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News Roundup: More on Overtime; Rudeness; HR “Don’ts”; Boss-Free Zappos & More

The Nightmare of the Labor Department’s New Overtime Rule
Suzanne Lucas, Evil HR Lady: “The government wants more people to earn overtime pay, but it’s not that simple. Here’s what you need to do to implement these rules.”
Related: The unintended and unfortunate consequence of wage-and-hour reforms

B-Schools Aren’t Bothering to Produce HR Experts
Peter Cappelli, HBR : “”But if you look inside most companies today, you see little left of those talent practices. Typically, management is based on a model of formal authority and “hard” incentives: Bosses get bonuses when their units succeed, they get fired when their units fail, and they push employees to hit the numbers in whatever way they see fit. This is actually a repeat of what we’ve seen during previous financial downturns, when line management rejected HR initiatives as unnecessary because it was easy to fill jobs with so many people desperate for work. (For more on how HR’s profile tracks what’s happening in the economy, see my recent HBR article.) What’s different this time is that the practices we’ve pushed aside were so widely documented as being successful. It’s as if businesses have forgotten that they work.”

The Hidden Cost of Workplace Rudeness
Anthonia Akitunde, Open Forum: “A University of Florida study published last month in the Journal of Applied Psychology has found that rudeness is in fact contagious. “Experiencing or witnessing rudeness causes people to begin acting [rudely] themselves,” Trevor Foulk, the study’s lead author, told OPEN Forum via email. “The contagious effect happens even after just a single incident. You don’t have to be around rudeness for a long period of time or experience a lot of it—just a single incident can cause you to behave in a rude manner yourself.”

While on the topic of rudeness:
Employment law autopsy: “Old fart” gets fired
Robin Shea, Employment & Labor Insider: “Here’s a lesson: Don’t call your employee an “old fart,” especially if you think you may need to fire him someday.
And don’t call his co-workers “old farts” right before you fire the co-workers.
And don’t give your “old fart,” who has only a first-level warning on his record, three or four “progressive” warnings on the day that you fire him.
And don’t try to invoke “employment at will!” to justify any of the above.

Every now and then a case comes along that illustrates so well all the things that employers should not do*. The case of Goudeau v. National Oilwell Varco is just such a case. So let’s do a “post-mortem” on the employer’s motion for summary judgment, which was originally granted but was reversed last week by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit**, meaning that the plaintiff’s age discrimination claims will go to a jury.”

Zappos: A Workplace Where No One And Everyone Is The Boss
Yuki Noguchi, NPR: “Such is life at Zappos, which has adopted a system of self-governance that effectively has eliminated all management. This spring, CEO Tony Hsieh — an entrepreneur known for his opinions on management — sent an all-staff email explaining how the entire company was embracing a concept known as “holacracy.”

Holacracy is based on a term and concept coined by anti-totalitarian political writer Arthur Koestler. Its central tenets include individual autonomy and self-governance. In a holacracy, employees aren’t told how to work. Instead, they belong to voluntary groups called “circles,” or peers who help vet new ideas or problems. Everyone has equal say, and employees are evaluated and rewarded by peers, instead of by a boss.”

Performance Reviews: Constructive Criticism . . . or Total Destruction?
Maria Danhaher, Employment Law Matters: “There’s an important consequence to providing frequent meaningful feedback, as opposed to a once-a-year anxiety producing meeting: it encourages managers to think of “managing” as an action word, rather than just a job title. This new mind-set could lead directly to increased employee engagement.”
Related: Accenture To Nix Performance Reviews And Rankings For All 330,000 Employees

HR and the safety department
Kyle Morrison: Safety+Health: “Both HR and safety are a support function for a larger operation and have similar mission objectives: ensure effective work processes while complying with the law. Although an employer’s safety and HR departments don’t necessarily need to work together to achieve their goals, failure to do so may come at a cost.”

Stupid Interview Questions: Don’t Ask That!
Chris Fields, Performance Create: “If you Google “stupid interview questions” you will get millions of results and the interesting thing is, some hiring managers love asking odd-ball questions. They believe it gives them character clues and little “tells” (as in poker tells) about your personality. Things like, “If you could be any animal, what would you be?” totally dumb because most people say lion or elephant or tiger…no one says pig, although everyone loves bacon!

