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National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn October 15, 2012In: Alternative Work Schedules, Flextime, Internet Resources, Resources, Women, Wellness, & Work-Life Balance

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Earlier this month, the President proclaimed October 2012 National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The observance is intended to raise awareness about disability employment issues and to celebrate the contributions of our country's workers with disabilities. This year's theme is "A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?"

In conjunction with NDEAM, he U.S. Department of Labor has launched an online Workplace Flexibility Toolkit to "provide employees, job seekers, employers, policymakers and researchers with information, resources and a unique approach to workplace flexibility."

According to the U.S. DOL, the toolkit "points visitors to case studies, fact and tip sheets, issue briefs, reports, articles, websites with additional information, other related toolkits and a list of frequently asked questions. It is searchable by type of resource, target audience and types of workplace flexibility, including place, time and task."

Workplace Email: The Devil Made Me Do It

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn July 2, 2012In: Jerks at Work, Resources, Tech Tips

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People manage email in different ways. Some of us use our Inbox as a task list, filing everything that does not need attention.  Others use their Inbox as a storage site for any email that they may ever want to refer to again. You can imagine which group is better liked by IT departments across the globe.

We also have different standards for what is and is not acceptable from a usage or style perspective.  Emails that disregard sentence capitalization, for example, opting to use only lower-case letters, may drive some readers bonkers. Others may be more troubled by email senders who elect to use an atrocious and distracting “stationery,” which translates roughly to a pale beige background with fuzzy gray dots arranged in a grid pattern on which it is impossible to read any text smaller than 24 pts in bold font.

But what about the content of our emails?  There are tricky aspects of that, too, as many of us are all too well aware. Why is it that readers so often misinterpret messages as having a far more sinister or simply unfriendly intent?

Scott McDowell suggests some reasons in his post, Email Etiquette II: Why Emoticons (And Emotional Cues) Work.  I’ve been seeing a lot of articles like this lately and am thoroughly convinced of the accuracy of their premise. In short, despite our attempts to sound conversational in email correspondence, the electronic nature of the exchange prevents an actual conversation from occurring.  Without the chance to translate body language, intonation, and facial expressions, as we do so naturally during in –person conversations, we’re left to our own imaginations when putting emotions to the text we see on the screen.

And, as the post explains, if an email’s content is neutral (as many of us aim to achieve in our day-to-day business correspondence), he reader is more likely to assume that the tone is negative.  This theory of “negativity bias,” which is credited to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, also holds that, when the email’s tone is positive, the reader interprets the tone as neutral, as Mike Maslanka previously explained. 

So what’s a well-intended email author to do? smiley face icon

McDowell suggests an increased use emoticons.  Admittedly, I use a lot of smiley faces in my casual correspondence. I know, I know, it’s not exactly the most lawyerly way to write an email but it does the trick.  When used properly, the winking smiley face can lighten the tone of an otherwise serious-sounding sentence.  But I don’t imagine that I ‘d use a smiley face or even a winking smiley in an email to a new client with whom I don’t already have a rapport or who doesn’t already know smiley-type personality. 

Perhaps there’s an app waiting to be developed here—emoticons for the business environment. A little bow-tie wearing smiley face, maybe? Or maybe the smiley face could don a pair of wire-rimmed glasses, thus appearing both smart and friendly.

Until then, I’ll offer my own humble suggestion—not to to senders but to recipients. If you receive an email from a coworker or other person you generally consider to be on your side of the shooting range, and you have a moment of doubt about the tone or intention behind an email you receive, make an effort to start from the assumption that it’s positive or, at the very least, neutral. In other words, be consciously careful to avoid assuming that guy or girl down the hall has suddenly switched sides and is now a covert agent operating for the enemy.

Online Resource: Restatement of Employment Law

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn March 1, 2012In: Resources

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Human-resource professionals often ask me about good online resources for their employment-law questions. You can add another to the list. Now available as a free download are the current drafts of the Restatement of Employment Law.

The Restatements, for those who may not know, are an incredible legal resource covering just about every possible aspect of a particular area of law. Restatements are published by the American Law Institute and are drafted by a group of amazing legal minds from across the country. For the employment-law Restatements, this means in-depth coverage of everything from contract formation to privacy to state common-law torts.

