Unwritten rules cause uncertainty in sports and at work

April 24, 2017 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

Anyone who follows sports, even on a casual basis, has heard about “unwritten rules.” But the problem with unwritten rules is that sometimes they can be subject to different interpretations and standards. This is because, well, the obvious reason that they aren’t written down for everyone to see.  Slide

Take the baseball series this past weekend between the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles’ Manny Machado took out Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox on a somewhat aggressive slide at second base, which resulted in Pedroia being injured and missing the last few games and perhaps more. This happened last Friday. In the eighth inning of Sunday’s game, Red Sox reliever Matt Barnes threw at Machado’s head, in what clearly was retribution for the slide. Machado was none too happy, for obvious reasons. Video caught a fascinating exchange between Machado and Pedroia immediately after the attempted beaning, which Pedroia further expanded upon in a post-game interview. In short, Pedroia disagreed with his own teammate, stating that any retribution should have been done right away (i.e., during Saturday’s game) and not in the latter innings of a game two days later. Specifically, Pedroia stated it was a “mishandled situation.”

So according to Pedroia, the unwritten rules of baseball say retribution should be taken right away, not days later when the hitter assumes everything is OK and gets comfortable in the batter’s box. But Red Sox reliever Barnes obviously thought differently. And Machado clearly didn’t agree with not only the timing of the retribution but the fact that it was aimed at his head. Of course, I’ve heard the head is not the appropriate target, but that right in the middle of the back is OK. Others state you should only aim below the belt. Everyone got that?

How about the NBA? Earlier this month, words were exchanged when JaVale McGee of the Golden State Warriors took a three-point shot at the end of a blowout, causing much anger from members of the opposing Washington Wizards. A few nights later, Toronto Raptors players got all upset when Lance Stephenson of the Pacers scored a layup in the last seconds of a lopsided win, calling it disrespectful and classless. Yet a member of this same Raptors team threw down a highlight windmill dunk last year with time running out at end of a game when they were up 22 points. Huh?

These are just a few examples. There are multitudes of “unwritten rules” in sports, too many to list here. And almost all of them at some point can have different iterations, variations, or perspectives depending on whom you ask. When it comes to the expectations within your workplace, the existence of unwritten rules can cause similar havoc:

  • Don’t just say you have an open-door policy–include a written one in your handbook so you can defend against employees who claim they have no means to report issues or complaints.
  • Don’t just say everyone knows the rules for requesting and taking leave time, but instead include the procedures in your written policies so employees can’t claim they were improperly disciplined for unapproved absences.
  • Don’t defend against an hourly employee’s claim that she worked off the clock by stating everyone knows when the workday actually ends, but instead be able to point to a written policy prohibiting after-hours work (or overtime work) for nonexempt employees without written approval.
  • Have a dress code? If you want to enforce it and show it’s applied in a nondiscriminatory manner, first you have to have it written down so your managers can enforce it in a uniform fashion (pun intended).

Most employers have an employee handbook or other written policies that govern the obvious topics, such as at-will employment, harassment and discrimination, and the disciplinary process in general. But don’t forget about those other day-to-day workplace rules, and don’t assume that “everyone simply must know what they are because they work here.” Even if they do know, they may claim that they did not or that the rules are unclear since they are unwritten. As Natasha Bedingfield astutely put it: “I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined.” So don’t let this lyric from a 2000s era pop song exemplify your workplace policies, even if the song itself is admittedly catchy.

Pick me! Pick me! NFL draft lessons for HR

April 19, 2017 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

The NFL draft is fast approaching, and with it comes the multiple prognostications and mock drafts that try to divine which teams will try to link up with the which talent coming out of the college ranks.

Each team will compile exhaustive profiles on which player prospects fit their urgent needs.Isolated Portraits-Businessman Linebacker Stance

Fans will hang on the edge of their seats to see whether their team will pick a superstar or a dud.

Eagles and Jets fans will find a reason to be unhappy.

My beloved Chiefs will try one more time to draft a franchise quarterback.

And at the end of the day, it all seems like a crapshoot.

