All the Money in the World: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, and wage disparity issues

January 22, 2018 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the ongoing Hollywood reckoning, Kevin Spacey’s downfall was swift following accusations from Anthony Rapp that Spacey sexually assaulted him at the age of 14.  Since Rapp came forward, several others have joined him in accusing Spacey of sexual misconduct and predatory behavior.  Netflix suspended production of House of Cards, and director Ridley Scott began pursuing rapid reshoots to recast Spacey’s role in the true crime thriller All the Money in the World.  Ironically, efforts to eradicate Spacey’s shadow of sexual harassment allegations inadvertently led to a highly publicized discussion about sex-based pay disparities.

Regarding the reshoots necessary to replace Spacey with Christopher Plummer, Scott stated in interviews that all cast members (with the exception of Plummer) completed the reshoots free of charge.    Michelle Williams, one of the film’s stars, confirmed that she agreed to do the reshoots for free and that “it is our little act of trying to right a wrong.  And it sends a message to predators–you can’t get away with this anymore.  Something will be done.”

However, earlier this month, USA Today reported that another one of the film’s stars, Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for the reshoots while Williams received an $80 per diem totaling less than $1,000.  The fact both actors were represented by the William Morris Endeavor Agency (WME) added even greater fuel to the ensuing fire.  A social media storm erupted with many condemning the pay disparity between Williams and Wahlberg as yet another example of gender inequality in the workplace.  Just two days earlier, male and female stars (including Williams) had worn black to the Golden Globes as a showing of support for Time’s Up, an anti-harassment and gender equality initiative launched by Hollywood power players like Reece Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, Shonda Rhimes, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, and many more.

Mark Wahlberg responded to the film controversy by promising to donate $1.5 million in Williams’ honor to the Time’s Up initiative.  WME promised to donate an additional $500,000 to Time’s Up.  Williams released a statement saying, “If we truly envision an equal world, it takes equal effort and sacrifice.  Today is one of the most indelible days of my life because of Mark Wahlberg, WME, and a community of men and women who share in this accomplishment.  Anthony Rapp, for all the shoulders you stood on, now we stand on yours.”

However, the controversy has not ended there.  The Hollywood Reporter released a story that Williams reportedly was paid $625,000 for her work on All the Money in the World while Wahlberg took home $500 million, despite the fact they had nearly equal screen time in the film.  Renewed public outcry has called for transparency in pay discussions and equality in the workplace.  News outlets and social media are likely to bring us similarly high-profile stories raising pay disparity issues, and it seems that a growing number of actors have been emboldened to discuss pay and alleged inequalities.  Indeed, the National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly reiterated employees’ right to discuss pay, and an executive order issued by then-president Barack Obama extends a similar standard to federal contractors who are not covered by the NLRA.

While so many of these headlines involve Hollywood stars, employers in all industries should take note and embrace the opportunity to evaluate and continue to re-evaluate their own practices to ensure legal compliance and a healthy work environment for employees.  My colleague, Rachel E. Kelly wrote a great piece last week offering employer tips on the importance of transparency and establishing an appropriate workplace culture where qualified diverse candidates can thrive.  As Rhimes stated about the Time’s Up initiative, “It’s very hard for us to speak righteously about the rest of anything if we haven’t cleaned our own house.”  It seems that time is indeed up for those who put off necessary house cleaning.

 

Coaching reVOL-UTion: Schiano, Currie, and what school’s lawyers are analyzing right now

December 05, 2017 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

The Tennessee coaching search has produced high drama over the past two weeks. For Vol fans like myself, it has felt at times like absolute torture and at other times like just a little bit of torture. “Vol-nation” was in better spirits after the hiring of Phillip Fulmer as Athletic Director was announced, and many are pleased with the selection of master-recruiter and talented Alabama Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as the next head coach of the Vols. Details surfaced early Thursday that Pruitt’s new contract is for 6-years at roughly $4 million per year.

Despite this stability, however, the University of Tennessee is far from out of the woods. That is because the administration is staring down the barrel of two potentially costly legal battles over separate memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with would-have-been head coach Greg Schiano and outgoing Athletic Director John Currie. As a legal blogger and avid college football fan, I have never been more excited to bring you legal analysis.

