Friday, March 31, 2023

WIRTW #666: the “exchange” edition

Nine years ago my family and I embarked on an adventure. We hosted an exchange student from Germany for a school year. My own kids were in 2nd grade and kindergarten at the time and they loved having a big sister in the house. My wife and I loved everything about the experience, and we still think of Zarah as our third daughter, with whom we still communicate regularly. In fact, the experience was so positive that we promised ourselves that we'd never do it again for fear of being let down.

Well, we're doing it again. Each Spring our school (which enrolls between 30 and 40 exchange students per school year) emails parents looking for host families for the next school year. Something about one girl's bio caught the eye of both my wife and me. We independently reached the same conclusion — let's do this again. In August, we'll have a 9th grader (Donovan), a 12th grader (Norah), and a 10th grader (our exchange student). The kids are excited to have a new sibling with whom to share their high school experiences, and my wife and I are excited to have yet another German daughter. Life is all about experiences, so why not jump in with both feet?

You can hear all about our perspective on being a host family on this week's episode of The Norah and Dad Show. It's available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, our website, and everywhere else you get your podcasts.

Here's what I read this week that you should read, too.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Think twice before implenting that “English only” rule in your workplace

White Americans, what?
Nothing better to do?
Why don't you kick yourself out?
You’re an immigrant too!

– Jack White, Icky Thump (2007)

Total Employment and Management has agreed to pay $276,000 to settle a national origin discrimination and retaliation charge filed with the EEOC challenging the employer's "no Spanish" rule in its workplace.

The EEOC alleged that TEAM not only imposed its no-Spanish rule without an adequate business justification to support it, but it also fired five employees for defying the rule and continuing to speak Spanish.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Wal-Mart (allegedly) did a 💩 job of accommodating this employee

Why can't some employers understand the interactive process and make accommodations that are simple and easy to make? I wish I knew the answer. After reading the facts of a lawsuit the EEOC just filed against Walmart, I know that Wal-Mart doesn't know the answer.

The EEOC claims that Walmart violated the ADA by refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a deli associate suffering from Crohn's disease.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

A tip on tipped workers: pay them correctly or else

The Department of Labor has sued the owner of two restaurants claiming that servers were not properly paid overtime. 

El Toro Loco Legends LLC in Kansas City and El Toro Loco Lenexa LLC in Lenexa, Kansas, paid their tipped wait staff a minimum wage of $2.30 per hour, but did not properly calculate the overtime premium owed to those employees.

They calculated the overtime premium based off of the $2.30 tipped minimum wage instead of the greater of the full minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or the employee's effective weekly hourly rate including all tips received by the employee, less the employer's statutory tip credit against wages paid directly to the employee.

Monday, March 27, 2023

What does an AI-written employee handbook look like?

Last week, I spoke at our sold out Wickens Workshop. The topic — employee handbooks.

As is the case whenever I speak on that topic, I was sure to make a point about the risks and dangers of relying on internet forms to craft your company's handbook … or as I put it, "Google, J.D."

Which led me to this thought — what happens when people start asking AI bots to write their handbooks?

So, I asked Bard, Google's new AI, to write me an employee handbook. Here's the very underwhelming result.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

NLRB General Counsel goes nuclear on severance agreements in her guidance on McLaren Macomb

NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo just released her Guidance in Response to Inquiries about the McLaren Macomb Decision

Recall that McLaren Macomb held that garden-variety non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses in workplace severance agreements violate the National Labor Relations Act by unlawfully infringing upon the rights of employees to engage in protected concerted activity.

Just how far does Ms. Abruzzo push the limits of McLaren Macomb in her interpretation?

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The 4th nominee for the “Worst Employer of 2023” is … the pizza shop pressurizer

Allegations of forced labor and the physical abuse of employees will always land you on my Worst Employer list.

Last week the feds arrested Stavros Papantoniadis, a/k/a Steve Papantoniadis, the owner of Stash's Pizza, on charges of forced labor related to his employment of an undocumented worker and forcing him to work for more than decade through threats of deportation coupled with physical and verbal abuse. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Federal court permits employer docking from an exempt employee’s PTO bank without violating the FLSA

I think it was Otis Redding who once famously sang, "I'm sittin' on the dock of the pay." 🤔

Whether or not I have that lyric correct, docking an exempt employee's pay is fraught with legal risk that, if done unproperly, could not only jeopardize the exempt status of the employee under the FLSA, but also all employees in the same job classification working for the same managers responsible for the actual deduction.

