Business lessons from WrestleMania 31

March 30, 2015 3 COMMENTS

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.

But what the public doesn’t see in this grand spectacle is the small army of attorneys, agents, and other business people it likely takes working behind the scenes to put an event like this together, both logistically and in terms of arranging appearance agreements for the special guests such as The Rock and, well, I will stick to calling her “Ms. Rousey” out of both respect and fear. The business of the WWE is entertainment—in massive, action-packed doses. And there is no doubt it takes an equally large amount of planning and negotiations to make that happen.

Although your business may not be to the same scale, it is likely that it takes more than just flipping the lights on to turn a profit. Your employee relations are no different. Successful employee relations takes planning.

Do you have an employee handbook? No—you should probably get one. Woooooooh!

Got a handbook? Good—when was the last time it was updated? Never? Uh-oh. If your handbook’s last revisions bear the same date as Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake’s last title bout, you’ve probably missed some important changes in the law.

Handbook: check. Updated: check. OK, Mr. Wonderful, good job. But, to ensure you and your company are in the best position to prevent and/or defend against lawsuits by current and former employees, you should audit your operations, at least annually, to make sure your managers and supervisors are properly interpreting and applying these policies on a day-to-day basis. Forget this step and you could get “clotheslined” by a lawsuit.

Taking these few, simple steps can go a long waytoward helping your company prevent unnecessary litigation and ensure you retain the belt as the undefeated, heavyweight champion.

Halloween tips to avoid a total nightmare

October 27, 2014 2 COMMENTS

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…

Oh [no], Canada!

November 17, 2013 0 COMMENTS

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past couple of weeks, you’ve probably heard about Toronto’s crack-shutterstock_128700830smoking mayor, Rob Ford. No, I don’t mean that term in the figurative sense or as a commentary on some outlandish political policy he has chosen to pursue. I mean it quite literally, as Rob Ford admitted in a November 5 press conference to smoking crack cocaine while in one of his “drunken stupors.” (I’m not kidding. Those are his words.) And while we Americans all know Canadian beer is like moonshine, that’s hardly an excuse for an elected official choosing to dance with the devil—even one as offensive and scandal-ridden as Ford, who some have labeled as “Mayor McCrack.”

Sadly, Toronto is not the first major city to go through such a scandal. Most of us remember the time when Marion Barry, then mayor of our nation’s own Capital, was caught on tape himself smoking crack. Barry, of course, was arrested and served six months in prison, only to be re-elected mayor four years later. So maybe there’s still hope for Ford. And if you’ve read much of what he’s been quoted as saying, you might think a little time out of the spotlight would do him some good.

Aside from making the jobs of late-night talk show hosts extremely easy over the past couple weeks, Ford’s admission has supplied this blogger with the necessary segue to highlight an important employment law topic: drugs in the workplace.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows drug abuse is still a major issue for employers. The study found that most illicit drug users in the United States are employed. In fact, the study revealed “of the 21.5 million current illicit drug users aged 18 or older in 2012, 14.6 million (67.9 percent) were employed either full- or part-time.” That’s a lot of current drug users inhabiting your workplace. Especially when drug use can result in lower productivity and lower quality work, increased absenteeism, and greater risk of on-the-job injuries. All of these things can negatively affect your company’s bottom line.

What employers can do

Employers aren’t powerless to combat drugs 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 workforce is different and drug-free workplace programs should be tailored to match a company’s individual needs. Effective drug-free workplace programs generally include five elements:

  1. A written policy that provides a clear description of prohibited behaviors, as well as an explanation of the consequences for violating the policy.
  2. Supervisor training to ensure managers understand the policy and know how to recognize potential substance abuse issues as well as how to refer employees to professional help.
  3. Employee education programs that provide information on company policy, how to comply with the policy, the consequences of violations, and general information on the dangers of substance abuse.
  4. Employee assistance programs that help prevent, identify, and resolve issues relating to substance abuse, including counseling and referral to professional help, which can be an alternative to dismissal.
  5. Drug testing that deters and detects drug use and provides concrete evidence for intervention.

Due to the variance of state and local laws concerning employee drug testing, it’s critical that any decision to implement employee drug testing be reviewed to ensure that it is compliant with the laws of your jurisdiction. Many states encourage drug-free workplaces by offering protection from civil liability or a reduction in workers’ compensation premiums for employers that adopt compliant drug-testing policies and procedures. Other states prohibit employee drug testing or limit the manner and circumstances for which drug testing may be performed.

Check your state law

But wait. There’s more! To date, at least 20 states plus the District of Columbia allow their citizens to use marijuana for medical purposes. Two of those states–Colorado, and Washington–recently passed measures legalizing recreational use. While the provisions of state medical marijuana laws vary, generally state courts called upon to determine the extent of an employer’s obligation to accommodate employees using marijuana under the medical use laws have found no such obligation either express or implied. Some state laws, however, provide more protection for employees. For example, the laws in Rhode Island and Maine prohibit employers from penalizing an individual merely because of the person’s status as a medical marijuana user.

Arizona’s law goes even further, prohibiting discrimination against a registered qualifying patient based on that person’s positive test for marijuana unless the patient was impaired by marijuana on the employer’s premises or during the hours of employment. While the law doesn’t require an employer to permit an employee to ingest marijuana at work or to work while under the influence of marijuana, it also states that a registered qualifying patient is not considered to be under the influence of marijuana solely because that person tests positive for marijuana metabolites in an amount that is insufficient to cause impairment.

Because of the various approaches applied by the several states and the ever-developing nature of this area of the law, it’s important that you seek help from an experienced professional when developing and implementing a drug-testing policy.