Schiano’s MOU

As you might recall, the Schiano hire at Tennessee was torpedoed after fans and boosters responded in an overwhelmingly negative way via social media and some alleged behind-the-scenes protests. It was later reported that Schiano may seek compensation for Tennessee backing out of an MOU that was allegedly signed by then-athletic director Currie. For starters, the biggest problem in giving any decided legal opinion is that we don’t have a copy of the MOU. In the absence of the actual Schiano MOU, most have looked to the MOU for current UT head basketball coach Rick Barnes for guidance about what might be in Schiano’s agreement. The Barnes MOU contains basic contract language, i.e., offer, acceptance, description of duties, compensation, and termination provisions. It is essentially a legally binding agreement and not an agreement to agree, even though it does contemplate the parties would sign a more detailed agreement later. The MOU contains standard for-cause/no-cause termination provisions outlining the parties’ duties in the event of a separation. The Schiano MOU is likely structured similarly.

While initial reports stated that Currie signed the document, reports have since surfaced that UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport did not sign the MOU, leaving some question about its enforceability. The question remains whether Currie’s purported signature on the MOU makes the document legally binding when UT’s top brass didn’t sign the agreement. The Barnes MOU states it would constitute a legally binding agreement “when fully executed.” I added the emphasis to “fully” because of the report that Currie’s is the only Tennessee signature purportedly on the agreement. By contrast, the Barnes agreement required the signatures of the athletic director, the chancellor, and the treasurer and CFO. That is consistent with Article IV, Section 8, of the UT Bylaws, which provide in pertinent part “all contracts . . . and other instruments of legal obligation shall be executed by the President or another University Officer after any required legal and fiscal review.” The position of athletic director—which Currie held—isn’t identified as a “University Officer” capable of executing such agreements. Thus, blank signature blocks for the university officers on Schiano’s MOU would tend to support the argument that although “executed,” the agreement wasn’t “fully” executed and therefore isn’t enforceable.

Schiano, however, may argue Currie had sufficient or at least apparent authority to bind the university so that Schiano could legitimately rely on Currie’s signature alone in believing the deal was done. Additional evidence about the university’s previous practice in such circumstances, such as other documents similar to the Barnes MOU, would be necessary to give a more definitive take on Schiano’s chances of success. But you can bet he and his agent are likely to push the issue, given that big money is at stake. A “no cause” termination would bring the MOU’s buyout clause into play. The Barnes MOU provided for a buyout worth $1 million per contract year remaining in the event of a no-cause termination. That was seemingly based on Barnes’ $2.5 million annual salary. Schiano’s MOU was likely worth much more, which would most likely result in a similarly higher buyout. Given the circumstances under which the deal crumbled, it is difficult to see how UT could argue it had cause to terminate the agreement. All facts pertinent to cause, including Schiano’s coaching history and The Washington Post article linking him to the Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State, were all well-known before negotiations began.

If Schiano presses the issue, UT will have to weigh its options in deciding whether to fight or try to negotiate a mutual resolution. That, too, could prove costly. A recent example can be found just down the road in Gainesville, Florida, in the form of (UT’s SEC East rival) the University of Florida’s termination of former head coach Jim McElwain. That termination, which was “for cause,” has reportedly resulted in a settlement paying McElwain roughly $4 million of his $12.9 million buyout. Since Schiano and McElwain reportedly share the same agent, the success of settlement negotiations in other termination cases may embolden Schiano to at least kick the tires with UT to see what he can get. 

Currie’s employment status

The fallout from the Schiano debacle is far from over. Just this past Friday, Currie was “suspended with pay” by Chancellor Davenport. Despite “suspending” and not “terminating” Currie, Davenport hired former UT head coach and Hall-of-Famer Phillip Fulmer to assume the AD duties full-time, effective immediately. The hiring of Currie’s replacement while he is still on staff likely means UT administrators and counsel are conducting an internal investigation to determine whether they can fire him for causea decision that may alleviate the burden of having to pay Currie’s own buyout, which reportedly stands at $5.5 million. Whether the university can establish he acted outside of his authority with regard to the botched hiring of Schiano and his MOU or whether Currie’s desperate “Hail Mary” attempts to hire Mike “the Pirate” Leach to succeed Butch Jones was the final nail in his coffin remains to be seen.

Remember, while all of this potential cash exchange plays out on your Twitter feed, Tennessee has essentially agreed to honor former coach Butch Jones’ $8.25 million buyout. Oh, to have been a football coach where “success” is measured by a committee and under-performance guarantees you money! Whatever, man, just Swing Your Sword.

