Thursday, December 22, 2005

More New Moms Returning to Work

According to a recent Census Bureau report, more women are having children after 30, and continuing to work after childbirth.

The average age of first-time moms increased from 21.4 years in 1970 to 24.9 years in 2000. In addition, the number of first-time births to women over 30 tripled between 1960 and 2000, from 7% to 22%.

In 2000, 26% of new mothers left their jobs after having a child, in comparison to 36% in 1981. Experts believe that these shrinking numbers reflect an increased number of workplaces offering flexible schedules.

You can view the full report here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

SSNs for Employee Identification on the Way Out

The Omnia Group, Inc.

Omnia recently reported that as identity theft grows, the number of employers using Social Security numbers (SSNs) as internal employee identification devices are going down. In fact, lawmakers in Michigan and California have already taken action, and have restricted the use of SSNs for identity purposes.

Michigan’s SSN Privacy Act goes into effect Jan. 1, 2006. It prohibits employers from disclosing more than four sequential SSN digits to any third party. The Act states that the use of more than four SSN digits is prohibited on any identification badge or network unless the connection is secure, the transmission is encrypted or a password or other unique personal identification number is also required to gain access. California passed S.B. 101 this year, clarifying that by Jan. 1, 2008, no more than the last four SSN digits may appear on an employee’s pay stub.

Experts believe that it is just a matter of time before federal legislation is passed that will make the use of SSNs for identity purposes a thing of the past.

Stewardesses Strip for Pension Awareness - Information for HR and Benefit Directors and other Employee Benefit Plan Sponsors and Advisers

A group of former flight attendants, hoping to call attention to the preservation of United Airlines pension funds, recently posed for the "Stewardesses Stripped 2006 Calendar." The calendar includes scantily clad retirees, between the ages of 50 and 60, with photo captions such as, "If your pension is terminated, will you be left with a wing and a prayer?"

Since United Airlines went into Chapter 11 in December 2002, there is a distinct possibility that pensions will be slashed up to 50% in the near future.

As reported in, Connie Baker, brainchild behind the calendar and former United flight attendant explained, "The main point is to get the message out. It's pretty sad but we had to take our clothes off to get a little attention."

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Older and Wiser Worker

Throw out the old stereotypes regarding older workers. Often thought of as being unreceptive to change and technology, more and more organizations are finding that older workers bring a level of experience and knowledge not found among their younger counterparts.

A recent study shows that nearly 40 percent of workers say their company encourages older workers to stay on the job. Hudson's aging workforce study, conducted nationally among 1,075 US Workers, found that 38 percent say their organizations keep older workers. Only 15 percent felt that their employers want to make way for younger employees.

For more information on the study, check out's article, "More Employees Say Employers Encourage Older Workers to Stay"

Friday, December 09, 2005

Reader Feedback re: "When the Employee is Able but Not Willing " Astronology Article

This past Tuesday's Astronology Article, "When the Employee is Able but Not Willing" stirred up some debate among readers. Richard L. Virgilio, SPHR, of First Principles Coaching & Intrepid HR Consulting, Batavia, IL, shared his views on the subject...

I disagree strongly with your (and with most of the field's) characterization of personal interaction ability as something called "soft skills." They are not only not "soft," but--as you point out in the article--perhaps even MORE important than the so-called "hard" skills which are most used for hiring and evaluation purposes. We, as HR professionals, need to get away from calling them "soft" as though they are squishy, malleable, or of less importance. There are practical skills, hand-eye coordination skills, creative skills, communication skills, team-building skills, machine operating skills, critical-thinking skills,......which are "hard" and which are "soft"? Which are important, which vital, and which not-so? Which can be massaged to make room for others? At what cost to the company? Skills are skills, and characterizing them as "soft" or "hard" does no one any favor. In addition, the term "personality" is a very specific, technical term in the behavioral and clinical medical sciences. Unless the interviewer or hiring manager is a clinician in some aspect of psychology, he or she is simply not qualified to make a decision based on personality.

As always, we welcome viewer feedback. Feel free to send in your comments!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Man Fired for Seeing Ghosts

He Sees Dead People

A Des Moines, Iowa security guard was fired this past September when he claimed to see ghosts while on the job. Wade Gallegos, who did not have any drugs or alcohol in his system at the time of the incident, claimed to see ghosts while patroling the neighborhood he was responsible to protect.

Once fired, his former company attempted to deny Gallegos unemployment benefits, claiming that he was fired for misconduct. However, when the case recently went to court, the judge ruled that Gallegos was indeed entitled to unemployment benefits.

"Such beliefs do render the claimant unfit to act as a security guard," said Judge G. Ken Renegar. However, the judge made it clear that seeing ghosts is not misconduct and cannot disqualify Gallegos from receiving benefits.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Corporate Jet Set May Get Taxed

Legal Info Service (US)

Soon, jetting from meeting to meeting may not be as economically feasible as it once was. A new provision in the tax-cut extension package was recently approved by the senate which would require executives to pay income tax on the company's actual cost of providing personal use of a company airplane. The provision is projected to raise an estimated $95 million in extra revenue for the government over the next 10 years. It is headed for House vote this month.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Giving Gifts in the Workplace - Mind your workplace gift-giving protocol

Exchanging gifts in the workplace can be tricky. Figuring out what to get a boss or co-worker, not to mention a client, can be a difficult and stressful undertaking.

Additionally, some offices don't allow employees to accept gifts over a certain value. The Toronto Star recently shared some tips on gift-giving etiquette in the office to help make the season go smoothly.

- Consider giving clients something that represents your company.
- If giving to one person in an organization, tailor your gift to his or her interests.
- Don't give gifts that are too personal, such as perfume or clothing.
- Mail the gifts to the recipients office not home.
- Always write thank you notes for the presents that you receive.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

IRS Announces 2006 Cost of Living Adjustments

The Internal Revenue Service recently announced the 2006 annual cost-of-living adjustments for pension benefits and contributions to retirement plans:

1) The maximum deferral to 401(k) plans will increase from $14,000 in 2005 to $15,000 in 2006;
2) Catch-up contributions under EGTRRA for employees 50 and older will increase from $4,000 to $5,000;
3) The compensation limit under Code Section 401(a)(17) increases from $210,000 in 2005 to $220,000 in 2006;
4) The annual addition contribution limit under Code Section 415 for individuals in 401(k) plans increases from $42,000 in 2005 to $44,000 in 2006;
5) The highly compensated employee limit under Code Section 414(q) is increased from $95,000 in 2005 to $100,000 in 2006;
6) The limit used in determining key employees under Code Section 416 is increased from $135,000 in 2005 to $140,000 in 2006; and
7) The Social Security Wage Base (maximum earnings taxable) for 2006 is $94,200.

Telecommuter Gets Hit with Tax

Bad News for Out-of-State Telecommuters

Recently, a Tennessee man was ordered to pay taxes on his income by New York's highest court, even though he only works in New York 25% of his time. Thomas Huckaby, a computer specialist who spends the other 75% of his time in his home state, discovered that he will be taxed by both Tennessee and New York. As reported on

"A New York State tax-department rule states that people who live out of state, work for a New York employer, and occasionally come to New York on business must pay taxes, even on work performed out of state, according to The Wall Street Journal. The only exception to the state's rule would be if the out-of-state work was done for the employer's "necessity". The New York Supreme Court ruled, in a 4-3 decision, that Huckaby had to pay taxes on all of his income."

As revealed in a recent Telework Advisory Group survey, there are approximately 9.9 telecommuters in the United States who now may face this additional tax. However, there is proposed legislaton, the Telecommuter Tax Fairness Act that would prohibit the practice of taxing telecommuters for work completed in another state.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Senator Dodd (D-CT) called Monday's decision "disappointing" and said it "underscores the need to take action on the legislation that I have introduced… Telecommuting reduces traffic congestion, reduces pollution, and helps businesses strengthen their bottom line. The current rules punish telecommuters rather than reward them and that needs to change."

Monday, November 21, 2005

How to Help Your Employees Avoid the Flu

canadian hr reporter - article display

Flu season is upon us, but there are ways to help ensure that your work environment stays happy and healthy. The Canadian HR Reporter offers the following tips from Trish Stenson, Director of Clinical Services at Ceridian Canada:

- Encourage employees to get a flu shot from their doctor or set up a program in conjunction with health professionals for employees to get their shots at the office

- Provide employees tips on how to prevent getting the flu

- Encourage employees to stay home if they are sick, especially if their symptoms are flu-like

- Provide handouts on how to wash hands properly

- Provide hand sanitizers in washrooms and other places.

