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Employees gain a new litany of legislative benefits this year

(BUSINESS NEWS) New Year, new you, new employment laws! Check out the Employees Empowerment edition of new legislation on our j-o-b…s!

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Employees enjoying benefits

Y’all, it’s a new year, with new laws! The Man is putting his foot down, and for once, it actually looks like it’ll be making a mark on the right people in this new decade!

PS: If you need to fight me on the decade “actually” beginning in 2021 like a nerd, I’m based out of Austin, so take a number and come at me after you read about…:

Leaving past pay in the past

This is the one I’m the most excited about, even though it’s not nationwide yet.

No more scared, deep breaths over never working a salaried day in your field while you freelanced in between retail jobs!

No more anxiety over being ‘overqualified’ when you’re really just looking to start over somewhere new!

From now on, people in New Jersey, and Kansas City, MO can walk into interviews knowing they’re taking a step towards greater equity, and better bargaining! Now it’s not ‘Okay, how little will they take’ it’s ‘How much should we give them?’!

For the record, yours truly is loving how these turntables have turned.

Weed’s out as a weedout

Rock on, Nevada. From now on, having a little green in your gold when you leave a job screening urine sample will no longer disqualify you from the position! I won’t give y’all the whole spiel, and I don’t indulge myself, but considering what pot does and what alcohol does, I figure either we try Prohibition 2: Lame Ass Boogaloo, or we legalize both.

Just keep it off the worksite, and the sand peoples of the wild wild west are all set! Fingers crossed for a contact high from this new development nationwide.

Sidenote, now that 10 states and DC have legalized recreational marijuana usage, we’re faced with even more questions regarding travel. If you should sample the jazz cabbage brownies visiting Colorado, would proof of a flight be enough to secure a job you interview for later on? What happens if you road tripped instead?

Questions for our legislators for later.

Overtime pay! Yay!

It’s a dumb, weird, number, but if you make less than $35,568 per year…well first of all, SOLIDARITY, and backpats to you. Make like Tupac said and keep ya head up.

But more to the point, if you’re under that bar, your employers are either gonna need to pay you overtime by force, or you get an actual raise!
I’m not in the business of tolerance for ‘job creators’ that aren’t also ‘living-wage creators’, so while this isn’t the >$47k threshold that got overturned in 2016, it’s a hell of a step up from the 23.7k from the ‘aught years.

Definitely worth a prosecco pop.

All about AB5

As a part-time freelancer, I enjoy going from job to job, making my own hours, and being able to pick up extra work here and there as I actually want.

However, I’ve noticed a particularly disturbing trend during my job searches, and that’s full time, onsite contractor work. IE, taking advantage of someone’s need for a job without paying for the things freelancers trade in for the lack of benefits.

AB5 is forcing companies in California to pony up and do the right thing by treating independent contractors as real employees and sidestepping the de-facto 9-5 BS in favor of respecting people’s time.

Of course big companies like Vox and Uber are already being whiny babies about not getting to upgrade their yacht beasts to white tigers instead of those peasanty orange ones, and making workers pay for it by either refusing to comply or cutting jobs entirely.

My take is–the chickens came home, and now whoever’s signing the checks better figure out how to make an omelette. Bawk bawk.

Baby Crazy-Good

The west coast is where you want your womb to be apparently. Oregon expanded its Fair Employment Practices Act to require reasonable accommodations being made for even small companies (6 employees or more) to be made for complications due to the incredibly arduous task of growing and squeezing out a human being.

California has also expanded its preggo/parent protections by mandating pump rooms with accommodations including: electricity, a pump surface, total privacy, seating, and a running sink.

Congratulations in more ways than one!

Paid breakdown break time

18 weeks, 3.5 months, more than a quarter of the year is a long time to go without pay if something happens to you.

You get hit by a car, you have a premie baby, your spouse gets carried off by bats, and you have to journey to the hidden cities of MesoAmerica and defeat the death-bat god Camazotz in tests of wit and perseverance to get them back—these are just things that life can and will toss your way.

And in most jobs, in most places, you won’t have any recourse to making sure the lights stay on during all of that.

Well now, some employees in Washington state will be able to take those 18 weeks with guaranteed pay to care for their families, and themselves! DC and Massachusetts will be following suit soon, though it can’t come soon enough!

