December 2008 Archives

January 13: The New FMLA Regs, hosted by DESHRM

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 31, 2008In: Family Medical Leave, Seminars, Past

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New FMLA regulations go into effect on January 16, 2009.  On January 13, 2009, Delaware attorneys William W. Bowser and Scott A. Holt will be speaking to Delaware employers about how to comply with the new regs.  Delaware Society of Human Resources will host the event at Cavalier Country Club, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

For those Delaware employers who are not members of DESHRM, the Employment Law Department will host a breakfast briefing at the end of the month on the new regulations, as well.  More information on the details of that seminar will follow.  Until then, you can get a head start on the topic by checking out these earlier posts:

January 30: FMLA Briefings

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 31, 2008In: Seminars, Past

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Our FMLA breakfast briefing sold out in two days!  Thank you to everyone who registered so quickly for this update on the new FMLA regulations.  If you weren't one of the early birds, don't worry, we're adding a second session. 

Due to the immense popularity, we're adding a second session.  We will conduct the same presentation at 2 pm on January 30, 2009.

Other than the time, everything about the seminar will remain the same.  Same place (the YCS&T offices in downtown Wilmington, Delaware).  Same date (January 30, 2009).  Same great presenters (William W. Bowser, Scott A. Holt, and Molly DiBianca).  And the same maximum attendees per organization per session (2). 

Don't delay, though, the afternoon session is expected to sell out almost as quickly as the morning session did. 

Seminar Update

As promised, we've uploaded our slides from the presentation. And, while we were at it, we also downloaded the DDOL's regs and added them to the PDF so you have all of the FMLA resources in one place. The better-looking version requires Adobe Reader 9, which is a free download that doesn't require administrative rights. If you're using an older version, switch now, you'll love it. If you can't, though, for some reason use Adobe Reader 9, download this version. Thank you again for attending and we'll look forward to seeing you in April at our annual seminar.

Writing Reference #1: 10 Humorous Writing Blogs

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 31, 2008In: Internet Resources

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New Years' resolutions aren't my thing. If they were, I'd resolve to continue to develop my writing skills.   But, since it's not quite January 1, I'll go with something a little more light hearted first.  Here are 10 of my favorite blogs on which I hope my writing is never featured.   Happy New Year!pens

  1. Apostrophe Abuse
  2. Banterist: Grammar Cop
  3. Grammar Blog: I Get Gerund
  4. Literally, a Web Log
  5. Mr. Rewrite
  6. SPOGG
  7. The Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks
  8. The Grammar Vandal
  9. The Perplexicon
  10. Language Log

My Finely Tailored New Year's Resolution: Pens & Pinstripes

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 31, 2008In: Internet Resources

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Writing and legal writing in particular are the actual topics of this post.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I don't actually make any resolutions for the new year.  But I'm a sucker for a catchy title, so I'm going to say this series is about New Year's resolutions anyway.  One of my year-round goals ( i.e., my resolutions),  is to improve my writing skills.  Today there is no more powerful tool than the written word.  The written and spoken word is today's pinstripe suit.  


Most of my court appearances today are made via a teleconference with the judge and opposing counsel also on the phone.  It is not uncommon for me to meet a client in person for the first time after having counseled them for more than a year.  With the phone and e-mail, face-to-face encounters have become less and less common. 

As a result, the image of the lawyer in the perfectly presentable pinstripe suit carries far less significance.  If you never see the lawyer, what he or she is wearing becomes close to irrelevant.  What you do "see" is your lawyer's words.  Which is why it is important to me to maintain a proper "word wardrobe," if you will.

I won't deny that I still love a well-made suit, pinstripe or not, and I won't pretend that I have the slightest intention of abandoning my devotion to fashion.  But I recognize that it will suit me best to invest in today's most important accessories--my writing and language skills. 

In this multi-part series, I'll talk about various ways to improve this valuable accessory and the resources that can help.  For today, here are the ways I work on my writing annually, quarterly, and daily. 


I attend one writing seminar a year.  The best I've ever attended, without a doubt, was one by Bryan A. Garner.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of his Legal Writing seminars, you should drop whatever you are doing and sign up.  It can revolutionize your writing.  Especially if you've read his books, his seminars are great for putting that theory into practice.


Then, a few times a year, I ask other writers to read and comment on my work.  Our writing-guru-in-residence, John Paschetto, in particular, is an amazing resource.  I can say, without hesitation, that John is the most skilled writer I have ever had the pleasure to meet.  In addition to being a partner in our firm's Business Planning Section, and a remarkably skilled editor, he also has a way of commenting on the written word in such a way that makes the recipient want to get better. 


And, on a daily basis, I turn to the internet, where writing resources are diverse and plentiful.  Of course, I utilize the current and timely content available in the blogosphere.  I also employ a variety of content-rich websites that cover every topic imaginable and serve as inspiration and motivation when writing becomes more of a chore than a pleasure.   

In subsequent posts in this series, I'll divulge my list of the best resources the web has to offer those who want to improve their writing.  The posts will include:

  1. 10 of the Funniest Blogs About Bad Writing;
  2. 20 Online Dictionaries;
  3. 30 of the Best Blogs About Writing;
  4. 40 of the Best Books About Writing; and
  5. 50 of the Best Writing References Online.

Why Don't Employers Care About Employees' Internet Usage?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 30, 2008In: Electronic Monitoring

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Employers don't care that their employees browse the internet all day long.  They don't care that employees do their holiday shopping online from the comfort of their offices.  Employers don't care that employees' internet usage exposes their companies to substantial security risks.  I'm convinced--they just don't care. 

Most employers do not have any rules about online shopping during working time.  And, of those employers who do have some sort of web policy that limits employee use, just a few have a program in place to monitor online activities. 

Millennials are the most likely group of employees to put their companies at risk over the holiday season.  An estimated 4 out of 10 U.S. workers aged 18-24 will spend up to five hours shopping online--on their work computers--this holiday season, according to the Shopping On the Job surveyMy Computer

That's more than half a working day!  

Not only are Gen Y employees the most likely to browse the web for that hard-to-find gift but they are also the least worried about the vulnerability of their work computers.  Millennials tend to be less concerned about safe web browsing when compared to their older colleagues. 

Despite the many voices of concern that online activity will have a negative impact on productivity and will expose the company's internal network to serious security risk, there doesn't seem to be much to prevent it. 

Is this because employers really don't understand the amount of potential loss?  Or do they not realize that, without a proactive procedure in place to deal with this risk, employees are not likely to change their habits?  Or maybe employers don't know what types of procedures to implement as a way to combat the potential losses associated with employees' online use during the holiday season. 

