notes.

And the current living wage law, passed in 2012, has applied to about 1,200 jobs, officials say, excusing many retailers and companies that lease space as part of city-subsidized projects, the paper reports.

The paper says the living-wage change is also intended to frame a looming debate in Albany, where Mr. de Blasio hopes to win the authority to set the citywide minimum wage at the same amount. If Mr. de Blasio succeeds in matching the minimum wage to the living wage, all hourly workers in the city would earn more than $15 by 2019, according to the city’s projections.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who in February said that allowing local governments to set their own minimum wages would yield “a chaotic situation,” seemed to have reversed himself months later. He said he would support a plan, advocated by the Working Families Party, that allowed municipalities with higher costs of living to set their own minimum wages.

As a result, the governor has endorsed an increase to $10.10 in the statewide minimum wage, with a provision allowing New York City and other areas to raise their minimums as much as 30 percent higher, to $13.13.

It will be interesting to see how — and if — New York City’s example is adopted elsewhere when it comes to setting a higher bar for a living wage for workers.

Regardless, HR leaders should keep an eye on this development to ensure they won’t be caught off guard when a living-wage boost may be introduced in their municipality or state.

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Yes, a ‘Cantankerous Jerk’ Can Be Fired

177030950 -- angry bossCan a person be lawfully terminated just for being a hard-core grump? Yes, says the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in the case of Matthew Weaving v. City of Hillsboro.

Weaving, an officer with the Hillsboro (Ore.) Police Department, was cited several times over a period of years for conflicts with fellow employees. A formal report — issued after a departmental investigation of an officer’s grievance about him — concluded he was “tyrannical, unapproachable, belittling, demeaning, threatening, intimidating, arrogant and vindictive.” (That’s quite a list.)

Based on the investigation, which also found Weaving had created a hostile work environment and did not possess the emotional intelligence to work in a team environment, he was fired Dec. 11, 2009, after three years with the force.

He sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, claiming he had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and this condition caused his work conflicts and limited his ability to work or interact with others (a requirement of his job).

He contended his ADHD was a disability, which a district court upheld, but the appeals court reversed. (For everything you ever wanted to know about Weaving’s contention and how both courts viewed the ADHD/ADA issue, see both links above.)

Considering Weaving’s argument that ADHD falls under the ADA, I thought I’d share several earlier blog posts from some of us at HRE that delve into other expansions of, or attempts to expand, the definition of disability under the law.

This one, by David Shadovitz, delves into an appeals court ruling establishing that temporary impairments are now allowed under the law so long as they’re severe enough.

This post, by Mark McGraw, also gets into the temporary-condition allowance, in a different lawsuit, and mentions the American Medical Association’s new definition of obesity as a disease, adding exponentially to the ranks of the disabled.

And this from me a few years back highlights an informal letter issued by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission warning that requiring a high-school diploma from a job applicant might violate the Americans with Disabilities Act because the requirement could effectively screen out anyone unable to graduate because of a learning disability.

Meanwhile, in this latest case, employers have good reason to breathe a sigh of relief, says Myra Creighton, a partner with Atlanta-based Fisher & Phillips. The case, she told me, “upholds the principle that employers can enforce their employee-conduct standards governing personal interaction without worrying that the employee will blame his or her bad behavior on his or her disability.”

The ruling doesn’t, however, rule out ADHD as a disability if the plaintiff can prove the condition limits his or her ability to work.

As the Practical Law piece in the first link above puts it, the Ninth Circuit majority held “that the employee’s condition … did not rise to the level of disability [and argued] that a different holding … would open employers to potential liability each time they take an adverse-employment action concerning a hostile employee.”

The dissenting minority, however, it says, notes that “employers are [still] left in the complicated position of having to determine whether an individual, who has been properly diagnosed with ADHD, should be deemed disabled or just a jerk.”

 

 

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Learning the Language

EnglishEmployers with hopes of maintaining a skilled U.S. workforce in the future would be wise to initiate English-education programs in the present, according to a just-released report from the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

The study, which the Washington, D.C.-based think tank describes as “the first-ever metro-level analysis of limited English-proficient workers in U.S. metropolitan areas,” finds almost one in 10 adults of working age in the United States—19.2 million people between the ages of 16 and 64—lacks full proficiency in English.

