Time’s Up: I am woman, hear me roar

January 17, 2018 - by: Rachel E. Kelly 0 COMMENTS
Rachel E. Kelly

“So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.” – Oprah Winfrey at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards

Let’s be clear, 2017 was the year of the woman. From Wonder Woman becoming a blockbuster hit grossing over $100 million in its first weekend, women in the entertainment industry speaking out about sexual harassment and unsolicited advances in the workplace, to abiout 600 sister marches held across the country and the world to coincide with the Women’s March on Washington. One thing is for certain: Women and their stories dominated 2017. So much so that major news outlets devoted countless headlines and primetime news segments taking a closer look at these women’s stories and causing companies to become brutally aware of their own sexual harassment policies (see Matt’s post here: http://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2018/01/04/48033/ ).

There is no doubt that the rush of sexual harassment claims came to a head earlier this month during the blackout 75th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. Dressed in an embellished all black gown, Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Oprah Winfrey, gave a riveting speech that demanded for time to be up on the old way of doing business. Winfrey’s acceptance speech highlighted women who have endured years of sexual harassment on their jobs and called for a change in the gender disparities in representation, hiring, and pay in and outside of the entertainment industry.

In the age of #Metoo and Time’s Up, what are some things that companies can do to correct pay and gender leadership disparities in their organizations?

1) Transparency – Don’t’ just talk the talk, do the walk. Take a look at the data (examples: the number of women in leadership positions, promotion of women as compared to men, and compensation comparisons) and be honest with the executive team and the organization as whole. This not only gets down to the truth, but it also enables accountability. If the organization admits its shortcomings to its employees, it’s more likely to make some systemic changes. But don’t stop there. Salaries and promotions should be evaluated on a regular basis to ensure equal treatment.

2) Give women a seat at the table – This is an easy one, but ensuring that women are part of diversified hiring panels intrinsically ensures that women are selected for positions at a much higher rate. In 2015 study (http://time.com/4087813/female-directors-study/) of the entertainment industry, results showed that when women directors and executive producers were at the helm of hiring decisions, they served as entryway for more women to be selected for behind-the-scenes roles. Additionally, a diverse slate of candidates should purposefully be presented to the hiring panel. Of course, the goal is not to present women candidates just for the sake of presenting them, but to make sure there is access for the most qualified and diverse candidate pool.

3) Make gender equality part of training and education – All employees should feel equally supported in choosing jobs that support their talents and challenges them to learn new skills. These jobs should have clearly demonstrable goals, be future-oriented, and lead to long, promising careers.

4) Culture – This starts with reviewing the employee handbook and company policies. Make flexibility and work-life balance a part of the company culture. Oftentimes, though a company’s policies indicate that flexible work schedules are available, women employees are forced to specifically ask to work part-time or from home, which can lead to an uncomfortable conversation. Be proactive about welcoming women and supporting their career goals.

‘Royal’ additions: handling HR issues that arise due to marriage and childbirth

December 18, 2017 - by: Angela Cummings 0 COMMENTS
Angela Cummings

I admit that, like many Americans, I am fascinated with the lives of the British royal family. That is especially true with respect to Charles and Di’s two young princes. I enjoy hearing news about Prince Williams’ adorable family, and I was excited to hear about Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s recent engagement. In fact, this coming spring will mark two momentouPregnant businesswoman working on a laptops occasions for the royal family, as William and Catherine are expecting a baby in April, followed by the wedding of Harry and Meghan in May. I cannot wait to tune in!

Although royalty (and even famous actresses like Markle) do not need to worry much about how marriage and childbirth will affect their jobs, regular Joes certainly do. Accordingly, HR must be ready to assist employees when they undergo these major life changes.

Marriage

When an employee gets married, he or she may undergo a legal name change. From an administrative standpoint, the employee should provide updated personnel documents:

  • First, an employee should provide the employer with a copy of his new, updated Social Security card with the new full name. This is important because the IRS mandates that the card information match the company’s payroll information.
  • The same is true for employee tax documents on file with the employer. The employee will need to update the W-4, so that the legal name is reflected on the corresponding W-2 correctly.
  • Note that an employer is not automatically required to update the employee’s I-9 after a legal name change, but the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recommends doing so in order to have employment records be uniform for the employee.
  • HR will also want to ensure that the employee’s benefits paperwork is updated (including any beneficiary forms).
  • The company may want to require that the employee provide an updated version of his driver’s license, especially if the employee drives a vehicle as part of his job.
  • Some couples set up a joint bank account after marrying. For such employees, HR will want to be sure (for payroll purposes) that any direct deposit information is correct and is adjusted if there is a new account.
  • Finally, the employer should ensure that documents such as “who to contact in an emergency”, business cards, email accounts, desk or wall name plaques, and company phone lists are all updated with the new name.