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.

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.

What we learned: talent placement lessons from UT football and U.S. Ryder Cup team

October 03, 2016 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

Sports are about players making plays. Coaches and managers can break down film, scheme, and motivate all they want. But, when the game is on the line, execution is all that matters. As the ole ball coach said, “It’s not about the X’s and O’s, it’s about the Jimmy’s and Joe’s.” This truth was on full display this weekend in two, wholly unrelated sports: college football and … golf.  Buisness start

On Saturday, the Georgia Bulldogs hosted the Tennessee Volunteers “between the hedges” in Athens, Georgia, and the last 30 seconds was likely the wildest ending to a sports contest you’ll ever see. If you didn’t see the game, and have been under a rock all weekend, Georgia threw a 50-yard touchdown pass with 10 seconds left to take the lead, only to have Tennessee throw a 50-yard “Hail Mary” with no time on the clock to win the game. The ending defies all attempts at written description. Do yourself a favor and click the link above, and watch all the videos. (Full disclosure: I am a Tennessee fan. A hopeless, oft-heartbroken Tennessee fan.)

For all the excitement on the gridiron, the story begins and ends with the man who caught the game-winning pass for the Vols, Jauan Jennings. Jennings came to Tennessee in 2015 as a 4-star recruit as a dual-threat quarterback out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Jennings also was a two-sport athlete, earning looks from several schools for hoops after he was named MVP of the basketball state tournament in his junior year. Jennings was a promising QB prospect with a solid arm and superior running ability. But, Coach Jones and the UT staff had other ideas, converting Jennings into a wide receiver shortly after he stepped on the practice field in Knoxville. To his credit, however, rather than pout or request a transfer, Jennings took the challenge to become the best wide receiver he could be. Boy, has that decision paid off! Just last week, Jennings burned future NFL draft pick Jalen Tabor for the go-ahead touchdown against the Florida Gators. And now, he basks in the glory of catching the pass that kept Tennessee in the driver’s seat for winning the SEC East. For Jennings, it’s an inspiring story of trust and commitment. For the coaches, it’s a story of knowing your players and putting them in the best position to succeed.

A similar story of placement and execution played out on the links on Sunday, as America recaptured the Ryder Cup over Europe, winning by the biggest margin in more than 30 years. Fittingly, the final, cup-clenching point was earned by Captain’s pick Ryan Moore, whom USA Team Captain Davis Love III chose over Bubba Watson, the seventh-ranked player in the world. The potentially controversial pick proved fruitful as Moore earned Team USA 2.5 points over the weekend, including a win over European veteran Lee Westwood.

3 tips for employers

The wisdom of these coaches and captains can be replicated every day in your workforce. Your first goal as a manager or business owner is to identify an individual with the will to succeed on their own. No matter how good a business person you are, if your team members aren’t committed to advancing themselves, it’s unlikely they will see the benefit in contributing to your goals, either.

Second, focus on the facts. Too often during hiring, employers will ask questions that don’t pertain to the needs of the job. Take Jennings, for example. While he may have desired to be a quarterback, the facts pointed the coaches to another position (i.e., tall, jumps well, good hands, great speed = wide receiver!). Focusing on tangible and intangible qualities that have the ability to affect the outcome of a play (or an assignment) will streamline your hiring process. Plus, not straying off into topics that don’t matter will eliminate the possibility of asking irrelevant questions that can expose your company to liability.

Finally, check references. Players have ready-made reference sheets in the form of wins, losses, and personal stats. Your applicants and employees wont be as easy to evaluate. The best thing is to call on those who have previously worked with them. Typically, the employee will provide you with a list of references. If that list seems suspect, or if the people you call don’t have anything good to say about a candidate, that should be a sure sign he/she likely won’t be a great contributor to your goals, either.

