Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Women May Not Be Interested in the Top Executive Jobs

Sheryl Sandberg, CFO of Facebook and the McKinsey consulting firm shared information from a study they did on women in the workplace. While Ms. Sandberg’s bestselling book encouraged women to lean in to workplace ambition, the study reflects that women are not so interested in getting to the top.

118 companies provided data and nearly 30,000 employees were surveyed for the study. They were questioned about their ambitions and perceptions about career opportunities. Compared to their male peers, women at all levels were less likely to seek out the highest corporate positions. For example, 60% of senior female managers compared to 72% of men wanted the top executive job; a gender gap that remains among entry-level employees.

Perhaps unexpectedly, women with children were 15% more likely than women without to desire the top level jobs. Also, black, Hispanic and Asian women were 43% more likely to be interested in the highest positions than white women as well as 16% more interested than white men. Companies should also note that while more employers are offering generous leave benefits, just 4% of female employees use them. The cause: more than 90% of the employees surveyed believed taking advantage of long family leaves would hurt their careers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Hair Policies: Men and Women Are Different

A male line cook has challenged work policies that allow women to wear longer hair then men. Richard Visecchia had long hair during his entire employment for Allegria Hotel. Approximately three years into his employment, he was told to cut his hair because it was too long.

The Hotel’s hair policy required employees’ hair to be “clean, trimmed, well brushed and neat at all times.” It expressly required that male employees have hair “above the shirt collar.” When Allegria management asked Mr. Visecchia to trim his hair, he protested that it was discriminatory. Women were not similarly asked to keep their hair short. The hotel’s Human Resources gave him a written warning because he did not cut his hair and warned of possible disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Mr. Visecchia did not comply and was fired.

The federal district court in New York ruled that differing hair lengths for men and women is not inherently discriminatory as the Second Circuit and other appeals courts have previously ruled. However, where such policies are imposed selectively there may be a question. Mr. Visecchia was able to point to a couple of examples of women who had streaked hair in violation of the policy and were not disciplined. Those examples could plausibly reflect gender discrimination. That part of the case will proceed to jury.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Quicken Facing Challenge To Employee Policies

The National Labor Relations Board has challenged the policies contained in Quicken’s employee handbook. A federal administrative law judge will review it on November 2.

Quicken’s employee handbook, known as the “Big Book”, apparently warned workers against speaking to the media and restricted conduct that may “damage” the company’s interests. It is the NLRB’s contention that these restrictions violate the National Labor Relations Act, which allows workers to discuss pay and other policies in pursuit of collective action. The NLRB’s goal is to get Quicken to rewrite its policies rather than seeking any monetary damages.

For its part, Quicken has denounced the complaint, calling it “completely absurd.” The latest complaint by NLRB reflects an ongoing strategy of challenging employment policies that it perceives as overbroad and limiting an employee’s ability to complain to his or her co-workers about working conditions. Recently the board’s general counsel offered guidance on acceptable policies. He rejected employer imposed restrictions such as “(i)f something is not public information you must not share it” and “Sharing of (overhead conversations at the work site) with your co-workers, the public, or anyone outside of your immediate work group is strictly prohibited.”

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Rise in Companies Offering Sex Change Benefits

Bloomberg has reported a marked increase in the number of companies offering health insurance benefits for employees seeking transition to another gender. According to the article, these benefits are offered in part because it is an inexpensive way to show commitment to a diverse workforce.

Of approximately 780 companies surveyed, 415 offer insurance coverage for transgender related procedures including hormone therapy and sex-reassignment surgeries. That number of companies is more than double the number from just three years ago. Yet, just one in about 10,000 to 20,000 employees typically uses gender transition insurance coverage a year. It is interesting to note though that doctors are also reporting an upsurge in people wanting to have procedures related to gender changes.

New rules are pending which would bar insurance companies from completely denying coverage for sex change procedures, although not all procedures must be covered. Wal-Mart may be the next company to join others like Netflix, Facebook and Tesla in offering such benefits. A company called HRC monitors data from hundreds of companies and rates them according to LGBT benefits. Wal-Mart has risen to 90 out of 100 over the past two years.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Contraceptive Mandate and Employers: Ongoing Litigation

The Affordable Care Act requires that employers provide female workers with insurance
coverage for a range of birth control options at no cost. Churches and certain other legally defined “religious employers” are expressly exempt from compliance. The U.S. Supreme Court has since ruled that employers who can establish a religious objection may be exempt from compliance with the birth control mandate.

Federal regulations now offer an accommodation to employers who are not expressly exempt from the mandate but who do have religious objections. To receive accommodation, the organization must fill out a form, note the religious objections to the contraceptive mandate, and then allow the government with the insurance provider to figure out how to provide the coverage.

Some employers challenged the accommodation as also violating their religious beliefs. The basis for the objection is that even opting out of the mandate makes them complicit in providing birth control to their workers. Finding that the accommodation process was a “substantial burden” on the religious beliefs of the organizations involved in the lawsuit, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for the employers. The burden arose from the “significant monetary penalties” should they fail to be involved in a process that they consider leading to immoral acts. They contended that some contraceptives are tantamount to abortion. The Eighth Circuit decision is at odds with the seven other circuits that have supported the federal government’s requirement.