Other Posts on Electronic Monitoring in the Workplace:

Survey Says:  Employers' Policies on Technology in the Workplace

Is It Time to Update Your Electronic Communications Policy? If you’re the Mayor of Detroit, the answer is “Yes”

Blogs In the Workplace

Somebody's Watching You:  New Data on Electronic Monitoring by Employers

Would the Economy Be Different If More Women Served on Boards?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 30, 2008In: Women In (and Out of) the Workplace

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Women who serve on a board of directors do so differently than their male counterparts.  According to two Harvard scholars, there are significant differences between boards with and without female officers. Some of the differences include:

  1. Women are less likely to have attendance problems than men.
  2. The more women on the board, the better behaved are the male directors. 
  3. Women are more likely to sit on monitoring-related committees than male directors. In particular, women are more likely to be assigned to audit, nominating, and corporate governance committees.
  4. Men are more likely than women to serve on compensation committees.
  5. Boards with gender diversity are more likely to hold CEOs accountable for poor stock price performance.

If these conclusions are accurate, would our country's economy be in a better state if only there had been more female directors?  Would women have held corporations more accountable for their conduct?

Spy vs. Spy: New Tools Offer New Ways to Obtain Employees' "Private" Data

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 29, 2008In: Electronic Monitoring

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An employer's right to monitor employees' electronic communications is a very popular topic.  There are numerous questions in this area of the law that remain unanswered.  For example, can an employer can lawfully retrieve an ex-employee's personal e-mails sent and received from the company's computers?  The 9th Circuit took a shot at another big question earlier this year in Quon v. Archer, when it held that an employee's text messages were personal and could not be viewed by the employer--even though the pager used to send and receive the text messages was the employer's property.  Employees' text messages can result in significant consequences for their employment--just ask the former mayor of Detroit. 

What seems to get many employees into trouble is their misconceptions about the security of their electronic data.  It seems that many workers don't believe that their employers could access electronic mail and messages, even if the employer was inclined to do so.  Well, that is just plain wrong.  Electronic data can be retrieved.  And it's a lot easier than you may think.  A new product on the market, Sim Card Spy Elite by Brickhouse Security, is a compelling example of this fact. image

The Sim Card Spy Elite is a recovery device that can retrieve "deleted" data from a SIM card.**  Just pop the SIM card out of a cell phone and insert it into the Spy Elite.  Then insert the Spy Elite into your computer and, Voila!  All of the data that you thought had been deleted from the cellphone is instantly restored.  Names, text messages, and last-dialed numbers are given new life.  The data can be viewed, printed, and even edited--all for the low price of $199.95.   

As technology continues to improve, powerful tools like this are going to become easier and easier for the masses to obtain.  No longer are these items accessible only to security insiders.  Not only should employees be wary of the potential use of these tools by their employers but, as the Larry Mendte saga made evident, employers must also be cognizant of the possible use of spy devices by employees as tools for coworker sabotage and espionage.  It's not as fictional as it may sound.  Just ask Alycia Lane.

**A SIM card is a tiny circuit board for cell phones that contains the user's account information. SIM cards are interchangeable between phones, allowing users to program a new phone by just switching the SIM card.

Top 5 Workplace Resolutions for the New Year

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 27, 2008In: Employee Engagement, Newsworthy

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Do you have a New Year's resolution? Truth be told, I actually don't make any resolutions for the new year.  I'm a hyperactive overachiever with a mild case of OCD who sets [too many] goals throughout the year.  I'm never short on "things to accomplish" come January.  But I'm a sucker for ambitious to-do lists, so I'm posting about resolutions anyway.  image

What resolutions do you expect to hear around the water cooler during the first few weeks of the year?  Based on the most popular topics on this blog in 2008, I bet we could guess what the most popular resolutions might be for 2009.


In no particular order, here are the topics and the corresponding resolutions:

  1. Work-Life Balance:  Spend more family time.
  2. Wellness Programs:  Get more exercise.
  3. Jerks at Work:  Make new friends.
  4. Going Green:  Implement eco-friendly policies at work.
  5. Alternative Work Schedules:  Ask to try a four-day work week. 

Why Telecommuting Could Be the Answer to My Cookie Prayers

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 26, 2008In: Alternative Work Schedules, Telecommuting

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In Delaware, courts take a holiday on December 26.  Accordingly, most law firms are closed for the day, including ours.  And, not surprisingly, many Delaware lawyers will work anyway.  Duty calls. 

Is there a way to accomplish those important work tasks without having to sacrifice family time?  Enter telecommuting. image

Technically speaking, telecommuting is one of many flexible work initiatives.  A telecommuter works from home full-time or several days out of the work week.  Telework or telecommuting involves work that normally would have been performed from a central office setting but can now be performed at home or remote location.  Telework requires the use a computer, an internet connection, telephone, scanner, and, perhaps, a fax machine. 

Telecommuting is an employment arrangement that involves moving work to the workers instead of workers to work.

Proponents of telecommuting claim (with good support), that efficiently run programs can offer employers the following benefits:

  • Cost Savings through the reduction of overhead and fixed costs, such as rent.

  • Increased Productivity of 10-40%, due in part to the absence of typical office interruptions.

  • Improved Motivation of employees who see the program as a sign of trust and confidence.

  • Skills Retention when an employee who would otherwise leave the workplace is able to stay. Includes employees on maternity leave, whose families move out of the area, whose disability prevents them from working in the standard office set-up, or who are nearing retirement but who the employer wants to retain as long as possible.

  • Organization Flexibility is substantially improved. Teams can be created without consideration for geography or the need for travel. 

  • Flexible Staffing by reducing the number of hours worked to those with the highest demand.

  • External disruptions, such as natural disasters, inclement weather, traffic problems, and even security issues, have a lesser impact on the organization's ability to operate at a fully functional level.

  • Enhanced Customer Service, which can be extended beyond the working day or the working week without the costs of overtime payments or the need for staff to work non-traditional business hours.

Each of these claimed benefits have at least some legitimacy.  Although telework may not be appropriate for every type of job or every type of workplace, it certainly seems to be attractive on a day like today when there's no need to be in the office and when my mother-in-law's cookies are guaranteed to be gone before lunch!

For more information on telecommuting or other flexible work schedules, be sure to see the Working TIme category, under Telecommuting.

The Risk of Identity Theft Is Higher Than Ever This Holiday Season

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 23, 2008In: Privacy Rights of Employees

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Identity theft refers to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves
fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.  Identity theft is a serious crime, the effects of which can take years to correct, not to mention the enormous amounts of time and the overall inconvenience that are required. 