In a sense, it is a crapshoot. Like any hire, the draft evaluation can’t tell you how well a player is going to adjust to life as a professional, how well he’s going to pick up the more complicated schemes, or whether stolen selfies of the prospect smoking marijuana with a bong fashioned from a gas mask will suddenly make the rounds on social media (yes, that has happened).

Every draft produces busts, just like every hire has the potential to be a dud. In honor of the season, I’ve categorized some football busts and compared them to some bad hires you may make:

  • The Stat Stuffer: The typical stat stuffer is a quarterback who played in a high-octane college offense, ran up incredible passing numbers, and is just too tempting to pass up on draft day. Later, the team realizes this guy never took a snap under center, never ran a huddle, and his coach fed him plays on coded cue cards featuring various Looney Tunes characters. Similarly, you may hire a “great” salesperson only to learn later that his previous job involved selling modular homes following a hurricane–and he hasn’t seemed to translate that success to HRIS software.
  • The Greek God: The Greek God is the player with the physique that’s too good to be true–because it is. Alas, players still fall prey to the siren song of PEDs, so the monstrous lineman you think you’re getting may be more of a liability without the chemical assist. Likewise, you might find yourself with a prospect whose resume is just too good to be true–better be checking to make sure that hire doesn’t blow up in your face.
  • The Peacock: Wide receivers are notorious divas. They all want the ball (and who can blame them–they need the ball to prove their worth), but on the flip side they can take on a very surly attitude when they’re not getting the ball. Diva receivers have upended many a locker room with their sense of entitlement. Take a lesson in your own business and beware the high-maintenance talent.

Feel free to suggest others in the comments.

Tragedies on and off the silver screen: How to avoid costly workplace injuries

April 10, 2017 - by: Angela Cummings 0 COMMENTS
Angela Cummings

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is the title of a science fiction horror film that was recently released worldwide. The horror that occurred behind the scenes in the making of the movie rivaled the fictional onscreen terror. First, the leading actress’ stuntwoman, Olivia Jackson, sustained life-threatening injuries, including cerebral trauma, a crushed face, a severed neWork Injury Claim Formck artery, a paralyzed arm that had to be amputated, spinal cord damage, and multiple broken bones, all from a motorcycle collision with a camera crane. Then, later in filming, another crew member, Richard Cornelius, was killed when one of the movie’s props, an Army Hummer, crushed him.

In addition to such stunt and crew film personnel, actors themselves often suffer serious workplace injuries while filming movies. For example, while filming “Syriana,” A-list actor George Clooney broke his spine during a stunt scene gone awry. His injury was so serious that he was bedridden for a month with severe migraines, during which time he also suffered from depression.

Like the Hollywood employees just mentioned, everyday workers also suffer workplace injuries. These injuries can prove costly to their employers in the form of workers’ compensation claims, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) penalties, and loss of productivity and morale. Private employers reported approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses to OSHA in 2015. Moreover, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that approximately 4,500 employees suffer workplace injuries each year that result in their deaths. Such recorded workplace injuries and illnesses range in severity and include wounds, amputations, back injuries, as well as fatal accidents from crushing and falling.

Almost one-half of the recorded workplace injuries were serious enough to result in direct or indirect financial loss to the employer, including the injured employee missing a day or more from work, requiring a transfer to a different position, or needing to limit some duties of his or her position due to a doctor-imposed work restriction. In addition, these are just the reported injuries. It’s safe to say that many thousands more injuries are either not reported by the employee and/or the employer.

Let’s take a quick look at the most common workplace injuries reported by employers and some tips for how to limit exposure to such accidents and injuries:

Overexertion

This tends to be the most common–and costly–type of injury for employers, resulting in a high number of workers’ compensation claims. How can employers limit injuries related to physical exertion?

  • Be sure employees take a sufficient number of breaks, especially in jobs that require strenuous physical movement. Many workplace injuries occur when a worker is tired.
  • Schedule the most difficult and labor-intensive tasks for employees at the beginning of their shifts, when they are fresh and able to concentrate more with respect to proper technique and safety.
  • Also, be sure that the workers have sufficient training to do their job tasks using proper methods and that supervisory personnel provide adequate oversight.