- Promote work-life balance by encouraging employees to take their lunch breaks, step away from their desks periodically to de-stress, and pay attention to eating nutritious food and getting physical activity

- If snacks are a part of the office environment, make sure healthy snacks are available to counter the popular high-sugar content treats

- Discourage the sharing of keyboards, headsets, etc. by providing each employee with his/her own equipment

Stenson stresses that the most important tip is to encourage ill employees to stay home. "Not only does coming to work put co-workers at risk, but work productivity suffers and sick workers are often unable to focus on the tasks at hand," said Stenson.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Survey Reveals that More than 40% of American Workers Plan to Find New Employment Within Next 12 Months

A recent Yahoo! HotJobs online survey revealed that a large percentage of U.S. workers are planning on looking for new opportunities in the near future. The poll results show that more than 40% are planning on looking, while 21% are already looking for new positions.

The number one reason for seeking out a new job opportunity is the desire for a better compensation package (96%)

Additional reasons for wanting to leave include:
- Believing that there is no potential for career growth in current position (44%)
- The desire for a better commute (18%)
- Feeling that they are not being "valued" by current employer (25%)
- The desire to work in an environment with higher morale (29%)

Yahoo! HotJobs VP of marketing and career expert, Marc Karasu, was quoted in their press release as saying, "Employees are sensing more opportunities and better total compensation packages, and they're making plans to go after them. Current employers should take stock of their own talent acquisition and retention models as they prepare for their staffing needs for 2006."

Have you reviewed your own recruitment and retention programs? Now is the time!

Monday, November 07, 2005

"North Country" Displays Accurate Portayal of Real Life Sexual Harassment Case

The Capital Times

The recent, critically acclaimed film, "North Country," starring Academy Award winner, Charlize Theron, depicts the story of the first sexual harassment class action law suit in the United States. It serves as an excellent reminder that workplace harassment can easily occur, and we must be aware of potentially dangerous situations. As Judy Ettenhofer explained in the Capital Times...

"North Country" is based loosely on the first sexual harassment class action suit brought in the United States, by the women "rangers" working at the Eveleth iron ore mine in northern Minnesota's Mesabi Range.

In real life, Lois Jenson and her fellow female rangers endured nine years of abhorrent harassment from the mine's male employees before Jenson filed a complaint in 1984. A lawsuit grew out of that complaint, finally gaining class action status in 1991. The case dragged on until it was finally settled in 1998, but along the way it helped push employers to institute policies against workplace sexual harassment.

What is shocking is that throughout the 1980s and 1990s many corporations resisted the pressure of instituting anti-harassment policies. Today, there have been many improvements regarding sexual harassment in the workforce, but we must still keep our eyes open for inappropriate behavior.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Honor Veterans as Part of Your Diversity Efforts

As recently pointed out in SHRM's HR Week newsletter, our nation's veterans are often overlooked in organizations' diversity programs, even though one in every eight Americans (13%) has served long enough in the military to be considered a veteran.

SHRM suggests making an effort to recognize the veterans in your workforce making a special effort to honor them on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. In addition, you can incorporate a recognition campaign with your recuiting initiative. There are also a number of resources that can be extremely helpful in your endeavors:

Free Veterans Day Observance Posters (also Downloadable)

Hiring Information:

Military Talent, Civilian Careers

Veterans and Transitioning Military Personnel

U.S. DOL's Hiring Veterans

For more information on diversity:
SHRM's Diversity Toolkit

Be sure to visit the SHRM site for a wealth of additional information.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

New Study Reveals the Best and Worst States for Employees

Press Release

The first study that evaluates employee climate rather than business climate was released recently by Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts. All 50 states were rated based on average pay, employment opportunties, employee benefits, percentage of low-income workers, fair treatment between genders and ability for employees to unionize.

Delaware, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, and Iowa, made it to the top of the list, while Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Utah, and South Carolina are ranked the lowest. Rankings were based on a scale of 1 – 100 in three categories – Job Opportunities, Job Quality and Workplace Fairness – which were then averaged out to determine the state's total score. First place Delaware received a total score of 89 while and Louisiana, in last place, received a total of 31.

To see how your state ranked, click here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Are You Wearing a Costume to the Office This Halloween?

Thirty-One Percent of Workers May Show Up to Work in a Halloween Costume This Year, Survey Reveals

Thirty-one percent of workers are planning on dressing up for the office this October 31st, according to the recent survey, "Halloween at the Office 2005," by

CareerBuilder also gave some tips on last minute office-themed costumes. Here are a few:

1. A Day Off - Using black lettering, write October 30, 2005 or November 1, 2005 on an orange shirt. When people ask what you are, say, "A day off!"
2. Running Late - Show up to the office with messy hair and disheveled clothes with your pajamas showing underneath.
3. Vending Machine - Dress in black and fasten snacks to yourself with the cost of each item displayed. To be really evil, place an "out of order" sign on the real vending machine and charge your coworkers for your snacks. When they pay, make sure you throw their snacks on the ground as the vending machine does.
4. Office Gossip - Make up fun stories about your coworkers. Fasten the stories to yourself and put the name of your favorite grocery store tabloid on a hat. Hang around the water cooler and invite people to read the latest news.

Be sure to click here to read the full list of costume ideas!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Panel Considers Taxing Health Benefits - Information for HR and Benefit Directors and other Employee Benefit Plan Sponsors and Advisers

Will employees soon be taxed on the value of their employer-sponsored health coverage? The President's Advisory Panel, a bi-partisan group made up of academics, executives, former members of Congress and government officials, is considering doing just that as a way to finance a reduction in the alternative minimum tax. reports...

"It is hard to see how the advisory panel would make the American taxpayer better off by lowering their alternative minimum tax burden only to turn around and increase their tax burden for the health coverage they choose for themselves and their family," says American Benefits Council President James Klein.

To learn more and to share your thoughts about the proposed health benefits tax, visit the official website of the President's Advisory Panel on Federal Tax Reform. They have to submit their report to the Treasury Department by November 1st, so be sure to get your comments in soon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Reader Feedback re: "Understanding Diversity" Astronology Article

Yesterday's Astronology Article, "Understanding Diversity - It's More than What You See on the Surface" stirred up some debate among readers. Richard L. Virgilio, SPHR, of First Principles Coaching & Intrepid HR Consulting, Batavia, IL, shared his view on the subject...

I think that it is wrong to "try to mirror the population of a community," as put forth by the BostonWorks article. That metric ("mirror") smacks of quotas, and inevitably is wrong. As an employer, I must--MUST--hire the best qualified people who want to work for me. To do anything else is to betray my stakeholders and be absolutely open to the criticism, "Why didn't you hire the best qualified?" Or worse, "Why did you pass over these people who expressed interest in the position, were well qualified, and instead went out and beat the bushes to find this person who wasn't particularly interested--how long will he last?" The true, underlying philosophy of diversity is both to (a) be sure you are not excluding any particular group from your candidate pool and (b) be sure to not take such immutable characteristics as any factor whatsoever as part of the hiring decision. Diversity for it's own sake is a wrong-headed goal, and when we try to "mirror the community" we are disregarding specific talent and experience.

As always we welcome reader feedback. Keep your comments coming!

Ruling Defines "Internet Job Applicant" for Contractors

Definition of 'Internet job applicant' clarified for contractors#P-11_0

Realizing that an increasing number of job applications come through the Internet rather than traditional methods, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) has issued a regulation that states that resumes received electronically or by "snail mail" be treated equally when it comes to determining equal employment opportunity.

The final rules, which go into effect in February 2006, require that covered federal contractors obtain data on gender, race, and ethnicity on applicants and supply to the OFCCP. The OFCCP in turn uses this data to determine which organizations may be practicing possible employment discrimination. SHRM Online reports...

“This new rule provides clear guidance to allow us to better enforce the law,” said Charles E. James, Jr., deputy assistant secretary for OFCCP, in a press release. “This final rule will enable OFCCP to effectively evaluate whether federal contractors are recruiting a diverse pool of qualified applicants and hiring new employees on a non-discriminatory basis. It also helps contractors by clarifying an ambiguity that, until now, left contractors guessing at what information they needed to collect from Internet applicants.”

Will this new ruling effect your organization? Check out the full article here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Top 10 OSHA Violations

OSHA's Top 10 Violations

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently released the 10 most-violated OSHA standards of 2005. There have been 40,463 violations in 2005 thus far, which is currently 4,200 less than in 2004.