10 Career Lessons You Should Learn By Your 30s
Stephanie Taylor Christiansen, Fast Company: “These tough situations often happen as you’re building your career in your 20s. Expert advice on the hidden lessons in these setbacks.”

More news of note

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Inspiration of the week: Tim’s hugs, Karen’s challenge

Want to have a happy weekend?

Take a few minutes to meet Albuquerque restaurant owner Tim Harris who offers hugs with breakfast and lunch. Tim is awesome – view all the videos on his website, they are quite happy-making, even if you aren’t close enough and lucky enough to get an in-person hug.

Tim is one of many people changing perceptions of people with Down syndrome. Now meet Karen Gaffney, who holds a two-year Associate of Science degree from Portland Community College and an honorary PhD from the University of Portland. She is president of a nonprofit organization “dedicated to championing the journey to full inclusion for people with Down syndrome and other disabilities.” She’s also a world-class swimmer. Here’s a video clip of her offering a really inspirational TED presentation.

These clips are inspiring. They’re worth sharing with your employees to help break down false barriers we have about people and their limitations. They are also particularly inspirational for any families who have a member with Down syndrome. According to NDSS, “Down syndrome is the most commonly occurring genetic condition. One in every 691 babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome, or approximately 6,000 births per year. Today, there are more than 400,000 people with Down syndrome living in the United States.” It’s important for families to know that life with Down syndrome is full of possibilities.

What employer wouldn’t be thrilled and lucky to have stellar employees as awesome as Tim and Karen? Learn more in this March 2014 McKinsey & Company report: The value that employees with Down Syndrome can add to organizations (PDF).

We’re reminded of another remarkable champion who encourages employers to think differently when it comes to hiring workers – the celebrated Temple Grandin, who has led a remarkable life, and who challenges employers to expand their thinking when it comes to people with autism in another TED talk.

Employer resources: Down syndrome and intellectual disabilities

5 Reasons Your Business Should Hire Someone With An Intellectual Disability

SHRM: Hiring People with Intellectual Disabilities

What can YOU do? – The Campaign for Disability Employment

Employer Resources

Don’t be afraid to hire people with disabilities

Facts about Down syndrome

Myths & Truths about Down syndrome

Karen Gaffney Foundation

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The Most Annoying Office Habits

What work habits and office behaviors are generally deemed the most annoying? Viking, one of the largest global suppliers of office products, recently conducted a survey to learn the most annoying office habits. While this survey was conducted in England, it looks pretty spot on for the U.S. too. Here’s a sampling of their results of the top annoyances, but click for more charts.


Here are a few more lists of other work annoyances:

But there is one other possibility: it might not be your colleagues, it might be you.

In the Wall St Journal, Daniel R. Ames and Abbie S. Wazlawek say that most people are blissfully unaware of how they come across in the office. In How to Tell if You’re a Jerk at Work, they discuss the gap between how we see ourselves vs how other see us.

Knowing your own strengths and limitations, and how others see you and your behavior, has been linked to a range of positive outcomes. But when it comes to understanding how others see us, many of us are in the dark.

One example comes from our own research where we’ve asked negotiators at the end of a deal-making session to classify themselves as having been underassertive, overassertive or appropriately assertive. We also asked them the same question about their counterparts. When we compare how people categorize themselves with how their counterparts categorize them, the correspondence is disturbingly low—not much better than flipping a coin.

They suggest ways to raise our self awareness by collecting feedback from peers and colleagues.

At FastCompany, Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans offer more self-assessment thoughts and ideas in Are You the Jerk at Work?

Whether the fault lies in our colleagues or ourselves, the reality is that living and working among others means that petty annoyances and conflicts will exist. If you find your colleagues highly annoying, moe so than usual, it may be a sign that you need a vacation. If you take a vacation and that doesn’t do the trick, you may need to enhance your skills at relating to and negotiating with other people, or you may need stress counseling or anger management.  Why not call your EAP to talk it  over?


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The ADA at 25 and the remarkable story of the “Capitol Crawl”

It’s the 25 Year Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It’s hard to believe just how impossibly limited life was for people with disabilities a mere few decades ago and the sizable impact this law has had.

One of the fascinating stories in the long quest to to secure such legislation was the so-called Capitol Crawl. If you’ve never heard of this or seen footage, the short clips below show why it was such an effective action.