So, if you're interested in taking your knowledge of the employment laws to a deeper level or if you fancy yourself as having such knowledge already, check out the latest draft of the Restatement.

[H/T Workplace Profs Blog]

(Another) DOL Online Resource: OSHA Recordkeeping Tool

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn May 19, 2011In: Resources

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The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) continues in its initiative to provide employers and employees with online resources and tools designed, according to the DOL, "to help employers understand their responsibilities to report and record work-related injuries and illnesses" in accordance with OSHA regulations.  DOL 2 

From the DOL's press release announcing the new web tool:

The OSHA Recordkeeping Advisor helps employers and others responsible for organizational safety and health quickly determine whether an injury or illness is work-related; whether a work-related injury or illness needs to be recorded; and which provisions of the regulations apply when recording a work-related injury or illness.  To help employers in making these determinations, the OSHA Recordkeeping Advisor relies on their responses to a series of pre-set questions. 

Some related resources:

OSHA Recordkeeping Rules CFR 1904

OSHA Recordkeeping Handbook

OSHA Recordkeeping-Related Letters of Interpretation

 

Of course, nothing can really top the DOL's Wage and Hour Division's new timekeeping app, which gives employees the ability to keep their own records of time worked, which may or may not match the records provided to the employer.

National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2010

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn October 21, 2010In: Resources

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Employers may want to take advantage of a new online toolkit to facilitate the return-to-work process for employees following a disability-related leave of absence.  The toolkit is intended to provide guidance to both employees and employers with the goal of getting employees back to work as soon as possible. The employer toolkit includes tips for possible accommodations, such as changes to work duties or schedules.  The site also includes suggestions for ways to reduce workers’ compensation costs and improve workplace safety. 

If you need specific information on how to accommodate an employee with a disability, be sure to check out the Job Accommodation Network (JAN)JAN is a free service with an unmatched library of informative resources.

The Invisible Gorilla’s Lesson for HR Pros

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn October 8, 2010In: Interviewing, Resources

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Any human-resource professional who conducts internal investigations of employee complaints (i.e., discrimination, harassment, bullying) would be well advised to read the new book, The Invisible Gorilla.  The book is written by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, the two minds who collaborated on a famous psychological experiment for which they were awarded the Ig Nobel Prize in Psychology. 

If you haven’t heard of the “gorilla experiment” (also known as a “selective-attention test”), you can (and should) check it out on the authors’ website.  You can watch the video to take the test—but be warned that you may be very, very surprised by the results!  According to the authors:

This experiment reveals two things: that we are missing a lot of what goes on around us, and that we have no idea that we are missing so much.

And they’re not kidding.  As they explain in the the book, we have an amazing ability not to see what’s going on around us.  And, as also explained in the book, we also have an amazing ability to remember facts incorrectly; in other words, we get the story really, really wrong.  More notable, though, is how convinced we become that our memory is accurate. In fact, we are so sure that our recall of a traumatic event is correct that we can’t be convinced even with documentary evidence.

So how does this potentially affect HR?  At a minimum, the authors’ findings will change the way you conduct your next internal investigation. When you’re interviewing potential witnesses, you will be keenly aware of the tricks that our memories can play on us—and how convinced we can be that our memories are not being tricked at all.

New Guidance on Law Requiring Breaks for Nursing Mothers

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn July 29, 2010In: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Resources

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Employers are affected by the health-care legislation, also known as the Patient Protection And Affordable Care Act, in numerous ways. One of the lesser-known parts of the Act is Section 4207, which amends the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Section 4207, also called Reasonable Breaks for Nursing Mothers, requires employers to provide nursing mothers reasonable breaks to express breast milk and a separate room where they can take the break for up to the first year after the child’s birth. (See FLSA Now Requires Breastfeeding Breaks and a Place to Take Them).  baby bottle

The law took effect in March but employers have been without any guidance on what the law requires.  Until now, that is.  The Department of Labor has issued an official fact sheet providing some guidance on the specific requirements under the law.  Fact Sheet #73 offers the following guidance:

Who Is Eligible for Breaks

Only non-exempt employees are affected by the law.