Based on U.S. Census Bureau data culled from a 2012 survey, Brookings’ Investing in English Skills: The Limited English Proficient Workforce in U.S. Metropolitan Areas identified 89 of the most populous U.S. metro areas and ranked them for size and share of their population that is limited English-proficient (LEP) as well as for growth or decline in limited English-proficient population since 2000. The report also provides detailed characteristics of metro areas’ LEP workforce, including the languages they speak, the occupations and industries in which they work, employment rates, median income and educational attainment.

According to the study, metro areas with a high concentration of immigrants, especially metro areas in California and Texas, “dominate the list of metros with the highest share of their working-age populations that is LEP,” according to a Brookings statement. Among the top 10 metro areas studied, Miami is the only one not located in either California or Texas.

In addition to recommending increased funding from the Workforce Investing Act; targeted outreach and instructional innovation enabling LEP adults to access instruction at the worksite, online and by mobile device; the report urges employers to invest in English-education programs, particularly companies operating in industries with the highest numbers of LEP workers, such as manufacturing, food services, construction and the retail trade.

“English proficiency is the most essential means of opening doors to economic opportunity for immigrant workers in the United States,” says Jill H. Wilson, senior research analyst and associate fellow at the Brookings Institution, and author of the report, in a statement. “Yet access to acquiring these skills is persistently limited by a lack of resources and attention.”

In the same statement, Wilson theorizes that the price for failing to provide these workers with more opportunities to improve their English-speaking skills will only get steeper with time.

“Given the large number of LEP workers in the United States, and the fact that virtually all of the growth in the U.S. labor force over the next four decades is projected to come from immigrants and their children, it is in our collective interest to tackle this challenge head on.”

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Google’s CHRO on Resume Mistakes

Laszlo Bock, the senior vice president of people operations at Google — and HRE’s 2010 HR Executive of the Year — recently weighed in on LinkedIn on the five biggest mistakes he sees on resumes and how to correct them.

When you helm HR at one of the most-admired, most-envied tech companies in the world — one that can reportedly receive more than 50,000 resumes in a single week — it should surprise no one that Bock says he personally has seen more than 20,000 resumes himself.

 “I have seen A LOT of resumes,” he says.

While the five mistakes Bock shares are not exactly earth-shattering — typos, length, formatting, sharing confidential information and lying — his insight adds a certain gravitas to the conversation, especially on the topic of confidentiality and who you can trust to keep your company’s secrets once you let them in the door:

I once received a resume from an applicant working at a top-three consulting firm. This firm had a strict confidentiality policy: client names were never to be shared. On the resume, the candidate wrote: “Consulted to a major software company in Redmond, Washington.” Rejected! There’s an inherent conflict between your employer’s needs (keep business secrets confidential) and your needs (show how awesome I am so I can get a better job). So candidates often find ways to honor the letter of their confidentiality agreements but not the spirit. It’s a mistake. While this candidate didn’t mention Microsoft specifically, any reviewer knew that’s what he meant. In a very rough audit, we found that at least 5-10% of resumes reveal confidential information. Which tells me, as an employer, that I should never hire those candidates … unless I want my own trade secrets emailed to my competitors.

While Bock’s post is of course more intended for the job seeker than the hiring manager, it is nonetheless heartening to see such advice earnestly dispensed by the top HR person at one of the hardest places on the entire planet to get hired.

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Bullying Touches All Races and Roles

467291571 -- bullying2A fairly comprehensive — and concerning — report on bullying was released by CareerBuilder on Thursday, showing office bullying knows no partiality when it comes to who the victims are.

The survey of 3,372 U.S. full-time, private-sector employees, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Chicago-based CareerBuilder, shows 28 percent of respondents have felt bullied at work and 19 percent of them left their jobs because of it.

More importantly, while the prevalence of bullying is higher among certain minorities and workers with lower incomes, the study finds workers in management roles, those with post-secondary education and other workforce segments are not immune.

“One of the most surprising takeaways from the study was that bullying impacts workers of all backgrounds regardless of race, education, income and level of authority within an organization,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder.

“Many of the workers who have experienced this don’t confront the bully or elect not to report the incidents,” she says, “which can prolong a negative work experience that leads some to leave their jobs.”