Slipping/falling

Another common cause of workplace injuries is slipping/falling. Such accidents are often preventable. Injuries sustained by employees who slip or fall in the workplace can be minor, such as bruises, or major, such as death due to a head injury. Here’s how employers can limit injuries related to slipping/falling:

  • Clean up spills as soon as they occur. Also, employers should ensure that the washing and cleaning of floors and stairs is limited to low-occupancy times of the day and that the areas being cleaned are marked sufficiently to put the employees on alert.
  • Be sure that all guardrails are properly maintained and that no debris or slippery trash (think: banana peels) causes hazardous conditions.
  • Finally, you can limit accidents with respect to falling from heights (such as ladders, rooftops, and stairs) by ensuring that employees always use safety harnesses and are trained about specific processes related to working from heights.

Vehicle accidents

Some employees must drive motorized vehicles for a living (cars, buses, trucks, tractors, etc.). Driving a vehicle as part of one’s job creates inherent safety risks and exposes both employers and employees to costly accidents and injuries. OSHA reports that workplace-driving accidents cost employers an average of $60 billion per year. How can employers limit injuries related to vehicle accidents?

  • Ensure that all drivers have proper training and licensing.
  • Conduct inspections of company-owned vehicles at regular intervals and make necessary repairs immediately afterwards.
  • Also, mandate that the employees who operate such vehicles be drug- and alcohol-free. Obviously, when an employee operates a vehicle under the influence, it results in compromised coordination, judgment, and concentration.

Companies must take active steps to keep their workplaces safe for employees, customers, vendors, and, in some cases, the general public. You, as human resources professionals, should work with both managers and employees to implement safety programs and provide thorough and regular training. With such practices, your workplace is less likely to resemble a horror film.

“Boss Baby”—an adorable film about leading others to succeed

April 04, 2017 - by: Marilyn Moran 0 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

My kids are begging me to take them to see the new movie “Boss Baby,” an animated film about a baby (who is actually a savvy business leader) who leads other babies in an uprising against puppies, who are encroaching on the babies’ long-held monopoly on love and attention.  The movie exemplifies, in a fun and light-hearted way, the type of boss-employee relationship that inspires loyalty and productivity.  business team celebrate their success

In our own lives, here are three qualities of a great boss we should all embody to motivate our employees to succeed.

A great boss understands what employees want

New generations of employees want different things from their employers.  Sure, most employees still want job satisfaction, personal growth, and the ability to care for themselves and their families, but more and more employees also expect their jobs to afford them the opportunity for self-expression and self-fulfillment.  In fact, according to one study, 72% of employees ranked “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” to be the most important factor in job satisfaction.  As a result, motivating employees to succeed begins with understanding what employees want.

A great boss is fair and consistent

To be a great boss, managers must be fair and consistent, especially when it comes to disciplining employees.  Consistent application of rules and policies is paramount.  Failure to apply rules consistently harms employee morale, shows favoritism, and may constitute evidence of discrimination.  To ensure fairness in the disciplinary process, managers should use progressive discipline when possible and implement performance improvement plans as a method of helping employees succeed.   An employee’s deficient or lackluster job performance throughout the year should not be communicated for the first time during the employee’s annual review.  In addition, rather than just focusing on the negative aspects of an employee’s performance during review time, managers should use performance evaluations as an opportunity to set goals and expectations for their employees’ future success.

A great boss manages in person

Great bosses share an “open door” policy with their employees and manage their staff in person.  In today’s day and age, it’s easy to rely too heavily on technology when communicating with employees.  To manage effectively, however, managers should make an effort to communicate in person (face-to-face) with their employees whenever possible, especially when the communication involves constructive criticism, discipline, or workplace conflicts.  Though efficient and convenient, e-mails and text messages lack the professionalism and empathy conveyed during in-person interactions, and they can easily be misconstrued.  Employees are less likely to be angry or misinterpret their managers’ comments if they are conveyed in person.

Being an effective leader who motivates employees to succeed is an attainable goal we should all strive to achieve.  By adopting these three qualities, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a great boss, baby!

