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Health and Wellness Focus – December

The following are national health observances for the month of December, as suggested by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

AIDS Awareness
December 1 is World AIDS Day and the CDC offers a toolkit of resources — but we’d suggest that the World AIDS Day could be a springboard to a month-long focus. According to the World Health Organization, HIV/AIDS continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 34 million lives so far. In 2014, 1.2 million people died from HIV-related causes globally. On a positive note, W.H.O. says the end could be in sight – with concerted effort, we could see an end to AIDS by 2030. Prevention and testing are still critical. Here in the US, the focus on AIDS as an issue has waned and younger generations may be less knowledgeable about risks and prevention, so if we want to reach the goal of global reduction, it is important to keep a focus on education and awareness. Get more tools, facts and resources from the CDC’s HIV/AIDS resource center.

Flu & Infection Control
December is National Handwashing Awareness Month and while that may sound basic, keeping hands clean is one of the best things we can do to keep from getting sick and avoid spreading germs to others. The CDC says “Handwashing is like a “do-it-yourself” vaccine — it involves five simple and effective steps (Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry) you can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illness so you can stay healthy.” Promotional tools include fact sheets, posters, video, social media messages

Also related: December 6-12, 2015 – National Influenza Vaccine Week. Encourage your employees to get their flu shots! The CDC has many resources you can use to get the word out.

Family Matters: Safe Toys

December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month. With holiday gift giving a huge focus this month, an important health and wellness message for families should be the importance of safe toys and gifts. Here are some tips and resources to help:

Disability Awareness

December 3 is International Day of Persons with Disabilities  The theme for 2015 is: Inclusion matters: access and empowerment of people of all abilities


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After this video, you may give those rejected resumes a second glance

“Every so often, you run across a talk with a message that personally resonates.” so says Dave Shadovitz of HRE Daily who gives a big thumbs up to this video in his post why ‘scrappers’ deserve a closer look. It’s an inspiring 14 minute video by Regina Hartley, UPS Director of Human Resources for IT Service Delivery.

Here’s a bit further description – but we’d urge you to set aside the time and give a listen – it may send you back to those rejected resumes to take a closer look.

Regina Hartley: Why I hire people others ignore:

“Given the choice between an employee with a perfect résumé and straight As and one who has fought their way through difficulty, Human Resources Executive Regina Hartley always gives the “scrapper” a chance. As someone who grew up with adversity, Hartley knows that those who flourish in the darkest of spaces are empowered with the grit to persist in an ever-changing workplace. In this personal and insightful talk, Hartley touches on the benefits of adversity, the latest studies on post-traumatic growth, and the fact that those who don’t always look good on paper may be just the person to hire.”

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Thanksgiving: Who’s working, who’s not & what we’re all eating

If you have a 4-day holiday weekend this week for Thanksgiving, you really do have something to be thankful for. The Bloomberg BNA’s 2015 Thanksgiving Holiday Practices Survey reports that: “While more than seven out of 10 surveyed employers have scheduled paid days off for both Thanksgiving Day and the following Friday, 36 percent of all responding organizations will require at least some employees to work on the national holiday, up slightly from 33 percent in 2014.”

The most likely people who must keep the home fires burning while the rest of us chow down include security and public safety workers, service and maintenance staff and technicians, according to BNA. We’d add retail workers – there’s an unfortunate trend toward getting a jump start on Black Friday by opening stores on Thursday. We say thumbs down to this, we like a leisurely holiday with a focus on family, food and football. But to all you people who must work: a hearty thank you!

You can see more data in the infographic below.

If you are going to be one of the 47 million people who take to the highway traveling to friends or family, here are some best and worst driving times.

We tend to think of our Thanksgiving meals as traditional, but tradition actually varies depending on where you live. In the northeast, folks love squash as a side dish and in the south, it’s mac & cheese. Pumpkin pie is universally popular, as is turkey. About 90 percent of us opt for turkey on Thanksgiving, which translates to about 46 million turkeys. Curiously, that’s pretty close to the number of drivers!

