5 Lessons from Lost on Hiring, Safety, and Other Workplace Issues

May 19, 2010 - by: HR Hero 5 COMMENTS

By Alan King and Tony Kessler

At first glance, you might think a TV show featuring plane crash survivors on a remote Pacific island — with time travel and an evil smoke monster thrown in to boot — would yield few if any insights into how to run a great workplace. But as the six-year run of the hit series Lost comes to a climactic conclusion this weekend, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out some important HR and employment lessons we’ve noticed along the way.

Some lessons have been obvious. For example, when hiring-agent Rose Nadler earlier this season looked askance at John Locke’s application to tackle a construction foreman position, apparently because he was sitting in a wheelchair and wasn’t “being realistic” about his job abilities, she appeared to be violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). As much as we have loved Rose both on the island and off (in the parallel universe that sprang up after Juliette apparently detonated the atomic bomb in the final episode of Season 5), she didn’t appear to take the time to consider whether Locke could perform the foreman job duties with a reasonable accommodation.

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Harvard Law Grad Reflects on Employers’ Prospects If Kagan on Court

May 10, 2010 - by: HR Hero 4 COMMENTS

by Joanna R. Vilos

President Barack Obama today nominated Elena Kagan to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the U.S. Supreme Court. Stevens has a reputation for making employee-friendly decisions in cases that have reached the high court, but most employers don’t have much familiarity with Kagan or her views on employment-related issues.

So how would the confirmation of Kagan change the Supreme Court’s composition and the world of employment law? Frankly, there’s not much information to guide this inquiry. Kagan has never been a judge and is therefore somewhat of an unknown quantity. While I can’t promise an accurate prediction of Kagan’s judicial tendencies, I can promise to equip you with just enough information about her to impress your colleagues at the next cocktail party if the topic of Supreme Court nominations should arise.

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Disaster and Recovery in Tennessee

May 06, 2010 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

Last weekend, we experienced one of the worst disasters ever to hit Middle Tennessee as historic floods ravaged the state. M. Lee Smith Publishers, the company that produces HR Hero and other HR products including the state Employment Law Letters, is headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee, just south of Nashville.

On May 1 and 2, record rainfall pushed area waterways to unheard of levels, destroying lives and homes. As of Friday morning, May 7, the death toll in Tennessee had reached 21 with 10 of those in Nashville. Many businesses and their employees in our community have been devastated, and it will be a long and slow recovery.

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COBRA Bills Face Uncertain Future as Federal Subsidy Begins to Expire

November 30, 2009 - by: HR Hero 7 COMMENTS

Update Dec. 21, 2009: President signs bill including COBRA subsidy extension

By Ashley Gillihan and Carolyn Smith

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Editor of Texas Employment Law Letter Reflects on Letterman Saga

October 09, 2009 - by: HR Hero 1 COMMENTS

In the wake of the recent scandal involving late-night host David Letterman, Mike Maslanka, editor of Texas Employment Law Letter, provides advice on how to deal with the relationship dynamics between the top brass and their subordinates in his latest podcast. A top boss must never become romantically involved with a subordinate, says Maslanka.

In his podcast, Maslanka contemplates the pitfalls of such relationships, noting how employees always closely observe the top boss’ conduct, whether he or she is a CEO, a partner in a law firm, or a restaurant manager. If an employer has a strict anti-fraternization policy that states a supervisor who dates a subordinate will be fired and the boss engages in such behavior, Maslanka says not only will the policy mean nothing to employees, but “the boss will be deposed in every lawsuit filed by a supervisor fired under the rule.”

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Our Best Benefits Bet: Congress Will Extend COBRA Subsidy

October 07, 2009 - by: HR Hero 5 COMMENTS

Update Dec. 21, 2009: President signs bill including COBRA subsidy extension

by Ashley Gillihan

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U.S. Senate Approves Several Amendments Dealing with Immigration Enforcement

July 13, 2009 - by: HR Hero 1 COMMENTS

By Hector A. Chichoni

On Wednesday, July 8, 2009, the U.S. Senate approved several amendments dealing with immigration enforcement and benefits that were not included in the 2010 homeland security appropriations bill (H.R. 2892) passed previously by the House of Representatives.

An amendment introduced by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala) dealing with E-Verify was passed by a voice vote after a motion by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to table it was rejected 44 to 53.

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More on Supreme Court’s Ruling in Key Reverse Discrimination Case

June 30, 2009 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

On Monday (June 29, 2009), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of white firefighters in a 5-4 decision addressing workplace reverse discrimination. The Court held, in Ricci v. DeStefano, that the city of New Haven, Connecticut, violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when it threw out the results of a written exam used in the promotion of firefighters because non enough minorities passed the test.

Although the case has been in the media since it reached the Supreme Court, it became very highly publicized once President Barack Obama chose Judge Sonia Sotomayor as his Supreme Court nominee. Sotomayor was part of the three-judge Second Circuit panel that upheld New Haven’s decision to throw out the exams. Since Sotomayor’s nomination, the case has been inextricably linked to her and has been used by her critics as an example of her tendency to favor minorities in her judicial rulings. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee are likely to focus on the Supreme Court’s reversal in her confirmation hearings, which begin in two weeks.

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Bo Obama and Pets in the Workplace

April 17, 2009 - by: HR Hero 6 COMMENTS

I’m going to break with my usual business-oriented notes from the editor this week to write about something near and dear to my heart — dogs.

Bo Obama photo

Bo Obama photo from the White House blog

After months of anticipation and speculation, the Obama family finally got their new dog, Bo (pictured on the left), this week and introduced him to the world. While the White House is a home for the first family, it’s also a workplace for hundreds of people. Incorporating pets into the workplace can be tricky — just ask the reporter bitten by President Bush’s Scottish terrier, Barney.

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The Time for Bold Action

March 20, 2009 - by: HR Hero 0 COMMENTS

In difficult times such as these, with the economy in disarray and unemployment at a 20-year high, the natural reaction for many is to pull back. We want to do the safe thing. Recessions are a time to make cuts, reduce risk and weather the storm. Whether you’re talking about individuals or organizations, this is the conventional wisdom.

Let me suggest an alternative. This is a time for bold action. When everyone else is pulling back it’s time to step forward and set yourself apart. I think the English writer Charles Caleb Colton captured it well when he wrote, “Times of great calamity and confusion have been productive for the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace. The brightest thunderbolt is elicited from the darkest storm.”

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