On Monday, March 12, 1990, more than 1,000 frustrated disability rights activists amassed in Washington DC to advocate for passage of the ADA. The law had passed in the Senate but languished in the House of Representatives for more than a year. Later in the day, a few dozen of the protestors staged a powerful dramatization of the barriers they faced in accessibility by abandoning their wheelchairs and literally crawling and dragging themselves up the 83 Capitol steps. It made for powerful TV footage and news photos. The bill passed shortly thereafter and was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush on July 26, 1990. See more at It’s Our Story Project

The following are some resources to mark the anniversary and some tools that can be useful to employers and job seekers.

ADA Anniversary Toolkit

Department of Justice – Disability Rights Section

DOL Wage & Hour Division – Employment of Workers with Disabilities

ADA National Network

ADA Library

World Enabled


Disability Job Exchange

Getting Hired

Job Accommodations Network (JAN)

Guidelines For Discussing People With Disabilities

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News Roundup: HR hate, shortest handbook, when to call a lawyer & more

Why We Love to Hate HR…and What HR Can Do About It
Peter Cappelli, Harvard Business Review

“As the economy continues to recover, businesses may very well wait for labor to become scarce again before looking to HR for meaningful support. But HR can speed things up by assuming the reins now. It has the expertise to help companies get ahead of the market shift that we should all see coming. Here are the basic but powerful steps HR leaders can take…”

The World’s Shortest Employee Handbook
Jüri Kaljundi, Weekdone:

“Often the simplest things in life work the best. Sometimes companies overdo their HR and management policies.
Take example of Nordstrom, the 200+ location department store chain. For years, their Employee Handbook was a single 5-by-8-inch grey card with just 75 words…”

How does your cell phone policy measure up? Use this free assessment tool to find out

“Many employers are implementing cell phone policies to keep their workers safe on the roadways, but not all policies are created equal. Many still allow hands-free use and exempt certain classes of employees, leaving gaps in safety that also increase an employer’s liability risk in the event of a crash.
By completing a simple survey, a report is generated to assess how an employer’s policy matches up with best practices to keep workers safe. The Cell Phone Policy Assessment Tool reveals gaps, their associated costs, and identifies specific suggestions to improve the policy.”

EEOC Updates Guidance On Accommodating Pregnant Workers
Karen Buesing, JD Supra

“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued revised pregnancy discrimination guidance setting forth a framework for assessing how far employers must go in accommodating pregnant employees, following the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year in Young v. United Parcel Serv., Inc. In that case, the Court held that, although a policy of providing light duty only to certain workers was facially neutral, it could still violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in some circumstances when the employer does not provide the same accommodations to pregnant workers as to other similarly situated employees.”

EEOC Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues

How American Workers Became Disengaged
Michael Collins, Industry Week

“A Gallup Survey has found yet again that the most engaged work teams “have significantly higher productivity, profitability and customer ratings; less turnover and absenteeism; and fewer safety incidents than those in the bottom 25%.”
However, the research organization pegs the cost of disengaged employees in the U.S. at $450 billion to $550 billion.
The assumption is: If employees are disengaged, management will not get their creative, innovative and entrepreneurial power.”

Guess which huge company now offers unlimited vacation

” General Electric (GE) this year started to offer what it calls a “permissive approach” to paid time off.
Under the company’s new policy, there no longer will be any limit set on the number of vacation, sick and personal days that executives and those in the so-called senior professional band may take.
The idea: They can take time when they need it, assuming they’re getting their work done and have gotten their manager’s approval.
The new policy currently affects 30,000 GE employees, or 43% of its salaried U.S. workforce.”

Are you in the global middle class? Find out with our income calculator
Pew Research Center

“On a global scale, just 13% of the world’s population could be considered middle income in 2011, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of the most recently available data.
Most people in the world were either low income (56%) or poor (15%), while only 9% lived at an upper-middle-income standard and 7% were high income.
See where you fit.”

6 Points in Time When an Employer Needs an Attorney
Suzanne Lucas, a.k.a. The Evil HR Lady:

No business owner starts out with the idea that he’s going to be the subject of an employment lawsuit. After all, very few owners have the intention of breaking any laws. (Granted, there are some people who do have the intention of breaking the law, but they aren’t the type who will research best practices on the internet.)
The problem is, that employment law is complex. Crazily complex, actually. Sometimes, you need an employment law attorney, but you don’t want to waste your money on high legal fees.
Here’s when you need to call an attorney.

