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June 26, 2014

Court Says Attendance May Not Mean Physical Presence

Filed under: ADA & Disability2:44 pm

A federal appeals court has ruled that for purposes of assessing/providing accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must consider that attendance at the job may not mean physical presence at a specific place. The case involved an employee who asked to work from home when needed to accommodate her irritable bowel syndrome. The employer had allowed others to work at home, but not as frequently as was anticipated for the plaintiff/employee. The employer said that due to teamwork needs, physical attendance was an essential job function. The trial court agreed with the employer. The appeals court disagreed, however, and sent the case back for a jury trial. The appeals court said there was evidence that the plaintiff’s job could be adequately done from home and use of technology (e.g. Skype) could satisfy teamwork needs. The lesson? Employers who plan to insist on physical presence when denying an employee’s work-from-home accommodation request will have to prove that presence at work by technology will not work just as well.

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June 19, 2014

Ways to Inspire Civility in the Workplace

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Harrasment — Tags: 11:38 am

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone said and did the right thing all the time and no one’s feelings ever got hurt?  That would be a perfect world, of which we know we do not live in, but one can wish!  Ensuring that employees practice civility in the workplace is a progressive activity.  Civility means to be courteous; polite.  It doesn’t sound that difficult to be nice, but because of various negative factors, we sometimes digress.  Following are some tips for resisting bad manners and encouraging civility in the workplace:

  • Personality conflicts – I always tell a group of new hires that we have (e.g. 100) employees, which means that we have 100 different personalities with 100 different ideas.  Some personalities are drawn to each other, while others repel.  Keeping the peace through personality conflicts is a challenge, but can be done.  Empathetically putting oneself in the other person’s “shoes” will help them to see the conflict in a completely different light.
  • Holding your tongue – Being aware of comments or phrases that may be common, but hurtful to some, is especially important to show respect for others.  Comments like, “Her elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top,” or “He must ride the short bus,” are completely unnecessary and are very insensitive.  Look for the good in others and focus on their strengths.
  • Lead by example – Instill in employees to do their part to lead by example.  Random acts of kindness and sincere compliments of a “job well done,” are encouraging speech and not speech that tears down.   

To summarize, incivility is degrading to all who are affected by it, regardless of whether it is directed at them or whether they are a witness to its harm.  When incivility reigns, it can quickly turn into a claim of harassment or a hostile work environment.  Train your employees to be respectful of others, and to look for positive qualities in them too.  Someday, they themselves, could be the victim, and what a lonely place that would be!  Teaching employees to be aware of and think about the effects of what they say or do, will certainly help them to be more thoughtful and considerate workmates.

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June 11, 2014

Insensitive Facebook Comments Lead to Resignation

Filed under: Discrimination,Legal Issues10:57 am

A cardiac nurse in Utah has resigned his employment in the face of controversy over his postings on Facebook.  The case arose after a shooting occurred in a gang crimes case in the new Utah federal courthouse. The defendant in that criminal case allegedly had charged the witness stand and threatened a witness when he was shot and killed by a federal marshal. Afterwards, the nurse posted a public Facebook comment that referred to the nationality of the involved gang member and said “Kill Them All.” The nurse’s employer, a Utah public hospital, put the nurse on leave while investigating the matter. The nurse eventually chose to resign his position. A recent article about the matter is available here: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57855398-78/shrum-comment-angilau-hospital.html.csp

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June 5, 2014

Zappos – Non-Traditional Workplace or Innovative Trendsetter

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Hiring & Jobs12:10 pm

A few months ago, Zappos, an online shoe retailer, announced it was restructuring its workforce into “circles” eliminating hierarchy by having no job titles and no managers.  This type of structure is known as a “holacracy.”  Within a holacracy, leadership still exists.  What it does is distribute leadership into each role, holding employees personally accountable, and rotating leadership among those in the circle.  This is definitely not a traditional organizational structure!

Now, Zappos is making another unique change – eliminating job postings.  The retailer plans to hire about 450 workers this year.  Though Zappos will be using social media, it is not what you may think!  They have created Zappos Insiders, a social network that candidates can join and become acquainted with current employees of the company.   The theory behind this method is to allow recruiters to be more efficient and effective by creating a constant pool of candidates that could be ready-made hires.  Recruiters can gauge cultural fit and skills of the candidates by asking specific questions and holding contests then using a separate software to organize the responses.  So, not only are job postings gone, but so are the plethora of resumes’ to wade through!

It will be interesting to see how this cutting-edge practice evolves and if other organizations will follow suit.  But, we in HR always have questions:

  • Will a social network glean more personal information about candidates than a company needs?
  • Will it help Zappos avoid costly bad hires?
  • Will candidates grow tired of waiting to be selected?

Before you try to walk a mile in Zappos shoes (eliminate job postings in your company) you may want to just curiously watch the success of Zappos in pioneering this new trend!

Source:  Auriemma, Adam. The Wall Street Journal. “Zappos Zaps Its Job Postings.”  Available here.

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