Mad Men ends: What have we learned?

May 19, 2015 - by: Josh Sudbury 1 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

The seven-season-long nonstop drink-and-smoke-a-thon that was Mad Men has come to a close. Were you entertained? Were you satisfied? Better yet, did you learn anything?800px-Mad_Men_(logo).svg I will spare you my personal thoughts on the merits of the ending as there are countless commentaries available on the Web. (Really, it’s amazing how many there are.) Suffice it to say that the “ending” appeared to bring more new beginnings than closure: Roger Sterling’s (third) marriage to Marie Calvet; Joan’s new production company; Pete Campbell’s new job at Lear Jet; Ken Cosgrove at Dow Chemical; Peggy and Stan finally admitting they loved each other (though no one makes falling in love more awkward than Peggy Olson); and, last but not least, Don/Dick Draper/Whitman with his back to the California coast dreaming of the most iconic Coca-Cola ad of the 20th Century.

From the perspective of an employment lawyer, one of the most notable developments that occurred in the last few episodes, however, was not one of the evolution (or devolution) of the individual characters, but the constant upheaval at the advertising behemoth, McCann Erickson. The second half of the final season begins with the revelation that McCann’s acquisition of Sterling Cooper was not a partnership but, rather, Jim Hobart’s mastermind plan to fold the old competitor into McCann’s ever-increasing portfolio–even at the expense of several expensive conflicts-of-interest. But, the Titanic of the ad world can’t hold on to it all. And, companies of all sizes and industries can take a few lessons.

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Business lessons from WrestleMania 31

March 30, 2015 - by: Josh Sudbury 3 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

The biggest sports entertainment event of the year is in the books. Did you miss it? Nope, I’m not talking about the NCAA Tournament or even the Cricket World Cup—by the way, you can rest easy since Australia beat New Zealand by 7 wickets to capture its 5th Championship—I’m talking about WrestleMania 31. Yes, the penultimate event for the more-than-semi-scripted man drama took place on Sunday before a live audience of 76,976 at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA, and countless millions watching at home on pay-per-view. wrestlemania

WrestleMania didn’t just deliver at the box office. The event featured show-stopping action from big name headliners, both past and present. For those of you who missed all that glorious “wrastlin,’” I’ll give you the 30-second recap: The Big Show defeat 20-plus wrestlers to take home the trophy in the 2nd Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal; Triple H (who entered the ring dressed as the Terminator) defeated Sting after both “D-Generation X” and “nWo”—including The Real American himself, Hulk Hogan—intervened on behalf of both fighters; John Cena defeated Russian fighter “Rusev” (who entered the venue on nothing less than an actual TANK!) to win something called the “United States Championship belt”; Daniel Bryan climbed a ladder and out-head-butted Dolph Ziggler to grab the “Intercontinental” Championship belt; The Undertaker laid to rest Bray Wyatt with a move known as the “Tombstone Piledriver”; and, most importantly, Seth Rollins curb-stomped his way to the WWE World Heavyweight title, defeating Brock Lesnar and Roman Reigns. Oh yeah, and Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson called on Women’s UFC Champion Rhonda Rousey to clean up a little trash in the ring. Whew! I’m tired just describing it.

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Employee personal information – the gift you don’t want to give this Christmas

December 16, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

You may have heard the news of the monumental data hack on Sony late last month, where several personal e-mails, rough cuts of movies, and screenplays were obtained and released without authorization by the media giant. According to several news outlets, the e-mails in particular reveal personal gripes about certain celebrities (shocker!) and have raised allegations of pay disparities among stars and starlets. shutterstock_171929321

Below the surface of these salacious allegations lies a more common problem: employee personal information.  According to reports, hackers also allegedly stole—and are threatening to release—sensitive, personal information belonging to Sony employees, including Social Security numbers and detailed medical information. This has serious implications under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which sets the baseline for protection of employees’ protected health information (PHI) across the country. Individual states can add their own protections.

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Halloween tips to avoid a total nightmare

October 27, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 2 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. 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…

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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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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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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Clip[pers] his tongue!