Employers may be liable for transgender discrimination
Ryan B. Frazier, HR Hero:

“HR departments should take transgender employees’ complaints about discrimination, harassment, and disparate treatment seriously. That likely will require taking appropriate steps to eliminate transgender discrimination and harassment. It will also require conducting thorough investigations into complaints about transgender discrimination to prevent any possible discrimination claims or allegations of retaliation for complaining about discrimination.”

Developing Leaders: What To Do When Your Team Grows Too Big
Lighthouse Blog:

“We’ve had managers of all levels of experience and team size use Lighthouse to help them manage and motivate their teams and the common pattern we’ve seen is managers struggle most with more than 10-12 reports. It’s at 10-12 people that the complexity and demands become too great for even a well-trained, experienced manager. Just look at the diagram above and how a team growing from 6 to 10 people causes the lines of communication to grow from 15 to 45 (and 66 by employee #12!). But don’t take my word for it, here’s what some experts have said…”

5 Myths of Great Workplaces
Ron Friedman, Harvard Business Review

“When we think about extraordinary workplaces, we tend to think of the billion-dollar companies at the top of Fortune magazine’s annual list. We picture a sprawling campus, rich with generous amenities; a utopian destination where success is constant, collaborations are seamless, and employee happiness abounds.
But as it turns out, many of the assumptions these images promote mislead us about what it means to create an outstanding workplace.”

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DOL issues guidance: Misclassifying employees as independent contractors

Daniel Schwartz of Connecticut Employment Law Blog notes that there seems to be no summer vacation when it comes to employment law. Following quickly on the heels of the proposed rule on overtime, the Department of Labor just issued an “Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2015-1″: The Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “Suffer or Permit” Standard in the Identification of Employees Who Are Misclassified as Independent Contractors (JulY 15, 2015). David Weil, DOL’s administrator of the Wage and Hour Division also posted at the US Department of Labor Blog: Employee or Independent Contractor?

Schwartz offers insight into this newly issued document noting that, “this type of analysis isn’t all that new or surprising. Courts have been using it for a while. And it shouldn’t cause you to drop everything you’re doing today to look at this.”

Jon Hyman of Ohio Employer’s Law Blog weighs in (Who is an employee? DOL has answers in guidance on independent-contractor status) offering his “duck test”:

The best test to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor is the “duck” test—if it looks like an employee, acts like an employee, and is treated like an employee, then it’s an employee…. I think you know an employee when you see one.

Robin Shea, Employment & Labor Insider: You’ve been warned – those independent contractors are probably employees
She offers four key points for employers to keep in mind as well as questions to ask yourself about your “independent contractors” and follows with this:

“Is the answer to any one of the above questions dispositive? Are you kidding? That would be way too easy! No, you have to consider what courts like to call “the totality of the circumstances.” In other words, all of these factors have to be considered before a determination is made. Your safest bet is to err on the side of finding that the worker is an ’employee.'”

Maria Hanaher, Employment Law Matters: DOL guidance on independent contractor classification provides another arrow in the Department’s enforcement quiver.

“The correct classification of workers as employees or independent contractors, especially in combination with the recent proposed changes to white-collar overtime regulations, is a clear indication of the focus of the DOL’s future compliance enforcement efforts regarding employee classification issues. Employers ignore this indication at their peril.”

Philip Miles, Lawficce Space: DOL Weighs in on Employee vs. Independent Contractor Classification

Miles notes that there are two common tests usesd” economic realities test and common law test, and that in its latest guidance, DOL came down in favor of the economic realities test.

“To the surprise of no one, DOL picked the broader definition. Classification remains more art than science.”

Andrew McIlvaine, HRE Daily: The Feds’ War on Employee Misclassification

Written by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division Administrator, David Weil, the 15-page memo states that the misclassification of employees as independent contractors “is among the most damaging to workers and our economy.” It emphasizes the WHD’s six-factor economic realities test that’s used to determine a worker’s status along with what a just-released briefing from law firm Seyfarth Shaw describes as “an extremely expansive reading of the FLSA’s ‘suffer or permit to work’ definition of ‘employ.’”

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