Here’s how the percentages of respondents who say they are currently being bullied break down in the study:

Job Level

  • Management (manager, director, team leader, vice president and above) – 27 percent
  • Professional and technical – 21 percent
  • Entry-level/administrative and clerical– 26 percent

Highest Level of Education Attained

  • High-school graduate – 28 percent
  • Associate’s degree – 21 percent
  • Bachelor’s degree or higher – 23 percent

Compensation Level

  • Earning less than $50,000 – 28 percent
  • Earning $50,000 or more – 19 percent

And here’s what I found to be a pretty interesting breakdown as well, the varying ways bullying victims felt bullied on the job:

  • Falsely accused of mistakes he/she didn’t make – 43 percent,
  • Comments were ignored, dismissed or not acknowledged – 41 percent,
  • A different set of standards or policies was used for the worker – 37 percent,
  • Gossip was spread about the worker – 34 percent,
  • Constantly criticized by the boss or co-workers – 32 percent,
  • Belittling comments were made about the person’s work during meetings – 29 percent,
  • Yelled at by the boss in front of co-workers – 27 percent,
  • Purposely excluded from projects or meetings – 20 percent,
  • Credit for his/her work was stolen – 20 percent, and
  • Picked on for personal attributes (race, gender, appearance, etc.) – 20 percent.

And you might find this surprising. I did. Comparing the public and private sectors, workers in government were nearly twice as likely to report being bullied (47 percent) than those in the corporate world (28 percent).

Meanwhile, as David Shadovitz reported back in July, the nation’s road to anti-bullying legislation at the state level — starting with Tennessee — appears to be a slow one, despite the fact that 28 states have introduced such legislation this year.

In fact, as Mark McGraw posted on this blog a little later that month, one of those states — New Hampshire — went in the opposite direction, when its governor — Maggie Hassan — vetoed the bill pending there because its definition of abusive conduct was too broad.

The silver lining there, McGraw says, is that both the governor and the bill’s sponsor acknowledge workplace bullying is a problem that needs to be dealt with.

My guess is the people in that camp far outweigh those questioning the problem’s seriousness. CareerBuilder’s certainly in the former. So what’s it gonna take to get more laws on the books?

 

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Men, Women, Competition and Cooperation

Common stereotypes may tell us that men are more competitive and women are more cooperative, but researchers at Aalto University in Finland recently studied the physiological responses to both competitive and cooperative play in order to investigate respondents’ emotions to see how males and females are motivated to behave in these situations.

So, what did the researchers find?

While males did enjoy competition more than cooperation, females enjoyed both competition and cooperation equally.

(The results of the research were published in an article in the international science journal PLOS ONE.)

“Although there is a lot of research on gender differences, nobody has studied the emotions – the physiological mechanism that steers our behavior – of competitive and cooperative activities in males and females before. This gives a better insight into why people behave the way they do. You may unconsciously give false information about your motivations, but your body doesn’t lie,” said researcher Matias Kivikangas.

Kivikangas also said the results suggest that parts of the common stereotypes are untrue, at least in that women are not enjoying cooperation any more than competition.

And, he added, “it seems that the fact that men do enjoy competition more than cooperation might actually be a consequence from gender expectations rather than innate differences.”

According to the press release announcing the findings, the two studies employed cooperative and competitive digital games to test the responses. While this makes the responses more natural than a contrived experimental procedure, the intrinsically motivated nature of the activity limits the generalizability of the results.

‘Neither males or females experienced notable differences in negative emotions, indicating that only positive emotions are relevant in motivating competitive behavior. However, separate studies with other activities should be carried out as well, because I’d suspect that competition that the individual has not chosen themselves might elicit different emotional reactions’, Kivikangas added.

The implications of this study could indeed have some far-reaching  consequences in the workplace, especially in terms of how work groups are organized (i.e. competition-based vs. collaboration-based).

But for this admittedly male writer, the findings only confirm what I already learned from my childhood experiences playing (and losing) board games with my mom and sister: Women can be just as competitive — if not moreseo than — men.

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Intuition vs. Analytics

executive thinkingFor all the talk about data and analytics driving big business decisions, it seems most executives still rely primarily on their guts (and the guts of those around them) when it comes to crunch time.

That’s according to a new survey report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by PwC, which found 58 percent of 1,135 senior executives from around the world saying that intuition or experience, and the advice and experience of others, were their decision-making modes of choice.

In addition, the study saw 94 percent of respondents saying management is prepared to make significant decisions about the strategic direction of the business, but just one third said they relied mainly on data and analytics in making their last big decision. (Incidentally, the 43 percent of executives who said their companies are highly data-driven also reported the biggest improvements in decision making over the last two years.)

All of this isn’t to say that leadership is completely dismissive of data and analytics as decision-making tools, of course.