Frequency and Duration of Breaks

Breaks must be provided “as frequently as needed by the nursing mother.”  The frequency of breaks and the length of each break “will likely vary.”

Location of Breaks

The Fact Sheet makes clear that a bathroom, even if private, is not considered a suitable location for nursing mothers to express milk.  The Fact Sheet states that, “[i]f the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the statutory requirement.  A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public.”

Exceptions to the Rule

Employers with less than 50 employees are not subject to the rule if it would impose an undue hardship. “Hardship” is relative, compared to the employer’s size and financial resources.

Click here to read the entire Fact Sheet #73 (PDF)

Still No GINA Regs, But New Website on the Basics

Posted by Adria B. MartinelliOn June 25, 2010In: Genetic Information (GINA), Resources

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Employers and human-resource professionals have been anxiously awaiting the issuance of the final rules interpreting Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). We remain hopeful the regulations will address some thorny issues, such as the implications of employers’ use of internet and social media sites, which may in turn reveal the genetic information of an employee or applicant.

Looks like we shouldn’t hold our collective breaths for the final answer. Deadline after deadline set by the EEOC for its publication of the regulations for Title II of the Act, which applies to employers, has come and gone. Most recently, the EEOC’s Spring 2010 Agency Rule List indicated that GINA regulations were in the Final Rule stage and were expected to be finalized in May. May has come and gone and still no regulations.

In the meantime in GINA news, a new website, http://www.ginahelp.org/ has been created by the Genetic Alliance, the Genetics and Public Policy Center at the Johns Hopkins University, and the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics through funding by The Pew Charitable Trusts. This online resource on the GINA and its protections in health insurance and employment includes answers to common questions about GINA and hypothetical examples.

The information is fairly basic, but could serve as a helpful resource for those trying to get quickly up to speed on the fundamentals of GINA.

New Online Resource for Employment Laws from U.S. DOL

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn April 26, 2010In: Resources

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The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), offers a resource called eLaws Advisors, to help employers and employees understand the many federal employment laws.  The website is actually more of an interactive tool that guides users through a series of question to provide specific information relevant to their particular circumstances.  There are eLaws Advisors on wage and overtime issues, workplace poster requirements, health benefits, federal contractor compliance, and other topics. 

Workplace Prof Blog’s List of the Best Labor & Employment Blawgs

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn March 22, 2010In: Resources

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My mother always told me that it’s never too late to say “thank you.”  With that excellent advice in mind, I’ll thank the fine authors of the Workplace Prof Blog, who included Delaware Employment Law Blog on its list of its readers’ favorite employment law blogs.  This is high praise from one of the very best employment law blogs in the legal blogosphere.  Be sure to check out the entire list, it’s just the place to update your blog reader.   You can also check out our Top 100 Employment Law Blogs.

Lexis-Nexis Brings Cases to the iPhone

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn January 5, 2010In: Resources, Tech Tips

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Thanks to iPhone J.D. for alerting us to this new app from Lexis Nexis.  Lawyers, you can now get your case law on the go.  According to iPhone J.D.,’s thorough review, the app doesn’t yet give us access to statutes (odd) but it is free, which is a good thing. 

Judge Tells Lawyer to Follow Guidelines and Start Preparing Better Documents

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 27, 2009In: PDFs, Resources

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I continue to be amazed by some of the less-than-best writing practices of my friends and colleagues.  Many of these practices relate to the ways in which they format documents. I recognize that many of these practices derive only from habit--not bad intentions.  But that doesn't make them any less annoying.  And what makes them more annoying is the irrational devotion they garner. 

What are these habits, you ask?  Truth be told, there are too many to list here.  But there is good news--I am not alone.  There are others who feel strongly about the importance of documents done right. 

Minnesota bankrupcty court judge Robert Kressel is one such sympathizer.  Recently, he issued Order Preparation Guidelines for attorneys appearing before him.  The Guidelines spell out a variety of writing misdeeds that Judge Kressel wisely abhors. 

I have two thoughts about these Guidelines.  First, they offer terrific advice that everyone should follow.  Second, they demonstrate how helpful style guides can be and make me wish that there were more such guides in place--both in the judicial system and in the workplace.  

