Don’t do that
Johnny Paycheck ‘s 1977 hit, “Take This Job and Shove It” encapsulated the thought of many a worker: the ability to tell one’s boss, in direct terms exactly what was thought of him, and what he could do with his job. That thought, however, typically isn’t a reality.
Tell your boss to shove it, and you’re typically the one doing the shoving. Of all of your things. Into a little box. That you and the security guard carry downstairs on your way off of the property.
So what happens when you publicly curse your boss on social media, using rather profane language in describing them and their shortcomings as a leader? That’s automatic termination, right?
Not so fast.
In a recent case before the National Labor Relations Board, board members voted 2-1 to overturn the firing of Hernan Perez, who posted to his Facebook account that his boss “…is such a NASTY MOTHER F-ER don’t know how to talk to people!!!!!! F-k his mother and his entire f-ing family!!!! What a LOSER!!!! Vote YES for the UNION!!!!!!!”
Well, that certainly seems clear enough, and would typically warrant termination.
So what’s the difference here?
Mr. Perez was an employee of Pier Sixty in New York City and had been for 13 years. In 2011, the service employees of the company began a drive to organize as a union, a drive that company management was actively opposed to.
Two days prior to the vote, Perez’s boss mildly reprimanded him, albeit loudly in front of others, and Mr. Perez vented his frustrations to the world at large.
A month and a half later, after the union had formed, the company fired Perez after learning about the Facebook posting, stating that the comment was a violation of the company’s anti-harassment policy.
Both the NLRB and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, to whom Pier Sixty had appealed after the 2-1 NLRB decision, found that Perez’s speech, although vulgar, was protected under the National Labor Relations Act as a part of union organizing activity.
“Even though Perez’s message was dominated by vulgar attacks on McSweeney and his family, the ‘subject matter’ of the message included workplace concerns – management’s allegedly disrespectful treatment of employees, and the upcoming union election,” Judge José Cabranes wrote, crafting an opinion for the triumvirate of judges.
Pier Sixty had done themselves no favors.
In attempting to curb support for the proposed union, they had created a ban on talking between employees. When Perez was told to be quiet by his boss, it wasn’t in an effort to maintain workplace decorum as much as it was to chill the organization of the union.
Additionally, the company had been incredibly lax about the tolerance of profanity in the workplace, with obscenities common among both frontline staff and company management alike, including the terms alluded to in Perez’s posting.
No employee had ever been fired for use of profanity at Pier Sixty, and averaged less than one warning for profanity per year to employees for the six years prior to Perez’s firing.
“Under the circumstances presented here, it is striking that Perez – who had been a server at Pier Sixty for thirteen years – was fired for profanities two days before the Union election when no employee had ever before been sanctioned (much less fired) for profanity,” said the judges in their ruling.
So, we can’t fire employees for cursing out their bosses now?
The answer is, as it is with so many things in life, a qualified maybe.
How to handle it
Although right to work states do not have to worry about union organization with the frequency that other states do, it is incumbent upon employers to know the law and how to address employees’ rights to organization should talk of a union begin. Ensure that your human resources department is trained in the tenets of the National Labor Relations Act, with at least annual reviews on changes in case law that apply to your field, and make certain that your legal counsel gives timely advice should talk of a union begin (or gives you a referral to labor counsel if it’s outside of their field).
Secondly, if you have a policy on appropriate workplace conduct, follow it.
A rule seldom or only selectively enforced is a nightmare waiting to happen at termination time.
Finally, if your workplace is profanity tolerant, you’ll have a harder time training your employees where the magical line is between okay and fired, so consider making your workplace standards of conduct consistent with professionalism.
As with any termination, it should never be a surprise to the employee when it happens, whether it’s for lackluster performance over time or the one very big bad thing that they did. But you’ve got to be sure that you’ve protected yourself by ensuring that you’re really firing the employee for what you say you are, rather than using it as a pretense for other things altogether.
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.
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.
Missing office culture while working remotely? This tool tries to recreate it
(BUSINESS NEWS) This startup just released new software to help you reproduce the best parts of in-person office interactions while you work from home.
Are you over working from home? Feeling disconnected from your co-workers? Well look no further: The startup Loop Team just released a tool that reproduces the office culture experience virtually.
“We’ve looked at a lot of the interactions that happen when you’re physically in an office — the visual communication, the background conversations, the hallway chatter,” said Loop Team’s founder and CEO Raj Singh in an interview with TechCrunch. “[W]e built an experience that effectively is a virtual office. And so it tries to represent the best parts of what a physical office experience might be like, but in a virtual form.”