Identity theft is a serious enough topic that there is good reason to write about it any time of year.  But right now, there are more reasons than ever.  First, there's the current state of the economy.  In difficult economic times, theft traditionally increases as people become more desperate in the search for resources.  Second, it's the holiday season, when the need for extra money increases, right along with depression rates and anxiety levels. Third, internet shopping continues to be a popular alternative to the stressful hustle and bustle of the mall.  Add these factors together and it's difficult to imagine identity theft rates slowing down significantly any time soon.  image

Just last week, a coworker mentioned that she had recently had her credit card number "skimmed" at a gas station.  She didn't realize the theft had occurred, though, until Monday morning when she checked her online bank account and was stunned to see that the account was substantially overdrawn!  Another coworker said that she too had been subject to a similar fraud, though the credit card company had not been able to determine exactly how it had occurred. 

I experienced the same type of theft recently when my credit card number was used to make thousands of dollars in online purchases over the course of a few hours.  The number of purchases triggered my bank's security alerts and I was called to confirm the purchases.  Thankfully, the bank's quick efforts prevented any damage from being done.  But this conversation between three coworkers shows how surprisingly common identity theft really is. 

When it comes to protecting your personal information, awareness is key.  Below is a short summary of some of the basics about identity theft.  Employers should keep themselves and their employees in the loop by circulating this type of information during the holiday season.

How Does the Thief Get the Identity Information?

  • Steals credit cards, wallets, or purses.
  • Steals mail to obtain checks and credit-card numbers.
  • Rummaging through trash to find documents containing personal identifying information.
  • Completes a change-of-address form on behalf of the victim, thereby diverting the individual's mail.
  • Use personal-identifying information obtained on the internet.
  • Theft of business records either by stealing records or files or by bribing an employee to do the same.
  • E-mail "phishing"-- a scam where the thief pretends to a bank or the government.
  • Obtaining a copy of the victim's credit report by posing as a landlord or other person who would have a lawful right to the information.

What Does the Thief Do With the Identify Information?

  • Go on spending sprees using your credit card
  • Open new credit card accounts
  • Open new checking accounts using your name,date of birth and social security number to write
    bad checks
  • Change the address on your credit card accounts
  • Take out auto loans in your name
  • Rent a home in your name
  • File for government benefits using your name (unemployment insurance)
  • Give your name to police during an arrest
  • Establish phone and wireless service in your name
  • Declare bankruptcy in your name to avoid paying debts or eviction

Some of the national resources available to learn more about preventing, reporting, and correcting identity theft include the Identity Theft Resource Center, the Federal Trade Commission, and the U.S. Department of Justice

In Delaware, the Office of the State Bank Commission has developed several helpful outreach and education programs.  And, for additional information specific to employers trying to assist employees who've been subject to a data security breach, see What to Do If Your Employees' Private Data Is Stolen.

Predicting Job Trends under the Obama Administration

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 23, 2008In: Newsworthy

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One of the Obama administration's stated employment goals is to create or save 2.5 million jobs in the before January 2011.  Jobfox has predicted the job sectors where most of these new jobs can be expected to go.  According to Jobfox, the most wanted new jobs can be broken into categories that correlate to Obama's major initiatives.

Initiative: Construction of Roads, Bridges, Transit and Rural Broadband
Key Jobs:
1. Construction managers
2. Project managers
3. Civil engineers
4. Computer-aided drafting specialists
5. Telecommunications engineers

Initiative: Greater Oversight of Financial Markets
Key Jobs:
1. Compliance accountants
2. Internal auditors
3. Tax accountants
4. Government regulators

Initiative: Energy Independence
Key Jobs:
1. Electrical engineers
2. Mechanical engineers
3. Power grid managers
4. Biofuels chemists
5. Sales and marketing

Initiative: Healthcare Modernization
Key Jobs:
1. Nurses
2. Information technology specialists
3. Bioinformatics specialists
4. Information security specialists
5. Software developers

Initiative: Volunteerism and Community Involvement
Key Jobs:
1. Social workers
2. Administrators
3. Translators

Resource from the Department of Labor For Military-Spouse Employees

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 23, 2008In: Internet Resources, National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Uniformed Services (USERRA)

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The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), amended the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) on January 1, 2008.  The NDAA is one of several laws that obligate employers to provide special protections to employees who are members of the Armed Forces.  The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), is another such law offering similar, but not identical protections to employees who serve in the uniformed services. 

In these times, military service is a reality for many employers who must navigate the labyrinth-like leave laws.  Employers also want to provide their employees with the support they need to transition successfully and safely between the workplace and active duty.  We've posted before about some of the many resources and services offered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), each of which is marketed towards a specific audience. 

Yet another resource provided by the DOL is specifically designed for military spouses and the special employment challenges they face as a result of their marital ties to the military. is an online library for military spouse employment, education, and relocation information.  The DOL provides links to employment-related information and other resources for military spouses and military families.  The site is a collaborative project between the DOL's Women's Bureau, the Employment and Training Administration, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy, in cooperation with the Department of Defense.

A few examples of the many resources include:

  • Information on portable career fields and options available with them;
  • Career Center database of hundreds of thousands of jobs, scholarships, and training opportunities;
  • Access to the DOD's website, Military HOMEFRONT, which offers information on Quality of Life.

These are just a few of the resources available, all designed to assist troops and their families.  Provide your military employees with free access to a number of resources by referring them to this website. Your employees will thank you!

Reverend Al Sharpton Speaks Out Against Employee Free Choice Act

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 22, 2008In: Union and Labor Issues

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The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) has drawn substantial criticism from employers who worry about the bill's card-check and arbitration provisions. But the Obama administration has not given any indication that it will back away from its pro-union position.  With the nomination of Democrat Hilda L. Solis as the new Secretary of Labor, there is even more support for the EFCA. 

But not all Democrats are in favor of the EFCA.  Reverend Al Sharpton described the effect of the EFCA as "coercion" and expressed concern about how the legislation would impact minority-owned small businesses.  He was clear about his overall commitment to the right to organize but stated that the EFCA could go too far.  National Review Online's Peter Kirsanow has a great summary of why the position of EFCA-advocate Secretary of Labor nominee, Hilda Solis, is directly at odds with Sharpton's.  In short, Kirsanow argues that you must be a supporter of small and minority-owned businesses or of the Employee Free Choice Act--but you cannot be proponents of both.  image

Under the proposed EFCA, businesses would have 120 days to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement once the union has made a demand for bargaining.  Failure to reach an agreed-upon CBA will divert power to an arbitrator, who becomes responsible for the contract.  Negotiating any contract in 120 days is difficult.  But a first contract, it can be near impossible.  And if you are an employer without a sophisticated and experienced bargaining team already in place, the impossibility becomes even more likely.  If nothing else, the negotiating "team" is likely to have multiple other business demands put on his or her time even though negotiating will necessarily take the top place on the list. 

