It's Friday and Your Boss Is a Total Tool

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 29, 2009In: Jerks at Work

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A "tool" is a loser, a wanna-be. A tool, usually a male, could also be described as a "poser"--someone who acts soooo coooool that he almost has the world tricked.  But, then a real cool person comes along and assures us that the individual in question is, in fact, a tool.  How, you ask, does the tool make such a convincing case for his false coolness?  Usually by berating others and kicking on the little guy.  You remember someone like this from high school, right?  At the time, he was very convincing but now, in your wisdom, you can look back and recognize that it was his insecurity that made him toss freshman into lockers--not his alleged coolness. shutterstock_22637446

Most tools get out of high school and, sometimes college, only to realize that they're really not so cool and they may even take a few beatings themselves.  By professional life, most tools outgrow this nonsensical camouflage.  And the ones who don't?  In some organizations, they're promoted.  That's right, in some worlds, where I am thankful not to live, the biggest tools take the day and are promoted as a result of their obnoxious conduct.  Why this is, truly, is beyond me. 

Maybe you've been wondering whether your boss is a tool.  Maybe you've suspected it for quite some time.  If so, you can take the following test, created by male-fashion blogger extraordinnaire, MagnificientBastard, and find out. Only MB uses the term "toolbag," which leadership blog, What Would Dad Say, defines "men who are clueless, inappropriate and overall doofuses."  (And, for the record with regard to the tool-toolbag debate, I'm not discrediting the use of the term "toolbag, I'm just sticking with "tool" as my preferred term, ok?)  

Here's how to tell if your boss is a toolbag:

1. He takes credit for everything you do.

2. He walks around the meeting with a baseball bat, asking if anyone saw the movie Untouchables.

3. He steals money from the coffee jar.

4. He is all gushy about you to your wife, and asks her to call him if you get upset at him.

5. He demands the project be completed overnight for his 8 am meeting, but then doesn’t show up himself.

6. He broke down, cried and asked “why don’t they like me?”

7. He wanted everyone to dress like a pilgrim at Thanksgiving.

8. He monitors phone calls.

9. He brings in his kids’ grade school artwork and asks for your honest opinion.

10. He puts you down for ten boxes of Girl Scout cookies because “everyone else is buying this much.”

Layoffs Can Lead to Abusive Workers' Compensation Claims

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 29, 2009In: Wellness, Health, and Safety

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Employers are conscientious about safety and injury-prevention, regardless of the economic climate.  But when the economy is difficult, employers should keep an especially cautious eye out for fraudulent workers' comp claims.  There are three methods to prevent abusive workers' comp claims that every employer can utilize, regardless of size or industry. shutterstock_17077399

To read more about how to best prevent laid off employees from bringing baseless comp claims, have a look at my guest post at the Workers' Comp Kit Blog

What Happens When You Fail to Follow Workplace Dress Codes in BigLaw

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 29, 2009In: Dress & Attire, Just for Fun

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Men are going unshaven as a sign of rebellion against Corporate America, or The Man, or the employer that just laid them off.  Well, so we hear, anyway.  And fashion houses are designing women's suits that include shorts so short that would make the women in the Nair* commercials blush.  Even I have contributed to the recent workplace dress code rebellion by suggesting that corporate-suit-types may prefer pink iPod cufflinks to the traditional mainstays.  shutterstock_23553256

And this type of style confidence is fantastic.  Unless, of course, your choices put your superiors on guard--instead of admiring your style as avant-gard.  Just ask Tracey Batt.  

From the ABA Journal, an article titled, Ex BigLaw Associate: I Was Arrested By Law Firm Fashion Police.  According to the article's author, Martha Neil, Batt was a 5th-year associate at a BigLaw** firm in NYC when she scared her superiors so badly with her fashion choices that they actually retained a fashion consultant to take her shopping and help her with a total makeover.

Batt described the experience as "positively mortifying." 