Singh’s company, founded pre-COVID, is posed as a solution to feeling “out of the loop” while working remotely. During the pandemic, where virtually all of us are working from home, this technology is needed more than ever.
How it works is by essentially recreating an office experience on a virtual platform. Somewhere between Zoom and Slack with some added features, Loop Team lets you know who’s free to chat, who’s in meetings, and allows you to have private discussions using audio, video, and screen share. It’s ideal for working on projects together.
Loop’s layout is unique in the sense that it is designed to show you conversations in a clear, direct way – exposing relevant items and hiding the rest. Also, employees who miss meetings have the ability to review what they missed, making it perfect for companies that hire across time zones.
The platform was made available December 1st free of charge, but Singh is hoping to introduce a paid version next year. Pricing will likely reflect team size and should remain free for teams of 10 or less.
I’m a big fan of software that allows you to feel closer and more connected to your co-workers. Do I think anything will ever compare to a true, in-person office experience? Definitely not. That being said, I value this kind of progress, especially since I don’t think office culture en mass will make a return any time soon, regardless of vaccinations.
What’s DMT and why are techies and entrepreneurs secretly taking the drug?
(BUSINESS) The tech world and entrepreneur world are quietly taking a psychadellic in increasing numbers – they make a compelling case, but it’s not without risks.
Move over tortured artists and festival-goers, psychedelics aren’t just for you anymore. An increasing number of professionals in Silicon Valley swear by “microdosing” psychedelic substances such as lysergic acid diethylamide(LSD) in efforts to heighten creativity and drive innovative efforts.
This probably isn’t a shock to anyone following trends in tech and startups, particularly the glorification of the 8-trillion hour workweek (#hustle). But business owners, entrepreneurs, and technologists are also turning to other hallucinogens to awaken higher levels of consciousness in hopes of influencing favorable business results.
Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) is growing in popularity as business leaders and creatives flock to Peru or mastermind retreats to ingest the drug. It exists in the human body as well as other animals and plants. In his book DMT: The Spirit Molecule, Dr. Rick Strassman says “this ‘spirit’ molecule provides our consciousness access to the most amazing and unexpected visions, thoughts and feelings. It throws open the door to worlds beyond our imagination.”
The substance is commonly synthesized in a lab and smoked, with short-lived effects (between five to 45 minutes, however, some say it lasts for hours).
Traditionally, however, it is extracted from various Amazonian plant species and snuffed or consumed as a tea (called ayahuasca or yage). The effects of DMT when consumed in this manner can last as long as ten hours. Entrepreneurs are attracted to the “ayahuasca experience” for its touted ability to provide clarity, vision and inventiveness.
Physical effects are said to include an increase in blood pressure and a raised heart rate. Users report gastrointestinal effects when taken orally, commonly referred to as the “purge.” The purging can include vomiting or diarrhea, which makes for interesting conversation at the next company whiteboarding session.
Users are subject to dizziness, difficulty regulating body temperature, and muscular incoordination. Users also risk seizures, respiratory failure, or falling into a coma.
DMT can interfere with medications or foods, a reason why many indigenous tribes that work with it also follow specific dietary guidelines prior to ingestion. Not paying attention to diet or prescription medication prior to consuming ayahuasca or DMT can lead to the opposite of the intended effect, potentially even causing trauma or death.
So why the hell are people putting themselves through this ordeal?
Many claim profound mental effects, often experiencing a transformative occurrence that provides clarity and healing. Auditory and visual hallucinations are common, with reports of geometric shapes and sharp, bold colors. Many report intense out-of-body experiences, an altered sense of time and space or ego dissolution (“ego death”).
Studies have indicated long-term effects in people who use DMT. Some report a reduction in symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Subjects in an observational study showed significant reductions in stress after participating in an ayahuasca ceremony, with effects lasting through the 4-week follow-up period.
Subjects also showed improvements in convergent thinking that were still evident at the 4-week follow up. People who consume DMT generally chronicle improvements in their overall satisfaction of life, and claim they are more mindful and aware after the experience.
It’s important to note that dying from ayahuasca is rarely reported, but that doesn’t rule out the risk. It’s also illegal in the states, explaining why groups flock to Peru to visit licensed ayahuasca retreats or why technologists buy DMT on the dark web to avoid detection.
For those considering a DMT journey (and we don’t recommend it based on the illegal nature and health risks), it’s critical to gain a full understanding of the potential risks prior to consumption.
For more reading:
- A full (and long) history of DMT
- The documented effects of DMT
- What it’s like to take DMT (according to users)
This story was first published here in June, 2019.
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