What about deductions from PTO or other paid leave banks? Do they carry with them the same legal risk. According to the recent opinion of the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Higgins v. Bayada Home Health Care, taking deductions from banks of PTO or other paid leave raises no issues whatsoever the FLSA and therefore does not jeopardize any of the statute's exemptions.

Monday, March 20, 2023

Sexual misconduct isn’t a “mistake”

Vince McMahon is the former CEO and current Executive Chairman of the WWE. It's former CEO because he was forced to step down after it came to light that he had allegedly authorized $19.6 million in hush money payments to female employees who had accused him of sexual misconduct. (It's what earned McMahon his nomination for 2022's Worst Employer.) It's current Executive Chairman because he returned to that position earlier this year after previous stepping down for the same reason.

John Cena is a full-time actor and former WWE star who recently returned to the company. 

Consider the following recent Q&A between Cena and the Associated Press:

AP: Is it tough to reconcile the feelings you have toward Vince McMahon with the sexual misconduct accusations made against him? 

CENA: No. I mean, everyone has the right to have their perspective. I have the right to have mine. When you love somebody, you take them as imperfectly perfect as they are. We all make mistakes, we all have poor decisions. Lord knows I've made my collection of poor choices. That doesn't mean I’m not going to love somebody. There's no way I can go on record and say I don't love Vince McMahon.

Sexual misconduct is not a mistake. 

Friday, March 17, 2023

WIRTW #665: the “grim reaper” edition

Earlier this week, I joined the People Problem Podcast to discuss death at work. Grim as it might be, it's an issue that we all face way too often. We talked about appropriate bereavement leaves, how to handle when an employee dies at work, and what best to when a team member dies away from work. It's a can't miss episode (gallows humor included).

You can listen to the episode here and everywhere else you get your podcasts. (And don't forget to subscribe while you're there.)

Here's what I read this past week that you should read, too.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

6th Circuit confirms that private employers can do private employer things

Four employees of the J.M. Smucker Company sought religious exemptions from the company's Covid vaccine mandate. When the company refused, they sued, claiming that the mandate infringed on their First Amendment religious liberties.

The 6th Circuit easily concluded that the 1st Amendment does not apply to J.M. Smucker or limits its power to regulate its workplace as it is a private company, not a federal, state, or local government.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

EEOC lawsuit highlights risks associated with not accommodating service animals

The EEOC has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Papa John's Pizza claiming that it denied the request of Michael Barnes, who is blind, to bring his service dog — Indie, a black lab — with him to work. After denying his request, the agency alleges, the pizza company fired Barnes. 

This seems like an easy accommodation request to get right, and yet so many employers get it wrong. Here's a handy Q&A for your next service animal accommodation request in your workplace.

Monday, March 13, 2023

What can you do about employee mass protests? (Hint: not much.)

The 25 employees of Mela Kitchen at Jack’s Hard Cider recently walked off the job in protest after owner Donald Hoffman created a new drink menu of cocktails with racially inspired named such as "The Caucasian" and "The Negro."

MSN quotes one employee, Emily Kate Hessler, on why she and her co-workers decided to engage in the mass protest.

Despite days of efforts from upper management trying to halt this cocktail and it's name, Friday comes and it's time to reveal this weekends special. I made a formal complaint to upper management and notified them that if the name isn't changed most of the scheduled staff will be walking. An email was sent to Donald informing him of our plan and his reaction was explosive.

Friday, March 10, 2023

WIRTW #664: the “CE” edition

Are you an HR professional in need of SHRM recertification credits? Will you be attending the Craft Brewers Conference in May? If you answered "yes" to both, then you're in luck. The Brewers Association just announced its Recertification Provider status with SHRM and will begin offering programs that qualify for SHRM recertification credits. CBC is the first of these programs.

SHRM will provide professional development credits for all seminars that take place as part of the THRIVE pre-conference workshop on Sunday, May 7 (which includes mine on ADA compliance, accommodations, and accessibility), in addition to select seminars in the main conference's THRIVE educational track. THRIVE is a day-long pre-conference workshop designed for owners, people leaders, HR, and diversity, equity, and inclusion practitioners that will provide an integrated dive into DEI, HR, and wellness topics for craft brewers of all sizes.