ADA and Batman—by Robin

March 27, 2017 - by: Robin Kallor 0 COMMENTS
Robin Kallor

Recently, Ben Affleck stepped down from directing the new Batman movie to focus on his recovery following recent treatment for alcoholism. His reason for stepping down was due to his belief that he was unable to give the directing role the focus and passion it requires.  Alcohol in the workplace

Alcoholism and drug addiction present complicated issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA protects “qualified individuals with disabilities” – individuals who can perform the essential functions of their position (or the position they are seeking) with or without reasonable accommodation. “Disability” is defined as a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or has a record of such impairment.

Individuals who currently engage in the illegal use of drugs are specifically excluded from the definition of a “qualified individual with a disability” (and therefore not protected by the ADA) when the employer takes action on the basis of their drug use. However, the ADA may protect a recovered addict who is no longer engaging in the illegal use of drugs, who can meet the other requirements of the definition of “disability.” The ADA may protect an alcoholic who can meet the definition of “disability.”  Notwithstanding, the ADA has specific provisions stating that individuals who are alcoholics or who are currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs may be held to the same performance and conduct standards as all other employees.

In the event an employee engages in misconduct or poor performance due to alcohol or drug abuse, the employer is entitled to discipline the employee. If the employer determines that discipline is necessary, the nature of the discipline should be the same that it would be for any other employee for failing to meet the employer’s performance standards or who engages in similar misconduct.

An employee whose poor performance or misconduct is due to the current illegal use of drugs is not covered by the ADA. Therefore, an employer has no legal obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation and may take whatever disciplinary action is appropriate, although the employer can offer the employee leave or other assistance so that the employer may receive treatment. On the other hand, an employee whose performance or conduct is attributable to alcoholism may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation to obtain some form of treatment, separate and apart from any disciplinary action the employer may choose to implement, assuming the discipline is not termination.

Like Ben Affleck, if the employee self-discloses their alcohol addiction before any performance related issues or misconduct surfaces, then the employer would be required to offer a reasonable accommodation; perhaps time off or a modified work schedule in order to attend treatments. The Family and Medical Leave Act also applies to eligible employees who seek treatment for drug and alcohol related conditions.

While Ben Affleck decided to go public with his addiction, most employees do not. Employers must be mindful of confidentiality requirements to ensure that information relating to employees’ disabilities or accommodations are kept confidential. It is human nature for employees to be curious or perceive that certain employees are given preferential treatment. Regardless of any morale issue, employers must respond to such inquiries that they do not discuss one employee’s situation with another in order to protect the privacy rights of all employees.

Will and Grace reunited

March 20, 2017 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Ever since the cast of Will and Grace reunited for a mini episode encouraging all of us to vote in 2016, the Internet has been in a frenzy about the possibility of a revival 18 years after the show first aired. In January, the news broke that NBC has ordered a 10-episode limited revival series reuniting the original stars. The show is known for making us laugh while breaking significant ground during its eight-season run in terms of LGBT representation on TV.  LGBT grungy heart

The news of a revival comes in the midst of uncertainty about whether sexual orientation is covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal law prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has repeatedly taken the position that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation qualifies as sex discrimination “because it necessarily entails treating an employee less favorable because of the employee’s sex.”  The 11th Circuit, however, recently upheld a district court’s dismissal of a complaint alleging harassment based on sexual orientation under Title VII.

The 11th Circuit found that sexual orientation isn’t covered by Title VII.  The court, however, vacated the portion of the district court’s order dismissing the plaintiff’s claims that she was discriminated against for failure to conform to gender stereotypes. The U.S. Supreme Court has not yet directly decided whether sexual orientation falls within the scope of Title VII, though it has recognized that discrimination based on sex stereotypes and same-sex harassment are prohibited under the statute.

The 2nd Circuit is currently considering the issue, while the 7th Circuit is reconsidering its prior decision finding that Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Multiple district courts have reached the opposite conclusion, finding that sexual orientation discrimination constitutes prohibited sex discrimination. With this latest 11th Circuit decision and expected decisions from other circuits, the issue may soon be ripe for clarification by Congress or the Supreme Court. In the meantime, it’s important to keep your employment policies updated and bear in mind that certain local and state laws, such as the Illinois Human Rights Act, have expressly prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, including gender identity.

