Halloween tips to avoid a total nightmare

October 27, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 1 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

It’s that time of year again. Time for Halloween and all the candy, cheesy ghost stories, and inappropriate costumes that come with it. While Halloween can be fun and exciting, the fallout for employers can be all fright.

Office Parties. Halloween falls on a Friday this year, which may make more employers inclined to allow employees to wear costumes to work. While workplace costume parties can lighten the mood in the office, employers should be proactive in dealing with the potential issues that can arise.

shutterstock_157867430First and foremost, employers should communicate simple and clear rules or guidelines to their employees in advance of any party. Employees should be reminded that professionalism is still expected of them at work, both in their conduct and their costumes. This is especially important if your employees will interact with customers during the workday, as an offensive or inappropriate costume could cause more than just internal employee relations issues. Employers should give their employees examples of what is potentially inappropriate, so that there is no guesswork involved for the employee.

Inappropriate costumes can include those costumes that reveal too much skin or, depending the type of workplace you operate, those that have the potential to compromise safety. This category can also include costumes that touch on hot-button political or social topics, such as an employee lampooning a high-profile political figure or dressing as a nun or priest. While some employees may be unaffected by these costumes, employers must be sensitive to how all their employees may deal with the notions raised by such costumes. read more…

Gone Lawsuit

October 20, 2014 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

[Note: Major spoilers ahead. If you have not seen/read Gone Girl, and wish to do so, please do NOT continue.]

This past weekend my wife and I got to see David Fincher’s latest film Gone Girl. While I am a fan of Fincher’s work, I had not read the novel Gone Girl and had successfully avoided any spoilers related to the movie or book’s ending. And while I enjoyed the movie very much, I’m not sure if I agree with some of the television advertisements promoting the film as the “perfect date movie.”Plan Ahead

Let’s just say that Rosamund Pike’s character Amy is all sorts of crazy. Just one guy’s opinion. Afterwards, my wife stated that yeah, Amy “is absolutely nuts but he did cheat on her,” the “he” referring to Ben Affleck’s character Nick, Amy’s husband. I laughed at first, being so appreciative of having a great marriage with a wonderful wife. Then I dissected her comment in my head. Did she think he deserved that? Why did she smirk when she said the word “but”? Later on, paranoia set in. Why did she ask me what time the Patriots are playing? Did we have plans I forgot about? Why is she telling me now about certain plot holes in the movie? Why is she saying Amy should have done this or that instead? Why are we having chicken for dinner? What is going on?

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Did I say that?

October 13, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

Satya Nadella’s job was tough enough from the start. He followed Microsoft lifer Steve Ballmer and founder Bill Gates into the CEO role at a time when the company is looking to keep its businesses rolling in the face of a changing industry, slower PC sales, and serious pressure on its bread-and-butter Windows and Office products. Overall, the consensus is that he has done well. shutterstock_194661920 (1)

A misplayed comment last week, however, earned him some derision and led to a quick retraction. During the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing in Phoenix, Nadella suggested that women in the tech industry shouldn’t ask for pay raises and trust that their contributions would be rewarded in the long run. The audience didn’t exactly receive the advice well, and he quickly retracted the comment.

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Breaking Bad: Disciplining employees for off-duty conduct

October 06, 2014 - by: Marilyn Moran 1 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

You can hardly get through your morning coffee these days without seeing another story about some athlete, model, or actor who abused his wife, trashed her Beverly Hills hotel room, or went all shutterstock_180348752Archie Bunker in a racist Twitter rampage. Usually, high-profile celebrities are bound by employment contracts that require strict adherence to an impeccable standard of personal conduct. But what can the average employer do if Walter White, the usually quiet and docile chemist with a spotless work history, decides to break bad over the weekend, uses his RV for a meth lab, and has his mug shot splashed all over the news? Like so many legal questions, the answer is “it depends.”

Generally, under the at-will doctrine, employees can be fired for any reason, or no reason at all, as long as the reason is not illegal. Unfortunately, deciphering whether a reason is “legal” or “illegal”  is not as clear as Walter’s blue crystal. Obviously, it is illegal to discipline or terminate an employee based on the employee’s race, religion, or sex, but most off-duty conduct lies somewhere in the gray area. Until recently, most employers did not give a second thought before disciplining an employee for off-duty criminal conduct, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has loudly condemned the practice. According to the EEOC, some racial minorities are disproportionately more likely to be arrested or convicted of criminal offenses than others, so the agency is critical of employment policies that universally disadvantage applicants or employees based on past criminal conduct.  As a result, the safest bet for disciplining employees for off-duty conduct is to focus on the job-related consequences of the behavior, rather than the behavior itself.