According to Kirsanow, the EFCA won't make it impossible to successfully negotiate a first contract in 120 days but that one of the following two scenarios will occur:

1) In an effort to avoid arbitration, the small businessman without prior labor negotiating experience concedes to union demands that he would reject if he weren't compelled to reach an agreement in 120 days (under current law, the parties aren't required to reach agreement within a specific timeframe); or

2) The small businessman goes to arbitration. (Interest arbitration isn't cheap. It can go on for months and the legal fees alone can be substantial). The arbitrator writes a "contract" that the businessman would never have agreed to if he'd had the opportunity to bargain with the union in the context of their respective economic leverages. The business is saddled with uncompetitive labor costs and restrictive contract terms after having expended tens of thousands in arbitration.

The hardship this law could impose on small businesses, which, given this economy, could be the final blow. 

2008 Gift Guide: Office Mates & Coworkers

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 22, 2008In: Just for Fun

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No gift for your coworkers yet?  Don't worry, it's never too late to buy a cheap piece of plastic just dripping with cynicism and call it a "gift."  If you're still reading, you have the right sense of humor to appreciate the office gift ideas, below. 

Continue reading "2008 Gift Guide: Office Mates & Coworkers" »

Facial Hair: Style Statement of the Unemployed

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 21, 2008In: Dress & Attire

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Male workers who are laid off are letting their hair down--in a rhetorical sense, anyway. Christina Binkley of's Life and Style  section, claims this to be true.  In her recent post, Growth Area: Beards on Laid-Off Executives, Binkley says that men are donning beards as a sort of act of rebellion, a way of breaking ties with their former corporate selves. Man Shorts @ Delaware Employment Law Blog

Sure, the fashion move may be liberating, I guess, but does it serve them well when trying to return to the workforce?  There's a good bit of opinion on this.  John Phillips, at The Word on Employment Law is not a supporter of the facial-hair movement, it we want to call it that.  Neither is Kelly Lynn Anders, associate dean at the Washburn University School and author of The Organized Lawyer.  Anders, who is quoted in the WSJ post, advises students to present themselves in their best light, which, to her, means clean-shaven.  

My thoughts?  Well, I suppose I think that the idea just isn't that important.  Some men look better with a beard and, for them, a beard doesn't seem as much like a fashion statement as it does common sense.  For those who are trying the style on for size while waiting for the next employment opportunity, I say, sure, why not?  I like to wear flip-flops at the beach but Lord knows I'd be caught dead before I wore them to the office or to a client meeting, nevertheless to a job interview.  Everyone has the inclination to go casual when the time is right--the question is whether one man's definition of "casual" is another man's "sloppy." 

For those of you who have toyed with the idea of bearding up for the winter, I say "Cheers."  If it looks good, all the better.  If it looks bad, I'd be willing to bet that you hear about it--people really aren't very shy when it comes to their thoughts on another's changed appearance.  And for those of you who may be unemployed and, for that reason, are "brazen" enough to give facial hair another look, so be it.  Whether you shave for a job interview depends, I'd say, on how badly you want the job.  If you want it badly enough, I would think you wouldn't take the risk that your new "fashion statement" could mean the difference between getting hired and getting a rejection letter.

For the skeptics, just think, a beard on any day is better than the man-short anytime.

Union Advocate, Hilda Solis, Named as Next Secretary of Labor

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 21, 2008In: Newsworthy, Union and Labor Issues

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Rep. Hilda Solis was named Friday as President-Elect Obama's choice for Secretary of Labor.  He nominated the Democratic congresswoman at a news conference on Friday, December 19, 2008.   The Hilda nomination was very popular with the unions.  The four-term politician has voted pro-union nearly 100% of the time during her eight-years as congresswoman in Los Angeles, California.  image

And Solis isn't shy about her union loyalties.  At the conference, she stated, "I am humbled and honored. . . As secretary of labor, I will work to strengthen our unions."  American Rights at Work Executive Director Mary Beth Maxwell called Solis "a great choice” who “brings the expertise and leadership required to a department in desperate need of reform and will champion common sense policies like the Employee Free Choice Act to restore balance and create an economy that works for everyone.”

The unions have lots of good things to say in return, too.  See the following union websites for the glowing reviews: SEIU, Unite to Win, American Rights at Work, and Change to Win.

Solis is also known for her successful campaign to increase California's minimum wage from $4.25 to $5.75 in 1996.  In addition to her deep roots in the union movement, Solis has long been branded as an ardent environmentalist, who has pushed hard for the "green job movement."

VP-Elect Joe Biden to Appear on Delaware News Monday P.M.

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 20, 2008In: Delaware Specific, Newsworthy

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Delaware's own Joe Biden will appear for an interview on Monday, December 22, 2008, on Delaware Tonightimage According to the Delaware Tonight website, Biden will discuss his thoughts about making history as the first Delawarean to be elected Vice President, and life's biggest adjustments since that memorable election night.

Delaware employers should tune in to keep abreast with this quickly-changing political landscape.

January 30: FMLA Breakfast Briefing

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 19, 2008In: Family Medical Leave, Seminars, Past

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The new FMLA regulations go into effect on January 16, 2009.  To help Delaware employers prepare for these significant changes, Young Conaway's Employment Law Group will host a free breakfast briefing on the new regulations.  The two-hour seminar will be held at our Wilmington, Delaware offices on January 30, 2009, from 9 - 11 a.m.  Delaware employment law attorneys William W. Bowser, Scott A. Holt, and Margaret (Molly) DiBianca will discuss the following:

  • New "military caregiver leave" permitting family members of wounded military personnel to take up to six months of unpaid leave in a 12-month period to care for their relatives during the recovery process
  • New "qualifying exigency leave" permitting families of National Guard members and the reserves to use up to 12 weeks of leave to manage the members’ affairs while they are on active duty
  • New definitions of a “serious health condition” 
  • New regulations on  “chronic serious health condition”
  • Prohibitions on direct supervisors contacting the employee’s health care provider about a medical certification
  • Expanding the notice requirements for employers and employees
  • Explaining how employers may settle FMLA claims
  • Stopping employers from charging FMLA time to employees who are on light duty

Due to the expected popularity of this seminar and the limited number of seats, employers are asked to send no more than two representatives.  Registration is open until all seats are filled or until January 23, 2009, whichever is first.  Registration forms can be found on the Young Conaway website.

Friday Funnies: The Woes of Help Desk Employees

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 19, 2008In: Employee Engagement, Just for Fun

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We're all guilty of torturing our beloved IT staff.  As smart as we are most of the time, there is something about technology that makes our brains shut down, rendering us unable to remember to "power down and reboot" before we call the Help Desk and ask for assistance.  I suppose it's a love-hate relationship.  We love them when they fix it and we hate it if they take a second too long to do it. 