Scaffolding continues to be the most-violated standard (8,130 violations), followed by Hazard Communication (6,641 violations) and Fall Protection -- General Requirements 5,504 violations). To view the entire top ten, click here.

How Flexible is Your Disaster Plan?

The Best-laid Disaster Plans Are Merely Works in Progress |

Prior to the Gulf Coast hurricanes, many employers had disaster plans in place. However, due to unpredictibility of nature, disaster plans, in most cases, are merely works in progress. Communication problems, administraive hurdles and housing issues, all created additional challenges to organizations effected by Katrina and Rita. Workforce Management takes a look at how three companies... Sodexho USA, McDonald's and Entergy... weathered the storm. It's an interesting read that may make you rethink your own disaster plan. Check it out here.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

HRAs and HSAs Not Yet Popular - Information for HR and Benefit Directors and other Employee Benefit Plan Sponsors and Advisers

According to a recent survey of 2,995 employers by the Kaiser Family Foudation and the Health Research and Educational Trust, only 4% of employers with health benefits offer an HRA or an HSA to their employees. From

About 1.6 million workers are enrolled in HRAs, representing 2% of covered workers. Among workers with access to an HRA, 25% enrolled in it. The average annual employer contribution to HRAs is $3,872 for single coverage and $7,538 for family coverage.

Meanwhile, 800,000 workers are enrolled in HSA-qualified health plans, representing 1.8% of covered workers. Just 15% of workers with access to this type of plan enrolled in it. The average annual employer contribution to an HSA-qualified plan is $2,270 for single coverage and $6,245 for family coverage. Roughly 67% of employers offering an HSA-qualified plan contribute to workers' accounts.

It appears that part of the reason for the low enrollment may be due to a lack of incentive. According to Gary Claxton, VP at the foundation, "HRAs don't really offer much savings to employers yet. The HSA-qualified plans, when you consider the contributions that the employers make to the HSAs, are a little bit cheaper than traditional health insurance."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bush Suspends Davis-Bacon Law in Katrina Damaged Areas

Bush Suspends Prevailing-Wage Law in Katrina Zone

In a controversial move, President Bush decided to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act, the law which requires federal contractors to pay the prevailing or average pay in the region, in the hurricane-damaged areas of Alabama, Florida, Lousiana, and Mississippi. Believing that the Davis-Bacon act actually increases construction costs, Bush said that suspending it "will result in greater assistance to these devastated communities and will permit the employment of thousands of additional individuals."

His ruling infuriated labor leaders, as well as others who believe that suspending the law is actually an opportunity to exploit workers and further depress the area's living standard. From

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi noted that the Davis-Bacon Act was signed into law at "a time when scurrilous employers were taking advantage of the desperation of American workers to care for their families. At that time, and for more than 70 years since then, the federal government has demanded that when taxpayer money is spent, workers should be paid a livable wage.

"But today," she continued, " the Bush Administration demonstrated the latest example of its anti-worker agenda, with an executive order rescinding the requirements of the Davis-Bacon Act for areas hit by Hurricane Katrina. That means that as workers return to their lives and livelihoods on the Gulf Coast, the Bush Administration wants to use federal money to exploit them by paying less than the prevailing wage."

Opinions abound on the subject. What's yours?

To read Bush's proclamation, click here.

To read the Washington Post article, "Bush Suspends Pay Act in Areas Hit by Storm," click here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

No Shortage of Jobs for Gulf Coast Healthcare Workers

Healthcare recruiters are wooing displaced Hurricane Katrina healthcare workers with perks such as signing bonuses and relocation assistance.

Gulf Coast healthcare firms are concerned that once life returns to normal in the hurricane ravaged areas, that there won't be enough people to fill the positions.


Out-of-state recruiters tell USA Today that they are helping, not poaching, since the workers need jobs.

"Even if we didn't exist, these nurses and health professionals would go somewhere else because they have to," says Alan Braynin, CEO of Access Nurses, a San Diego-based staffing agency.

Only time will tell to see if the workers return to their former Gulf Coast employers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Only One in Three Workers Would Consider Unionizing

According to a new Zogby/Public Service Research Foundation Poll, only 35% of non-union workers would consider voting to unionize their workplace, while the majority (56%) would not. These numbers seem to coincide with the recent decline in union memberships nationally.

The survey of 802 workers nationwide was conducted June 14 through 21, 2005, and has a margin of error of +/-3.6 percentage points. Polling was performed by Zogby International on behalf of the Public Service Research Foundation.

The poll found broad-based consensus among employees against unionizing, with 56% of all non-union workers in the survey saying they would vote against bringing a union into their workplace. One-in-three (35%) indicate they would consider voting for a union, but just half of that group (16%) say they would definitely vote to unionize, while two-in-three of all those who oppose unionizing (38%) would definitely vote against unionizing. These trends held for all age groups under 65, but was most noticeable among workers age 30 to 49, where three-in-five (60%) indicated they would not support unionizing.

This opposition to unionizing holds in every region of the country as well, with majorities in the Eastern U.S. (61%), South (50%), and Central/Great Lakes Region (60%) and a 49% plurality in the Western states all saying they would resist unionizing their workplace.

The survey also found men more likely to oppose unionizing their workplace, by a 61% to 50% margin versus women, and married people are more likely to oppose unionization than single people by a 61% to 51% margin.

Thanks to "World of HR" blog reader, Tom Minnick, SPHR, for calling our attention to the Zogby poll. If you would like to read more about the results, click here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Best and Worst Companies for Gay and Transgender Employees

HRC | Best and Worst Companies for Gay and Transgender Employees Revealed

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation were pleased to reveal the results of their fourth annual report card on the treatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees in corporate America. According to the study, there are seven times as many corporations providing full protections since 2002 with a record-setting 101 companies scoring a perfect 100%.

As reported on the HBC website...

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s fourth annual report card — the Corporate Equality Index — rates Fortune 500 and other major companies on a scale from zero to 100 percent on seven key indicators of fair treatment for GLBT employees. Indicators include policies prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as well as equal health care benefits.

Among this year’s key findings:

A record 101 companies score 100 percent, which is attributed to a sharp increase in gender identity non-discrimination policies. In 2002, only 13 companies earned a perfect rating.
Today, 5.6 million people work at the 101 companies that score 100 percent. In 2002, approximately 690,000 people were employed by the 13 companies that scored 100 percent.
Eighty-one percent of scored companies offer health benefits to the domestic partners of employees, up from 70 percent in 2002.
“With 101 companies scoring one hundred percent, millions of Americans now have protections they would have only dreamed of a few years ago,” said Daryl Herrschaft, director of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Workplace Project and lead author of the report.

Many of the companies that scored 100 percent will be attending this year’s Out & Equal Workplace Summit starting on Sept. 22 in Denver. They will be joining more than 850 GLBT employees, straight allies and human resources and diversity professionals who share the same vision of equality for all.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Mileage Rate Increases for the Remainder of '05

The IRS decided to break routine and update the mileage rate early, in order to address the rising cost of gas. The rate has increased 8 cents to 48.5 cents a mile for all business miles driven between September 1st and December 31st.

From BLR...

"This is about fairness for taxpayers," IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson said. "People are entitled to deduct the real cost of operating a vehicle. We've responded to the recent gas price increases by making this special adjustment so taxpayers get the tax benefit they deserve."

Read the entire article here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Katrina Evacuees Receiving Jobless Benefits

According to a recent article on SHRM Online, individuals who lost their jobs and their homes due to Hurricane Katrina are now starting to receive their Disaster Unemployment Assistance checks.

“We’re doing everything we can,” said Louisiana Department of Labor (DOL) spokesman Ed Pratt. “We’re going into the shelters, taking applications and giving out checks. So far we’ve processed 70,000 applications, and we expect that number to grow.” The Louisiana efforts are mirrored across the South for residents who find themselves far from their homes and the offices where they normally would seek such aid.

“We processed over 10,000 claims from Louisiana residents over the Labor Day weekend alone,” said Ann Hatchitt, a spokesperson for the Texas Workforce Commission, which is partnering with Louisiana officials to deliver benefits across state lines.

Basically, as long as the displaced individuals can be found, they will receive their payments. It is a step in the right direction on the long road to recovery.

September 14th is National Attention Deficit Awareness Day

Tomorrow is a day of awareness for individuals with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD), a disability that is covered under the Americans with Disabilities. Employees with AD/HD may have short attention spans, difficulty focusing, and trouble prioritizing. The founders of National Attention Deficit Day are hoping that by calling attention to this condition, businesses will learn how to make their workplace "AD/HD friendly."

