Don’t Pick on the Pregnant Lady!

Very recently in the news, Los Angeles based clothing retailer, Nasty Gal, felt the heat as discrimination claims and a lawsuit hit them head on. The founder of Nasty Gal, Sophia Amoruso, has been recognized as a leader in business and a great example for women everywhere of strong entrepreneurial skills and a drive to succeed. She turned a hobby of selling clothes on eBay into a lucrative business turning a profit of $100 million a year. The problem is, Nasty Gal apparently forgot to follow proper procedures when it came time to layoff 10% of their employees. Unfortunately, 4 of those employees laid off were the ONLY pregnant employees plus one recent father who had requested paternity leave. Hence, a discrimination lawsuit by a former employee turned into a costly mistake for Nasty Gal.

[tweetthis remove_hidden_hashtags=”true”]California has one of the most employee-friendly policies regarding pregnant employees.[/tweetthis] Unluckily for Nasty Gal, they are headquartered in California, which means they are held to the highest standards in regards to protecting pregnant employees and anyone who falls under Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guidelines. Speaking of California, did you hear about the case last year involving AutoZone and a pregnant employee who walked away from a discrimination lawsuit with $185 million in damages? That’s quite the costly mistake!

As we have learned with these recent cases, there is an overall expectation in many workplaces of pregnant women not being able to do their job, or being a “short timer” or having ultimate goals that don’t line up with the company vision. All of these things may be true, but they can also be true for the 35 year old single guy who is looking for his next big opportunity. So assuming anything about anyone in the workplace is an automatic no-no because you, as the employer, cannot impose your views on any employee and expect for your intentions to be clear. Your actions will be up to interpretation, and your intentions will be something for you to know and have to defend in court. Instead, why not set up policies to protect the company as well as your pregnant employees? It remains to be seen whether or not Nasty Gal will be held liable for these accusations of discriminatory actions, but the case stands as a warning to all employers regardless of the outcome.

Following Your Instincts – What Do They Know Anyway?

Intuition is basically the human brain’s way of arriving at decisions and conclusions via shortcut. Do you remember how your dad always had a shortcut to get somewhere (which may have seemed longer to you, but always worked out to be more efficient at the end of the day?) and you didn’t always understand why or how  he came to that shortcut? Well, our intuition works in much the same fashion. When her child is sick, a mom often says her “mother’s intuition” told her that something was wrong. When a young woman goes to meet a man at the bar for their first date and upon meeting him escapes to the bathroom never to be seen again, she later tells her friends that her “gut just told her something was off about him” and she ran the other direction as fast as she could. I’m sure we can all relate to one situation or another when our intuition made the decision for us. But how does this work in business? Does it work at all when it comes to business decisions or is intuition worthless in the workplace?

Especially in today’s digital age, there is so much information coming at us every single day, that without intuition and decision-making shortcuts, we wouldn’t survive an hour, let alone 24 of them! However, when it comes to business, there are certain conditions which allow for intuition to be effective. So when these factors are involved, feel free to use your intuitive shortcuts to arrive at the best, most efficient conclusion, Otherwise, beware when thinking someone else doesn’t know as well as you do – and trust your instincts only so far as they’ll prove their worth to you.

1. EXPERTISE – If you are an expert seamstress, then trust your instincts to make the right decision on which type of thread is going to serve its purpose for that new project you’re working on. If you’re a car salesman by trade who
just started his first day on the job as a wielder, I’d talk to your supervisor before making that call!

2. UNSTRUCTURED PROBLEMS – Outside of your personal area of expertise, you should utilize your intuition only when it comes to making decisions about aesthetics, or subjective matters or conflict resolution – where there is not one clear-cut and unwavering answer. For instance, a human resources manager would need to use intuition when deciding on a solution for a conflict between two employees during which no witnesses or objective views could be used as evidence. On the flip side, you should not use your intuition when making a medical diagnosis where computer algorithms and symptoms in past cases point in one clear direction. Instead, trust the science and technology at your fingertips to reach the most likely conclusion.

3. TIME – How much time do you have to come to this decision? Seconds, hours, minutes, weeks? This factors in to the decision-making process as well. If you only have a small amount of time available, then intuition can be helpful
because in reality, you do not have the time for a detailed analysis of the situation. Combining facts and intuition is always going to provide the most accurate and comprehensive solution, but there are times when you will need to lean more on one than the other. As much as we would like to rely on our intuition in all situations, there are times when lack of time is not reason enough to rely SOLELY on your intuition so make sure that you are weighing out your options before jumping to a rash conclusion.