Here's a humorous video giving the beloved IT workers across the universe a little recognition of the tough job they do so well.  Have a look and send a laugh and then send a "thank you" to your favorite IT guy or gal.  (Be sure to watch through to the end to find out what the code "I.D. ten-T" stands for.)



Happy Friday!

5 Things Employers Should Know about the Engagement of Gen Y Employees

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 19, 2008In: Employee Engagement, Generations: Boomers, Xers, and Millennials

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Employee engagement differs between younger and older employees.  Employers are trying to navigate the needs of Gen Y and, to some extent, Gen X employees.  Learning how to attract and retain younger generation employees means understanding what it is about a workplace that these employees desire most.  And, conversely, what things are most likely to be so unfavorable that they actually drive away the recruits you're trying to attract.  pigtails

Here are just a few of the differences between younger and older employees to keep in mind.  Ask yourself whether your organization is making efforts to satisfy younger employees and keep them engaged.

  • Younger employees tend to be more optimistic about opportunities for continued learning and growth in their employment.  This requires employers to prevent their youthfully optimistic hopes from being stamped out by the embattled bitter employee who can quickly poison the environment with repeated cynicism and distrust.


  • Employees of every age crave recognition.  Study after study shows that employers that master the skill of providing timely, accurate, and regular feedback rate the highest in employee engagement.  The generational difference, though, is the amount of recognition that will satisfy younger versus older employees.  Gen Y is known as a "needy" generation for a reason.  One study showed that, for every piece of constructive criticism offered (and note that we're not talking about negative criticism), the Gen Y employee requires seven pieces of positive feedback if there's any chance that they'll even hear the constructive one.  That's a whole lot of pats on the back.  So many, in fact, that positive feedback almost has to be scheduled into the daily calendar of managers if they hope to ever really give a sufficient amount of compliments.


  • Younger employees also tend to take more pride in working for their employer and are more likely to recommend their employer to a job seeker.  This gives employers a great opportunity to promote their organization and  their product to potential employees and to customers.  There is no better marketing tool than sincere praise passed along by word of mouth.


  • Informal interactions are their preferred methods for "team-building," as opposed to the more formal, structured methods used in the past.  This means no more formal "team-building" exercises at the yearly retreat.  The otherwise positive and upbeat Gen Y employee will see these efforts as weak attempts to parse together relationships that don't truly exist.


  • Younger employees place a premium value on a sense of "belonging."  If they do not feel that they are truly part of the organization, they quickly become disengaged and begin to look for new work.  If, on the other hand, they feel connected to others in the workplace, they have one more reason to work a little harder.  Gen Y employees were raised, remember, by Boomers, who played (and likely are still playing) an integral role in their development.  Gen Y loves to please others; hence the need for immediate recognition when they do something right.  If they don't feel that they're connected to others, then there is no one for them to try to please, and no one from whom they can expect regular positive feedback.  Ah, it's a vicious circle, isn't it?

Alcohol and the Office Holiday Party: Tips from the Dep't of Labor

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 17, 2008In: Drug Testing

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The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Working Partners has posted Nine Tips for Employers planning an office celebration this holiday seasonHere's what it suggests:


  1. Be honest with employees. Make sure your employees know your workplace substance abuse policy and that the policy addresses the use of alcoholic beverages in any work-related situation and office social function.
  2. Post the policy. Use every communication vehicle to make sure your employees know the policy. Prior to an office party, use break room bulletin boards, office e-mail and paycheck envelopes to communicate your policy and concerns.
  3. Reinvent the office party concept. Why have the typical office party? Try something new like an indoor carnival, group outing to an amusement park or volunteer activity with a local charity.
  4. Make sure employees know when to say when. If you do serve alcohol at an office event, make sure all employees know that they are welcome to attend and have a good time, but that they are expected to act responsibly.
  5. Make it the office party of choice. Make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available.
  6. Eat...and be merry! Avoid serving lots of salty, greasy or sweet foods which tend to make people thirsty. Serve foods rich in starch and protein which stay in the stomach longer and slow the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream.
  7. Designate party managers. Remind managers that even at the office party, they may need to implement the company's alcohol and substance abuse policy.
  8. Arrange alternative transportation. Anticipate the need for alternative transportation for all party goers and make special transportation arrangements in advance of the party. Encourage all employees to make use of the alternative transportation if they consume any alcohol.
  9. Serve none for the road. Stop serving alcohol before the party officially ends.

For more tips from around the world wide web, see our prior post, 'Tis the Season to Avoid Disaster at the Office Holiday Party.

Employment Law Update: The Union Revival Effort

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 16, 2008In: Legislative Update, Seminars, Past, Union and Labor Issues

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More than 50 Delaware employers attended The Union Revival Effort, a panel hosted by the Employment Law Department at Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP last week. The panel, which included Sheldon N. Sandler, William W. Bowser, Scott A. Holt, and Teresa A. Cheek, and which was moderated by Section Chair, Barry Willoughby, discussed the various pro-labor legislation that is likely to see some significant activity, even passage, following the swearing in of President-Elect Obama.  Below are the laws that were discussed and a quick summary of each. ycst square.tiff

Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)

Would amend the NLRA in three ways: (1) card check instead of secret-ballot election; (2) require compulsory, binding arbitration of initial two-year contract if no agreement in 120 days; and (3) increase penalties for violation of NLRA during organizing and before CBA (now cease and desist) (proposed is 2 times back pay as liquidated damages and civil penalty of $20,000 each willful or repeated violation)


Would amend the definition of “supervisor” to delete “assign” and “responsibility to direct” and require a “majority of time” spent supervising others (currently 10-15%). Would be subject to union organizing in the unit that they manage and would be subject to union rules and discipline for crossing picket lines. Issues with loyalty to management and conflicts of interest.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Would overrule Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., so the time limit to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or state agency would begin to run each time an employee receives a paycheck that manifests discrimination. Under the Court’s ruling in Ledbetter, the period begins to run only once—at the time the discriminatory pay-related decision is made.

Employment Non-Discrimination Act

Adds sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes. Exemption for employer dress codes, small employers, religious organizations, and military.

Civil Rights Act of 2008

Sweeping changes to numerous statutes, including: lowers the burden of proof to get attorney’s fees; prohibits arbitration agreements in employment contracts; allows recovery of expert’s fees; removes caps from Title VII claims; prohibits denial of back pay to illegal immigrants; and expands equal pay claims under FLSA.