“While executives say they continue to rely on experience, advice or their own gut instinct, they also see investment in data and analytics as critical to success,” says Dan DiFilippo, global and U.S. data and analytics leader at PwC, in a statement. “The challenge is how to marry the two.”

Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents indicated their companies are taking on that challenge, with 63 percent saying the use of data has already changed how their company makes decisions, and will likely have an even greater impact in the future.

The top three adjustments senior executives anticipate making in terms of their organizations’ approach to decisions include evaluating the number of people involved in making a decision, relying more on specialized and enhanced analytics and data analysis, and using dedicated data teams to inform strategic decisions.

“Experience and intuition and the use of data and analytics are not mutually exclusive,” says DiFilippo. “Executives know the right questions to ask. Now they need to know how to get the right answers from external and internal data they’ve used over the last two years.”

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Dangers of Social-Media Discipline

judge's gaveEmployers should be concerned by the National Labor Relations Board’s latest decision pertaining to social media and work. If not concerned, then taking very special note of, at the very least.

This ruling, as detailed thoroughly in this posting from Littler Publications, centers around employees’ off-duty social-media posts about work, and what employers can and can’t mandate about that.

In the ruling, as the posting puts it, the board came down hard on the employer — Triple Play (a.k.a., Triple D) Sports Bar and Grille in Watertown, Conn. — in that it “set a high bar for employers before they can terminate employees based on speech otherwise protected by Section 7 [of the National Labor Relations Act], determined that [a Facebook] ‘Like’ in that case was protected, reversed the employee’s firing and found a key provision in the employer’s social-media policy to be unlawfully overbroad.” I’d say that’s coming down hard.

The case has to do with several employees who were complaining in a Facebook discussion about a mistake they suspected the bar’s owners of making when calculating their state tax withholding. Some in the discussion were simply following the lines of the conversation. Here is Littler’s rendition of what transpired:

The owners organized a staff meeting with the payroll provider to discuss the issue. Before this meeting, Jamie LaFrance, a former employee who had recently left [her job] started a Facebook conversation by posting the following status update:

“Maybe someone should do the owners of Triple Play a favor and buy it from them. They can’t even do the tax paperwork correctly!!! Now I OWE money…Wtf!!!!”

Several comments followed in which a customer and a current employee sympathized.

LaFrance continued by accusing the owners of making a mistake in calculating tax withholdings, and she expressed her intention to report the mistake to the state’s “labor board.” At that point, a current employee, Vincent Spinella, selected the “Like” option under LaFrance’s initial status update.

As the Facebook exchange continued, LaFrance verbally attacked one of the owners:

“Hahahaha he’s such a shady little man. He prolly [sic] pocketed it all from all our paychecks.”

Another current employee, Jillian Sanzone, followed this statement by posting: “I owe too. Such an asshole.”  More comments followed, including a statement by another current employee that she planned to discuss the tax issue at a staff meeting.

After learning about the Facebook exchange from one of LaFrance’s Facebook friends, a current employee who happened to be the sister of one of the owners, the owners questioned Spinella about his “Like.”  They told Spinella that it was “apparent” he wanted to work somewhere else because he had “liked the disparaging and defamatory comments” and terminated his employment.

Spinella accused Triple D of illegal actions under the NLRA and the case came before the NLRB. Triple D argued that the disparaging comments and Spinella’s “Like” took the case outside the realm of the NLRA’s Section 7 protection as a concerted activity. The board, however, ruled otherwise because: Spinella did not specifically “like” any of LaFrance’s allegedly defamatory comments in and of themselves, the comments weren’t intended for public consumption on a private Facebook page and no one mentioned anything disparaging about the employer, per se, but related everything to an ongoing labor — i.e., tax withholding — dispute.

The NLRB also ruled this portion of Triple D’s social-media policy was too broad:

“[W]hen Internet blogging, chat room discussions … or other forms of communication extend to employees … engaging in inappropriate discussions about the company, management, and/or co-workers, the employee may be violating the law and is subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment.  … In the event state or federal law precludes this policy, then it is of no force or effect.”