And states requiring paid leave are going up and up! Nevada now allows leave for any reason, and benefits in New York, California, Arizona, and Dallas, TX are also going to increase.
No longer having to reconcile a needed break with being able to feed your kids can only be a good thing. GoFundMe isn’t a viable path for every dang thing, and it’s good to see places stepping up their sabbatical game!

More like NAH-bitration

Imagine being wronged.

Not like ‘scuffed your brand new boots stepping on you by accident because they can’t look where the EFF they’re going, and also walk on the RIGHT, you FOOL’, kind of wronged.

But something along the lines of ‘My employer took the doors off the men’s bathrooms’ or ‘My coworkers are continually insulting my faith and no one’s doing anything about it’ wronged.

Normally, I’d say, sue. In many employment situations, I can do no such thing.

Agreeing to things like forgoing the right to take your employer to court as a condition of employment has become a matter of course, even in traditionally undervalued jobs. And considering how bad life can get when you’re unemployed, it’s very nearly coercion to require employees either sign their rights away, or hit the bricks.

California, has mandated that as of the dawn of 2020, no employers may mandate arbitration for discrimination claims, which is a great step forward. I’m hoping this spreads and moves into banning contracts that force employees to waive their right to band together in a class action suit.

All told, these changes represent a positive pro-worker step forward! And for anyone grumbling, reLAX. What’s good for your employees is good for your company, no ifs ands or buts. I suggest pulling the money out of post-Bring your dog Fridays-cleanup, and multicultural foosball tables, to start focusing on REAL benefits.

Save the quirky sprinkles for last.

You can't spell "Together" without TGOT: That Goth Over There. Staff Writer, April Bingham, is that goth; and she's all about building bridges— both metaphorically between artistry and entrepreneurship, and literally with tools she probably shouldn't be allowed to learn how to use.

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Business News

Unify your remote team with these important conversations

(BUSINESS NEWS) More than a happy hour, consider having these poignant conversations to bring your remote team together like never before.

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Woman working in office with remote team

Cultivating a team dynamic is difficult enough without everyone’s Zoom feed freezing halfway through “happy” hour. You may not be able to bond over margaritas these days, but there are a few conversations you can have to make your team feel more supported—and more comfortable with communicating.

According to Forbes, the first conversation to have pertains to individual productivity. Ask your employees, quite simply, what their productivity indicators are. Since you can’t rely on popping into the office to see who is working on a project and who is beating their Snake score, knowing how your employees quantify productivity is the next-best thing. This may lead to a conversation about what you want to see in return, which is always helpful for your employees to know.

Another thing to discuss with your employees regards communication. Determining which avenues of communication are appropriate, which ones should be reserved for emergencies, and which ones are completely off the table is key. For example, you might find that most employees are comfortable texting each other while you prefer Slack or email updates. Setting that boundary ahead of time and making it “office” policy will help prevent strain down the road.

Finally, checking in with your employees about their expectations is also important. If you can discuss the sticky issue of who deals with what, whose job responsibilities overlap, and what each person is predominantly responsible for, you’ll negate a lot of stress later. Knowing exactly which of your employees specialize in specific areas is good for you, and it’s good for the team as a whole.

With these 3 discussions out of the way, you can turn your focus to more nebulous concepts, the first of which pertains to hiring. Loop your employees in and ask them how they would hire new talent during this time; what aspects would they look for, and how would they discern between candidates without being able to meet in-person? It may seem like a trivial conversation, but having it will serve to unify further your team—so it’s worth your time.

The last crucial conversation, per Forbes, is simple: Ask your employees what they would prioritize if they became CEOs tomorrow. There’s a lot of latitude for goofy responses here, but you’ll hear some really valuable—and potentially gut-wrenching—feedback you wouldn’t usually receive. It never hurts to know what your staff prioritize as idealists.

Unifying your staff can be difficult, but if you start with these conversations, you’ll be well on your way to a strong team during these trying times.

This story was first published in November 2020.

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Business News

How to apply to be on a Board of Directors

(BUSINESS NEWS) What do you need to think about and explore if you want to apply for a Board of Directors? Here’s a quick rundown of what, why, and when.

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board of directors

What?
What does a Board of Directors do? Investopedia explains “A board of directors (B of D) is an elected group of individuals that represent shareholders. The board is a governing body that typically meets at regular intervals to set policies for corporate management and oversight. Every public company must have a board of directors. Some private and nonprofit organizations also have a board of directors.”