All of the guidelines are great, really.  But a few stand out for me.

The first guideline, for example, instructs parties to submit PDFs that have been converted directly from Word or WordPerfect--instead of by scanning printed paper copies.  Amen!  Why in the world anyone thinks it is somehow better to print a document and then hard scan that document to PDF positively escapes me.  Print to PDF, people.  Please, I beg you!  As Judge Kessler points out, it saves tremendously on the size of the PDF.  And it also provides a far better looking final document, as well as a searchable document.  A document that is printed to PDF (as opposed to scanned) can also accept comments made with commenting tools in Acrobat, such as highlighting and adding "sticky notes."  (See my previous posts on the topic of PDFs for better documents for additional inspiration).

Judge Kessler also reminds lawyers to "limit the use of capital letters to proper names."  I've discussed the "ALL-CAPS disease" before but it bears repeating.  For those of you who have held tight to this habit, please consider resolving to abandon it in the new year.  Words that are typed in all capital letters are very difficult to read.  For an excellent explanation of the phenomenon, see Robin Williams' highly instructive and enlightening book, The PC Is Not a Typewriter

There are other resources for those who are open minded and ready to make some positive changes to their document-formatting habits.  Ms. Williams' book is a fantastic place to start.  (The book is closer to a pamphlet than War and Peace and serves as an excellent desk reference.)  The Seventh Circuit has published an excellent and extensive set of guidelines for briefs (pdf).  One of the sources cited in the court's guidelines is Ruth Anne Robbins' journal article, Painting With Print (pdf), which is far more detailed and a truly outstanding scholarly work.  Finally, specific to the legal profession but applicable for all professions is Matthew Butterick's blog, Typography for Lawyers

So, wonderful readers, go forth into the new year with standards set high and paragraph alignment set to Left (please, no more justified paragraphs!).  These are resolutions that, if kept, truly would help make the world a better place, one document at a time.

[Hat tip to the Lawyerist]

 

 

Judges Order Re Writing Mistakes in Court Filings

 

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Follow me on Twitter . . . @MollyDiBi

3 Reasons to Proofread that Document One More Time

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn November 6, 2009In: Just for Fun, Resources

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I host a bi-monthly “lunch and learn” for the staff in my department; attendance is voluntary.  In advance of the meeting, attendees suggest and vote on the session’s topic.  Topics range from software-specific, like Adobe Acrobat or PowerPoint, to soft skills, such as time management, and just about anything else they find relevant and productive. At the most recent session, we had a mixed bag of topics but ended with a quick review of some grammar and usage “troubleshooting tips.”

This particular topic was at my suggestion and was urged not by anything I’d been seeing in their writing but more by the stories circulating the legal blogs over the last few weeks. Let me say that these stories are almost hard to believe, not because I have a hard time imagining legal writing that is just plain bad—trust me, that’s the easy part.  But I do have a hard time imagining the court that actually responds in the ways described in these stories. 

Part of me loves the idea of a court that takes legal citations very seriously and part of me cringes.  I mean, everyone makes mistakes.  I am hopeful that I don’t make the “mistakes” that the lawyers in the stories below made.  But everybody has bad days, right?

In any event, here are a few stories that scare me enough to review Garner’s The Redbook: A Manual of Legal Style, by Bryan A. Garner one more time before I file that brief.

 

#1:  Bad Writing Can Cause Public Humiliation

Although public humiliation may seem like the least terrifying of the three reasons listed here, it also seems like the worst.  It’s the most likely to happen; after all, what are the chances that your writing is going to get you tossed into jail?  It’s a bit difficult to imagine (thankfully).

But having a judge be so irritated by grammatical and typographical errors that he red pens the document and publishes it on the official court docket for all the world to see is much closer to reality, making it all the more horrifying.  A federal judge in Florida, apparently, was just that irritated over errors in an attorney’s brief.  The errors ranged from “excess spacing” to typos to incorrect capitalization to word choice.  Here’s one example, cited by the ABA Journal: “[the plaintiff] had attended on filing” this action, instead of saying the plaintiff had “intended” to file an action

 

#2:  Bad Writing Can Lead to Monetary Fine

The ABA Journal brings us a great story about a Wisconsin lawyer who was fined $100 for submitting a brief that contained an incorrect citation, which led the court on a wild goose chase to hunt down the case that should have been cited.  I’ll confess, this strikes me as nothing more than justice at work.  Erroneous case citations are enough to drive even the most even-tempered to the edge.