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Labor Board gets an F for its treatment of A-List

September 29, 2014 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Celebrities … they’re just like us. Which is to say that they now have a reason to be ticked off at the National Labor Relations Board too. A recent decision by an NLRB administrative law judge tells Hollywood’s A-listers they get no special treatment under the labor laws.

shutterstock_157705382 (2)The MUSE School, founded by Titanic director James Cameron, is an elementary school in Calabasas, California, a wealthy town north of Los Angeles. Some of the students at MUSE are children of celebrities. Given the school’s notoriety, all MUSE School employees are required to sign an extensive confidentiality agreement as a condition of employment.

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Categories: Federal agencies / Hollywood / NLRB

A blooper of historic proportions

September 22, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Downton Abbey recently made headlines with what some are calling “the water bottle seen around the world.” In an uncropped version of a publicity photo, Lord Grantham and Lady Edith are seen standing in front of a stately mantel upon which a bottled water is perched looking hilariously out of place. shutterstock_58173862Turning an amusing blooper into a positive,  the show posted to its Instagram account a photograph of the cast holding water bottles on set along with a link to the website for WaterAid, an international organization dedicated to providing clean water to underserved communities.  The cast and crew decided they wanted to turn some of the attention toward a water issue that truly matters.

The water bottle blooper was particularly noteworthy, given the amount of time and effort that clearly goes into making the show look and feel authentic to viewers. In fact, Sophie McShera (who plays the cook’s assistant, Daisy) revealed that, for the sake of preserving their historic look, there is a no-wash policy when it comes to the costumes, which makes for one smelly cast. According to McShera, there are patches in the costumes’ armpits that are washed separately, but “we do stink.”

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Categories: Sex Discrimination

Some extra points about fantasy football and your workplace

September 15, 2014 - by: Andy Tanick 2 COMMENTS
Andy Tanick

Although the actual games have been overshadowed lately by the off-the-field misbehavior of some of the players, the NFL season opened last week. And if you listened closely enough, you could almost hear HR managers and small business owners across the country yelling at their employees, “Get off your fantasy football website and get back to work!”shutterstock_134095112

Like college basketball’s March Madness, fantasy football’s massive popularity arises in large part from the fact that it gives zealots and non-enthusiasts alike a chance to “get in on the action,” and not just enjoy a sporting event but also win bragging rights over all of their friends. Indeed, anyone who has ever participated in either endeavor is sure to have bitter memories of losing the NCAA pool to someone who picked teams based on uniform colors or mascot cuteness, or losing a fantasy football championship to someone who couldn’t pronounce Tim Biakabatuka’s name if his life depended on it. Let’s just say, there is a certain amount of luck involved (except when I win).

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Caught AND recorded in the act

September 10, 2014 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

E-mails, audio recordings, and video surveillance. This trifecta of evidentiary support was put front and center in two disturbing incidents from the sports world that made headlines in the past week.

Earlier this week, Atlanta Hawks controlling owner Bruce Levenson stepped down, stating his intention to sell the team, because of a 2012 e-mail that he had written and that was to (and eventually did) become public. In the e-mail, Levenson expresses his thoughts on attracting more white fans to the arena and marketing to white fans in general, including for example that there were “not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base” and that he wanted “some white cheerleaders” and “music familiar to a 40-year-old white guy.” Levenson, in stepping down, issued a statement apologizing for his e-mail and its “inflammatory nonsense.” Interestingly, Jason Whitlock, an African-American columnist for ESPN.com, and former NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar have both written pieces that have defended Levenson and his e-mail, stating that the Hawks owner is not a racist, but a businessman asking reasonable questions about race and how to put customers in seats.

It has come to light that the existence of Levinson’s e-mail wasshutterstock_180735251 actually uncovered as a result of an investigation due to a separate incident. In June, Atlanta Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry had a conference call with the various owners of the organization, which was recorded so notes could be made for the partners unable to participate live. In discussing player personnel issues, Ferry allegedly was reading off a report generated by team sources when he spoke about then-free agent Luol Deng (now signed with the Miami Heat) and stated “he has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out in the back” and further describing Deng as a two-faced liar and cheat. As a result of Ferry’s comments, a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks spearheaded an investigation that eventually also led to the discovery of Levenson’s e-mail. Ferry has issued an apology but has refused to step down as GM despite outside pressure to do so.

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Ready for kickoff

September 03, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

I live in the South. This time of year, that means college football; that also means otherwise healthy friendships will erupt with enough recrimination, envy, taunts, and ill will to put the Corleones and Tattaglias to shame. Everyone crows that this is their year , we’re going to come out on top, and what-do-you-mean-that-overtime-loss-last-month-means-we-can’t-play-for-the-championship? shutterstock_165900731(Except folks like me, a Wake Forest alum, who find comfort in high-minded humility, of course.)

College football has never really found a satisfying way to crown its champion. It used to be that sportswriters picked it; then the coaches started their own poll and jumped in the mix. They tried a championship game, and then the number crunchers came out with the BCS, a computerized system that seemed to factor in everything (unless it was important, and then it was left out).  Then Colorado walloped Nebraska–and Nebraska advanced to the championship game. .

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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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