The Attention Deficit Disorder Association (ADDA) suggests the following tactics to help employers work effectively with AD/HD employees:

1. Give instructions clearly - preferably in writing.

2. Provide structure in long-term tasks, such as checklists and
deadlines for each stage.

3. Offer frequent and specific feedback on performance.

4. Provide extra clerical support.

5. Reduce distractions by placing the employee in a cubicle or
office away from high-noise areas.

To learn more about National Attention Deficit Awareness Day, visit

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Survey Reveals Drop in Employee Morale

Employee Morale Slips

What a difference a year makes. There has been a significant drop in employee morale in 2005 according to a recent survey by staffing firm Randstad and Harris Interactive.

Fifty-five percent of employers reported that morale at their company was "good" to "excellent" in 2005, down from 70 percent last year. This year marked the first year the survey found that employee morale dipped.

"The survey also indicated that employees look to their employers for strong leadership and the ability to put the right people with the right skills to work," says Stef Witteveen, chief executive officer of Randstad's U.S. operations. "These traits have a huge impact on employee morale and turnover-- the softer side of the workplace."

Are your employees happy or have you experienced a dip in your own company's morale this past year? Before your employees decide to "jump ship" you may want to check out Astron Solutions' array of products that are designed to help keep your employees on board.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Study Shows Certain Jobs Tied to Degenerative Brain Disease

Some Jobs Tied to Degenerative Brain Disease : Industrial Market Trends

Are you or your employees at risk for degenerative brain disease? In a study of more than 2.6 million U.S. death records, researchers have found that certain occupations are linked to increase risk for diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.

While many of these job-disease relationships have been observed in previous research and could potentially be attributed to workplace exposures to chemicals (as is the case with farmers, welders and hairdressers), other links were harder to account for (such as the increased risk among teachers, clergy and bank tellers), according to the researchers, led by Robert M. Park of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Park readily acknowledges the limitations of studies like this, which use death certificates to find associations between occupation and disease risk. "At best," he notes to Reuters, such research can reveal general patterns that can then be studied further.

In their analysis, Park and his colleagues found that bank tellers, clergy, aircraft mechanics and hairdressers had the highest risk of dying from Alzheimer's disease.

Biological scientists, teachers, clergy members and other religious workers had the biggest odds of dying of Parkinson's disease.

The risk of death from pre-senile dementia--a form of dementia that surfaces before the age of 65--was most pronounced among dentists, graders and sorters in industries other than agriculture and, again, clergy.

Veterinarians, hairdressers and graders and sorters had the highest odds of dying from motor neuron disease, the most common form of which is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease--a fatal degeneration of the central nervous system.

The study, which has been published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, was based on the death records from 22 states between 1992 and 1998.

What's unclear is why these specific positions appear to be linked to brain degeneration. There are certain cases of chemical exposure in occupations like farming, but one wonders why the clergy would be at greater risk. Click here for additional information about this interesting study.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Lost Productivity Due to Employee Pain

Study documents pain's impact on workers, employers

If we start to think about all the recent studies that talk about how much time people waste or lose due to extenuating circumstances, isn't it a miracle that anything gets done at all? It would be interesting to add up the time lost according to all of the various studies and see how much time is left over for actual work.

A recent article on SHRM's Online takes a look at recent findings that reveal that one in three employees suffer from pain, in turn costing an organization approximately three and two-thirds list workdays per employee per month.

The findings are based on a survey of 1,039 active employees that included factory and nonfactory workers at an unidentified Fortune 100 company in the northeastern United States. It examined the “burden of pain on employee health and productivity,” according to researchers Harris Allen, Dr. David Hubbard and Sean Sullivan.

What can employers do to effectively run a business while offering assistance to their pain-adled employees?

In the paper, researchers advise the company to consider “nurturing a better quality of life for many of [the] employees while at the same time promoting a more productive workforce.” In other words, the company could be more realistic in its expectations of employees, Allen acknowledged to HR News.

Steps that researchers say employers in general can take:

• Identify sources of productivity and health losses by performing a claims data analysis and enlisting a third party to survey employees, reporting only group-level or aggregate data to the employer.

• Look at what company-sponsored programs are available and take stock of what you are doing now. You may want to simply augment what is being done, Allen said.

• Discover what vendors are available, look at your budget and perform a return-on-investment analysis to decide what steps to take.

• Implement those steps. Perform another evaluation after a reasonable period of time to get a credible idea if the action taken made a difference and, if so, how much of a difference.

• Educate employees about treatments available.

Celebrate 401(k) Day

401(k) Day

Did you know that this September 6th is 401(k) Day? this is your opportunity to join Captain 401(k) in battling Tax Maximizer, Low Contributor and the ultimate retirement arch nemesis, Savings Procrastinator!

Since retirement follows work, 401(k) Day officially falls on the day after Labor Day. Visit the official site to download the 401(k) Day Kit and start celebrating with your employees.

Captain 401(k) will be very proud of you.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

What's in a Name?

Employers better think twice before calling an employee by a nickname. A recent Ninth Circuit case, El-Hakem v. BJY Inc., reveals how, in some cases, the use of unwelcome nicknames can cause serious trouble.

In the El-Hakem case, the Ninth Circuit held that an employer could be held liable for discrimination on the basis of race by continuously referring to an Arabic employee by a non-Arabic name, rather than by the employee's Arabic name. In this case, a supervisor repeatedly referred to the plaintiff, Mamdouh El-Hakem, as "Manny." Despite El-Hakem's strenuous objections, the supervisor insisted on using the non-Arabic name of Manny rather than El-Hakem's given name. This conduct continued for almost a year.

A jury found that the supervisor intentionally discriminated against El-Hakem and awarded him $15,000 in compensatory damages and $15,000 in punitive damages. The Ninth Circuit upheld the jury's award, finding that the supervisor's intentional conduct created a hostile work environment. The court went on to state that even though the supervisor had not spoken words encompassing a group's ethnic characteristics or skin color (he did not make a "typical" racial slur), the record was clear that the supervisor intended to discriminate against El-Hakem's Arabic name in favor of a non-Arabic name.

Read the entire story on here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Get Back to Work!

Stop reading this headline and get back to work | CNET recently conducted a survey of over 10,000 employees to see how much time during the day is spent on non-work activities. The results are interesting although we here at Astron wonder what exactly falls into the category of "other."

Top time wasting activities:
* Surfing the Internet for personal use: 44.7 percent
* Socializing with coworkers: 23.4 percent
* Conducting personal business: 6.8 percent
* Spacing out: 3.9 percent
* Running errands off premises: 3.1 percent
* Making personal phone calls: 2.3 percent
* Applying for other jobs: 1.3 percent
* Planning personal events: 1.0 percent
* Arriving late/leaving early: 1.0 percent
* Other: 12.5 percent

The survey revealed that the top time wasting state is Missouri (avg. 3.2 hours per day) and the top time wasting industry was insurance.

Still, it's important to remember that all this goofing off isn't necessarily a bad thing. Bill Coleman, senior vice president at explained, "In some cases this extra wasted time might be considered 'creative waste'--time that may well have a positive impact on the company's culture, work environment, and even business results. Personal Internet use and casual office conversations often turn into new business ideas or suggestions for gaining operating efficiencies."

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Business Travel's Popularity Wanes

According to Sales & Marketing's Performance eNewsletter, business travel has slowed down over the past few years. Results from a recent study by Robert Half Management Resources show that almost half of those employees surveyed say that they are traveling less than they did five years ago. The study shows that companies that scaled back during recent difficult economic times, have not increased their travel allowances despite the improving economy.

Survey respondents were asked:

"Are you currently traveling for business more or less frequently than you were five years ago?"

* Much more frequently: 15 percent
* Somewhat more frequently: 21 percent
* Somewhat less frequently: 21 percent
* Much less frequently: 27 percent
* No change: 16 percent

For more information about Robert Half Management Resources, visit

Monday, August 08, 2005

HRCI offers two new HR certifications

HRCI - About Us: Certified Mail e-newsletter: Summer 2005 - AS09

The HRCI Board of Directors recently announced the approval of two new certifications that "will encourage the matery of knowledge at an entry/administrative level and assess key competencies at a strategic business competency level." The certifications, Administrative-Level Certification and Strategic Business Competencies Certification, are designed to help advance the HR profession, and will be available in the near future.

For more information, click here.

27 workers fired over blog postings

Auto club fires 27 workers over blog posts - Tech News & Reviews -

When the Automobile Club of Southern California's management caught wind that a large group of their employees were posting comments that could be construed as harassment on, 27 workers lost their jobs. From

Club spokeswoman Carol Thorp said comments were made about other workers' weight and sexual orientation.

