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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Elf: one too many Christmas spirits

December 19, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 1 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

With Christmas just around the corner, my family and I have begun our yearly ritual of re-watching our favorite holiday films. At the top of the list is a relatively newer addition, Elf.  The comedy stars Will Ferrell as Buddy, a human who crawls into Santa’s sack and ends up being raised by Papa Elf at the North Pole. After learning that he is actually human rather than an elf, Buddy decides to travel to New York to find his biological father, who works at a children’s book company and happens to be on the Naughty List. Much of the film’s comedy and charm comes from Buddy’s child-like innocence and genuine holiday cheer as he tries to navigate the cynical world of New York City. shutterstock_236981068At his father’s office, this same innocence leads Buddy to mistake a mail room worker’s whiskey for delicious maple syrup. As you can imagine, a six-foot tall elf can cause quite a ruckus in the workplace after having too many spirits.

Employers are well aware that illicit drug use and alcohol abuse can be costly in the workplace. Drug-free workplace programs can be powerful tools in spreading prevention messages and intervening early with those who have already begun to use drugs. For many individuals, especially those who may deny that their use of drugs is problematic, workplace-based programs can be a critical step along the road to treatment and recovery. Every workplace is different, and drug-free workplace programs should be tailored to match a company’s individual needs. Here are some general recommendations for such programs: read more…

The naked truth about nude celebrities in your workplace

November 17, 2014 - by: Andy Tanick 2 COMMENTS
Andy Tanick

Celebrities lately seem to be having a hard time keeping their clothes on.

Whether it’s one of the Kardashian sisters baring her bottom or Keira Knightley baring her bosom, you can hardly look at any social media site these days without being assaulted by celebrities in various degrees of naked-idity, as Radar O’Reilly once called it. While the exhibitionism has recently arisen mainly among the ranks of female celebrities, there has been no shortage of male body parts on display in recent years, what with NFL quarterbacks, New York politicians, and others seemingly unable to resist the urge to use their smart phones to do dumb things.  NSFW

All of which raises an interesting employment law issue: How does a company’s policy against sexual harassment deal with conversations that employees might have about current events, when those events can at times be sexually charged? If an employee forwards the Kardashian photo to a co-worker, is he violating the policy? What if he merely references the photo as further proof (as if we needed it) that nothing Kardashian-related has any redeeming social value? What if several coworkers engage in a spirited intellectual debate about the statement of female empowerment that Knightley claims she was making with her revealing photo?

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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…

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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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 1 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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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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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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