Robert McMichael sued Transocean Offshore Drilling for firing him, claiming age discrimination. McMichael was 59 years old at the time of his firing. He had worked for Transocean since 2001. His firing came at a time when Transocean was reducing its offshore fleet.
Between 2014 and July 2018, Transocean fired over 7,000 employees. McMichael alleged that Transocean fired him because of his age.
The district court granted Transocean summary judgment, affirming that the reduction in force was a legitimate reason for Transocean’s firing. McMichael was replaced by a younger worker, who was only 49, but the replacement was not less qualified than McMichael. McMichael could not show that there was any discrimination on Transocean’s part.
Still, McMichael appealed to the Fifth Circuit.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment to Transocean. The court held the decision of the lower court.
McMichael may have been older when he was fired and replaced by a younger worker, but the replacement was still part of the protected class of employees (those over 40 years old.)
In addition, the people responsible for the firing decision were also part of the protected class, meaning that age discrimination was unlikely. The reduction in force was a legitimate cause for firing.
So what does this mean for your business?
The ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) prohibits businesses from firing people due to their advanced years. McMichael tried to make his case through statements made by a Transocean manager who told him that “he had nothing to worry about because he (McMichael) could receive his pension without receiving a financial penalty from the IRS.”
The manager was not the one who made the decision to terminate McMichael, so the court held that the statement was not age discrimination. The statement was not derogatory, nor did it indicate the company was planning to replace older employees with younger ones.
It does mean that when you have to reduce your workforce, you should be cautious about what you say to terminated employees, especially in the era where the Supreme Court could soon be considering a landmark case on the topic.
McMichael was unable to show that the statement reflected any stereotypes about age, which according to the court, invalidated his case. In addition, in this case, Transocean also fired many very qualified, younger employees along with McMichael. The reduction in force was not arbitrarily applied to only employees over 40 years old.
The Fifth Circuit’s ruling demonstrates that not every age discrimination claim rises to the actual verdict of age discrimination.
But it’s likely that Transocean spent thousands on lawyers fighting the claim. Investing in training to avoid age discrimination in your business could help you to avoid a lawsuit.
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.
MIT report reveals serious flaws in US unemployment system
(BUSINESS NEWS) In the wake of COVID-19, the US unemployment system is floundering to cover all who need the aid but it comes with serious flaws.
Last week alone, nearly 1 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits. Now that it’s urgently needed, this safety net is full of holes, leaving many Americans in freefall.
A newspaper from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has highlighted several of the critical weaknesses in our country’s unemployment social safety net.
The report outlines how benefits fall short in three major ways: Duration, eligibility, and payment amounts.
The historical purpose of the benefits system was to replace half of lost wages for 6 months while they looked for another job. (The MIT paper even suggests that a more appropriate “replacement rate” would be higher than that.)
As of 2018, unemployment payments only cover Americans for one-third of their lost wages on average.
The income caps for these benefits have stayed fixed while wages have increased over time. That’s bad enough without considering that wages haven’t nearly kept up with worker productivity in the US, meaning those caps haven’t kept up with the real worth of those workers at all.
Compared to other developed nations, the US has lagged behind in public benefits since well before the pandemic.
In 2014, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development compared the duration of unemployment payments around the world. Out of 34 developed countries, the US ranked 33rd— offering less than every country on the list but Hungary.
To quote the research brief for the paper: “Even aside from changes driven by technology and trade, employers’ increasing reliance on contract workers and on-demand scheduling rather than on permanent employees who work predictable schedules has added to the precariousness of many workers’ jobs.”
And those economically vulnerable groups who need the support most are more likely to have jobs that aren’t covered under federal unemployment eligibility.
This includes gig workers (thanks to prop 22), part time workers, and the self employed: People often work these jobs due to constraints like parenthood or disability.
The CARES Act, which passed in April, temporarily allowed certain groups who would usually be ineligible, like the self employed (who are poised to grow in numbers as the job shortage persists) to collect unemployment benefits.
But CARES and HEROES are going to end in December, taking the extensions to unemployment, the eviction moratorium and the COVID sick leave requirements with them.
And instead of extending them, Congress may soon be looking to cannibalize those programs and their unused funds for another round of corporate stimulus spending.
But if the coronavirus relief acts are allowed to expire, nearly 14 million Americans will lose the aid that they provide.
Tis the season for employment scams – here’s what to look out for
(BUSINESS NEWS) Fueled even further by COVID unemployment numbers, seasonal employment scams are back on the menu. Here’s how you can avoid them.
With the sheer amount of desperation people are feeling these days, it’s only fitting that employment scams would see a resurgence this holiday season. Thanks to the Better Business Bureau, there are some clear warning signs that can help you spot and avoid seasonal scams this year.
The typical crux of any employment scam revolves around a prospective employee’s willingness to pay for something upfront, be it training or some other kind of quasi-justifiable item (e.g., a uniform). However, other iterations of the scam actually involve an “employer” overpaying for something at the onset—albeit with a fake check—and then asking the recipient to wire “back” the extra money.
Either way, these scams can leave you jobless and with less money than you initially had, so here are some things for which you should watch out.
Firstly, employers shouldn’t ever charge you before hiring you. Some industries do require employees to make small purchases on their own dime (i.e., the aforementioned uniform), but payroll will usually deduct the cost of these materials from the employee’s first paycheck—not require payment upfront.
As a general rule, it’s probably best to avoid companies that charge you at all. Aramark, for example, is known for requiring employees to buy company clothes—and they’re no peach to work with. But desperate times may warrant an exception in this regard.
It’s also to your benefit to avoid postings that boast an “interview-free” experience. Put simply, no one is hiring sans an interview unless it’s nepotism or a scam. If you aren’t related to the poster, that doesn’t leave much up for interpretation. Similarly, advertising a large sum of money for disproportionately low amounts of work is a pretty big warning sign–again, in this economy, people aren’t shelling out for packing or wrapping jobs.
Finally, watch out for jobs that ask for a work sample before hiring. While this is common for internships, most entry-level positions aren’t going to require you to complete a project for free before determining whether or not you’re good for the job. At best, this is a tactic to get free work from you; at worst, your application information can be stolen.
It’s sad to think that people would stoop to the level of scamming others amidst the dumpster fire of a year it’s been, but if you avoid these red flags, you should be able to keep yourself safe during this holiday season.
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