Find out who eats what and where: Here’s What Your Part Of America Eats On Thanksgiving and learn more surprising turkey facts so you can amaze your family at the dinner table and be ready to change the topic if things get heated over politics or football.


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HR News Roundup: Video surveillance, living wage, dating workers, FMLA & more news of note

Navigating the Pitfalls of Video Surveillance
William G. Benz, Risk Management

For companies using video surveillance in the workplace, effective risk management is critical to avoid potential liability for invasion of privacy claims. For employers, determining whether an employee has a reasonable expectation not to be filmed in certain workspaces requires a difficult and fact-intensive analysis. Risk managers should be sure to incorporate the following set of practical guidelines into their company’s video surveillance practices.

What is a Living Wage Ordinance?
Bridget Miller, HR Daily Advisor

From a legal standpoint, minimum wage is mandated federally by the Fair Labor Standards Act and also at the state and, in some cases, local level. Living wage laws and regulations are less common (quite uncommon, in fact, from a legal standpoint) but do exist in some areas. When existent, they are frequently implemented at the local level, such as in a city or municipal region. Much more commonly, a living wage is not a regulation, but simply an assessment of what is considered a living wage for a specific area—without the attendant legal requirement to pay that amount. (As noted above, the calculation also varies.)

What can go wrong when co-workers date? A lot.
Jon Hyman, Ohio Employers’ Blog

What can do wrong with office romances? As it turns out, a lot. So, in the spirit of The Voice, here’s 10 reasons co-workers shouldn’t turn their chairs for each other … Despite this list of potential horribles, there is nothing inherently illegal about romantic relationships between employees. Nevertheless, employers need to understand that permitting office romances amplifies the legal risk of claims of discrimination (i.e., sexual favoritism), harassment, and retaliation. The question, then, isn’t whether these relationship are illegal (they’re not), but how much risk you, as an employer, want to assume in the event the relationships sours, or other employees feels shunned or mistreated as a result?

Why Mental Health Matters in Work Comp
Mark Walls, Insurance Though Leadership

Mental health issues in injured workers can no longer be ignored. These conditions are increasingly being recognized as potential risk factors for prolonged work absences, and even for no return to work within the context of workers’ compensation.

Being fair does not mean treating everyone the same
Michael Haberman, Omega HR Solutions

If you have been in HR for any time you know that there is a misperception that everyone has to be treated the same in order to be “fair.” If only it were that easy. Employees bring different circumstances to every situation therefore the HR person has to consider those circumstances. The EEOC realizes this and is now suing employers who do not recognize this fact.

Meaningful Work Should Be Every CEO’s Top Priority
Jim Keane, Harvard Business Review

Gallup tells us that 87% of global employees are disengaged, so it should be the top priority for every CEO.

… Many CEOs are aware of the problem and are working to improve employee engagement, starting with new programs aimed at wellbeing or offering flexible work hours. But a new program may not be the answer. Tom Rath, author of “Fully Charged,” has a theory about happiness. He says that if you seek happiness, you won’t find it. However, if you seek meaning, you will find happiness. The same applies to engagement. If you seek engagement directly, you may not find it. If you lead people to find meaning, perhaps you will.

My Employers Helped Me Beat Addiction in the Workplace
Allen McDougall, Huffington Post

I was a hard rock miner at the time and fortunately my union, the United Steelworkers, had an Employee Assistance Program whose staff guided me to the treatment I needed. They accepted me as a person who has a problem, not a problem person, and put me on the road to recovering my sobriety and my dignity.
Employers have day-to-day interaction with their workers and are key in identifying addiction-related problems. They can be the conduits to life-saving treatment. Employers also have an economic incentive, with costs up to $68 billion annually associated with lost performance from addicts in the U.S. workforce alone.