While we wait for this issue to wind its way through the judicial system, be sure to have your blankets and popcorn (and/or Karen-worthy martinis) ready for some of our favorite characters to return to the small screen. I’m sure we can all look forward to more of Karen’s one-liners because, as she taught us, “Honey, tact is for people who aren’t witty enough to be sarcastic.”

 

What’s in a name? Bias in the workplace

March 13, 2017 - by: Katie O'Shea 1 COMMENTS
Katie O'Shea

As Shakespeare wrote, “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” But there is in fact much to a namea name can convey a sense of identity, culture, and family history. Recently, a series of viral tweets illustrated how much something as simple as a name could affect an individual’s employment.  Business woman versus man corporate ladder career concept vector illustration

A man and his female coworker conducted an experiment whereby they switched their e-mail signatures for two weeks. The series of tweets describes the man’s struggle to gain clients’ respect when using his female coworker’s name.

The experiment started when, because of a shared inbox, the man accidentally e-mailed a client with his female coworker’s signature line. He received a lot of pushback and attitude from the client. Upon realizing the mix-up with the e-mail signature , he switched back to his name and continued communicating in the same way with the client. He said he noticed an immediate improvement and positive reception from the client when he reverted to his real name. The man claimed his advice to the client never changed, only the fact that he was signing the e-mails with a man’s name instead of a woman’s name.

So the coworkers decided to switch names for two weeks. The man described his negative experience using his female coworker’s name, tweeting that everything he asked or suggested was questioned and that one client even asked if he was single. Meanwhile, he reported his female coworker had the most productive weeks of her career. The man stated he learned his female coworker had to convince clients to respect her, whereas he had an “invisible advantage” as a man. The woman also wrote her own account of the experiment and described sexism that many women face in the workplace.

While this is only one account, and by no means a scientific study, it is an interesting reminder to be conscious of gender bias and other biases in the workplace. Other Twitter users chimed in agreeing with this experience, and adding their own experiences where they had been concerned about how others would perceive them because of their name. For example, some Twitter users described concerns with how employers would perceive their names on their resumes. Some wondered if they should change their names to have a greater likelihood of success in obtaining employment because of unconscious biases.

Unconscious bias is a huge issue in the workplace and can affect who is hired, promoted, and valued at work. Discussing issues like biases can help bring the issue to light and create a company culture that acknowledges the problem and improves decision-making.

Our Brand is Crisis … prevention and management

March 06, 2017 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

Alleged communications with Russian officials, an Attorney General recusal, and claims of impermissible wiretapping. Guess you could say it’s been an active past few days in the world of U.S. politics. Heck, it’s been a flurry of activity for a while now, and more is certainly to come, starting with the revised executive order regarding immigration that was announced today. Crisis Averted

Interestingly, and perhaps appropriately, I happened to watch a movie called Our Brand is Crisis two days ago while flying home from a business trip. The 2015 movie, which is based on a 2005 documentary of the same name, is a fictionalized account of the involvement of American political campaign strategists during the 2002 Bolivian presidential election. As a form of entertainment, the movie has its flaws but does have a great performance by Sandra Bullock (and though I have heard the documentary is much better, I haven’t personally seen it yet). I won’t get into much in the way of specifics except to say that in the movie, Bullock’s campaign manager and her team decide that their “brand is crisis”namely, that their strategy is to declare and sell crisis (economic, cultural, and social) by whatever means necessary to promote their candidate.

Now, I think we can agree that selling crisis is a political maneuver that all campaigns and politicians, regardless of party affiliation, have used over the course of our nation’s history. Almost every candidate runs on a platform that he or she has the best plans to solve the voter’s problems, and this was no different with President Trump, who often cited the United States’ economic and immigration issues as reasons for a change from the Washington establishment. In today’s politically charged climate, however, selling crisis as a means to gather support or opposition is a virtual daily news cycle.

