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Monday, December 21, 2015

Call Me Karnak: How I Did On My Predictions For 2015

It's time to see how I did on my predictions for 2015. I have to say, I did pretty well. See for yourself. Here's what I predicted, and what really happened:

1. Intern sexual harassment: I predicted that Miami-Dade County would follow Broward County's lead and pass an ordinance banning sexual harassment of interns. Boy, was I wrong. Broward's proposed ordinance stalled indefinitely. Miami-Dade did nothing to protect interns. I predicted a bill would be introduced in the Florida legislature, but that Republicans in charge of both houses and the governorship would block it. I was right. On the national front, I correctly predicted we'd see a move afoot in other states to pass a law similar to the ones passed in California, New York, Oregon and Illinois. This year Connecticut and New Jersey passed legal protection for interns and a bill was introduced in Michigan.

2. Micro-unions: I predicted that micro-unions would start popping up more in 2015, but it seems that there wasn't exactly a rush to unionize small groups of employees of bigger employers. Still, there were a few micro-unions that were voted in in 2015. A small group of Volkswagen skilled trade employees were approved to vote on unionizing. Pharmacists at a Target in Brooklyn voted in a micro-union, giving unions a foothold for the first time in the mega-retailer. It wasn't the woe-is-me rush that anti-union folks predicted, but it's a start.

3. Minimum wage: I predicted that 2015 wouldn't be as big a year for increases because it isn't an election year, but that we'd see some more states and local governments raise the minimum wage to over $10/hour. Rhode Island passed an increase to $9.60 an hour, so very close but no cigar. Cities did better by their workers in 2015. Los Angeles and Sacramento raised their minimum wage to $10.50. Mountain View, Santa Clara and Palo Alto, CA and Santa Fe, NM went up to $11.00. Mountain View's rate will gradually reach $15.00 in 2018. Portland, ME went to $10.10.

4. Obama as employee advocate: I predicted that President Obama would continue to use executive orders to push for employee rights, and he certainly did that. I predicted that his push to pass a paid sick leave law would fail and that members of Congress with elephantitis would do everything they could to make sure workers remain oppressed and that certainly happened. For more about what President Obama did with his pen, check out my blog post on it here.

5. Gay marriage: I predicted that we'd continue to see marriage equality expand. Yep. Called that one.

6. Marijuana: I predicted that legalized marijuana and medical marijuana would continue to expand, but not one new state legalized it in 2015. However, Delaware finally restarted its medical marijuana program this year and opened its first dispensary. Illinois also opened up its first dispensary. Some states added certain medical conditions to their approved list of conditions for which marijuana could be prescribed. So there was movement, but not the surge I expected. Several states are trying again next year. I predicted that employees who use marijuana for medical purposes would continue to get fired due to lack of laws protecting them even when they have a prescription, and that definitely happened.

7. Republican roll-back: I predicted that Republicans would try to roll back worker rights. I predicted they'd attack the Fair Labor Standards Act. They did, trying to pass legislation to allow comp time instead of overtime pay. I said they'd attack the NLRB. They did, as they tried to reverse NLRB's ruling on franchises as joint employers and on simplifying union elections. I said they'd try to repeal Obamacare. They did. I said President Obama would veto these efforts. He did.

8. Noncompetes come into question: I predicted we'd start to see some antitrust investigations of the more extreme and abusive noncompete agreements. Michigan legislators took a swing at noncompetes, as did Maryland and Rhode Island legislators, but didn't manage to ban them yet. I said there will be another effort in Massachusetts to ban them, but it will likely fail. So far, there's no ban there, but legislation is still pending. I predicted no states would ban them yet, but that eyes would begin to open on how abusive they can be. I was actually wrong, since Hawaii banned noncompete agreements for many tech workers this year. Senator Franken has introduced legislation to ban noncompetes against low wage workers. A $415 million settlement in a no-poach agreement case should also shake some employers up to the implications of illegally barring employees from working for competitors.

9. Gridlock: I predicted that zero would actually happen on the national level. ENDA, Civil Rights Tax Fairness Act, FAMILY Act, and Arbitration Fairness Act. Nothing happened.

10. Ban the box: I predicted more states and local governments would ban employers from asking about arrests and convictions on applications, and would limit the use of convictions found in background checks to those that are actually relevant to the job sought. Georgia, Hawaii, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Virginia brought the total to 19 states and over 100 municipalities that have passed some form of ban-the-box legislation, policy or executive order. President Obama has also banned the box for federal employers.

Overall, I think I did pretty well in predicting 2015. Next, I'll share my predictions for 2016.

Monday, December 14, 2015

How To Go To Your Office Holiday Party And Still Stay Employed

It's that most horrid time of the year: time for office holiday parties. Since some of you are likely going to have to contact someone like me after you get fired for what happened at your office party, I would like to remind you about how to stay employed despite the office festivities.

Here is my warning about the top behaviors that will get you fired at your office holiday party:

1. Drinking: First of all, if you are an alcoholic and can't be sure you won't drink if you attend, then don't go. If your boss is insistent, you can ask for a reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act to be excused from attendance. If you do drink, limit yourself to two drinks tops, then switch to soda. I'm serious here. The number one way to get fired is to drink too much.

2. Dancing: Many people are fired or disciplined for "inappropriate" dancing. What's inappropriate? It's in the eye of the beholder, and the boss, customers, vendors and your coworkers are the beholders. When in doubt, sit it out. Any moves that imitate sexual conduct (grinding, gyrating, rubbing) are dangerous if colleagues are present. If you're dancing with a colleague, then be very careful. You don't need a sexual harassment complaint in the new year.

3. Driving: A DUI can get you fired. If you don't believe me, check out my article 9 Ways A DUI Can Destroy Your Career. If a colleague or friend tells you to hand over your keys, do it. There's always Uber or a taxi. It's way cheaper than defending against a DUI/DWI charge and losing your job.

4. Mistletoe: Kiss your spouse or date under the mistletoe, but not a colleague or, god forbid, your boss. Seriously.

5. Romance: After a few drinks, colleagues start to look pretty attractive. Office romances are dangerous. If you have a one-night-stand or party makeout session with a coworker (or worse, the boss), expect repercussions at work. Sure, many couples meet at work. My parents did. But tread carefully. No means no. If you break up, stay away and don't retaliate. Persistence does not pay in an office relationship. You can get fired for sexual harassment if you pester a coworker for a date. Don't accept the invitation to the colleague's room. If there's a real romance, take it slow and be sure before you take it between the sheets.

6. Pressure: Don't pressure anyone to attend an office party. They may have religious objections to attending. Maybe their disability prevents them from coming, or they have a spouse with a disability. You don't want to get charged with religious or disability harassment.

7. Games: Some offices have party games. The temptation is to be lewd or bawdy. Avoid making sexual innuendos, telling off-color jokes, or making other comments that may be deemed inappropriate or offensive.

8. Singing: If the office loves karaoke, avoid songs with curse words, inappropriate lyrics, or offensive undertones. If you're singing with a colleague, avoid anything overtly sexual. Also avoid any sexual gestures while singing.

If you think I'm the Grinch, think again. It's your boss and HR that are the holiday Grinches. I'm just trying to keep you employed. Ho ho freaking ho.