Learning from tragedy–depression and mental health in the workplace

August 17, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 2 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

This past week, the entertainment world lost one of its best and brightest to an apparent suicide. Robin Williams, who brought laughter to so many for so long, took his own life at the age of 63. So much has been written about his talent over the past week that it’s difficult to understand or accept how such a thing could have happeneshutterstock_198363611d. But, Robin Williams’ tragic death is a reminder to all of us of the very real and very serious presence of anxiety and depression in our daily lives regardless of whether we ourselves or a close friend or family member suffers from these afflictions.

Just as much as depression can affect our home and family lives, it also has a serious impact at work. In 1995, the National Institute of Mental Health estimated that as many as 1 in 20 employees was suffering from depression. So, count how many employees work for your company and do the math. If you are a company of any size, it’s likely that at least one or more of your employees may be dealing with his or her own depression or that of a family member.

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All you need is employment law

August 04, 2014 - by: Andy Tanick 1 COMMENTS
Andy Tanick

Our blog seems to have focused quite a bit recently on stories from the world of sports, and given the number of professional athletes behaving badly lately, that comes as no surprise. So for this week, we’ll take a break from litigious punters, abusive running backs, and egotistical power forwards to focus on another area of entertainment. Our diversion is well-timed, because I was fortunate enough to attend Paul McCartney’s concert last weekend at Target Field in Minneapolis, where the hapless Minnesota Twins are usually the athletes playing badly, if not behaving badly.  Beatles

What do Paul McCartney and the Beatles have to do with employment law? Well, plenty as it turns out. In fact, with a little creativity, we can conjure up an employment-law subtext to many of the top hits by Sir Paul and his bandmates.

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Distraction or discrimination?

July 29, 2014 - by: David Kim 4 COMMENTS
David Kim

Of all the people associated with the National Football League, it was Tony Dungy who got himself in some hot water with comments he made over the last couple weeks. It was the same Tony Dungy who is looked upon as thoughtful and mild-mannered and whose persona, during his tenure as an NFL head coach and now as a TV analyst, evokes a sense of calm and reasonableness (at least to the general public) amidst the brash and in-your-face personalities that dominate the 24-hour news cycle when it comes to the NFL.shutterstock_179715650

Dungy’s appeal and reputation are some of the reasons why he hasn’t been pressed by the media or the public on statements he has made in the past. Remember in 2007 when then-Indianapolis Colts Coach Dungy publicly supported the Indiana Family Institute in seeking to make gay marriage illegal in the state? Probably not. How about 2010 when he publicly criticized New York Jets coach Rex Ryan for his expletive-laced vocabulary on the HBO series Hard Knocks, and stated the commissioner should consider calling Ryan to discuss how Ryan is “representing” the NFL? Maybe, but you probably just thought that yeah, Ryan sure does curse a lot. I’m not saying Dungy deserved criticism by any means, just pointing out that he received very little whereas other public personalities likely would have had a lot more questions to answer, warranted or not.

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Lies and statistics

July 24, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

I keep coming back to books about baseball, but they’re just too valuable in terms of personnel management. A baseball manager (and his colleagues in the team office) function so much like an HR department. They have to pick the best roster and field the best lineup for the opponent each night. They have to fit payroll in a budget and make tough roster decisions. And, while their forebears in the past managed off instinct, modern baseball executives employ stats and other metrics to see which players are worth their salaries and their position in the lineup.

That brings us to this installment’s book, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball by George Will. Will, of course, is best known for his syndicated political columns but at heart he is a baseball fanatic. Men at Work devoted special attention to Tony LaRussa (a law school graduate in his own right), at that time the manager for the Oakland A’s. Twenty-five years ago, the A’s were an American League juggernaut that featured a marquee roster with the likes of Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Parker, and Dave Stewart.

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The keyboard is mightier …

July 14, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

This past Friday, LeBron James announced his return to Cleveland after fourshutterstock_294301 years of displaying his talents at South Beach. One of the biggest clues that something was in the works was when the open letter written by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in 2010 to the then-departing LeBron suddenly went missing from the team’s website. In the letter, Gilbert had lashed out angrily at LeBron for leaving the team, calling the move to Miami a “cowardly betrayal.” Gilbert also made fun of LeBron’s nicknames and boldly [and wrongly] predicted that the Cavs would bring home an NBA championship trophy before the Heat.

So when the scorned team owner’s letter suspiciously disappeared in the days leading up to LeBron’s decision, radio talk show hosts and talking heads alike were abuzz with conjecture that a deal with Cleveland was in the works. Ultimately, this speculation turned out to be true, with LeBron announcing on Friday—via a very well composed article on SI.com—that he would be returning to Northeast Ohio with the hopes of improving more than just the basketball team’s performance.

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HR sports roundup: football, futbol, and fireworks

July 02, 2014 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

As we head into the July 4 weekend, your EntertainHR sports reporters cover America’s favorite pastime–litigation!