"When a worker complains about harassment, you take it seriously," Thorp said Friday.

Thorp said employees were also dismissed because they discussed online how they planned to slow down roadside assistance at work.

"That hits right at our basic service," she said.

This is just another incident in a long line of recent firings due to inappropriate employee blogging. Astron Solutions recently published a story on the topic in our Astronology newsletter titled, "Employee Blogs - Do You Know What They're Saying About You?"

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Astron at ASHHRA

Astron Solutions recently exhibited at ASHHRA's 41st Annual Conference and Exhibition at Disney in Orlando, Florida. As you can see, there was plenty of opportunity for the team members in attendance to balance work with fun in the "happiest place on earth."

From top to bottom:
Automation Expert, John Sazaklis anxiously awaits the booth visitors.

Enjoying the Citistreet party at Fisherman's Wharf in Universal Studios, from left to right, Tony DiBartolo, VP of HR, Bancroft Neurohealth, Jennifer Loftus, SPHR, CCP, CBP, GRP, National Director, Astron Solutions, John Vicik, VP of HR, Sherman Health, and Robin Clark, VP of HR, Morehead Associates.

Jennifer was the lucky winner of a glamorous new hat at Pleasure Island's water gun races! :-)

After a busy day, John relaxes outside of the House of Blues.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Is your job making you fat?

North Jersey Media Group providing local news, sports & classifieds for Northern New Jersey!

Most Americans spend their working hours either sitting behind a desk or standing on an assembly line. As a result of this lack of activity, many U.S employees are gaining weight. More than just packing on a few extra pounds, weight gain can contribute to diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and a plethora of other medical problems.

As stated in the article "Workplace eating habits can pack on the pounds," Americans are quickly gaining weight.
People are getting heavier in this country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, 65 percent of Americans age 20 or older are overweight or obese, with an estimated 30 percent of adults 20 and older falling into the obese category - that's more than 60 million people.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat employee weight gain. Madelyn Fernstrom, director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Weight Management Center suggests putting down the cookie and picking up a carrot to start. Making a point to get up and walk around is also a good idea. Fernstrom suggests plunking down the $15 or $20 for a pedometer, which measures how many steps you take. Aim for 10,000 a day.

Instead of e-mailing or calling your colleague down the hall, get up, go to their office. And every hour or so, walk a loop around your office floor. Skip the elevator and take the stairs.

Other suggestions are balancing your food intake, bringing lunch from home, and get accustomed to low-fat snacks. If you must have something sweet, try a piece of fruit-flavored gum or a hard candy.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Does your company use graphology for hiring and promoting employees?

A Cautionary Note on Using Graphology for Hiring and Promoting Employees | March/April 2005 Explorer

When it comes to hiring or promoting the right employee, some companies still rely on graphology, or handwriting analysis, in coming to a decision.

In the Rocket-Hire article, "A Cautionary Note on Using Graphology for Hiring and Promoting Employees" author Mark C. Healy, stresses the fact that relying on graphology may actually do more harm than good. Surprisingly, it's not all that uncommon.

The use of graphology in business is not new or particularly rare. Apparently, thousands of US firms2 have used it for a variety of human resource programs. Still, European companies are much more likely than American companies to require a handwriting analysis, with France a particularly common setting. UK graphologist Nigel Bradley’s web site3 provides a list of hundreds of well-known companies who have allegedly used graphology. Regardless of the estimates of usage, graphologists suggest that these numbers are an underestimate because firms do not want to admit they use handwriting analysis.

Graphology dates back to the early 1600's and today is highly useful in determining forgeries and identities. However, as a hiring tool, the evidence points against its use.
There is a distinct lack of evidence that substantiates the link between certain handwriting features and success on the job. This is the notion of “validity”, or hiring accuracy. Unfortunately, most analysts don’t observe actual job applicants on the job, and don’t quantitatively verify their findings either. To be sure, few legitimate studies have revealed a significant statistical link between handwriting features and job performance.

However, there is a substantial scientific literature that disputes the alleged link between handwriting and on-the-job performance. Frank Schmidt and Jack Hunter, in their oft-cited meta-analysis of the validity of all selection and assessment tools4, pegged the validity of graphology at zero. Moreover, compared to interviews, tests, simulations, and other hiring devices, graphology ranked at the bottom of the list. In other words, every other possible hiring tool was found to be more valid and accurate than graphology.

If you'd like to read more about the pros and cons of graphology, check out the full article here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Do work and fun mix?

APP.COM - Making the workplace the fun place

Yes, and it could lead to increased productivity, claims a recent article in the Asbury Park Press.

In an unscientific sampling of workers across the USA and Canada, it appeared that a bigger salary wasn't the main element of an enjoyable workplace. It was creative voluntary benefits, a friendly and healthy environment, and team spirit.

Workers were asked, What would make your workplace more enjoyable?" Here are some of their responses. See how many would make you happier!

- an cubicle/office with a window
- individual temperature controls
- weekly massages
- pet insurance
- ability to bring pets and kids to work
- flexible hours
- management who listen and offer face-to-face contact

Check out the full article, Making the Workplace the Fun Place here.

Intolerance Still Existing in the Workplace

There's No Shortage of Intolerance in the Workplace - New York Times

According to a recent New York Times article, there is no shortage of intolerance in the workplace...whether it's based on race, age, gender or sexual orientation.

In a phone survey of 623 employed Americans by Novations/J. Howard & Associates, a consulting firm near Boston, thirty percent of those surveyed said they overheard racial slurs last year. In addition, twenty percent reported ridicule of sexual orientation and twenty percent reported age bias.

Results varied depending on area. 24 percent of respondents from the South reported overhearing biased remarks about sexual orientation, while in the Northeast, the figure was only 14 percent.

Although strides have been made in creating tolerant workplaces, the results of the study reveal that organizations should not assume that intolerance no longer exists.

Friday, July 22, 2005

New OSHA Poster Now Available

This just in from SHRM...

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued new "You Have a Right to A Safe and Healthful Workplace" posters, numbers 3165 (English) and 3167 (Spanish) which replace the older 2203 posters. There is no requirement that employers immediately post the new poster(s) and the older version is still considered OSHA compliant at your work site. The 2203 poster will no longer available and the new poster can be downloaded directly from the OSHA site or the SHRM site.

For additional resources on this topic, including links to the new posters, click here. Be sure to have the key word "OSHA" and your SHRM membership number handy to access the information.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Non-profit Groups Help Women Land Jobs

World Peace Herald

Do you remember your first interview? You may have had butterflies in your stomach, hoping that it would go well. Some women have an additional worry..that even if they get called for an interview, they won't have anything to wear.

As you know, an important element to a successful interview is dressing appropriately, and this often means wearing a suit. Low income women looking to land a position can be at a disadvantage. Not being able to afford a nice suit for an interview can damage their confidence and ultimately, cost them the job.

Luckily, there are organizations out there ready to help. From the World Peace Herald...

To keep down the expense of dressing for work, private nonprofit organizations such as Dress for Success and the Women's Alliance are helping to outfit women headed to new jobs.

Women are referred to these organizations from other nonprofit and government agencies, including homeless shelters, domestic violence shelters, immigration services, and substance abuse and job training programs.

The groups provide advisers who have gone through similar experiences, said Liz Carey, affiliate relations director of Dress for Success.

It's a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the professional success of someone less fortunate. Please consider donating your gently worn business clothes to these organizations.

Dress for Success

Women's Alliance

Friday, July 15, 2005

Disgruntled Former Employee Kills Self in Boss's Office

Worker Kills Self in Boss's Office

Thankfully, supervisor Doreen Hartley saw recently fired employee, Bruce Alvin Miller returning to the site where he had worked for 28 years, toting a gun. Hartley, who had fired Miller earlier that day from his position of assistant designer at Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., warned the other employees before running to safety. After Miller, 46, shot his way into the building, he made his way into Hartley's office and killed himself. Luckily, no one was hurt.

This is food for thought for employers who must terminate employment of a possibly unstable employee. Although these violent incidents are not especially common, they do occur. Ensure employee safety by taking the proper precautions when facing what could turn into a dangerous situation.

For more details on the shooting incident, read the indepth article featured in the Baltimore Sun.

Florida, Minnesota and New Jersey Raise Minimum Wage

Three States Raise Minimum Wage

Soon, the minimum wage will be rising in three of our nation's states.

Florida, whose minimum wage has increased to $6.15 per hour is expecting the amount to be recalculated and put into effect on January 1, 2006.