It must have been--she's left the world of BigLaw altogether and now runs a "small nonprofit legal services organization" from her home.

So, for those of you considering somewhat outrageous jewelry or other fashion choice, please, be warned.  Keep an eye out for the fashion police, they could be coming for you next!


*Nair's jingle, for those who may not recall, begins, "Who wears short shorts?"  Sure, you remember it! 

**"BigLaw" is code for "multi-office Golaith law practice where associates are relegated to document production for the first 8 years of their careers, while earning hefty six figures for their suffering."

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act Has Been Signed Into Law

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 29, 2009In: Equal Pay, Gender (Title VII), Women In (and Out of) the Workplace

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President Barack Obama this morning signed the first bill of his presidency, a piece of legislation known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act that makes it easier for workers to sue after discovering what they believe to be pay discrimination.  For a bit more detail about the potential ramifications of the new law, see Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Will Become First Pro-Labor Legislation of 2009, Equal Pay Becomes Front Runner as Lilly Ledbetter Act Takes Center Stage, Equal Pay: Fair Pay Restoration Act Voted Down in Senate, More Fodder for the Fair Pay Debate, or A New Day for Employers.

New Conclusions on the Potential Costs of Workplace Bullying

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 28, 2009In: Jerks at Work

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Workplace bullying is not a recent phenomenon.  I'd go so far as to say that jerks at work have a primary cause of conflict and adversity since the inception of the modern workplace.  In her recent paper, Nancy Haig analyzes and synthesizes the research on workplace bullying.  She concludes:

Workplace bullying  is . . . commonly defined as a pattern of psychological abuse, over time, intended to degrade, humiliate and isolate the bully’s victim. Bullying may be impacted by individual characteristics and/or corporate structure; and corporate practices themselves have been called bullying. The costs of bullying are significantly high to both employees and employers.

The paper is very well-supported and offers readers a whole host of resources for further reading.  [Via Brandon Hall Research]

OFCCP Delays the Start Date for Mandatory E-Verify Yet Again

Posted by Teresa A. CheekOn January 28, 2009In: Diversity, E-Verify

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Responding to a lawsuit, the OFCCP previously agreed to delay implementation of the new mandate that federal contractors use E-Verify.  The lawsuit, as you may recall from previous posts, was filed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and other organizations. E-verify

The original effective date of the mandatory E-Verify requirement was January 15, 2009. That date subsequently was changed to February 20, 2009.  And, today, it appears that the start date for the mandatory use of E-Verify has been delayed again--this time until May 21, 2009, to allow the new administration time to review and evaluate the rule and the arguments against conversion to a fully mandatory E-Verify system.

June 8: Social Media & HR (Delaware SHRM)

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 27, 2009In: Seminars, Past

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My seminar on Social Media and HR, which was originally scheduled for February 9 but was canceled due to the snow, has been rescheduled for June 8. The seminar is hosted by the Delaware Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management. The seminar will take place during the Chapter's June breakfast meeting. There is a small fee to attend the event but it is open to members and non-member guests. Here's the link for more information on how to register: SHRMDE.

I'll be talking about Twitter, among other social-media tools. You can follow me to Twitter at @MollyDiBi until the seminar for more information about the potential uses of social media by human-resource professionals.

Looking for Some of the Best Leadership Training Around? You've Found It.

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 26, 2009In: Employee Engagement

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100 of the Best Blogs on Leadership may sound like just about every imaginable leadership blog worth its salt would have been included. That is an incorrect conclusion.  After I posted my list of my favorite leadership blogs, readers sent me lots more names to add to the list. One of them that was specifically recommended was Leadership for Lawyers, authored by Mark Beese. I took that recommendation and am glad I did--the blog has outstanding content presented in well-written and timely fashion.  metaphor signs for business

