On June 20, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced a new development that will make it much easier for employers and attorneys to determine past precedent and prior case logic. The Commission stated it has now placed all appellate and amicus briefs for more than a decade on its website.
The briefs—which date back to the year 2000—will be searchable by key word or catchphrase, to allow employers to find information on specific topics related to issues they are dealing with. In a press release dated June 20, 2012, the EEOC noted employers could search phrases such as “reasonable accommodation diabetes” to identify related cases.
But you don’t have to stop there. Employers or attorneys interested in cases filed locally, for example, can search the database by a specific court. Other options to narrow the search include sorting by case name, type of brief or the specific statutes involved.
The database will remain a relevant and current resource—EEOC confirmed that new briefs will be entered within weeks of being filed in court.
The database is housed on the EEOC’s external website. To search cases, employers can access the direct link here.
A report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in July, shows that layoff rates for 2012 remained relatively static, and still down overall in comparison to data from 2009. But with high-profile layoffs on the horizon for government, education and many private sector companies such as Hewlett Packard and Best Buy, it remains to be seen whether the data will hold steady for the remainder of the year.
BLS data—summarized in the Job Openings and Labor Turnover report—shows that the number of layoffs and discharges for May 2012 was down slightly from the June 2009 figures: 1.9 million vs. 2.1 million.
Little has changed over the past year. The data reveals that the number of layoffs and discharges remained constant throughout the 12 month period ending in May 2012, and while the seasonally adjusted rate showed an increase in government layoffs, other sectors were unchanged.
This report is encouraging for the U.S. marketplace, coming at a time when several high-profile layoffs have been reported in the media. At the end of May, tech company Hewlett Packard announced it would be laying off approximately 27,000 employees: some 8 percent of the company’s total workforce.
On July 10—the same day as the BLS report was released—J.C. Penney announced it had laid off another 350 employees from its corporate headquarters in Plano, TX. The latest round of cuts brings the overall layoffs to almost 25 percent of corporate staff, reducing the headcount from a high of 5,000+ to 3,100. The retailer says these latest cuts represent the “final round” in its restructuring efforts.
Another retailer recommending restructuring is Best Buy. The electronics giant plans to eliminate 600 Geek Squad positions, and another 1,800 general staffers for a total of 2,400 layoffs. Over the past year, Best Buy shares have dropped by a third, and in its July 6 announcement, the company said the recent layoffs—amounting to about 1.5 percent of the overall workforce—were in addition to the layoffs associated with it’s recent store closures.
With some analysts predicting a grim retail forecast for the rest of the year, and the bleak outlook for education in many states, it may be difficult for the layoff rates to continue to hold steady in the second half of 2012.
For more information, please visit us at www.laborlawcenter.com or call (800) 745-9970
The National Labor Relations Board has released a new webpage specifically to provide advice and guidance about the concept of “protected concerted activity.”
While the term is more commonly heard in a unionized environment, don’t make the mistake of thinking it doesn’t apply in your workplace, even if your employees aren’t represented. In fact, concerted activity cases are fairly common, with the NLRB estimating that it accounts for “more than 5% of the agency’s recent caseload.”
All employees have the right to act together for the purpose of collective bargaining, or for mutual aid or protection. This includes actions designed to improve wages and working conditions. The webpage explains that while this activity generally applies to two or more staffers acting together, a single worker can act alone and still be undertaking protected concerted activity, if coworkers are included before the action is taken, or if the employee acts on behalf of other staff.
Real life examples are provided on the NLRB’s site, which indicates that concerted activity cases have been heard across the country. The website spotlights certain cases around the U.S., and interested readers can click on the map to learn more about each specific incident.
Each case discussed on the site—whether it ultimately settled or was decided in court—involves activity the NLRB deems as protected. The cases even include topics that at first glance might not appear to be concerted activity. For example, one organization had an arbitration policy providing for only individual claims. The policy itself was unlawful because it prevented concerted action—filing jointly—by affected employees.
Other cases deal with concerted activity and social media, which is something employers must come to grips with. One employer ultimately settled with a worker who was fired for posting a complaint about her supervisor on Facebook, prompting other employees to respond. Another employer settled with a group of workers who were fired for making a YouTube video to complain about hazardous working conditions. And two workers who walked off the job in protest, then told their story to a newspaper reporter were reinstated with back pay after the Board concurred with the ruling of the Administrative Law Judge.