Working Families Flexibility Act

“Union-of-one” legislation that would requires good-faith negotiations with any employee who wants to change days worked, hours of work, or location of work. Five-step procedure for meetings and documentation of negotiations. If not granted, employer must provide reasons in writing and specify the costs in agreeing to change; effect of change on customer demand; and the overall financial resources of the company. Employee may have a representative of his choice at the negotiation meetings.


Would amend the WARN Act to (1) lower coverage to employers with 50 or more employees (from 100 or more); (2) require 90 days’ advance notice of mass layoff or closing (instead of 60); and (3) double the amount of back pay owed if required notice is not given.

Want to be the first to know about upcoming employment law seminars?

If you would like to receive information about upcoming seminars and events hosted by Young Conaway's Employment Law Department, just send an email with your name, company name, and e-mail address to:  We'll confirm that you've been added to the list and you'll be the first to know when new seminars and other events are added to the calendar.

Parallels Between Workplace Politics and the Family Dynamic

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 16, 2008In: Employee Engagement

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Every workplace has a standard cast of characters. They're mirrored in sitcoms and movies and are humorous because they're based on truth. The office jokester, the mother hen, the imposing father figure, the meddlesome middle child.  All of these personalities can be seen in just about any workplace.  Some employers have tried to tap into this dynamic as a way to better organize teams and to tackle inter-office personality conflicts.  Recently, T-Mobile commissioned an organizational psychiatrist to delve deeper into its own personality types. image

The resulting data, compiled in the T-Mobile Workplace Motivation Report, concluded that 15% of those interviewed found the "office joker" was an un-motivating influence in the workplace, while 25% said that the can-do attitude has a positive effect on morale.  The NYT recently reported that some companies have retained experts to help executives understand the role that birth order may have in their office politics.  First-borns, for example, have dominant personalities and have a more difficult time accepting directions from others.  Middle children, on the other hand, tend to be peace-makers and often compromise their own needs for the sake of keeping others satisfied.

Pardon me for saying so but, Duh!  Is this really a new insight to Corporate America?  I can't believe it.  If you didn't know that personality types play as big a role on the unofficial (and official) workplace hierarchy, then shame on you.  The workplace is the closest you can get to recreating the annual holiday scene, where all of the extended relatives are gathered together to drive one another totally bonkers--in a good way, of course. 

Is a Happy Workforce the Best Defense Against a Union Revival?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 16, 2008In: Union and Labor Issues

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The Employee Free Choice Act and RESPECT Act are causing lots of employers some sleepless nights.  At our breakfast briefing last week, YCST Employment Law attorneys spoke on the pro-union legislation that can be expected once President-Elect Obama takes office next month. These two pieces of legislation pose real risks to the nonunion workplace and they have lots of employers looking for preventative solutions. j0384726

Michael Moore at the Pennsylvania Labor and Employment Law Blog has made an interesting proposal.  He asks whether employee-engagement surveys may be the answer to combating union-organizing efforts. A fascinating and insightful idea!  In short, the proposal requires us to acknowledge the value of a happy workforce.  Happy workers who are engaged in their work and look forward to going work everyday don't want their environment to change--through unionization or otherwise. Satisfied workers are less likely to be susceptible to the organizing efforts that are certain to increase in 2009.

I think Michael has the right idea and that employers should give serious consideration to the idea of utilizing employee-engagement efforts as a strategy in preventing a unionized workplace.

Department of Labor Offers Financial Education to Gen Y and Gen X

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 14, 2008In: Generations: Boomers, Xers, and Millennials, Internet Resources, Women In (and Out of) the Workplace

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Generation Y is not known for frugality. Savings is not something the Millennial Generation does very well at all, in fact.  Similarly, women are notoriously behind their male counterparts when it comes to saving for retirement.  The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), has begun an initiative targeted to both issues.   image

Wi$e Up is a financial education demonstration project targeted to Generation X and Y women.  The DOL's Women's Bureau heads the project, which pairs participants with mentors, who are recruited by local organizations.  There are several components to the program, including classroom portions, online teleconferences with feature speakers, and other interactive experiences designed to get women in this particular age group up to speed when it comes to understanding the importance of personal fiscal health and how to achieve it.

The Wi$e Up website offers lots of helpful tools and resources, as well as its monthly e-newsletter, which focuses directly on the financial issues facing Gen X and Gen Y women.  Also available on the website is a Financial Planning Handbook for Generation X Women.   The Handbook is 91 pages long and retails for just $15 ($9 is you purchase 10 or more).  The Handbook is described as:

Most women want to be more "money savvy" and feel they need to learn more about how to manage their money wisely. This publication is especially targeted to young women age 22 to 35. It will guide you in learning about the basics of money management, credit, savings, investments and achieving financial security.

Wi$e Up is an excellent resource to help guide women in the Gen X & Y age groups to navigate an important area of knowledge that historically has presented steep challenges to women and, more recently, to Generation Y.

"My Boss Is Killing Me": Why this just may be true

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 14, 2008In: Jerks at Work, Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Bad bosses can kill you.  Even more so than factors such as whether the employee smokes, exercises, or has weight problems. The data comes from a four-year-long study in Switzerland and was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Workers who were subject to inconsiderate and uncommunicative bosses were about 60% more likely to suffer a heart attack or other life-threatening cardiac condition.  Employees who had strong leaders as bosses, on the other hand, were roughly 40% less likely to suffer heart emergencies. 

Got boss troubles?  Check out these posts:

How Crazy Is Your Boss? No, really, how crazy?

15 Things that Jerks at Work Usually Do

Inside the Mind of a Super Jerk

5 Costs of Coworker Bullying

And In This Corner. . . Susan From Accounting. Office Rage in the Ring

Top 5 Lessons to Be Learned from the Jerk at Work

Workplace bullying

You Know You’re a Bad Manager When. . . Mutiny at the Post Office

Bosses Aren't the Only Workplace Toxins: What to do with toxic employees?

Employee Handbook Policy #502: Respectful Workplace

Everything You Needed to Know About Your Toxic Boss

'Tis the Season to Avoid Disaster at the Office Holiday Party

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 12, 2008In: Policies

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Employers host holiday parties for a variety of reasons and, sometimes, for no reason at all.  The holidays are a time of increased stress, though, as well as cheer and merriment.  Combine stressed employees, alcohol, and an event hosted outside of the office, and, wouldn't you know it, a whole string of liabilities seem to pop up.  Employers and employees alike can access a tremendous amount of resources without ever leaving the office. 