The women who cheer football got a boost this week when the Oakland Raiders announced they would pay their Raiderettes the California minimum wage of $9 per hour beginning this coming season.  This blog first covered the story back in January when the lawsuit was filed. football, futbol, fireworksWe would not be surprised to see similar lawsuits from other cheerleading squads, particularly in California or other states with employee-friendly labor laws. The attorneys for the Raiderettes who filed the lawsuit will continue to pursue their action against the team. They seek back pay and attorneys’ fees for the alleged violations from past seasons.

The women who play football have filed a lawsuit of their own. A class of current and former players in the Lingerie Football League–now the Legends Football League–have sued the league in Los Angeles superior court for a litany of wage and hour violations based on the league’s alleged misclassification of them as independent contractors and not employees. Employee misclassification is a hot topic in employment law and has been the reason for a blitz of wage and hour class actions in recent years. The U.S. Department of Labor has devoted an entire section of its website to the topic.

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Lactation intolerance

Kristin Starnes Gray

When Karlesha Thurman got ready for her college graduation ceremony, she probably had no idea that she would be picking up international news coverage along with her accounting degree. Thurman’s three-month-old daughter became hungry during the festivities and Thurman did what countless other mothers have done–she nursed her hungry baby. A friend snapped a photograph of the moment and Thurman later posted it to Facebook in an effort to show that breastfeeding is “natural, it’s normal, there’s nothing wrong with it.” Thereafter, the photograph went viral and added further fuel to the widespread debate on public breastfeeding with supporters pointing out that it’s natural and healthy for babies and critics arguing that it should be kept behind closed doors. shutterstock_161446934

The public breastfeeding debate has even inspired a new form of civil disobedience–the nurse-in. If you’re not familiar with the term, participants band together to nurse in public in a particular location at a particular time to show their solidarity. Some nurse-ins also include participants handing out pamphlets and other educational information about breastfeeding. Despite public health organizations and others trumpeting the health benefits (for both mothers and children) of breastfeeding, public breastfeeding remains a source of controversy and disagreement.

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What HR pros can learn from Casey Kasem

June 23, 2014 - by: Andy Tanick 1 COMMENTS
Andy Tanick

If you were a teenager in ’70s or ’80s who loved pop music, you undoubtedly recall huddling next to your AM transistor radio, maybe with your cassette recorder on standby so you could hit “record” at the just the right time, listening to “American Top 40” with its mellifluous host Casey Kasem. Each week, Casey would count down and play the current top 40 songs, as determined by Billboard magazine, over the course of his three-hour syndicated radio broadcast. In addition to the songs, Casey would sprinkle in trivia about the recording artists, dig back into the “AT40 Archives” for a few “golden oldies,” and bring a tear to our eyes with the “long-distance dedication” of a special song from a star-crossed lover to his or her far-away soul mate.
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Those of us who grew up with Casey were saddened this week upon the news that he had passed away at age 82. Although many of the recent headlines followed his family’s unseemly bickering over his care in his final days, most observers were able to ignore that side-show and remember the legacy of the man who not only popularized the idea of the “top [fill in the number]” countdown list, but also provided the voice of Shaggy in 40 years’ worth of Scooby-Doo cartoons.

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4 slam-dunk tips for HR pros from Spurs’ NBA success

June 16, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

I’m a Wake Forest basketball fan from way back, so I’ve followed Tim Duncan’s professional career closely since 1998. All the sports fans out there are well aware by now that Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs won their fifth NBA title last night in convincing fashion over the Miami Heat. All the Spurs’ titles have come during Duncan’s career, and Duncan has only known one coach–Greg Popovich–since San Antonio selected him first in the 1997 NBA draft. shutterstock_173318291

The Spurs’ success since 1998 offers several tips and pointers for HR professionals. I list several below, in no particular order:

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Beating the Heat

June 09, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

Last week, basketball royalty and media-superstar LeBron James was forced to make an early exit from Game 1 of the NBA Finals due to severe leg cramps. The King’s cramps were due in large part to the malfunctioning air-conditioning system at the AT&T Center, home of the San Antonio Spurs. Combined with the Texas summer outside, the system failure caused indoor temperatures during the game to soar to as high as 90 degrees. The high temps wreaked havoc on LeBron, resulting in muscle spasms that forced him to the bench late in the fourth quarter. Without James, the Miami Heat (ironically) fared poorly in the sweltering conditions, losing the game 105-90.  TooHot

As we enter the summer, the King’s struggles with the rising temperatures indoors highlights a concern for many employers whose employees work outside or in extreme temperatures on a daily basis. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970, employers are required to provide their employees with a place of employment that “is free from recognizable hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious harm to employees.” Courts have interpreted OSHA’s general duty clause to mean that an employer has a legal obligation to provide a workplace free of conditions or activities that either the employer or industry recognizes as hazardous and that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm to employees when there is a feasible method to abate the hazard. This includes heat-related hazards that are likely to cause death or serious bodily harm.

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