This & That Tuesday 12.11.13 by Martin Levy

by hr4u.
Nov 29 12

Here is the latest issue of “This & That” Tuesday. I hope you find it to be informative and useful.


You can always check out my website for upcoming speaking engagements that are guaranteed to be of value to business owners. More details about the events and Human Resources 4U can be found on my website.


My next engagement is entitled "The 7 Deadly Sins of Employers" It will be held on Tuesday, November 27 and is sponsored by the Pomona Rotary. For more information please go to my website.


Labor Law Update 2013: If you are interested in having me give a “Labor Law Update for 2013” presentation to your organization early next year, please contact me so we can schedule the event.


HR4U 101 for 2013Workshop

My next full day workshop will be held on January 9, 2013. This is a practical workshop that focuses on all the things you need to know to comply with California employment law and some guidance on best practices for all your employee related efforts. Download the flyer for all the workshop details.


EEOC Obtains $2.75 Million from WRS Compass for Victims of Race Harassment

A Tampa-based environmental clean-up company has agreed to pay $2.75 million and enter into a three-year nationwide consent decree to resolve a race discrimination case brought the EEOC.


The EEOC's suit charged that WRS Environment and Infrastructure, Inc. (d/b/a WRS Compass) subjected seven black workers at its Lake Calumet, Ill., site to a racially hostile work environment, discriminatory terms and conditions of employment, and unlawfully retaliated against employees who complained about discrimination. The alleged harassment against African-American employees included multiple hangman's nooses, repeated use of the "N-word," less favorable equipment assignments and physical threats from coworkers. When two of the black workers complained about this campaign of harassment, they were laid off.


The EEOC also charged that WRS created a hostile work environment for four white workers who associated with African-American employees. A foreman at the Lake Calumet site allegedly called one of these white employees "n—-r lover" and another white employee a "coon lover." In addition to using racially offensive language, this foreman and other white coworkers physically threatened the four white plaintiffs in this case.


The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. WRS had moved unsuccessfully to dismiss the entire case. The court rejected the majority of WRS's motion and preserved most of the EEOC's claims, writing, "It is undisputed that WRS did not provide any harassment training to employees (whether union or management) at the Lake Calumet site and did not give its employees a phone number to contact the company's health and safety officer or human resources department." The court also noted that "WRS did not post its non-discrimination / harassment policy at the Lake Calumet site until the day after the noose appeared on [a] truck."


Besides the $2.75 in monetary relief for the 11 victims, the three-year nationwide consent decree resolving this case includes injunctions against race discrimination and harassment (including associational race discrimination) and retaliation. WRS is also required to revise its anti-discrimination policy and conduct training on the policy. Furthermore, WRS must develop a policy on how to investigate complaints of discrimination or harassment and evaluate its supervisors on their compliance with the company's revised anti-discrimination policy. The decree requires WRS to report all complaints of discrimination to the EEOC on a semi-annual basis and provides a mechanism for the parties to seek assistance from the court in the event of any disputes about whether WRS violated the injunctions against discrimination and retaliation.


NLRB Rules on Keeping Employees from Discussing HR Investigations

Companies may want to think twice about how they instruct employees to keep mum during internal HR investigations, following a recent ruling by the National Labor Relations Board.


In a case involving Banner Estrella Medical Center, the NLRB ruled that a blanket policy requiring employee confidentiality in the course of an HR investigation violates employees’ rights to engage in concerted activity under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. In other words, the board said: you can’t have a policy that keeps employees from talking to one another about problems in the workplace.


What was surprising about the decision was that it went contrary to most established HR best practices.  Prior to this decision, it was thought that all investigations should be conducted with confidentiality directives to the extent possible.


Now, the trick for employers is how to revisit confidentiality directives and still uphold their obligations to maintain confidentiality according to EEOC enforcement guidance.


An employer still has an obligation to maintain confidentiality to the extent possible. This now has to be balanced against the employee’s right, under the NLRA, to engage in concerted activity.


You should review your company’s current policy. The NLRB’s decision doesn’t put an end to confidentiality, but rather requires that employers back up the decisions with specific reasons, on a case-by-case basis. Reasons may include witness protection, and preventing cover-ups or the destruction of evidence.


One of the primary factors that you should consider is: what does the complaining party want? The complaining party “almost always” wants an investigation to remain confidential. However, In light of this NLRB ruling you should consider asking that an employee sign a document to that effect.


Another problem for companies is that if employees become too concerned that an employer can’t guarantee confidentiality, they may be reluctant to come forward to report problems. So training staff and supervisors reminding them that they are required to come forward with any evidence of wrongdoing, and that the company will absolutely never retaliated against them for doing that is critical.



Average Benefits Spending Breakdown

  • Voluntary 19% of salary
  • Mandatory 18% of salary
  • Paid Time Off benefits (sick, vacation, etc.) 10% of salary



  • Employee productivity improved by around 11% by going from a boss in the bottom 10% to a boss in the top 10%. The top performing boss did not improve productivity by motivating employees but by teaching productive skills. They also found that it pays to assign the best workers to the best bosses because this strategy resulted in the largest productivity gains. (National Bureau of Economic Research)
  • 73% of workers believe that “my boss listens to others and is generally easy to work with” while 6% believe “my boss never listens to others and is hard to work with”
  • According to a Johns Hopkins study people who already have an independent self-concept, social rejection actually improved their ability to think creatively.




“I haven't spoken to my wife in years. I didn't want to interrupt her.”
~ Rodney Dangerfield ~