Fittingly, Mark was named by LawDragon as one of the Top 100 Legal Consultants.  If his consulting services are on par with his blogging efforts, I'd say it's an honor well deserved.  And he is in good company, to boot.  Aside from Mark Beese, the list includes leadership greats, such as long-time leadership consultant David Meister, several of the Hildebrandt International all-star team also are included.  Larry Richard, Ph.D, is one such all-star.  I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Richard speak about the traditional character personalities of lawyers about two years ago.  As a former practicing attorney, who chose to pursue his Ph.D in psychology more than a decade after having completed his J.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Although I can attest to Mark's praise-worthy services only second-hand, I can attest personally to Dr. Richard's leadership genius.  In both cases, congratulations for being recognized for successfully teaching the important leadership message to lawyers.  Goodness knows, we are certainly in need of the lessons being taught!

Fashion Accessories for Gen Y Workers in Corporate America

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 26, 2009In: Just for Fun

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Gen Y (a/k/a the Millennial Generation), is known, among other things, for an authority-be-damned approach to the workplace.  Having be raised by late-Boomer(or "Helicopter") parents, the "Y" Generation wants to know, "Why Should I?"  Why should I do what you tell me? . . .  Why should I work in the same job for my entire career? . . . Why should I be loyal to one employer?  And, of course, "Why should I wear a suit to work?"image

In my experience, it's often easier to go with the trend but add your own signature to ensure you stand apart from the crowd.  

And that is the approach I'd advise when it comes to workplace attire.  Law firms are still largely formal corporate environments, and for good reason.  (See Sheldon Sandler's previous post, “Are You My Lawyer or the Janitor?” The lawyer’s dress-code pendulum swings back.").  To make sure that you don't stand apart from the average black-suit-wearing legal eagle, consider accessories.  The smaller and less in-your-face the accessory, the more outrageous it can be.  (If pressed, I would admit to wearing to work a charm bracelet by Lagos that is adorned with tiny charms shaped like skulls.  I might even admit that I've worn it to a deposition once or twice). 

Here is a workplace-appropriate accessory for the dutifully fashionable--the iPod cufflink.  It is sold in both black (U2 style) and in pink for those interested in a more feminine touch.  And, lucky for you, the iPod cufflink is now on sale for $18 at 1st Choice Cufflinks.

Writing References #4: 40 of the Best Books on Writing

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 26, 2009In: Resources

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Who vs. Whom.  It's a classic grammar question.  The answer? Beats me. Well, if I don't have any help, that is.  In reality, if I have a writing question that's got me stumped, I just look up the answer.  And, as high-tech as my world tends to be most times, nothing beats a good, old fashioned paper reference. 

Previously, I posted about 10 of the Funniest Writing Blogs.  If you missed that post, go check it out--you're guaranteed a laugh from the very particular bloggers who feel so passionately about things like the overuse of quotation marks. MONTBLANC

In the second post in the series, I offered readers a list of 20 Online Dictionaries, which included everything from the Dictionary of Philly Slang (our native language), to the RhymeZone, to the Dictionary of Sushi.  You can never have too many reference sources, right? 

In the third post in the series, I named 30 of the Best Writing Blogs.  Some of the blogs focus on legal writing, some are strictly business (writing, that is), and some are whatever they want to be on any given day.  Other great writing blogs were added via comments by readers, so be sure to check out those additions, as well. 

But today's post is all about the real thing--books as references.  Below are 40 of my most turned-to sources, broken down into four categories:  (1) Style and Usage Guides; (2) Business Writing (3) General Writing and Grammar; and (4) Legal Writing. 


Please don't be shy--add your favorites that I may have overlooked in the Comments section.


Continue reading "Writing References #4: 40 of the Best Books on Writing" »

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Will Become First Pro-Labor Legislation of 2009

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 25, 2009In: Equal Pay, Gender (Title VII), Legislative Update, Purely Legal

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The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 has passed the Senate and could be on President Obama's desk within days.  The wage-discrimination statute, Senate Bill 181, reverses a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007, which narrowly defines the time period during which an employee can file a claim of wage discrimination.  This may be the first piece of legislation signed by the new President.  Obama has been a strong advocate for the legislation.  Lilly Ledbetter, the plaintiff in the lawsuit that inspired the legislation, was invited to the inauguration.