Taking time to build a team with the right kind of talent in the right places can help put your company in a position to succeed.

eTeam: Finding the leader to take you from idea to profit

August 10, 2016 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

Books are supposed to be my bailiwick here at the blog and after several posts on anything but, I figure it’s time to return to that groove. This week I want to focus on new businesses, or “startups,” if you prefer.  eBoys

If you’re starting a business and have grand plans for future growth, you really need to check out Randall Stross’s eBoys: The First Inside Account of Venture Capitalists at Work. eBoys has a bit of age on it at this pointit was first published in 2000 and came out soon before the dot-com bubble burst early that decade, and so you could criticize it as out-of-date and out of context. I don’t subscribe to that view.

eBoys follows the early days of Benchmark Capital, a new venture capital firm that launched in the 1990s. Benchmark (as it is now known) earned its stripes quickly for a newcomer: One of its early investments was eBay, which still ranks as one of the most successful venture capital investments ever. Benchmark granted Stross incredible access to its inner workings, meetings, and deliberations, which resulted in a very compelling read. I’m now working through the book for about the fourth or fifth time.

One of my observations about Benchmark’s business is the extraordinary amount of time they spend talking about the people in charge of the firm’s portfolio companies, both before and after the firm invests. For sure, eBoys includes plenty of discussion about the technological edges these companies are building. Thankfully, for a Luddite like me, Stross doesn’t let the techie stuff overwhelm the readers. Instead, to my eye, Benchmark’s partners spend most of their time chewing over the likelihood that their portfolio companies have the right people in charge.

Much of the book is devoted to explaining how Benchmark goes about finding “The Guy” who can take a company with a whiz-bang idea and deliver that idea to consumers in the form of a profitable product. (And, by the way, don’t let the talk about “The Guy,” the locker room style of the partners’ discussions, or Silicon Valley’s notorious male-dominated reputation fool youBenchmark’s most successful “Guy” was actually a gal: eBay’s Meg Whitman.)

Taken out of context, you could mistake eBoys as a guide on how to build your business’s best team and, in my opinion, you wouldn’t be wrong. Benchmark’s partners realize that a new business that shows enough promise to justify millions in seed funding has to have the right mix of talent and personalities to bring the business’s product to market. That may mean that the company’s founder or the technological mind behind the product isn’t the right person to manage the companyoften, that is not the right person.

I’m sure any reader out there faces similar problems in any business. Do we have the right team in place? What skills do we need right now, as opposed to the skills we needed a few years ago? What to do if we don’t have the right team or if the skills we need today don’t match with the people we have? If you are wrestling with these question (and if you’re not, you may need to soon), you could do much worse than to check out eBoys.

Ariana Grande’s online antics result in job loss at the White House

July 25, 2016 - by: Marilyn Moran 0 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

Newly leaked e-mails reveal that pop sensation Ariana Grande lost a gig performing at the White House based on a video circulated online last year. The surveillance footage taken at a California doughnut shop showed Grande licking a tray of doughnuts and saying, “I hate America.” The footage was later picked up by TMZ and circulated across social media, creating a firestorm of controversy and criticism against the former Nickelodeon star. A White House staffer tasked with vetting Grande for the job responded to her request to perform with a resounding “Nope” upon learning of her extracurricular activities.  Donut with sprinkles isolated

In refusing to allow Grande to perform, the White House joined the ranks of organizations that vet potential hires by checking applicants’ social media content. According to a 2014 survey from CareerBuilder, forty-three percent of employers use social networking sites to research job candidates. Of those, 51 percent reported that they refused to hire a candidate based on content found on social media. Forty-five percent of employers also use search engines such as Google to research potential job candidates.

While researching a candidate’s on-line presence could provide information helpful to the hiring process, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) suggests that HR professionals follow some guidelines to ensure their snooping is lawful. For example, to avoid claims of discrimination, it is less risky to check social media sites after an applicant has been interviewed, when the applicant’s protected characteristics are already known to the employer.

In addition, employers should be consistent and subject all applicants to similar scrutiny. In other words, if you check one candidate’s social media profile, you should check others’ as well. Also, if you do rely on damaging content found online to deny employment, you should print the page containing the information to document the basis for your decision, in case the post is later deleted.

Lastly, keep in mind that some state laws limit your ability to refuse to hire an applicant based on off-duty conduct, and you may be subject to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (and corresponding state laws) if you use a third-party to investigate applicants’ social media activity.

If you follow these guidelines, you can rest easy and just say “Nope” to the next doughnut-licking applicant you encounter in the hiring process.