So what should you be concerned about exactly? Littler attorneys Philip Gordon and Zoe Argento offer these six takeaways in their post:

  1. Because a “Like” standing alone can be protected, employers should consider consulting with counsel before disciplining employees based on their selection of the “Like” button.
  2. When analyzing whether a “Like” is protected speech, employers should refer to the specific post or comment to which the “Like” relates.
  3. When analyzing whether otherwise protected social-media posts have crossed the line and lost their protection, the NLRB will apply different standards to disparagement of the employer’s products and services and defamation of the employer or members of its workforce.
  4. The actual malice standard applicable to defamatory statements imposes a heavy burden on the employer to prove that the employee posted content knowing it was false or it was made with reckless disregard for the truth.
  5. Employers should consult with counsel before firing an employee for allegedly defamatory or disparaging speech when that speech takes place in the context of a group discussion in social media.
  6. The NLRB continues to closely scrutinize social-media policies. Employers should recognize that language which is general or establishes subjective standards, such as “inappropriate discussion,” will raise a red flag for the board unless accompanied by examples that make it clear to a reasonable employee that the general language is not intended to encompass protected speech.  Relatedly, employers should expect the board to closely scrutinize any disclaimer before relying on it to “save” policy language from invalidation.  Such disclaimers have not been very helpful overall in terms of avoiding NLRB problems.

For your additional reading pleasure, and pointers, here are numerous blog posts we’ve written about social media in the workplace and social-media policies employers are drafting, should be drafting and shouldn’t be drafting in their attempts to control its impact.

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You Can Keep the Corner Office

AA049404HR leaders are always on the lookout for the organization’s next generation of leaders. A new survey, however, finds the majority of workers aren’t particularly interested in ever taking the reins.

A recent poll of 3,625 workers age 18 and up, conducted by Harris on behalf of CareerBuilder, found just one-third (34 percent) of these employees aspire to leadership positions. Just 7 percent indicated an interest in shooting for senior- or C-level management.

Why are these workers indifferent toward reaching the top levels of the organization? Most (52 percent) said they are simply satisfied in their current positions. Another 34 percent of this group indicated they don’t want to sacrifice work/life balance at the expense of advancement, while 17 percent said they don’t have the necessary education.

The survey did find the desire for leadership roles to be greater among men than women, by an 11 percent margin (40 percent versus 29 percent). At 44 percent and 39 percent, respectively, African-Americans and LGBT workers were more likely to take aim at leadership positions than the national average. Thirty-two percent of workers with disabilities reported similar aspirations, as did 35 percent of Hispanics.

The poll also addressed the glass-ceiling issue, asking respondents to what extent they felt firms held female and minorities back in their career pursuits. Overall, 20 percent of those surveyed said they feel his or her organization has a glass ceiling preventing women and minorities from reaching higher job levels. Just 9 percent of non-diverse males said they think a glass ceiling is in place at their companies.

These figures spiked, however, among those with designs on management and senior management positions. For example, 33 percent of females in this category felt such barriers existed, while 34 percent of Hispanics, 50 percent of African-Americans and 59 percent of workers with disabilities said the same. Twenty-one percent of LGBT workers seeking leadership roles indicated as much, slightly less than the national average.

While it seems many employees are content to forego the executive career track, “it is important … to promote a culture of meritocracy in which all workers, regardless of gender, race or sexual orientation, are able to reach senior-level roles based on their skills and past contributions alone,” said Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, in a statement. “The survey found that employees at companies that have initiatives to support aspiring female and minority leaders are far less likely to say a glass ceiling holds individuals back.”

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Exec Hiring Market Heating Up

Heading into 2015, almost two-thirds of employers are selectively or significantly increasing executive hiring levels, and a similar percentage of employed executives are now open to or actively pursuing new opportunities, according to a newly released survey focused solely on the executive market.

The results of the Greenwich, Conn.-based Claymore Group’s Labor Day 2014 Executive Talent Market survey were culled from the responses of 407 executives.

The executive respondents indicated that the industries they work in that are planning to hire the most in 2015 are:

* Consulting/Professional services,

* Healthcare/Pharm,

* Health insurance, and

* Wealth management.

Executives responding to the survey also indicated that the strongest functional areas demonstrating growth in executive hiring for 2015 are in are in sales, consulting/professional services, product management, risk management/compliance, and IT.

About two thirds of currently employed executives are now open to or actively exploring new opportunities. The best sources for executive employment were indicated to be Networking/Referrals and LinkedIn by both employed and unemployed executives. Facebook and job boards were viewed as the worst sources with internal, retained and contingency recruiters being viewed as good sources.

HR executives increasingly need to recognize the growth in executive hiring and demand by responding more rapidly in making offers as well as in making more competitive offers to attract the top executive talent as they are clearly more in demand, says Managing Director Steven Landberg.

“They also need to recognize a growing need to seek to retain their top executive talent as they will certainly be increasingly sought after by others in the talent market.”

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