April 28, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

This past week the biggest story in the NBA was not the excitement of the first round of the playoffs, but the comments L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling allegedly made to his girlfriend. In an audiotape released Friday by TMZ, a man (allegedly Sterling) is heard chastising his girlfriend for associating with black people and bringing them to his team’s games.  ThatsRacist Several authors and bloggers have already written about the deplorable worldview espoused by the man in the tape alleged to be Sterling so I won’t rehash the obvious. Indeed, the audio reveals personal views one might expect to be held by resisters of the civil rights movement, but not by that of the owner of an NBA franchise 50 years after the passage of Title VII. But a different lesson about our times can be learned from the incident, which concerns the prevalence of audio and video records in today’s world. In our technology-laden society, every smart phone doubles as a camera, tape recorder, video camera, word processor, etc. You name it, and your phone—and your employees’ phones—can probably do it, including secretly recording conversations between themselves and supervisors. On top of that, it takes almost zero technical savvy for someone to make a recording and post it to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, or any number of social media sites instantaneously. The majority of states permit the secret recording of conversations so long as at least one party to the conversation consents to the recording. In those states, such an audio recording could wind up as evidence against the company in court or before a government agency. In the Clippers’ case, it’s the owner himself who is alleged to have made the statements. So, it’s obvious that his statements reflect directly on the organization. But would the result be any better if one of your mid-level supervisors was caught on tape making an off-color joke or sexually charged comment about another employee? The answer is simply no. In addition to the potential liability that may arise from such statements in a discrimination or harassment lawsuit, the company almost certainly would lose the verdict in the court of public opinion. All hope is not lost, however. Employers can minimize the potential for such occurrences by committing to provide anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training for their managers on at least an annual basis. You should also remain in contact with your workforce and get to know your managers. Many times, when a manager is caught on tape making these kinds of statements, it isn’t the first time. Being present in the workplace will help you identify potential bad apples as well as remind your employees to be on guard because their words and actions are being noticed. Finally, employers can adopt and enforce policies prohibiting employees from making secret records in the workplace. Such policies help foster open communications in the workplace and protect confidential or trade secret information. Employers, however, would be wise to consult with outside counsel before implementing or enforcing such a policy to ensure it doesn’t encroach on employee rights. In the hopefully unlikely event you have an employee who sympathizes with Mr. Sterling’s alleged views, nothing short of a muzzle may be appropriate.

Trash talk or abuse? NFL debates banning the N-word

March 16, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 1 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

In any other NFL offseason, with the hype over combine results all over the television and free agency in full swing, it’s likely many football fans might not notice the NFL Competition Committee meeting in the background. But this year, the committee is making news as it mulls over a controversial potential new rule that could result in individual players being penalized for using the N-word. The potential move is another effort by the NFL to clean up its image in the wake of scandals such as the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin scandal that surfaced during last season.shutterstock_10634185

The debate over the new rule has brought about opposition from at least a few current NFL players, such as Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, who told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that banning the N-word is “an atrocious idea,” adding that he feels its “almost racist” for the league to target only one word. Sherman stated that the N-word is present “in the locker room and on the field at all times” and that he hears it “almost every series out there on the field.” Free agent linebacker D’Qwell Jackson sees it a different way. According to King, Jackson told him he feels the rule would be great for the game, assuming the NFL could get it implemented, although he noted that enforcing the rule could prove difficult. As King’s article points out, the penalty’s stigma could be significantly more far-reaching than the yards assessed: read more…

From Gattaca to GINA: Use of genetic information in workplace is problematic

February 03, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

If there is one thing that is universal about the entertainment world, it’s that it makes us all feel inadequate. Yes, with the airbrushed photos and the digital editing techniques, the stars and starlets who grace the covers of magazines and show up on the big screen all seem to have something (or multiple things) that we regular folk just don’t. I’d even bet most of the beautiful people look better rolling out of bed in the morning than I do on my best day.   GeneticEngineering

It’s true that in certain ways we are not all created equal. Each of us has our own genetic make-up, which is little more than the pooling of the genes—both good and bad—from our parents, and their parents, and so on. The combination of these genes determines things like our height, athletic ability, and our predisposition to certain medical conditions such as cancer. read more…

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