 

Harvey Specter on human resources

July 18, 2016 - by: Robin Kallor 0 COMMENTS
Robin Kallor

It is challenging to make an attempt at wit and entertainment after the news of the brazen act of violence in Nice, France during a Bastille Day celebration last week. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Nice, France as they deal with this horrific tragedy.    Suits

Season 6 of Suits aired on USA Network on July 13 with Mike Ross in prison, serving his two-year sentence as a consequence of working as an associate for one of Manhattan’s top law firms, despite not being an admitted attorney; having never passed the bar, gone to law school or even college. Strike that…he somehow took and passed the bar, but never went to law school, did not complete college and was obviously not admitted to practice law.

For those of you “non-Suiters,” the show involves one of Manhattan’s most successful lawyers, Harvey Specter, at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. Due to his confidence and incredible charm, Harvey is commonly referred to by his law firm and its clients as the firm’s best “closer” for his inexplicable ability to close deals. As part of his promotion from junior partner to senior partner, Harvey is permitted to hire a protégé associate from Harvard and is sent off to interview the applicants in a hotel conference room.

The only applicant who impresses Harvey is Mike Ross, who admitted he wasn’t a lawyer or even a college graduate, but touted himself as a genius with legal principles not only memorized but also understood. Ross never applied for the job. Instead, he ended up in the interview room while on foot running from the police during a sting operation resulting from his  attempt to deliver a suitcase full of marijuana and earn enough money to keep his grandmother in a private nursing home.

Ross immediately proves to have the book smarts of Clarence Darrow and the street smarts of Charles Ponzi. Harvey and Mike spend their days winning all of their cases while keeping up their charade at all costs. While the show is focused on this deception and Ross’ story, the star of the show is Harveyan overly confident, outside-the-box-thinking zealot. His witty one-liners make him impossible not to idolize.

While we can all use a little “Harvey Specter” in our lives because this is a human resources blog, I take this opportunity to address my top Harvey Specter HR takeaways and also provide him with some cautionary legal advice.

1. “My respect isn’t demanded, it’s earned.”

While employers can mandate that their employees listen to them and follow their lawful instructions, supervisors cannot make their subordinates respect them. Respect is something that supervisors earn from treating employees fairly. While human resources professionals can be seen as tough in their roles as negotiators or discipliners, when they believe they have been treated fairly, it lends credibility to these processes.

2. “First impressions last. You start behind the eight ball, you’ll never get in front.”

It is no secret that first impressions are key to applicants during the interview process; however, they are equally as important to an employee’s perception of its employer. Therefore, it is necessary for managers or human resources professionals not to be late to meetings with new hires and to take the time to explain important policies, procedures, and employee benefits. Additionally, offer letters and employee handbooks should be written in a manner that strikes the right balance between setting forth expectations/avoiding contractual guarantees and setting the appropriate positive tone about the Company.

3. “I don’t play the odds, I play the man.”

While, I’m not sure that this is truly what Harvey meant, it is important for managers and human resources professionals to be perceptive in their interactions with employees. Empathy and emotional intelligence are key attributes for managers and human resources professionals so that (1) employees feel they can openly discuss their employment related concerns (which can include sensitive medical issues) in a safe, welcoming environment and (2) human resources and managers have their finger on the pulse of what is going on in their workplaces so that they can nip issues in the bud and avoid possible legal claims and poor morale.

Thank you, Harvey, for imparting your words of wisdom. Notwithstanding, I have been watching you over the last five seasons and I have some advice for you.

1. “Sorry, I can’t hear you over how awesome I am.”

While I commend your confidence, the appropriate amount of self-reflection and humility is important for all effective managers. If we are caught up in ego, we will not be paying attention to those around us in order to assess whether there are any issues blooming in the workplace. Also, often the “my way or the highway” approach tends to decrease employee morale and lead to employment related claims.

2. “Loyalty is a two-way street. If I’m asking for it from you, then you’re getting it from me.”

While employers can expect employees not to breach their fiduciary duty to their employers, they cannot expect “loyalty” at all costs. Nearly all employment related statutes contain anti-retaliation provisions, which prohibit taking adverse action on the basis of engaging in protected activity, which includes filing internal complaints and lawsuits.

3. “I refuse to answer that on the grounds that I don’t want to.”

Sometimes, Harvey, managers are required to answer questionsand sometimes tough ones. This response would not be an appropriate one.

In close, Harvey, I would be remiss if I did not mention that hiring someone who you know does not have the requisite degree and certification that state law mandates for the position is probably not the best choice for your organization and could lead to claims of fraud, negligent hiring and negligent supervision and could lead to your disbarment. In light of the class action lawsuit that was recently filed against your firm, you probably know that by now. I have a sneaking suspicion that you will land on your feet, because after all, as you say it: “Anyone can do [your] job, but no one can be [you].” Also, and most importantly, the show is fiction.