In addition, HR may want to check in with the employee about any extended time off needed for the wedding and/or honeymoon. If the employee has PTO or vacation time available, it is advisable to determine how the time off will be allocated in advance. Also, having HR work with the employee and his manager on plans for an extended time away may help decrease the disruption on the business.

Childbirth

When an employee has a new child, through birth or adoption, there are a plethora of considerations affecting the employment of the new parent.

  • As with marriage, benefit plans are a consideration. Adding the new child to the employee’s health plan, life insurance, flexible spending accounts, etc. as soon as possible is very important. The employee may also want to update beneficiary designations for life and other types of insurance to include the new child.
  • HR should ensure that the employee understands all of her rights under federal, state, and local law with respect to leave time following the birth or adoption, as well as the employer’s policies and benefits regarding leave. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) often comes into play, as do maternity/paternity leave policies.
  • Companies need to be sure that their nursing mother policies are up to date and that those policies are aligned with the law.
  • Childcare is another consideration for the employee who is a new parent. Some employers have direct childcare benefits and offer onsite daycare, while other employers have arrangements with nearby daycare centers that offer affordable and quality childcare for the employee. HR should ensure that the employee who welcomes a new child has all the necessary information about any childcare benefits available from the company.

In sum, it is exciting when royals—and even commoners!—get married and have children. For commoners who work, HR can be a great asset and partner in the employment-related aspects that accompany these important life changes.

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.

 

Men don’t [take] leave

April 14, 2014 - by: David Kim 3 COMMENTS
David Kim

At least that’s what former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason and radio talk show host Mike Francesa believe. Their critical shutterstock_88182934comments of New York Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy, particularly those made by Esiason, recently created a storm of controversy that extended beyond just the sports world. Murphy missed the first two games of the 2014 regular season to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. In fact, Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement with the Players Union provides that players can take up to three days for paternity leave. This provision was put into the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) back in 2011, a sign that the players lobbied and negotiated for such leave. Despite this, and despite the fact that Murphy played 161 out of 162 games last year, Esiason and Francesa ripped into Murphy. read more…

Veronica Mars: Return to Neptune

April 04, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Thanks in large part to a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign, legions of “Marshmallows” and I recently got to enjoy new adventures of Veronica Mars on the big screen. Although Veronica left the small screen back in 2007, that did not stop my favorite private detective from diving right back into action (and danger) in the film version. The premise of the film is that Veronica’s ex-boyfriend, Logan Echolls, is suspected yet again of murdering a girlfriend. Lucky for Logan, Veronica is willing to leave behind her life in New York (including a stable relationship with Piz and a high-powered legal career) to help, even when it means risking her own life. What else would you expect from someone who received a private investigator’s license for her 18th birthday?   KristenBell An interesting tidbit is that Kristen Bell, the actress who plays the titular character, had recently given birth at the time of filming. You would never know it watching Veronica hunt down the killer and narrowly avoid becoming a victim herself. This got me thinking about dangerous professions and pregnancy. Where would Logan (and all the devoted fans) be if a pregnant Veronica Mars was not permitted to do her job and catch the bad guy? According to the U.S. Supreme Court, employers may not lawfully deny jobs to women because of hazards to unborn children. Such decision have to be left to women. According to the Court, denying jobs to women due to hazards is biased because fertile men, but not fertile women, are given “a choice as to whether they wish to risk their reproductive health for a particular job.” Subsequent decisions have clarified that, although employers are generally prohibited from deciding for a pregnant employee what course of action is best for her, this prohibition does not constitute a requirement that an employer make alternate work available.  In other words, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) doesn’t require an employer to provide preferential treatment for a pregnant employee. For example, a hospital isn’t required to make an exception to its policy that nurses treat all patients assigned to them when a nurse refuses to treat a patient with a contagious disease based on her pregnancy. Other decisions, however, have gone on to say that the PDA doesn’t preclude policies that take into account the reality of pregnancy in assisting women in balancing the work and family conflict and that federal law doesn’t prevent an employer from temporarily transferring a pregnant woman, at her request, for the protection of her unborn child. As for Veronica, these aren’t issues she has to address at the moment, though they could make for some interesting plot lines in a sequel. In the meantime, are you Team Piz or Team Logan?