Large Minnesota employers will find their minimum wage raised to $6.15 per hour (an increase of $1 per hour). Minimum wage for small employers will be raised to $5.25.

New Jersey's minimum wage will rise to $6.15 an hour on October 1 and to $7.15 and hour on October 1, 2006. This is good news for our New Jersey neighbors.

"Finally, more than 200,000 New Jersey workers, most of them women and minorities, will benefit from a living wage," Acting Governor Richard Codey explained. "Today, 12 states have a higher minimum wage than New Jersey, and none of them have our high cost of living."

To read the full details, click here.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Beware of Heat Stress in the Workplace

HRinfodesk � Canadian Payroll and Employment Law News

The dog days of summer are almost upon us. How is the temperature in your workplace? Is it comfortable? If your employees work in an area that is hot with poor air circulation, they are at risk for heat stress, a potentially dangerous health condition.


Various health studies and other forms of research indicate that heat stress is a set of conditions where the body is under stress from overheating. Conditions include heat exhaustion, heat cramps, heat stroke and heat rash and symptoms include profuse sweating to dizziness, to cessation of sweating and collapse. High temperatures, heavy workloads, and the type of clothing worn can induce heat stress. Other heat stress factors are also significant. In addition to temperature, increased relative humidity, decreased air movement or lack of shading from direct heat (radiant temperature) can all increase the potential of heat stress.

Employees who experience heat stress may at first be confused or unable to concentrate, followed by more severe symptoms such as fainting and/or collapse. Employers must ensure supervisors/managers and employees are aware and know how to deal with heat stress when it occurs in the workplace. Heat stress may be a health and safety hazard found in the workplace, and employers must insure they have identified it as a possible health and safety issue and implemented measures to control this specific hazard.

If an employee does show heat stress symptoms, move them to a cool, shaded area, give him or her water and immediately contact the supervisor and first aid attendant (if one is available) while following procedures in the health and safety policy in respect to heat stress and first aid.

In addition, the article lists numerous helpful ways to avoid heat stroke. You can view the entire list here.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Are You Sure You Want to be a Cowboy? Careerjournal Explores the Best and Worst Jobs

CareerJournal | We Ask: What Are Some Of the Best and Worst Jobs?

What did you dream of being when you were a child? A ballerina? A cowboy? Well, according to and author, Les Krantz, those jobs and others aren't as wonderful as we once dreamed.

When people are working full time -- perhaps in a job that they don't particularly enjoy -- it's easy to imagine that the proverbial "grass may be greener" for those in other careers. But unless they are peppered with questions, it's difficult to find out what their work is really like. How stressful is the work, what's the work environment like and is there room for growth?

Six main factors were used to judge a job: income, stress, physical demands, outlook, security and work environment. Assumptions were admittedly made along the way in determining the list of the "best" and the "worst."

Still, the results will perhaps make your "boring" office job look a little more desirable. Take a look at the full article here.

Friday, June 24, 2005

A Question of Citizenship - Title VII Protection Ends for Some

Title VII protection ends at the border for non-U.S. citizens

Non-U.S. citizens who work in a foreign country for an American-controlled operator may not bring suit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 according to the District of Columbia U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. From SHRM Online...

Under Title VII, persons working in a foreign country meet the definition of “employee” only if they are U.S. citizens. At stake was whether the courts would extend Title VII protection to a much broader range of plaintiffs, including “nationals”—citizens or persons that are considered by the Immigration and Nationality Act to “owe allegiance” to the United States.

Vladimir Shekoyan was born in Armenia and immigrated to the United States in 1994. He obtained the status of a lawful permanent resident (LPR) in 1996, applied for citizenship in 2001, and became a naturalized American citizen in 2003. Shekoyan’s employment dispute arose during the period that he was an LPR.

Sibley International, headquartered in Washington, D.C., hired Shekoyan in January 1998. The parties entered into a 21-month employment contract stating that Shekoyan’s place of employment was Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia.

When Sibley did not extend his employment contract, Shekoyan sued, charging that his supervisor discriminated against him on the basis of his national origin in violation of Title VII. Shekoyan alleged that his supervisor told him that he was not a “real American,” mocked his use of English and generally disfavored persons from the former Soviet Union.

The trial court dismissed Shekoyan’s claim on the theory that Title VII does not protect aliens who work for American-controlled companies outside of the United States.

We will surely be hearing more about this in the news. To read the full article, click here (and have your SHRM membership number and password handy!)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Work Out in the Workplace?

metronews: workology

What will the office of the future look like? Some experts believe that we will see a blend of exercise and productivity and that treadmill workstations and office walking tracks may someday be a reality.

"The idea is to introduce an environment that will encourage activity in the workplace," says Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, NY.

In his prototype 5,000-square-foot office, a two-lane walking track is used as a meeting area, since Levine and his colleagues prefer to walk and talk instead of sit and chat.

All employees wear cellphones along with a Mayo-designed standometer that measures their "vertical time" and recognizes when they sit down.

Using the desk-treadmill can burn 100 calories per hour, if walking at one m.p.h.

One thing is for sure...combining working and working out will definitely eliminate those tired excuses of being too busy to get to the gym. Check out the full story here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

But Does Fluffy Know Microsoft Office?

Posted by Hello

June 24th marks the 6th annual "Take Your Dog to Work Day" created by Pet Sitters International as a way to celebrate the great companions dogs make. The annual event encourages employers to experience the value of pets in the workplace, even if just for one day. Ultimately, it’s about encouraging pet adoptions from shelters, humane societies and rescue groups.

Think your organization wouldn't mind playing host to some furry friends for a day? Even if you can't bring in your pet, there are other ways to get involved. Check out the official site here for all of the details.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Ocean's Eleven Tops List of Aspirational Work Teams

Payroll & HR Press Releases - Lexis PR

How important is teamwork to your organization? Domino's Pizza recently commissioned a revealing workplace study which delved into the feelings of British workers on the subject. The answers revealed that not only does team structure impacts success, but that UK workers have a fondness for the A-Team too. Read on...

New research out today reveals that nearly half (40%) of Brits feel they work in teams that regularly fail to meet basic targets . 41% of these blame bad performance on poor team structures, leading to feelings of dissatisfaction and unfulfillment at work.

The workplace study highlights the problem of people being made to carry out roles to which they are unsuited. One third (32%) of those surveyed say they have experienced colleagues failing in their job and employees who lack the basic skills to get the work done.

The research, commissioned by Domino's Pizza which employs nearly 9,000 people in 370 teams across the UK and Ireland, identifies what makes the perfect workplace team and reveals that 60% of Brits find famous teams from films, TV or books, aspirational role models. The most admired team is George Clooney's loveable rogues from Ocean's Eleven, followed by Hannibal Smith's renegade soldiers in The A-Team with Charlie's Angels in third place.

To find out who their fictional choices for strategic work team positions would be, click here.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Dull jobs are bad for the heart

Dull, low-level jobs linked to heart problems - Heart Health -

According to British researchers, dull, boring jobs may contribute to men's heart problems. Studies show that British men who held "low-grade" jobs had faster and less-variable heart rates, which could be a sign of heart disease. From MSNBC News...

“This finding helps explain why men with low-paying jobs and less education have a higher risk for heart disease, a trend that has been evident for the last 30 years,” said Dr. Harry Hemingway, of University College London Medical School, who led the study.

Researchers hope that these new findings will help prevent future heart problems.

"It may be possible to help prevent heart disease by changing workplace conditions," Hemingway said.

Read the entire article here.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Moms' Annual Salary Determined to be $131,471

How Much Would Moms Earn in Annual Salary: $131,471
Some would argue that they deserve to earn even more! recently took on the task of determining what a stay at home mom's salary would be if compensated in cash. consulted with a representative sampling of stay-at-home moms before finalizing a list of the top seven job titles that fit the average mom’s job description. Ranked in order from most time-consuming to least time-consuming, the list included the titles of daycare center teacher, van driver, housekeeper, cook, CEO, nurse and general maintenance worker.

Moms seem to be pleased with the results. As one stay-at-home mom commented, "While I may have given up my salary, benefits and 401(k) to accept the position of stay-at-home mom—a position I can’t put on my resume—the rewards of viewing life through my childrens’ eyes has been priceless,” says Wendy Schulze, a CPA and stay-at-home mother of two, from suburban Massachusetts. “Besides, after being a stay-at-home mom and honing skills like self-confidence, multi-tasking and attention to detail, I feel confident I could take on any other challenging, but rewarding, job in the future, if I wanted to.”