In the words of millionaire entrepreneur, Steve Jobs, “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want to become.” Without intuition, many of us would not follow our dreams. So follow those dreams, and listen to your instincts. Just don’t chase after dreams blindly.

Dumbing Down EEOC Guidelines

Who understands the legal jargon issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pertaining to pregnancy, disability, equality, and diversity? Lawyers, that’s who! So here’s a little breakdown for the “normal” people who actually have to abide by these rules and regulations.

  • When it comes to pregnancy disability leave, the EEOC has issued guidance twice in 2015. It all boils down to this, “If an employee has a pregnancy-related impairment that hinders her ability to perform a job, the employer must attempt to see if it can provide a reasonable accommodation that would allow the employee to continue to perform her job.”
  •  [tweetthis]Don’t take employment actions against a worker for any pregnancy-related reason.[/tweetthis] In fact, be very careful with any employment actions taken against a pregnant worker that is NOT taken against a peer employee to that pregnancy worker – protect yourself and be thorough and fair and make employment decisions across the board. Don’t open yourself up to potential lawsuits or discrimination claims!
  • Don’t make excuses for your decisions based on “inconvenience” or “cost to the employer.” The EEOC has already made it clear these decisions won’t fly.
  • Unless you can prove BEYOND THE SHADOW OF A DOUBT that an employment action against a pregnant worker will cause an undue hardship (note the above bullet point – cost and inconvenience to the employer do not hold weight with the EEOC), don’t do it.

Essentially, the problem with the EEOC guidelines is that they are usually long-winded, wordy, and readers lose interest after the first ambiguous paragraph or two. By dumbing down the EEOC guidelines into reasonable, concise language, we hope to help our readers, clients, consultants, and business owners by allowing the puzzle work to be cut out, and the core of the message to be loud and clear. Not to mention the fact that the guidance attempts to combine regulations for two separate laws – The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans with Disability Act (as if one or the other wasn’t confusing enough all on its own). We are here to help YOU, and no question is a “dumb” question in our book. Let us help you figure it out and teach you how to protect your business from unnecessary litigation, lawsuits, and EEOC claims.

Taking Stock & Shaking Up Those “Bored At Work” Employees!

[tweetthis]“Work is making a living out of being bored.” – Karl Lagerfeld[/tweetthis]

How true is this statement for you? How about for your co-workers? What can managers do to shift this feeling of work being something you HAVE to do rather than something that you can ENJOY doing? Taking stock and shaking things up is easier said than done, and changing the way we think about things is much more difficult than changing our actions. On a recent episode of Shark Tank, ABC’s hit show about inventors and investors backing those ideas financially, one entrepreneur presented his idea for the “Squatty Potty.” As one of the investors noted, it is challenging to shift the mindset of people when it comes to how and where they use the toilet. Similarly, it is difficult for many people to change how they view work and their attitude towards it. But alas, there is hope! If you’re bored at work, you can change it!

It is the employer’s responsibility to create an environment that welcomes new ideas, change, and forward thinking. Recently, a successful European beverage company was looking to make changes in order to encourage employee motivation and increase accountability and communication among employees. To shake things up in your organization, follow these simple steps! Let us know how it transforms your workplace.

1. BE TRANSPARENT – This goes for all levels from the CEO to the mail clerk. Be honest, be clear, and be open.

2. TONE DOWN THE CONVENTIONAL APPROACH – While recognizing the necessity in paying bills and such, encourage business innovation when it comes to things such as dress code, meetings, collaborative efforts, etc. Let creativity shine whenever possible!

3. BE A RISK TAKER – Encourage rules to be followed, but also allow for them to be challenged.

4. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY – If someone needs help, lend a hand. If your officemate broke their desk chair, help them fix it or find a second-hand option. Be thrifty, be smart, and don’t be afraid to roll your sleeves up. Having an attitude of “that’s their problem” will only create tension and destroy the office dynamic.

5. INDIVIDUALITY – This is key. Everyone brings something different to the table. Recognize that, appreciate it, and inspire it.

6. TRUST YOUR EMPLOYEES – To an extent, the trust we give to our co-workers and employees to produce an exemplary solution is what fosters growth and teamwork.

Digital Native vs. Digital Legacy: They are no immigrants!