If some of the decisions surprise you, you’re not alone. The NLRB says that concerted activity is “one of the best kept secrets of the National Labor Relations Act.” The webpage—which can be accessed at http://www.nlrb.gov/concerted-activity is part of the Board’s effort to improve understanding of the provision. Says NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce: “A right only has value when people know it exists.”
U.S. employers see an average rate of turnover that exceeds 14 percent nationwide. This means that more than 1 in every 10 new hires will walk out the door, wasting time, money and company resources. Turnover is so expensive that it’s been estimated the individual cost for a minimum wage employee approaches $4,000—a cost that many employers simply cannot afford to keep absorbing.
Onboarding was developed as a way to reduce turnover by giving the employee a full introduction—both informational and cultural. The theory is that by immersing an employee into the organization’s culture, giving him or her real, meaningful assignments from an early stage, and support to reach those goals, the more likely he or she is to succeed in the position. But a poorly planned onboarding program won’t just be ineffective—it can actually hinder productivity and demoralize staff.
The following tips are based on research and reviews of onboarding programs from around the country, and are fundamental to ensuring your program gives the results you want.
- Take Your Time: Onboarding shouldn’t be a one-day activity. The best results will come over a period of several months. This will allow an employee to really explore significant topics, rather than a surface look at company issues.
- Set Structured Goals: Give the employee set expectations, tasks and goals to meet during the onboarding process.
- Include Mentoring: Develop employees from the beginning by including a coaching and mentoring program as part of onboarding.
- Include the Manager: For the employee to get the most out of the onboarding process, his or her manager must be fully invested in the program. Train managers so they understand why the program is important. Include lunches with the manager, or regular progress meetings, for example, as a part of the program.
- Combine Formal and Informal Components: Make sure the mentoring program combines both a formal and informal approach, structured tasks and loosely structured, question-and-answer format meetings, so that the onboarding occurs at all levels.
- Develop Political Savvy: Help the new employee to succeed by filling him in on critical office politics and internal relationships.
Imagine you’re a nervous applicant, hoping for your chance to impress the hiring manager and land your dream job. You’ve practiced with a friend, researched online and reviewed the job description. You can give a concise answer to sum up your experience, career goals and why you want the job. You’re prepared for anything…and then you’re asked: “if you could only do one dance move for the rest of your life, what would it be?”
Unless you’re a dancer, it’s almost guaranteed the applicant wasn’t expecting that question. And trying to give an answer that’s in some way relevant to an office job seems a near impossibility. So why do firms seem intent on asking these types of questions?
Software companies such as Microsoft and Google are famous for bizarre interview questions. The tech companies’ unusual inquiries are rumored to have included:
- “How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?” This question tests whether the candidate knows the correct approach to figure the problem
- “Why are manhole covers round?” To make it less likely they would fall through
- “Explain the significance of ‘dead beef’?” Not a meat, DEAD_BEEF was actually a form of programming /debugging terminology
With these types of questions at least, the questions are tangentially related to the mathematical and logic based skills needed for complex programming and software engineering. The idea behind these questions, at least according to one recruiter, was to see how well the candidate responded to the brain teasers, and whether he or she could think logically to get a simple solution. For example, “How much would it cost to wash all the windows in San Francisco” could simply be answered as “$15 per window.”
However, it’s debatable whether brainteasers really give any insight about a candidate’s ability to do the job, and they probably only serve to increase the applicant’s nerves, hindering their performance for the rest of the interview.
Even less related to the job are the “personality test” questions. Companies are tempted to use these questions to gain some kind of insight about an applicant’s traits or tendencies—but the problem is, the effectiveness and accuracy of such questions is completely unproven.
Business Insider reports more odd questions heard by candidates, which include several “personality” type inquiries:
- “Can you leap over tall buildings in a single bound?” Unless we’re testing candidates’ levels of delusion, it’s hard to tell what the relevance is here.
- “How weird are you?” Um…how weird is this question?!
- “Tell me something you wouldn’t want me to know about you.” If the candidate really doesn’t want you to know, it’s highly unlikely they’ll reveal it to this question, either.
- “What animal are you?” Unfortunately, this bizarre gem is still doing the rounds in 2012. And in case you were tempted to ask—it’s never been proven that a lion is more effective in the workplace than a mouse.
While it’s entertaining to read about these kinds of questions, it’s not so amusing to be the one tasked with answering them during an interview. Keep your questions relevant and on topic—you’ll get real, usable information and you won’t damage the company’s reputation or its ability to attract the ideal candidate in the future.
For more information, please visit our website at www.laborlawcenter.com or call us toll-free at 1-800-745-9970 for assistance.