The interesting compensation breakdown can be viewed here.

Are PDAs causing a distraction?

More effective meetings will keep their attention

SHRM Online has reported that more and more employees are bringing their Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) to meetings in order to answer email, surf the web, etc. Although we all love modern technology, it's wise to leave the gadgets out of the conference room and focus on the subject at hand.

If PDA use is a distraction, the appropriate solution is for the facilitator to make it clear that electronic devices should be turned off and put away during the meeting. Notepads and pens can be provided for note-taking instead. Some organizations may choose to reinforce this message by instituting a policy that defines acceptable use of such devices at work. However, if disruptive behavior occurs during meetings, it’s possible the meetings themselves need improvement.
The article continues to offer a list of meeting guidelines. Check them out here.

Friday, June 03, 2005

New Poll Reveals that Weight is Indeed an Issue

Hiring Can Be a Weighty Issue, Poll Finds

It seems that looks DO matter, at least when it comes to getting hired.

A recent poll asked 552 participants, "Has someone's weight ever influenced your decision on whether to hire him or her?" The responses reveal that weight does effect the hiring process with 25% answering "yes." In addition, 35% believe that an applicant's weight could have unconsciously influenced their hiring decision.

For more information, and other interesting HR news, be sure to visit the site.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Adult ADHD Often Misunderstood in the Workplace

Workplace May Overwhelm Adults With ADHD

Adults with ADHD may be mistakenly labeled as "low-skilled fidgeters" according to a recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

"They have difficulty with many of the things they need to do in the workplace, such as solving math problems or understanding a document dealing with new regulations," says researcher Joseph Biederman, MD, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Proper medications can help to control the behavior which includes fidgeting and inability to focus on particular problems or tasks.

For the study, 18 adults with ADHD and 18 adults without the condition participated in an eight-hour simulation work day. Those with ADHD were asked to abstain from taking their medications on the day of the study.

The participants sat at classroom-like tables, where they performed and were graded on a variety of tasks: reading passages, solving math and logic problems, watching videos, and writing.

Compared with those without the condition, ADHD patients were significantly less likely to comprehend what they read and correctly solve math problems.

While their performance on comprehending video messages and writing was not impaired, adults with ADHD reported they felt overwhelmed, inattentive, and fidgety during the tasks.

But asked to judge what was going on, "all the observers could see was their hyperactivity, their fidgeting," Biederman tells WebMD.

"And if your boss sees your fidgeting, this tends to work against you in the workplace."

Do you or your employees suffer from ADHD? You can gain insight into the condition by visiting CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder)

Friday, May 27, 2005

DJ Wins Case Against Infinity Broadcasting

DJ Who Complained About Perfume Gets $10.6M

The verdict did not smell sweet for Infinity Broadcasting. Country music DJ, Erin Weber was recently awarded $10.6M after she complained that her co-workers perfume was making her sick. From BLR...

The jury's award includes $7 million in punitive damages, $2 million in mental anguish and emotional distress, and $1.6 million for past and future compensation for former country music DJ Erin Weber, who accused Infinity Broadcasting of disability discrimination and retaliation.

Weber alleged a co-worker's perfume caused breathing problems and damaged her vocal chords. She said she developed the sensitivity after she worked in a broadcast booth where a guest from a previous show had spilled acetone on the carpet, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Weber was later fired, which she believes was in retaliation for her complaint with the EEOC. However, Infinity claims that she was fired for not showing up to work for a shift.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Palmer & Cay's Noncompete Dispute has Georgia on its Mind

Court Cases New Eleventh Circuit Ruling In PALMER & CAY Promotes Racing To The Courthouse In Noncompete Disputes

Sometimes it all depends on where you work. In the case of Palmer & Cay vs. Marsh & McLennan Companies, being located in Georgia makes all the difference. From

On April 1, 2005, the 11th Circuit issued an opinion in Palmer & Cay, Inc. v. Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., that some commentators are interpreting as an open door to forum shopping. Although the full effect of this case is difficult to predict at this time and recognizing that the defendant filed a Petition for Rehearing En Banc on April 22nd, the debate it is creating among commentators is likely to focus more and more attention on the importance of winning the race to the courthouse.
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals revised a trial court ruling that an employer’s noncompete agreement was unenforceable only in Georgia. The employee initiated the case in Georgia in order to use the pro-employee Georgia law. The Eleventh Circuit extended the unenforceability to any other lawsuit between the same parties, even if other lawsuits are filed outside of Georgia. (Palmer & Cay, Inc. v. Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc., No. 03-16248, (11th Cir. Apr. 1, 2005)). Most importantly, this ruling may provide an avenue of escape from an otherwise valid noncompete to employees who can relocate to Georgia and are willing to rush to the courthouse before they are sued in another state. Employees may soon ask other states with anti-noncompete policies to extend their declaratory judgment protections in the same way.

Marsh & McLennan Companies, Inc. (MMC) bought the brokerage that employed James Meathe in 1997. Mr. Meathe sold his shares in the acquired brokerage and accepted employment with MMC, ultimately becoming Managing Director and Head of the Midwest Region of MMC. Mr. Meathe executed a 1997 stock sales agreement containing noncompete agreements (“NCAs”) and a 2002 employment-related NCA. In February of 2003, Mr. Meathe left MMC, relocated to Georgia, and joined Palmer & Cay in direct competition with MMC in both Georgia and his former Midwest territory.

Read the full article here.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Same name, Different Face - Preventing I.D. Theft in the Workplace

May 23, 2005 Astronology

Identity theft is a growing epidemic in our country and throughout the world. Because of this, we wanted to alert you to today's Astronology topic (in case you don't already know, Astronology is our free bi-weekly ezine which can be found on the Astron Solutions' home page.)

It may seem a bit out of character for us to post on our blog about our own story, but our I.D. Theft article is chock-full of helpful links and resources in order to keep you and your employees safe. We didn't want you to miss it.

Hiring Teens for Summer Help? Better Brush Up on Child Labor Laws

On The Job / Bureau of Labor and Industries: Follow rules when looking to hire minor - The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA

Hiring teenagers has it's own set of rules. Oregon's The Register Guard gives detailed information regarding its state's regulations. Although it's specific to one state, it's a good example of the rules that are out there.

Here's a glimpse...

Remember there are some restrictions relating to the hours and the type of work they may perform. When school is not in session (which we define as from June 1 to Labor Day), 14- and 15-year-olds may work only a maximum of eight hours per day and 40 hours per week.

In addition, they may work only between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. And if you decide to continue their employment into the school year, they may work only three hours per day on school days and a maximum of 18 hours per week. In addition, minors ages 14 and 15 may not work past 7 p.m. during the school year.

The requirements are less restrictive for 16- and 17 year-olds. A 16- or 17-year-old may work at any time with no daily maximum number of hour restrictions, as long as he or she does not exceed 44 hours per week.

For more information on your own state's laws visit the U.S. Department of Labor.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Will the Star Wars Premier Lure Your Employees to the "Dark Side?" - Information for HR and Benefit Directors and other Employee Benefit Plan Sponsors and Advisers

Star Wars fans are anxiously awaiting the premier of George Lucas' "Revenge of the Sith." In the story, "Revenge of the Sith might sap employee productivity," John Challenger reports that not even a jedi mind trick will keep your die-hard, Star Wars-obsessed employees from attending the opening.

According to predictions, employers can count on at least two business days filled with Star Wars-induced absenteeism, resulting in what could be a total of $626.8 million in lost productivity.

As a response, some employers are giving their employees time off to see the movie. Some are even turning the movie viewing into a work outing rather than lose them to the "dark side."

Will your workplace be affected? As Yoda would say, "Read the full story you must."

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Protecting Transgender Employees

Crain's New York Business news, lists, rankings, directory and more

As reported in Crain's New York Business, the New York City Commission on Human Rights is putting the pressure on employers to revise their employee policies in order to protect this population. While many companies lack specific protections for transgender workers, an increasing number are now confronting the issue.

The New York City Commission on Human Rights issued a code of conduct in December spelling out exactly how employers should treat transsexuals, cross-dressers and other transgender people. The guidelines, which elaborate on a 2002 city law, address issues such as restroom accommodations.

In recent weeks, City Comptroller William Thompson has been leaning on many companies--including Toys “R” Us, Cerner Corp. and Delta Air Lines--to write protections for transgender workers into their corporate policies. The city's unions are major shareholders in many large national companies, and the comptroller helps determine city pension funds' investments.