Opponents of the Trump administration claim that Trump went beyond the pale in promoting crisis and has not offered effective solutions and that the President’s allegations of impermissible wiretapping are simply a means to deflect from the administration’s issues by creating a new contention out of whole cloth. Supporters of the Trump administration claim that many in the media, and other individuals on the left, are improperly attacking the administration’s credibility and ability by stirring up unsubstantiated crisis, including claims of improper communications with Russian officials. Regardless of what side you agree with, the fact is that wherever you turn, crisis is front-page news.

What this means for employers

Obviously, from an employment and HR perspective, the approach is radically different. While politics may involve the selling of crisis to drum up support or opposition, running or managing a business necessitates procedures meant to prevent crisis, and to manage crisis effectively when it does rear its ugly head.

This doesn’t mean just from an employment perspective and the potential problems that could be raised due to employer-employee issues. This also includes nonemployment-related crisesthose that effect the business’ reputation, customer relations, and bottom line. In such cases, you not only have to recognize that such crises could eventually seep into employment-related issues and employee morale, but understand and think out of the box as to how you can use your employees in a positive manner within your organizational structure as a means to respond to this crisis, including reducing any potential negative impact. This means shifting the thinking of employees as a burden from a legal compliance point of view to understanding that employees at all levels can affirmatively be part of crisis prevention and be a visible and positive liaison to your customers and the world in diffusing the effects of a crisis that does unfold.

Regardless of the source of the crisis, effective internal communications are keys to crisis avoidance and management. Creation of appropriate policies and procedures, while of course integral, has no positive affect if the organization doesn’t carry out effective communication of those policies, appropriately follow those policies, and prepare ahead of time through scenario planning and messaging.

Be proactive and anticipatory. Provide training and test protocols. Define risk and react appropriately. Give employees the tools and means necessary to report issues so that you are aware before it escalates further. By taking these steps, you will not only limit the possibility of crisis within the workplace, but more importantly be able to manage that crisis if it comes up unexpectedly.

Sorry, J-Lo and CeeLo: Real world requires carefully crafted employment dress codes

February 14, 2017 - by: Angela Cummings 0 COMMENTS
Angela Cummings

The Grammys aired on Sunday, February 12, 2017. Every year, audiences tune in to the glamorous awards show to watch the presentation of such celebrated accolades as “Song of the Year” and to take in the live performances of their favorite musicians. I, however, plant myself in front of the television for one reason onlyto scrutinize the often outrageous outfits worn by the music industry moguls and Hollywood insiders. Can you believe that it has been almost 20 years since Jennifer Lopez walked the red carpet in the green dress that was slashed all the way down to her pelvis? Such eye-popping outfits and costumes continue to dominate the show.  Casual and formal look

In my opinion, this year’s award for most intriguing Grammy look went to CeeLo Green, who dressed in gold from head to toe and donned some sort of gilded hairpiece that commentators appropriately compared to a piece of Ferrero Rocher candy. A-list celebrities have the freedom to express themselves with bold clothing wherever they go, of course, including to “work events” such as the Grammy Awards. However, for everyday employees, that is not the case.

The HR department (often in conjunction with an in-house legal department or outside legal counsel) should adopt dress code policies to ensure that employees are exercising good judgment with respect to personal grooming and attire in the workplace (and while attending any work-related, after-hours functions). Such policies are necessarily broad-ranging, from a required, singular uniform that all employees must don in a specific manufacturing setting to a relaxed policy where employees are free to wear their own clothes each day so long as those clothing choices are appropriate for the company’s business (and industry).

While enjoying wide latitude when it comes to adopting dress code policies and practices for their workers, employers must take caution with respect to a couple of areas or chance running afoul of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Therefore, to avoid an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge related to dress code (and to avoid litigation by the EEOC or an individual), HR representatives should consider the following when drafting or reviewing their organization’s dress code policy:

  • A dress code policy may not treat some employees less favorably because of their national origin. The example often cited by the EEOC is that a dress code may not prohibit certain types of ethnic clothing, such as traditional African or East Indian attire, while allowing employees to select and wear other types of casual clothing.
  • An employer must consider and evaluate possible religious accommodations with respect to its dress code policy. An employee may request a religious accommodation under Title VII when a dress code conflicts with the employee’s religious practices. In such cases, the employer should consider modifying the dress code to remedy the conflict or permit an exception (unless it would cause an undue hardship). A group of high-visibility lawsuits brought by the EEOC against Abercrombie have focused on dress code policy in the context of a Muslim hijab (headscarf), which the company claimed violated its “Look Policy.” Not surprisingly, the EEOC disagreed with the retailer.