The bill was approved during the first week of the new congressional session, perhaps indicative of the momentum behind the expected pieces of labor legislation.shutterstock_2935217

In Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tires, the case at the center of the legislation's history, the Court held that the discriminatory act, which starts the clock running on the time period to file a claim, occurs at the time of the discriminatory decision.  In other words, in a failure-to-promote claim, the date of the promotion decision is the date when the clock begins to run.  Ledbetter argued that the clock would begin to run each time a new paycheck was issued because each paycheck represented a new discriminatory act--the unequal payment of wages.  Ledbetter claimed that she did not know that she had been getting paid less than her male counterparts until a note was left in her mailbox at the end of her 19-year career with the company. 

Opponents of the law contend that it will effectively eliminate a statute of limitations period and could result in increased filings of unmeritorious lawsuits.  Employers will be hard pressed to "disprove" the decision- making process involved in a pay raise issued 20 years earlier. 

A middle ground, offered by Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson would have started the time period when the employee knew or had reason to know that discrimination was occurring.  Hutchinson said her alternative would protect both employee and employer. 

The alternative was rejected by women's-rights advocates, as the issue has become one largely divided on gender lines.  Women's-rights groups argue that the law is necessary to protect women from continued unequal pay.  Very little has been mentioned about the fact that the Ledbetter bill would apply to other protected classes, such as race, ethnicity, and national origin--not just gender.

What Other Great Minds Have to Say

Several e-law bloggers have already issued their insights on the legislation, so have a look at some of these posts to learn more about the ins and outs of what may be the first pro-employee legislation passed in 2009:

John Phillips at The Word on Employment Law, Fair Pay Act Ready to Become Law

Michael Moore at the PA Labor and Employment Blog, Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed by Senate and awaiting Obama Signature

Jon Hyman at the OH Employment Law blog, Ledbetter passes Senate – President’s signature is next

Frank Steinberg at the NJ Employment Law Blog, Ledbetter Act Passes Senate

Ross Runkel at LawMemo, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 awaits President's Signature 

Dennis Westlind at The World of Work, Senate Passes Lilly Ledbetter Bill 61-36

Dan Schwartz at the CT Employment Law Blog, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 Passes Senate, 61-36; President Will Sign

Tracing the Story Back to the Beginning

And to read about the bill since its inception, see the following posts:

Equal Pay Becomes Front Runner as Lilly Ledbetter Act Takes Center Stage

Equal Pay: Fair Pay Restoration Act Voted Down in Senate

More Fodder for the Fair Pay Debate

A New Day for Employers


Employers should stay tuned to what may be the first in a series of legislation that advocates for employees to the disadvantage of businesses.

Top 10 Ways Managers Can Engage Employees

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 23, 2009In: Employee Engagement

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An engaged workforce doesn't occur by accident.  It requires a lot of work and a lot of attention.  At the end of the day, it's the front-line managers who can make the biggest difference in spreading the passion and enthusiasm required for engagement.  What follows after the jump are the 10 best ways managers can ensure that they're doing their part to achieve the ideal conditions suitable for an engaged workforce.

Continue reading "Top 10 Ways Managers Can Engage Employees" »

Security Breach of Personal Data Could Be the Largest Ever

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 22, 2009In: Privacy Rights of Employees

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The possibility of identity theft has become a reality for tens of millions of credit and debit cardholders.  Yesterday, Heartland Payment Systems, a major payment processing company, revealed that its secure systems had been hacked and that the private data of millions of individuals may have been stolen.  This is said to be the largest data breach ever. identity theft

The N.Y. Time reports that those responsible for the massive theft could be part of an “international ring of hackers that are introducing breaches at a number of financial institutions.”  With an operation of this magnitude, it seems likely that this is the case--that the breach was a result of highly organized criminal entities.  But, more commonly, the theft of personal data is not so far-reaching or as complex.  An, often, it is the result of actions by an insider--an employee--who leaks the data for revenge or for money, or both.