Here are some posts from the blogosphere to get you started:

Will President-Elect Obama Be Charged a Smoker's Premium for His Health-Care?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 11, 2008In: Off-Duty Conduct, Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Employers want healthy employees. Employee wellness programs are as hot as ever.  Employees who smoke, on the other hand, aren't very popular.  Employers point to well-known statistics to support a variety of smoke-free policies.  Many companies have implemented bans on hiring smokers.  Others have taken to charging a "smokers' premium" on health insurance.  Smokers' premiums are a surcharge added to the health-care premiums of smokers, typically between $15 and $30 extra per month.  image

The idea of "punishing" employees for what they do in their non-working time does not sit well for some.  Others raise questions about enforcement--how will the employer know if the employee claims not to smoke but does so "socially" or even secretly.  Should closet smokers be able to avoid the smokers' premiums by hiding what they do outside of the office?  

Our future President may be sympathetic to this secret society of smokers.  He is, after all, a card-carrying member.  Obama has admitted to being a former smoker but, in an interview with Tom Brokaw on political talk show, Meet the Press, the President-Elect admitted that he's "fallen off the wagon" on more than one occasion and did not deny that he'd avoided Barbara Walter's questions about whether he'd kicked the habit for good. 

In light of his penchant for lighting up, will the country's next President really support the current employee wellness programs sweeping the nation? 

Employee Training Week: Does Training Lead to Happiness?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 11, 2008In: Employee Engagement, Training & Metrics

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This is Employee Training Week, in case you didn't already know.  I've posted several times before on the link between employee engagement and workplace training and development.  I believe there is a direct correlation between job satisfaction and the amount of regular, interactive, and applicable training employees are given.  And, the better and more relevant the training, the better and more engaged the employeesMan sitting at table

This principle is especially true for an organization's best performers because they are the ones who crave constant growth and regular achievement.  Without a steady path forward and access to new skills, the best employees will quickly grow bored and disillusioned and leave the organization. (The principle also extends to Gen Y employees, in case you were wondering).

Workplace Learning Today, a group blog by Brandon Hall Research, highlights the training-happiness connection.  And, if you're interested in working towards a better training and development program in your own organization, there's no time like the present, especially in light of the fact that this week is specially dedicated to Employee Training. If you need some resources to get you started, be sure to check out the Blogroll at Workplace Learning Today--you can't ask for a more complete listing of resources from the U.S. and around the globe. 

Employee Time Off at the Holidays: Does it pay to be married?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 11, 2008In: Family Responsibilities (FRD)

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Does your workplace have an unwritten policy benefiting married employees?  John Phillips, at The Word on Employment Law, asks this question and posits some very interesting answers.  In his post, Holiday Pitfalls: Time Off from Work and Marital Status Laws, John points out the common problem of competing requests for time off during the holiday season.  Let's face it, everyone wants off over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's.  And, just because someone doesn't celebrate a particular holiday don't mean that they want to sit in the office all day by themselves, as the lone soldier manning the fort.  So who foots the bill when it comes to getting stuck with the holiday shift nobody wants?  John notes:

Single employees may come out holding the short end of the stick when there’s sort of an unwritten policy that married employees, particularly those with children, are given preference on these holiday-related vacation or PTO requests.

He goes on to discuss the application of marital-status as a protected class.  In Delaware, as well 18 other states according to John's count, marital status is a protected characteristic, just like race, religion, gender, and age.  Another characteristic that has received attention inParents given preferential treatment at work? recent years is caregiver status.  Caregiver, or Family Responsibilities discrimination, occurs when an employee is subject to an adverse employment action as a result of his or her caregiving responsibilities at home. In other words, an employee who has an elderly parent at home or who is raising small children may be the target of discrimination if the employer doesn't select him or her for a promotion based on the employer's misgivings about the employee's "split attentions."  

Generally, discrimination is not found where an employee is given better treatment because of a protected characteristic--but this is not always the case. 

Is it a common occurrence around the holidays to hear an employee assert that her request for time off should be granted over the request of another employee because she "has little kids at home"?  If so, is that a fair assertion?  On one hand, it seems fair that a mother with small children has plenty of reasons to be home at the holidays.  But, if you are the employee without children, is it fair that you would be expected to carry the burden of "last man standing" in the office? 

As John concludes, this is an issue of workplace relations more than a legal matter.  But, so often, legal problems are largely derivative of a sense of being treated unfairly that it's unrealistic to separate the two concepts entirely. 

How Crazy Is Your Boss? No, really, how crazy?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 10, 2008In: Jerks at Work

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How Crazy Is Your Boss?  No, really, how crazy?  Crazy boss?  Psycho boss? If you've had some suspicions about the sanity level of your supervisor, now's your chance to have those suspicions confirmed.  Take the test at Fast and find out! 

If the crazy-boss test does not confirm your suspicions, maybe you are the one with the personality disorder.  Find out at Personality

Record Number of Employees Allege Discrimination in 2008

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 10, 2008In: EEOC Suits & Settlements

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Employees filed more charges of discrimination this year than in any other year. The EEOC processed 95,402 charges in 2008—15.2% more discrimination claims than in 2007. In light of these trying economic times, the layoffs and reductions in force that inevitably follow, it seems very possible that 2009 will be the first year to see more than one million charges of discrimination.  Some additional "highlights" from the annual report:

  • The EEOC secured more than $274.4 million on behalf of claimants--down from the $290.6 million in 2007. 
  • 18,304 claimants obtained monetary and nonmonetary benefits through the charge process.
  • At the end of 2007, the EEOC had just less than 55,000 pending charges, increasing to approximately 74,000 pending charges at the end of 2008. 

An abbreviated version of the EEOC's report is available on the Commission's website.

Delaware Decision on Teacher's "Immorality" Has Implications for Employers

Posted by Sheldon N. SandlerOn December 9, 2008In: Off-Duty Conduct, Public Sector

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Delaware employers--private and public--may benefit from a recent decision from the Delaware Supreme Court upholding the termination of a school teacher.  The elementary school cited "immorality" as the basis for the termination of a 34-year old male teacher.   Lehto v. Board of Education of the Caesar Rodney School District, No. 175, 2008 (Del. Dec. 2, 2008).

The court held that the teacher, who had a sexual affair with a 17-year old female student, was guilty of immorality.  The student did not attend school in the district where the teacher worked, although her sister did, but the teacher had taught her some years before in elementary school.

The teacher had renewed his acquaintance with the student when she began coming to his school to pick up her younger sister, and they began an intimate relationship. Eventually, the affair became known in the community, and the teacher was charged with fourth degree rape, but the charge was nolle prossed because the teacher was not in a position of trust or supervision over the student. After a hearing, the school board terminated the teacher, who had positive teaching evaluations, concluding that his “engaging in a sexual relationship with a minor . . . violated the common mores of society” and “interferes with [the teacher’s] important function of serving as a role model to the students.”

