‘We fixed the glitch….’

January 26, 2015 - by: Matt Gilley 1 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

I’m confident in this prediction: If you’ve ever held an office job, you will love Office Space. (If you haven’t seen it, get it now.) Anyone can find something in the movie that resonates. Maybe you connect with the guy who can’t bring himself to do more than 15 minutes of real work a week. Maybe you’re the one locked in a daily standoff with the fax machine. Maybe you’re like everyone in the movie under the thumb of a monotonous, soul-crushing boss.    Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler

I’m a Milton Waddams guy. Now that’s not to say I’m a mumbly guy with no apparent skills or role and a creepy fascination with my stapler (others will be the judge of that), but I can’t get enough of the guy. Milt was useless. When you watch the movie, you can’t figure out why the company hired him in the first place or why it keeps him on the payroll. In fact, some consultants in the movie looked into Milt and discovered that he actually had been laid off years before. No one ever told Milt he’d been downsized, and a “glitch” in the payroll system kept cutting him a paycheck. Therefore, Milt continued to wander aimlessly and mumble, and the company continued to shuffle him around the office with the furniture.

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And the Oscar goes to … tips for evaluating employee performance outside of Tinsel Town

January 20, 2015 - by: Marilyn Moran 1 COMMENTS
Marilyn Moran

Awards season is upon us and soon all of Hollywood will gather to celebrate its most talented actors and actresses, as determined by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  Who will win the Oscar? shutterstock_236123857

While this question is being volleyed about and fiercely debated among Internet pundits and armchair critics, the nominees themselves wait anxiously, knowing that receiving the coveted Academy Award would most likely translate into significant and tangible benefits for them in the form of professional prestige, better opportunities, and increased compensation. Adding to the suspense is the fact that the decision about who will receive an Oscar is left entirely to the arbitrary whims and subjective interpretations of the Academy’s members, with only the representations of a couple of accountants donned in Armani tuxedos to authenticate the legitimacy of the process.

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Now showing at a workplace near you

January 12, 2015 - by: Andy Tanick 0 COMMENTS
Andy Tanick

The air is bitterly cold, especially here in Minnesota. The kids are back in school, and the Christmas decorations have all been put away. For followers of pop culture, those signs can mean only one thing: Now you finally have time to see all those prestigious, blockbuster movies that came out in late 2014.shutterstock_141495676

Business owners and human resources professionals are especially fortunate this year, because so many of the top movies of 2014 had employment-related themes. What HR manager has never had to deal with the fallout from “Horrible Bosses,” after all? And what business hasn’t worried that at some point, “The Judge” could be deciding the outcome of a legal claim filed by a disgruntled former employee?

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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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A scar is born

November 11, 2014 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon the other night, the host and Matthew McConaughey competed to see who could throw the most footballs at the other guy’s face. Not his physical face, of course, but glass plates printed with each guy’s face. Toward the end, McConaughey steps in front of Fallon as he is about to throw, and I immediately start thinking, “What if he hits the actor square in the nose with a football?”shutterstock_183450509

As an employment lawyer, I wasn’t so concerned about McConaughey’s career. Did you see him as modern day Rust Cohle? Dude can pull off ugly just fine. No, my concern was whether he could be compensated for his injuries. Would it be covered by workers’ comp?  Could he sue The Tonight Show or Fallon? Turns out, Hollywood has had to deal with these kinds of safety issues in the past. Here are two cases worth noting.

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Chim, chimney

Kristin Starnes Gray

If you are a Mary Poppins fan, as I am, you were probably as excited as I was to check out Saving Mr. Banks, which is based on Walt Disney’s long-time efforts to bring Mary Poppins to the big screen. As chronicled in the film, that proved to be quite the challenge given that the author, P.L. Travers, (after having Disney jump through hoops for 20 years to win the film rights) was prone to such ashutterstock_78489430ntics as insisting that Disney eliminate the color red from the film and avoid any type of animation. If you are paying close attention, you may also notice some interesting details in the film, including its subtle treatment of Disney’s smoking habit.

Disney, who ultimately succumbed to lung cancer complications, was a chain smoker for much, if not all, of his adult life. However, he was careful not to smoke around children, and there is a studio-wide ban on smoking in Disney films. In Saving Mr. Banks, you will see some hints to this habit in Tom Hanks’ portrayal of the animator and producer. More specifically, Hanks stubs out a cigarette in one scene and there are also references to Disney’s incessant cough.

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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?

If you don’t have anything nice to say…

March 10, 2014 - by: Brian Kurtz 0 COMMENTS
Brian Kurtz

Lately, have you felt feverish, light-headed, even giddy? Well then you must have Oscar fever. The stars! The gowns! The teeth! My god, those blinding white teeth! For you, March 2, 2014, was a night of luxury, glamour, and take-out noodles because NO WAY you were cooking for the family and risk missing J-Law stumble over something walking down the red carpet. Adorbs!

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I believe you have my stapler

March 04, 2014 - by: David Kim 2 COMMENTS
David Kim

shutterstock_44644189Ever flip through the channels on a lazy Saturday afternoon and come across an oldie but goodie? This happened to me recently with the movie Office Space, a workplace classic. While I can’t imagine a world where everyone hasn’t seen Office Space, here is a quick plot summary.

Peter Gibbons (played by Ron Livingston, pictured here) generally has no motivation in life. He hates his job as a programmer at Initech, and hates his boss Bill Lumbergh, a smarmy coffee-mug-holding you know what who makes Peter work weekends and constantly bugs him about the status of his “TPS reports.” Convinced to attend an occupational hypnotherapy session where the therapist dies of a heart attack after hypnotizing Peter, he wakes up relaxed and with a new take on life.  He ignores Lumbergh’s calls and, instead of heading into work over the weekend, goes to Chotchkie’s (a T.G.I. Friday’s parody) and asks out Joanna, a waitress played by Jennifer Aniston, whom Peter seemingly has had a crush on for a while.

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Moneyball redux: What can it buy you?

November 23, 2013 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

I’m not shy about going back to the well. Last month I posted some lessons HR professionals could take from Billy Beane’s roster management of the Oakland A’s, as told in the bestseller, Moneyball.

For my money, Beane’s innovations as GM of the cash-poor A’s put him in the upper ranks of baseball executives among the likes of Branch Rickey, who first made use of an organized farm system to grow talent for my beloved St. Louis Cardinals (before he went on to sign Jackie Robinson with the Brooklyn Dodgers). Now that Brad Pitt has played him in the theaters, people from all walks of industry are clamoring for a bit of Beane’s mind, and personnel managers have been at the front of the line.

If you have to ask why, look around you right now. You are probably reading this on a digital display set into a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. That device is tethered to the ether (likely through your employer) where a server down the hall, in Seattle, in Bangalore, or who-knows-where is making a little record that you, my poor reader, lingered over my humble musings.

Five minutes ago, it also noted the nasty joke you forwarded to a buddy in another office, and it saw that your buddy (not as good a friend as you thought) felt that your joke warranted HR’s attention and sent it to his office HR rep. If asked, the server holds a map of the 16 times in the last three months you’ve crossed this line, and is just waiting for someone to call up this information that will twist the knife you’ve stuck in your own back. (If you’re wondering what it knows about all that stuff you’ve been copying to the used one terabyte hard drive you bought online last week, well … let’s just say you don’t want to do that anymore.)

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