So far, Cerner and Toys “R” Us have agreed, and the comptroller will raise the issue at Delta's shareholders meeting in Atlanta this Thursday. Mr. Thompson plans to get aggressive with companies that don't comply.

Education is the first step. The article describes the transition of Mark Stumpp who underwent a sex-change operation and eventually returned to his role as Chief Investment Officer at Prudential. During his absence, his co-workers were briefed on his operation and as a result, he was welcomed back with support and understanding. Paulina Park, transgender advocate, explained that companies can sustain a gender transition with less controversy when managers educate their employees.

To read the full article, click here.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Tips for a Stress Free Vacation

TIP SHEET: Workplace -- How to prepare for a vacation

Feeling chained to your desk? Well, perhaps it's time to take those vacation days that you've accumulated. Don't take the need for time off for granted...both HR professionals and psychologists agree that it's important for mental health.

The Detroit Free Press Business News offers some helpful tips when planning a vacation that will keep you stress-free.

- Inform others that you'll be away. Don't just notify your boss and the human resources department. Tell your coworkers and call any important clients or contacts. That way, no one will be counting on you to complete a project or attend a meeting during that period.

- Appoint a contact person. Make sure no important messages get lost while you're away. Let outside contacts know whom they should call in an emergency. Change your voicemail to alert callers that you are away, and offer the name and numbers of someone to call for assistance.

- Prioritize work. Split your tasks for the time you'll be on vacation so that you aren't overworked before or after. If an important project must be completed before you leave, don't try to do it all on your last day. And avoid leaving everything for when you get back.

Check in periodically, if you must, but remember that balance is important to a healthy lifestyle. You deserve to have time for yourself.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Does Company Success Depend on its People?

FundWatch: New fund invests in employee-friendly companies - Financial - Financial Services - Mutual Funds

The Parnassus Workplace Fund believes that it may, and they are ready to prove it. The fund focuses on companies with strong records in employee relations, on the premise that they offer outsized returns.

"Companies which treat their employees well can be expected to provide superior products and services to their customers," said Jerome Dodson, president of San Francisco-based Parnassus Investments. As a result, he added, they should outperform competitors.

There is no denying that companies that treat their employees well, reap the positive returns. Read the entire Market Watch article here.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Bikini Billboard Costs Realtor her Job

Press-Telegram - News

Real Estate is a competitive market, especially in areas like Southern California. When Wendy Heath was looking to market her real estate skills, she decided to promote herself a little differently. The result is an attention-getting billboard featuring Wendy in a bikini with her English Bulldog, Bruiser, who is asking the question, "Got Real Estate?" in a comic thought bubble above his furry head.

Wendy has so far received a flood of both positive and negative feedback from the ad. The most negative reaction came from her now former employer, First Team. "It is absolutely not something that First Team can be a party too," said former supervisor, Rich Rector. "It is totally unprofessional. Would you look at this billboard, and ask, 'Is this the person you would want to represent you in the biggest purchase of your life?"

Check out the full article and photo of the offending ad hereand see if you agree with Mr. Rector in his decision.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

A Look at Workplace Gender Discrimination Cases

Legal Gender Bending |

Can an employer treat female employees differently than male employees and still comply with federal "equal treatment" requirements? That's the question that Workforce Management recently explored using facinating case studies as examples.

There was Darlene, the bartender who worked at Harrah's Casino in Reno, Nevada for over 20 years who was fired for refusing to wear makeup. Darlene, who was in violation of Harrah's "Personal Best" grooming policy. The policy which outlined grooming requirements for both men and women, required women to wear makeup.

Jespersen refused to comply with the policy and claimed that the differences in the policy for male and female beverage servers constituted disparate-treatment sex discrimination in violation of Title VII. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals assessed the actual impact of Harrah’s makeup/no makeup policy on both male and female employees, weighed the cost and time necessary for employees of each sex to comply with the policy and ultimately agreed with Harrah’s approach.

The court noted simply that Jespersen failed to produce "some" evidence that the makeup requirement placed a greater requirement on female bartenders than the requirement that men maintain short haircuts and neatly trimmed nails. There was no evidence that these burdens were greater for women than men, and the court ruled that Harrah’s policy was not a violation of Title VII since it did not discriminate because of "immutable" or unchangeable characteristics, and because it imposed equal burdens on both sexes.

In another case, restaurant chain Hooters, famous for their hot wing slinging "Hooters Girls" were brought up on discrimination charges for refusing to hire men. The outcome of the case changed the face of Hooters forever.

Hooters refused to hire men and claimed the restaurant was providing "vicarious sexual recreation" as a way to argue that female allure was a bona fide occupational qualification. The court noted that this ploy might have worked except for Hooter’s advertisements that it was a "family" restaurant. In one class action, Hooters agreed to pay $2 million to the males who were denied the opportunity to serve as "Hooters Girls," paid $1.75 million in attorneys’ fees and was ordered to create three gender-neutral positions. Hooters Girls are now assisted by "Hooters Persons."

Employers must remember that if they hire or fire based on gender requirements, it must be because gender effects an essential job responsibility. Gender discrimination can be very costly, and can damage an organizations' reputation too. Read the entire article here.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Non-compete and Confidentiality Agreements Vital for Small Businesses

Workplace contracts let owners protect turf

James Pilger of Plainview, NY saw his hair salon business go under after his employees jumped ship, taking his best customers with them to a new salon. His business could have been better protected if he had his employees sign non-compete agreements, something which many small business owners overlook. Perhaps it's time for them to learn a thing or two from the "big guys"? Read the full story here.

Friday, May 06, 2005

What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You

How well do you know your labor and employment regulations? Ford & Harrison developed a fun quiz to help HR pros stay on top of their game. Be warned, the questions get inceasingly difficult as you progress. Click on the screen shot to be taken to the quiz. Good luck!  Posted by Hello

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Workplace Violence Checklist - How do You Score?

Preventing Violence: An Organizational Self-Assessment |

How well is your company protected from workplace violence? Workforce Management recently offered a helpful checklist to see if your company has the proper safeguards in place. Check it out here. The well-being of your employees and organization may depend on it.

On Monday, May 9th, Astron Solutions' bi-weekly ezine, Astronology will be covering the topic of Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Harassment of types can lead to violence. You can access the article on and after May 9th by clicking here.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Employers Risk Prosecution for Workplace Safety Violations

The New York Times > Washington > With Little Fanfare, a New Effort to Prosecute Employers That Flout Safety Laws

Organizations that have repeatedly violated workplace safety regulations may not be able to just pay a fine anymore. The government is in the process of a crackdown on repeat offenders who have extensive records of safety violations. As reported in The New York Times:

The initiative does not entail new legislation or regulation. Instead, it seeks to marshal a spectrum of existing laws that carry considerably stiffer penalties than those governing workplace safety alone. They include environmental laws, criminal statutes more commonly used in racketeering and white-collar crime cases, and even some provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a corporate reform law.

The result, those involved say, should be to increase significantly the number of prosecutions brought against dangerous employers, particularly in cases involving death or injury.

Will this new initiative send a serious message to employers? Read the full article here.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Retired Workers are Still Working

This just in from the Center of Media Research...

A newly released report, by the JWT Mature Market Group and ThirdAge, Inc. (an online survey of 1,680 adults 40+ years of age who currently work full- or part-time for pay), finds that personal fulfillment across all demographic groups is a very important factor in the decision to work in retirement. The report says that Baby Boomers and Aging Mid-lifers are working for more than pay. The new definition, now, of fully retired, does not mean not working.

42% of these groups say that plan to fully retire, but of those, 70% plan to work (13% full time, 32% part time and 26% occasionally)

The key reasons given for continuing to work are to:

Stay mentally active(74%)
Be productive or useful(63%)
Stay physically active (62%)
Be around people (55%)
Keep learning newthings (52%)

The eye-opening brief further explores how many older workers succumb to the pressure to look young by changing their appearance (hair color, clothing, etc.) View it in detail and get on the Center for Media Research mailing list by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Homicide More Likely at Gun-friendly Workplaces

- reported today that homicides are more likely at workplaces that allow guns. Well, that sounds about right. Read on...

Murders are three times more likely to occur in workplaces that permit employees to carry weapons than in workplaces that prohibit all weapons, new research finds.

And that risk doubles when the weapons are guns, says a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study.

The study, published in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health, compared 87 cases where employees were killed at work sites in North Carolina between 1994 and 1998 with 177 comparable work sites where there were no murders.

The article explains that the reason why employers allow employees to bring weapons may be for their own protection. However, having a gun at work or at home, can lead to increased cases of homicide.

Stat Counter