‘I was not told there would be math’

April 20, 2016 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

Saturday Night Live has made invaluable contributions to American humor, but the best may be the show’s political parodies. Chevy Chase was famous for mocking Gerald Ford’s clumsy reputation (undeserved, for sure, considering Ford was a standout athlete). Dana Carvey practically built a career mimicking George H.W. Bush, and Phil Hartman had Bill Clinton down pat.

One of the best lines, however, came from Will Farrell’s George W. Bush. During a mock debate with Al Gore, Farrell brought roars after responding to a question with, “I was not told there would be math.”

Who doesn’t fall for that line? Very few among us haven’t playfully mocked our math skills at some point (I’m a lawyer, after all, so it’s a regular for me). A new study, however, warns us that, yes, in fact, there will be math—and maybe more than we are prepared to handle.Student have a problem with mathematics

The Conference Board released a report this week that should give anyone in HR pause. The report warns that the United States is running out of skilled workers in certain critical areas (or, at least, expected future demand for these skills from employers is expected to exceed supply). And, yes, you guessed it—mathematicians are one of them. Healthcare employers are expected to feel the squeeze in the next few decades as an aging population will require more nurses and physical therapists. Other occupations at risk include skilled trades like plant operators, railroad workers, machinists, and electricians.

If the Conference Board is correct, HR’s tough job will only get tougher. We all know what happens when demand exceeds supply: Prices go up, which means wage increases or higher employee expectations. It also means a more competitive environment within your industry. If you are in health care, be prepared for fierce competition to hire and retain skilled staff over the next decades. If you’re in manufacturing, you may find that your skilled machinists are coveted by prime competitors and that replacements are in short supply. In summary, it’s time to get in front of these trends!

Fear not, though—this may be the opportunity you’ve been searching for to atone for the time in high school when you stuffed the math club president in his locker.

Bloodline: We did a bad thing

December 11, 2015 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

“We’re not bad people, but we did a bad thing.” This is the tagline for the Netflix original thriller-drama Bloodline. If you haven’t seen it, run to add it to your watch list immediately. The show takes us into the lives of the Rayburn family, owners of a picturesque beachside hotel in the Florida Keys. Despite the gorgeous backdrop, this family is plagued by its dark and violent past. Pay attention to the opening sequence because a storm is certainly coming.  Woman Mugshot

When the oldest son, Danny, returns home after years away, the family reunion is anything but happy. Need proof? We know from the very start that Danny will end up dead by the hands of one (or more) of his siblings, but it will take the rest of the first season to unravel who kills him, how, and why.

During Danny’s descent into darkness (all he wanted to do was to give his toast at the anniversary party, right?), he and his family members commit any number of sins, many of which could destroy the family, not to mention the family business. To give but one example, Danny uses his criminal connections to threaten a witness and save one of his co-conspirators, Carlos, from some jail time after a fight. Danny ends up hiring Carlos to work at his family’s hotel, a cover for their actual moneymaking plan, despite (or, indeed, because of) Carlos’ criminal history and his recent run-in with the law.

This type of scenario is probably not what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had in mind when it released its enforcement guidance on the consideration of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Title VII prohibits employers from treating individuals differently based on those protected statuses, but it also prohibits employers from applying a facially neutral policy that has a disparate impact on individuals in a particular protected group.

The EEOC has warned that even when employers apply criminal record exclusions uniformly, the exclusions may still operate to disproportionately and unjustifiably exclude people of a particular race or national origin. In short, employers must show that such exclusions are job-related and consistent with business necessity. The EEOC has called for a fact-based analysis whereby employers should consider (1) the nature and gravity of the offense or conduct, (2) the time that has passed since the offense, conduct, and/or completion of the sentence, and (3) the nature of the job sought or held.

Danny, however, isn’t your typical employer. For his purposes, a criminal history is a virtue and an opportunity for exploitation. After all, how do you pay back your boss for having the prosecution’s star witness frightened out of testifying against you at your upcoming trial? Nothing good, I can tell you, but it certainly makes for an entertaining show. So tell us your thoughts in the comments section as well as your predictions for Season Two in the New Year.

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