In sum, while it is a best practice for most companies to maintain a dress code policy to ensure that employees are dressed safely and appropriately at all times, such policies have to be drafted and enforced with an eye on anti-discrimination and accommodation laws. And, finally, here’s to hoping that your organization does not encounter such interesting attire on the job as that donned at the Grammy’s by JLo in 2000 and CeeLo in 2017!

Twins for Clooneys! How to manage pregnant employees who aren’t gazillionaire celebs

February 13, 2017 - by: Marilyn Moran 0 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

A-list celebrity George Clooney, long considered Hollywood’s most eligible bachelor, surprised the world when he married international human rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin back in 2014 after decades of assuring journalists, adoring fans, and a slew of ex-girlfriends that he would never, ever tie the knot a second time. Apparently, George also had a change of heart about becoming a father (which he also swore he would never, ever do) because he and his wife announced last week that they are expecting twins.   Tired Parents Cuddling Twin Baby Daughters In Nursery

Among the rarified ranks of the world’s rich and famous, news of impending parenthood may prompt a full-time nanny search or, in the case of actresses who are expecting, some creative camera angles to conceal a growing baby bump. In the real world, however, the happy news that an employee is pregnant (or about to become a parent) can breed numerous HR challenges. To help you labor through this issue, here are a few tips for managing an employee’s burgeoning brood.

#1 – Do not discriminate 

Pregnant applicants or employees must be treated fairly and cannot be subjected to special scrutiny because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. Under the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), the protection against pregnancy discrimination covers all aspects of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, and fringe benefits. As a result, an employer may not single out pregnant employees for special requirements when determining whether a pregnancy will impede the employee’s ability to do her job.

If an employee is temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, you should treat her in the same way as you would treat any other temporarily disabled employee. For example, you may have to provide light duty, alternative assignments, disability leave, or unpaid leave to pregnant employees if you do so for other temporarily disabled employees.

#2 – Accommodate pregnancy-related disabilities

Although most pregnancies do not implicate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), some impairments resulting from pregnancy (for example, gestational diabetes or preeclampsia) may qualify as disabilities under the ADA. An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation (such as leave or modifications that enable an employee to perform her job) for a disability related to pregnancy, unless the employer can show that providing the accommodation would pose an undue hardship (i.e., significant difficulty or expense). Keep in mind that the 2008 amendments to the ADA greatly expanded the definition of disability, making it much easier for an employee to show that a medical condition is a covered disability. Therefore, you should carefully evaluate requests to accommodate a pregnant employee and engage in the interactive process under the ADA to determine what, if any, accommodations will enable the employee to perform her essential job duties.

#3 – Provide parental leave to eligible employees

Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a new parent (including foster and adoptive parents) may be eligible for 12 weeks of unpaid leave that may be used for care of the new child. To be eligible, the employee must have worked for the employer for 12 months prior to taking the leave; worked at least 1,250 hours during the year prior to the start of the FMLA leave; and work at a location where at least 50 employees are employed at the location or within a 75-mile radius. Importantly, the FMLA provides leave for new fathers, as well as new mothers. Further, with few exceptions, upon return from FMLA leave, an employee must be restored to his or her original job, or to an equivalent job that is virtually identical to the original job in terms of pay, benefits, and other employment terms and conditions. In addition, an employee’s use of FMLA leave cannot result in the loss of any employment benefit that the employee earned or was entitled to before taking FMLA leave.

Whether you are a Clooney or a mere mortal who lives outside the glitterati bubble, expecting a bundle of joy is great news. As HR professionals, before you attend that baby shower or hedge your bets in the office baby pool, make sure to follow these tips to ensure you treat your employees fairly and don’t run afoul of the PDA, ADA, and FMLA.

 

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