Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Five Keys of Successful Employees According to Google

Google did an internal study to answer the question what makes an employee feel successful. Two hundred Google employees were interviewed over a two-year period. What was most important to employees was what makes them feel good. Employees like it when they can trust their co-workers, feel like they can take risks, and can depend on each other.

The five essential “dynamics” to a successful team of employees according to Google:

  • Psychological safety (Feeling safe with their co-employees)
  • Dependability (Relying on co-workers to get things done on time)
  • Structure and Clarity (The team has clear roles, plans, and goals)
  • Meaning (The work is personally important to each worker)
  • Impact (Employees feel that their work matters)

These findings by Google mirror findings by a University of Notre Dame study that came out earlier. Workers are more productive when they feel like they are team and help each other. Google now looks for employees who have shown “resilience and an ability to overcome hardship.” Perhaps interestingly, who is hired for a team seems to matter less than how team gets along and views their contributions.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

EEOC Seeks Protection For Methadone User

The EEOC filed suit recently on behalf of a methadone user, alleging violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”)

April Cox was a recovering heroin addict and she was enrolled in a supervised methadone treatment program for several years. As part of the program, she underwent ongoing counseling and urine drug testing. In January 2015, she applied for a position as a production laborer. When asked to take a pre-employment drug test, Ms. Cox disclosed her methadone treatment and offered to provide proof of her treatment. The hiring manager responded, “I’m sure we don’t hire people on methadone, but I will contact my supervisor.” Ms. Cox went ahead and provided proof of her methadone treatment and documentation that her only limitation was no work as an airline pilot or truck driver. Ms. Cox was not hired because of her methadone use.

It is alleged that the failure to hire was an ADA violation because: Ms. Cox was disabled (i.e. a recovering substance abuser); she has a record of disability: and was regarded as having a disability (the methadone use). It is a good reminder to evaluate employees with potential disabilities based on the use of prescription drugs carefully and to be aware the EEOC may pursue such actions.

Monday, November 23, 2015

New Website Tracks Employer Maternity Leave Policies

Fairygodboss is a website designed to help women research the family leave policies of various companies.

According to the website founders, “only five of the Fortune 100 companies publicly list their maternity policies on their websites.” Most other companies also do not share that information. Thus, two women who were frustrated about the lack of information on family leave policies decided to try and change that lack of knowledge. They believe that “women should help each other by sharing what [they] know and without criticizing those who make different work-life choices.”

The site functions similarly to Yelp in that any one can share information about a company’s policies. Reviews are completely anonymous and the website encourages conversation between women. Site visitors may comment and answer questions about their employers while also learning about potential employers. Information can be found on the companies’ treatment of employees, attempts to clarify policy on pay equity, maternity leave, and sexual harassment as well as other challenges women may face in the workplace.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Employee Disabilities Must Impact Ability to Perform Essential Job Functions

Dr. Larry Hooper was hired to work for Proctor Health Care. He had previously been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. Following an incident outside of work, Dr. Hopper divulged his diagnosis to Human Resources at Proctor and was placed on a requested medical leave.

During the following month, Dr. Hooper was authorized to return to work by his physician. To protect its employees, Proctor requested an independent medical exam (IME). The IME doctor also confirmed that Dr. Hooper was ready to return to work. No medical restrictions were placed on Dr. Hooper. Suggestions were made by the IME doctor regarding steps Proctor could undertake to minimize stress and improve Dr. Hooper’s job performance. These suggestions included modified work schedule, sick days and regular performance evaluations. Proctor thereafter tried to schedule Dr. Hooper’s return to work but was unable to reach him. Finally, it sent a letter warning him termination would result if he did not return to work. Dr. Hooper did not respond or return to work.

Dr. Hooper sued for disability discrimination and retaliation. He claimed that the company failed to accommodate him by not discussing the suggestions made by the IME doctor. However, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. Since Dr. Hooper’s ability to perform his job was not impacted by his bi-polar disorder, he did not need accommodation. A failure to accommodate claim may only arise where the employee needs an accommodation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Should Gestational Surrogates Receive Lactation Breaks?

Mary Gonzales was an employee at the LAX Marriott in California. She was also a gestational surrogate i.e., she was pregnant with a baby belonging to another mother and father. Following the birth, she wanted to pump breast milk for the baby now living in another home. The question is whether Marriott was legally required to grant her lactation breaks.

She wanted two 30-minute periods per day to pump breast milk and send it to the child’s parents. Once her month of sending the milk to the parents ended, she wanted to continue pumping so that she could donate her milk to the Preemies Milk Bank and to women unable to breastfeed. Management at the Marriott authorized Ms. Gonzales to take lactation breaks for another 30 days and that was it. Ms. Gonzales tried to limit her pumping to lunch breaks but has asserted that her health suffered as a result. She sued.

Marriott attempted to dismiss the suit. It argued that it was not legally required to give Ms. Gonzales lactation breaks when she did not have a child at home. The initial motion to dismiss was denied. “A reasonable jury could conclude that Gonzales was subjected to the treatment she was because Marriott perceived she did not conform to stereotypical views of how women act as it relates to motherhood or child bearing,” according to the federal trial court. This case could expand the legal grounds for sex discrimination.

Monday, November 16, 2015

EEOC Holds Public Meeting On How To Curb Harassment

On October 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, the EEOC’s Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace held a public meeting. The panel included the EEOC chair and several EEOC commissioners as well as experts from academia, law, labor and business. Its purpose was to brainstorm fresh ways to prevent workplace harassment.

Among the pertinent ideas put forth were:
  • Placing pressure on companies by buyers;
  • Empowering bystanders to be part of solution;
  • Multiple access points for reporting harassment;
  • Prompt investigations; and
  • Swift disciplinary action where appropriate.
Experts present stressed how important management’s role is in setting the tone of the workplace and fostering a safe work environment with clear anti-harassment policies. Training experts emphasized that training should include all employees (not just managers), should take place every 12 to 18 months, use live trainers, tailor the training to each individual workplace and train different levels of workers separately.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Accommodation Request Must Be Honored Even During Termination

Thomas Ott was a legally deaf man formerly employed as a sales associate by H& M Hennes and Mauritz LP (Hennes).

On the day of his soon-to-be termination, Mr. Ott notified his sales manager that he suspected a customer of shoplifting. After instructing Mr. Ott to follow shop protocol, the managers left the area. Mr. Ott was upset at being left to deal with the issue alone. At the end of his workday, he went to the managers and told them he would not deal with suspected shoplifters in the future. During this meeting, Mr. Ott requested a sign language interpreter to help him communicate. This request did not receive a response. The managers claimed that Mr. Ott quit his job during this meeting. Mr. Ott denied that he quit. However, his employment was terminated based on the belief that he had quit.

Hennes was sued for failing to accommodate Mr. Ott by refusing to provide him a sign language interpreter. The company’s motion to dismiss was rejected.  Hennes’ failure to provide an interpreter during that meeting about the shoplifter led to a misunderstanding as to whether Mr. Ott had quit. Providing an interpreter was a reasonable accommodation under the ADA and the jury must decide whether that failure to provide one was a violation of the ADA. Requests for accommodation must be considered at any point during employment, including its conclusion.