Why?
It is time to have a diverse representation of thoughts, values and insights from intelligently minded people that can give you the intel you need to move forward – as they don’t have quite the same vested interests as you.

We have become the nation that works like a machine. Day in and day out we are consumed by our work (and have easy access to it with our smartphones). We do volunteer and participate in extra-curricular activities, but it’s possible that many of us have never understood or considered joining a Board of Directors. There’s a new wave of Gen Xers and Millennials that have plenty of years of life and work experience + insights that this might be the time to resurrect (or invigorate) interest.

Harvard Business Review shared a great article about identifying the FIVE key areas you would want to consider growing your knowledge if you want to join a board:

1. Financial – You need to be able to speak in numbers.
2. Strategic – You want to be able to speak to how to be strategic even if you know the numbers.
3. Relational – This is where communication is key – understanding what you want to share with others and what they are sharing with you. This is very different than being on the Operational side of things.
4. Role – You must be able to be clear and add value in your time allotted – and know where you especially add value from your skills, experiences and strengths.
5. Cultural – You must contribute the feeling that Executives can come forward to seek advice even if things aren’t going well and create that culture of collaboration.

As Charlotte Valeur, a Danish-born former investment banker who has chaired three international companies and now leads the UK’s Institute of Directors, says, “We need to help new participants from under-represented groups to develop the confidence of working on boards and to come to know that” – while boardroom capital does take effort to build – “this is not rocket science.

When?
NOW! The time is now for all of us to get involved in helping to create a brighter future for organizations and businesses that we care about (including if they are our own business – you may want to create a Board of Directors).

The Harvard Business Review gave great explanations of the need to diversify those that have been on the Boards to continue to strive to better represent our population as a whole. Are you ready to take on this challenge? We need you.

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Business News

Age discrimination lawsuits are coming due to the pandemic – don’t add to the mess

(BUSINESS NEWS) Age discrimination is spreading despite intentions to help, and employers need to know how to proceed in this unprecedented era.

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Ageism void

Before the pandemic, age discrimination was prevalent in workplaces. The EEOC reports that in 2018, about 6 out of 10 workers aged 45 years and older say they experience discrimination on the job.

A 2015 survey found that 75% of older workers found age an obstacle in job hunting. COVID-19 made the situation much worse.

Not only do older workers deal with discrimination, but they are at a higher risk of developing serious complications from the virus. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, older workers were hit the hardest by job loss during the pandemic, which is unusual during a recession. As offices reopen, employers need to be careful to avoid age discrimination in rehiring.

Lawyers expect age discrimination lawsuits to increase.

Last September, Harris Meyer published an article in the ABA Journal that predicted a “flood of age discrimination lawsuits” from the pandemic. Employers who have good intentions by keeping older employees out of the workplace to protect their health are still guilty of age discrimination.

What can employers do to avoid age discrimination?

It may be fine line between making sure you don’t discriminate based on age while offering ADA accommodations. The first thing employers should do is to know what laws apply based on their location. Some states exempt employees over 65 from returning to the workplace out of safety fears, meaning that those employees can still get unemployment. Other states are cutting benefits if employees don’t return to work, regardless of age.

There are some jurisdictions that have passed legislation about which workers have the right to be recalled. Next, review your own policies and agreements with laid off and terminated employees. You may want to consult legal counsel to make sure you’re covering your bases.

As you rehire, whether you’re bringing back former employees or hiring new team members, do not make hiring decisions based on age. Keep good documentation about your decisions to terminate certain employees. If you are citing poor performance, make sure to have a record of that. Don’t terminate older employees who have bigger salaries just because of lower sales. Monitor your words (and that of your hiring team) to avoid bias in hiring and firing.

Provide accommodations or not?

According to the SHRM, “Workers age 40 and older are protected from bias by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; however, that law doesn’t require employers to make accommodations for safety concerns.”

Still, employers can provide flexibility for workers, but it largely depends on the type of job. Reaching an accommodation for an office worker will be much easier than accommodating a sanitation worker.

Employers should assume that workers aged 40 and older can return to work. When the need for help is raised by the employee, enter negotiations for accommodations. Don’t initiate the conversation, and absolutely avoid any references to age.

Know that the environment may change as the pandemic continues to affect workers.

Be thoughtful about your hiring practices moving forward to avoid costly litigation from age discrimination.

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