For example, in December of 2008, an employee of Certegy Check Services, physically removed 2.3 million consumer data records to resell. The former employee sold consumer information to a data broker, who then sold it to a number of direct marketing companies.

Another example occurred in September of 2008, when Countrywide Mortgage notified the FBI that a former employee had sold customers' personal information to a third party, including names, addresses, social security numbers and application information. The FBI arrested the employee and reported that as many as two million people may have had their data stolen.

Then there was the case of the unauthorized sale of Britney Spears' sealed psychiatric information to the National Enquirer by an employee of the UCLA Medical Centre.  The employee was later prosecuted for the breach, was is believed to have been a series of disclosures over a period of several months.

Employers who've not yet implemented an effective procedure for responding to the unauthorized access of employees' personal data should consider the Heartland story a real wake-up call about the realities of identity theft.  No one is immune from a potential security breach.  But everyone should know what to do if one does occur. 

Work-Life Issues Spotlighted by Michelle Obama's Appointment of New Policy Director

Posted by Adria B. MartinelliOn January 21, 2009In: Newsworthy, Women In (and Out of) the Workplace

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President Obama’s commitment to work-family issues is a topic I've posted about previously.  I've also posted about the President's campaign platform on work-life and work-family issues.  I’ve wondered, however, given the many larger issues on the President’s plate, whether these matters would truly be a focus once he was in office. Michelle Obama has made it clear it is a focus of hers, even while her husband is tending to other matters. She solidified her commitment to the issue by her appointment, as reported in the Wall Street Journal, of fellow attorney and Harvard Law School classmate Jocelyn Frye, general counsel of the National Partnership for Women and Families, as her Policy Director. michelle obama work life balance

Obama’s naming of Frye last Friday suggests she’s preparing to take an activist stance on such policy issues as family leave and flexible scheduling. Frye has been a long-time advocate of expanding family leave and ending pregnancy discrimination.  

The National Partnership for Women and Families drafted and lobbied for the 1993 Family & Medical Leave Act, which entitles many workers to up to 12 weeks unpaid time off for family care and other reasons. Their “proposed agenda for the new administration,” posted on the Partnership’s Web site, includes a much-expanded FMLA, guaranteeing employees of companies with 15 or more workers access to seven paid sick days a year, and also for the federal government to provide incentives for the states to set up paid family-leave insurance plans. The brief also calls for equal access to family leave for part-time workers, income supports to allow working parents in poverty to care for new children at home, and federal policies to give workers more control over their schedules, including the right to refuse mandatory overtime.

Let’s hope that Michelle Obama’s commitment to the cause, and her appointment of Frye, result in some real developments on work-family issues!

Why the Four-Day Work Week Should Not Be Considered a "Flexible Schedule"

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 20, 2009In: Alternative Work Schedules

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The four-day work week is touted as a way for employers to offer employees a more flexible schedule.  The demand for flexible and alternative schedules continues to grow.  There are a number of reasons for this increased demand.  The influx of Generation Y workers has played a role, for one.  Also, the increased focus on work-life balance mandates the need for flexible scheduling.  And, as the workplace becomes more and more mobile, the need for office workers to actually work from the office continues to diminish.   Flexible Work Schedule Hourglass and planner

There are many ways in which employers can implement flexible-schedule programs.  When done right, these programs can act as ways to recruit the best candidates and retain the best employees.  But not all flexible workplace programs are created equally.  And, in my opinion, one of the most hyped offerings, the four-day work week, doesn't meet the criteria at all.  In a short post for the Sloan Work and Family Research Network, I write about Why the Four-Day Work Week Would Be the Death of the Flexible-Schedule Initiative.  In the post, I address some of the reasons why I think the four-day work schedule cannot, by definition, classify as a "flexible work schedule."