After my initial Digital Natives blog, I got a lot of feedback from friends and family and readers about the term and who falls under which heading! (Thanks for reading!!) My favorite piece of feedback came from my cousin who wasn’t a big fan of the term Digital Immigrant – which is the official term for those who don’t fall under the ‘digital native’ heading. Defining himself as a Digital Legacy, I started to really break down the meaning of that phrase and why it may be a better indication of the skillset he represents.

[tweetthis]Why you may want to add Digital Legacies to your job descriptions.[/tweetthis]

Digital Native vs. Digital Legacy

So what is a “Digital Legacy”? I would define a Digital Legacy as someone who is more focused on single tasks (rather than preferring tons of tasks and ideas thrown at them all at once like a Digital Native might) and sequential thinking. More of a planner than a creative thinker, and more “book smart” than “tech smart” like their younger counterparts the Digital Natives. Are you still with me?

Having not grown up with Internet and computers in your home does not mean skills can’t be learned. In fact, for those that didn’t grow up with this ‘advantage’ there is an expectation to not only learn, but also fully understand the technology that is being used. By observing and adopting new technology over and over again, as the Internet and computers have developed, these legacies may be a host of information and background that natives may be lacking. Knowing the back end of how technology works gives legacies a leg up on natives who just know how to use the front-end. For example, there was a time when working on cars was not just a hobby or a career, but a necessity in car ownership. For those who grew up changing their own oil or changing spark plugs – or even replacing major components, they have a better understanding of the inner workings of their car, which makes it easier to diagnose the “weird sound” it suddenly started making.

Personally, I will admit, I take my car for granted and haven’t spent a ton of time learning how it works (– beyond put gas in it and keep up on the required maintenance which involves simply taking the car to Jiffy Lube or the dealership!) In fact, as a digital native, I would say I probably take technology for granted as well. I can work with most computer software and systems pretty easily – it’s not a foreign concept, but the minute an error message pops up – Forget it! I’ll even admit, in my personal life, when things go wrong on my computer, more often than not, I’m turning to a Digital Legacy to help me trouble shoot! Granted, not everyone who grew up with technology would identify themselves as a digital native, nor everyone who grew up before that time period consider themselves a digital immigrant/legacy, and we could hope that people operate with a certain level of self-awareness about this topic. Yes – I realize that may be asking a lot! So that’s why it’s important to really consider your screening tactics when hiring an individual where technology is truly critical! Nonetheless, to avoid the issue of discrimination as discussed in my previous blog, you may want to include Digital Legacies – with their depths of information – to your job descriptions. (I’d also recommend Digital Legacy over Digital Immigrant, because to me, it sounds a lot less abrasive!)

Social Media in the Workplace: Who’s Using It?

With all of this talk of digital natives and digital legacies, let’s take a look now at who is actually using social media in the workplace.

[tweetthis]Like it or not, your employees are checking Facebook at work.[/tweetthis] They may even be taking photos and posting to Instagram of that awesome potluck the CEO threw for the entire administrative team last week. #yummy! #thanksboss!

But what does social media really mean for your business? Are you utilizing the tools of social media to change the face of your company? Is your newsletter changing with the times, or is it still a 3-sided page that gets mailed out to the masses? Newsletters are great for dumping large chunks of information on your clients and colleagues. But social media allows you to piecemeal that information out in little tidbits, bite size morsels if you will. As we’ve discussed before on this blog, it’s important to grasp that millennials are a new creature entirely. Give them 140 characters and they’ll come up with something poignant and life-changing (or at least they will think it is so). But hand them a printout of 4-5 meaty articles in a company newsletter, and you’ll be lucky if they even read the first and last sentence of each paragraph (cut to freshman English in college when the assigned reading was almost as boring as the Sunday newspaper that your dad read at the breakfast table).

So in this digital age, social media begs companies to cut to the chase and get to the point. Your audience’s attention span is dwindling with each new generation that enters the workforce. These kids are all about instant gratification, technology at their fingertips, and short snappy snippets of information. So let’s give the people what they want!

1. Use social media for recruitment (check out our Social Media & Recruitment blog here:

2. Check out your online reviews – you may not be using social media but I guarantee your customers are!

3. Improve communication with your employees – think blog, Twitter, hashtags, and collaborate with your employees outside of the box.

4. Brands are necessary. Is your company recognizable? The more you use social media, the more presence you will have amongst your colleagues and potential talent pool.

Like renowned author and business speaker Erik Qualman says, “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”