The termination was upheld by the Delaware Superior Court and affirmed by the Delaware Supreme Court. Even though the conduct took place outside of the school and with a non-student of the district, “there was a proper nexus between his alleged off-duty conduct and his fitness to teach.” Especially interesting and broadly significant is the court's conclusion that the public disclosure of the relationship permitted the inference that allowing the teacher to remain could "reasonably undermine parents' confidence in both [the teacher] and the District."

Private employers are often faced with decisions concerning off-duty conduct of their employees. One rationale that has been applied is whether the conduct, if it became public, could damage the employer’s reputation. Most frequently, the issue arises when employees who enter people’s homes as part of their job are charged with, but not yet convicted, of crimes. This case supports the conclusion that if public confidence in the employer would be undermined by the knowledge that the employer retained an employee who was charged with a notorious crime, that is a sufficient reason for termination.

This isn't the first time off-duty conduct has played a role in the termination of a teacher:

People, don't you understand: More Teacher Social Networking Woes 

Terminating Employees for Off-Duty Conduct 

MySpace and Employment: Another Tale of Woe

Off-Duty Conduct of College Pres Leads to Firing

It's Employee Learning Week--How Is Your Organization Celebrating?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 9, 2008In: Training & Metrics

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Employee Learning Week (ELW), is December 8 - 12.  Initiated by the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), ELW is an awareness campaign highlighting the important connection between learning and achieving organizational results. Employee Learning Week is the perfect opportunity to promote the importance of the WLP profession in closing the skills gap.  If your organization has a great training and development program, give yourself a bit pat on the back!  Congratulations!  If your organization has been meaning to start working on its Training & Development program, now's as good a time as ever to actually start working on it! 

Start small.  Get a group of people together and have a lunch and learn--a casual meeting lasting just an hour where the topic is limited and everyone contributes.  You might just be surprised as to how empowering and energizing these lunches can be.  Get started now!

10 Worst Employees

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 4, 2008In: Just for Fun

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Supervisors, are your employees the worst?  After reading's new annual list of the Top 10 Worst Employees, you're likely to agree that the people in your workplace aren't really that bad.  What makes an employee bad enough to be considered "the worst"?  One common thread is criminality.  That's right, if your employees commit major felonies or crimes of a despicable nature, they've at least got a shot.  image

Of particular interest to me was Worst Employee # 6--Food TV's own Robert Irvine.  As I reported yesterday, Irvine embellished and fabricated the more impressive parts of his résumé, including claiming to have cooked for the British royal family.  According to the list, Irvine also *misstated* his credentials when he represented that he had catered for four U.S. presidents and helped to make Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake.  When the falsities were discovered, he was pulled from the series but was reinstated this week by the apparently forgiving Food Network.

Here are the top 5 worst employees on the list (without the individual's name, though, which is included on's original list of worst employees:

1.  After seeing an ad in the paper for a job that sounded like hers, this architect thought her company was planning to fire her. For revenge, she attempted to sabotage the Jacksonville, Fla.-based business by destroying $2.5 million worth of computer files. She told investigators she went into work over the weekend, got angry, disconnected internal power cables and deleted files from the server. She was arrested and charged with damaging computer equipment.

2.  This deputy coroner of Augusta, Ga., plead guilty to stealing $325 in gift cards from a deceased woman. She obtained the woman's personal belongings after her death; her family alerted authorities that the gift cards might be missing. She was sentenced to seven years probation and ordered to pay back the $325 within 90 days and pay $5,000 in fines.

3.  Four employees of the Marion County (Fla.) Emergency Medical Services Alliance, including firefighters and EMTs, were arrested and accused of grand theft for collecting pay upwards of $20,000 per person for hours they didn't work. A police news release stated that several part-time EMS paramedics were clocking in for each other, exchanging badges and not actually working the hours for which they were paid. All employees have resigned or been suspended without pay from their full-time jobs.

4.  A judge in Niagara Falls, N.Y., was hearing domestic-violence cases in his courtroom when a cell phone rang. After no one owned up to the phone, the judge "snapped" and jailed all 46 people who were in the courtroom. New York's top court removed him as a city court judge, saying punishing innocent people is "inexcusable."

5.  In an FBI affidavit, this bank-teller supervisor admitted to taking $10,000 at a time over several years from the Westminster, Md., bank where she worked as a teller. She told investigators that she used the money for vacations, bills and college tuition for her kids. She is facing federal embezzlement charges of more than $1 million.

It's one week after Thanksgiving but it's not too late to be thankful for the wonderful people in your workplace.

FMLA FAQ: Medical Certification

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 3, 2008In: Family Medical Leave

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An employee requested FMLA leave, which she was provisionally granted. She took the time off but, despite requests by HR, has failed to submit a completed medical certification form. It has been more than 15 days since the form was first requested.

Can we retroactively withdrawal the provisional approval? Do we need to give the employee some kind of warning about the expiration of the 15 days?


The current regulations provide that, when the need for leave is foreseeable and at least 30 days notice has been provided, the employee should provide the medical certification before the leave begins. But this doesn’t sound like the case, here. If this is not possible, the employee must provide the certification to the employer.

The employer can set a deadline so long as it is not less than 15 days. If the employee here was given at least 15 days to provide the certification and was notified of the need to do so but has failed to comply, the leave need not be designated as FMLA-eligible. Many employers, though, will provide notice in writing to the employee of the missed deadline and offer another 7 or 14 calendar days in which to comply. This is a safeguard but is not required.

If the employee returns the certification after the deadline but has made good-faith efforts to do so within the mandated timeframe and was prevented only by circumstances beyond her control, the employer is best advised to accept the certification as timely.

Resume Fraud Is Redeemable--at least for one Food TV star

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 3, 2008In: Background Checks, Hiring

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Job applicants lie on their resumes.  They lie a lot.  Some estimates say that as many as 62% of resumes contain embellished education and employment histories.  This is why, as we've posted before, employers must screen applicants.  One recent example of an employee caught with his hand in the cookie jar, so to speak, is Robert Irvine.  The popular host of the Food Network show, "Dinner: Impossible," admitted that he had spiced up his resume when it was discovered that he had not cooked for the Royal Family as he'd represented during the application process.  He was released from his contract and a substitute was hired for the rest of the season. 

Apparently, though, his cooking and his charm were enough to warrant the forgiveness of the TV network.  Irvine is set to return to "Dinner: Impossible" this season.  He's said to be coming back for six new episodes, which will tape in December and January and air in March.  His previous and soon-to-be employer had the following to say about its forgive-and-forget attitude to the resume indiscretion:

[Irvine] has taken responsibility and made a conscious effort to clear the air, rebuild the relationship with Food Network and apologized for the earlier inaccuracies.

Would you be so forgiving?  Would it matter whether the employee was a well-loved celebrity of sorts with big money-making potential?