DOL Continues to Warn Employers of Investigation of Systemic FMLA Issues
Jeff Nowack, FMLA Insights

This is yet another reminder that employers will continue to face scrutiny by the DOL on their FMLA procedures, and that they increasingly will become party to consent decrees where their FMLA practices do not adhere to the FMLA regulations.
I know I sound like a broken record, but as you prepare your HR and legal budgets for 2016, make an FMLA self-audit a priority for your workplace in the New Year. As I have highlighted in a previous post, your self-audit should focus on the following…

Quick takes


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The risks of using Social Media in recruitment

Is checking social media part of your hiring process? Increasingly, it appears to be for many employers. Jobvite compiled data on the use of social media in the recruitment process from several recent surveys into an infographic, finding that 52% of surveyed recruiters say they always search for social media posts during hiring, and 55% say they have reconsidered candidates based on social activity.

“There are several types of posts that will cast you in a negative light, but there are some that could help your case. 83 percent of recruiters consider illegal drug references to be negative, 70 percent consider sexual posts to be negative, and 66 percent will deduct points for poor spelling and grammar.

65 percent of recruiters view volunteerism and charity posts as positive, while most other behaviours are viewed neutrally. Use of alcohol appears as negatively as it does neutrally, and 69 percent of recruiters don’t care about your political affiliation.”

So is is it a good idea or a bad idea to check social media before you extend a job offer to an applicant?

Amie Lawrence at Select Perspectives Blog talks about some of the pitfalls of using social media in your hiring process: Why You Should NOT Use Social Media to Make Hiring Decisions

Lawrence points out how this can be a dangerous practice for two reasons:


“If you are going to use a tool to make a hiring decision, EEOC guidelines say that it must be reliable and valid. Collecting inconsistent information on your candidates, that might differ across protected classes, and applying inconsistent standards to that information violates best selection practices and not only decreases the accuracy of the selection process, but opens your process up to legal scrutiny.”

Job Relevance/Fairness:

“It’s exceptionally important that the information you learn about the candidates and use to make a screen out decision is job relevant. Using an example from the survey, drinking alcohol is not an illegal act and if a candidate chooses to drink alcohol when they are not performing their job duties, this should not be used to draw any inferences about the individual and his/her ability to perform the job.”

Great reasons! And if those aren’t enough, here are a few others:


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The most ‘creative’ sick day excuses, 2015 style

As we approach peak sick day season, a CareerBuilder-Harris Poll survey looks at sick day trends and some of the most absurd sick-day excuses that have been offered to employees. Managers, fine tune your radar because “the most popular months for employees to call in sick continue to be December (20 percent), January (15 percent) and February (14 percent).”

Of the 3,000+ employees surveyed, 52 percent have paid time off (PTO) benefits, but the right to take time however they choose doesn’t seem to eliminate the tendency to offer an excuse. Here are the top 10 most creative reasons that hiring and human resource managers reported:

  • Grandmother poisoned him with ham
  • Stuck under the bed
  • Broke arm reaching to grab a falling sandwich
  • Universe told him him to take a day off
  • Wife found out he was cheating
  • Needed to spend the day retrieving belongings from the dumpster
  • Poked self in the eye while combing hair
  • Wife put all his underwear in the washer
  • Meal cooked for a department potluck didn’t turn out well
  • Going to the beach because doctor said she needed more vitamin D
  • Cat stuck inside the dashboard of her car

On reading this year’s batch or excuses, columnist Kim Hone-McMahan of the Ohio Beacon Journal thought that her readers could do better. She asked her Facebook followers for the goofiest reasons for taking a sick day they’ve either given or heard. Her readers came up with reasons that varied from having no pants to a guy who called in “dead” after seeing someone with the same name, including middle initial, among the newspaper death notices.

Employees, if you are grappling with an idea for a sick-day excuse, perhaps you should just stick to the classics. A UK survey looked at the success/credibility rate of various maladies, finding “vomiting” and “diarrhea” as the two most convincing excuses. Curiously, hospitalization fell further down on the credibility scale.

Sometimes, creative excuses aren’t used for a sick day, simply for calling in late. A few years ago, we posted our favorite (albeit fictional) creative excuses for being late to work. Here’s an infographic from The Muse and that offers more.


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