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.

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