If you're planning on attending CBC let me know. I'll have more to share as we get closer to the event about when and where we can meet up. I'd love to buy you a beer.

Here's what I read this week that you should read, too.

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Relaxing child labor protections is not the solution to our labor problem

Ohio's Senate recently passed legislation that, if signed into law, would make it easier for businesses to employ 14- and 15-year-old children. SB 30 would amend Ohio's current child labor laws to permit 14- and 15-year-olds to work later than 7 pm during the school term with "approval to do so from the person's parent or legal guardian." 

According to State Sen. Tim Shaffer, a Fairfield County Republican, he sponsored the bill to help solve Covid-related workforce shortages, in addition to teaching teens necessary work skills: "Learning how to show up on time, learning how to follow direction and execute commands and execute missions — I know at that age it was critically important for me. And this will certainly help employers across Ohio with their staffing problems as well."

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Someone needs to take away Elon Musk’s twitter access

The reality is that this guy (who is independently wealthy) did no actual work, claimed as his excuse that he had a disability that prevented him from typing, yet was simultaneously tweeting up a storm.

That was Elon Musk's very public, and very offensive, tweet to a former Twitter employee who had asked whether the company still employed him, as his network access had been inactive for nine days and no one from HR could confirm his employment status.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

The 3rd nominee for the “Worst Employer of 2023” is … the awful accommodator

You'd think a nonprofit that provides programs for people with disabilities to build self-reliance through employment services would know a thing or two about the ADA's requirements for reasonable accommodations.

Then there's Innovative Services NW, which the EEOC just sued for it's failure to accommodate a janitor suffering from a degenerative hip disorder. He had asked for a stand-up vacuum to push instead of a backpack vacuum to wear. Not only did ISNW not accommodate him, but it also fired him for his inability to wear that backpack vacuum.

Friday, March 3, 2023

WIRTW #663: the “growth” edition

Growth comes in many forms.  For my son, it came in the form of a daily injection of growth hormones since the age of seven. 

Because of his Noonan Syndrome, he's genetically predisposed to being short statured. That fact that I'm 5' 7" and his mom 4' 11" also didn't help his cause. Donovan was barely on the growth chart, and his doctors projected his full adult height at a mere 5' or 5' 1". Shortly after his 7th birthday he took his first dose of growth hormones, a daily injection. It was his decision after he was deemed not tall enough for a new bike he wanted. His endocrinologist at the time thought my wife and I were out of our minds for letting Donovan decide if and when to start treatment. To us, however, if he's the one taking the needle, he should have some say in the if and the when. 

Earlier this week Donovan took his final dose, a decision made by his current endocrinologist that he's received all of the possible medical benefit from the more than 2,700 injections he took over nearly eight years.

He's now close to 5' 7", with another inch or two still to grow. That's what I call growth.

Here's what I read this week that you should read, too.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Class action lawsuit highlights the risk of AI in hiring and other employment decisions

Yesterday, news broke of a class action lawsuit filed against HRIS provider Workday claiming that its artificial intelligence systems and screening tools disproportionately and discriminatorily disqualify Black, older, and disabled job applicants. 

The named plaintiff, Derek Mobley, is a Black man over the age of 40 who suffers from anxiety and depression. He alleges that he applied for 80-100 positions since 2018 that use Workday as a screening tool and has been denied every time despite his qualifications. 

Mobley claims that Workday's artificial intelligence unlawfully favors applicants outside of protected classes through its reliance on algorithms and inputs created by humans conscious and unconscious biases. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Tweets, honest beliefs, and terminations

@realDonaldTrump I am the VP of HR in a comp outside of philly an informal survey of our employees shows 100% AA employees voting Trump!

On July 24, 2016, Kathleen Jungclaus — the 55-year-old then-VP of HR for Waverly Heights Ltd. — tweeted the above. A couple of months later, someone anonymously notified Jungclaus's superiors of the tweet. When confronted, Jungclaus initially provided shifting explanations of the tweet's origins but ultimately admitted posting it. As a result, Waverly fired her for violating its social media policy (which she had drafted). After Waverly replaced her with someone 12 years her junior, Jungclaus sued for sex discrimination, age discrimination, retaliation, and hostile work environment.