 

#3:  Bad Writing Can Result in Jail Time

Carl Smith, an attorney is Missouri was charged with criminal contempt and sentenced to 120 days in jail for language used in court filings.  In his papers, Smith said that certain events indicated a “personal interest, bias, and purported criminal conduct” by and between the judge, the prosecutor, and other court officials. The ACLU is one of several organizations that came to Smith’s defense, claiming that the punishment of an attorney based on his legal filings would have a chilling effect on free speech in the justice system. 

If these stories motivate you to polish up your writing skills, you can get a great start by checking out our post on the 10 Funniest Writing Blogs, 20 Online Dictionaries, and Top 30 Blogs on Writing.

Top 100 Employment Law Blogs . . . plus 10

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn November 4, 2009In: Resources

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The Top 100 Employment Law Blogs is back and updated for 2009. Ok, so it’s the Top 110 this year. There were just too many great blogs that 100 wouldn’t do the trick. The list, of course, is totally subjective and based only on my personal opinion. One criteria that I did use this year, though, was a most-recent-post criteria. Blogs that hadn’t posted more recently than September weren’t eligible for the list. If you write a blog that addresses with employment-law issues and I’ve missed it, please let us know by posting a comment.

Adjunct Law Prof.

Affirmative Action Blog Spot

Aging Workforce News

Alabama Employment Law Report

Alabama HR Law

Alaska Employment Law

Arkansas Employment Law

Atlanta Employment Lawyer Blog

Boston Employment Lawyer

California Employer Bulletin

California Employment Law Report

California Workforce Resource Blog

Canadian Privacy Law Blog

Charles A. Krugel

Colorado Employment Law Blog

Colorado Non-Compete Law Blog

Connecticut Employment Law Blog

Constitutional Law Prof Blog

Current Employment

Defending the Digital Workplace

Doorey's Workplace Law Blog (Canada)

Drew Capuder's Employment Law Blog (W.Va.)

Diversity Insight

Daily Developments in EEO Law by Paul Mollica

EBG Trade Secrets & Noncompete Blog

ELI, Inc. Insights Blog

Employee Free Choice Act

Employee Handbooks

Employer Law Report (Porter Wright)

Employers Law Blog (Day Pitney)

Employment Law Bits (Bacon Wilson)

Employment Law Matters (Ogeltree Deakins)

Employment Law Watch (Reed Smith)

Employment Advisory

Employment Lawyer Blog (Joseph Herzeld)

Executive Counsel Blog

Fair Labor Standards Act Law

Fair Labor Standards Act (Beasley Allen)

Federal Sector FMLA Blog

First Amendment Law Prof Blog

Florida Employment Law Blog (Mark Addington)

Florida Employment & Immigration Law Blog

FMLA Law blog

George's Employment Blawg

Gruntled Employees

HR Bits

HR Briefcase

HR Counsel blog

HR Lawyer's Blog

HR Legal News

Human Rights in the Workplace (Canada)

Immigration Law for Employers

Iowa Employment Law Blog

Jottings By An Employment Lawyer

Juz the Fax

Labor & Employment Law Blog (Sheppard Mullin)

Labor Law Center

Lawffice Space

LawMemo Employment Law

Legal Developments in Non-Compete Agreements

Lisa Law View

Manpower Employment Law Blog

Maryland Employment Law

Maryland Employment Law Developments

Miami Employment Lawyer Blog

My Disability Blog

New Jersey Employment Law

New York Employment Lawyer Blog

Northern Exposure (CA)

New York Public Personnel Law

OFCCP Blog Spot

Ohio Employer's Law Blog

Overtime Law Blog

Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Law Blog

Privacy & Information Security Law Blog

Privacy Law Blog

Public Sector Law Blog

San Antonio Employment Law Blog

Storm's California Employment Law

Strategic HR Lawyer

Suits in the Workplace

Tennessee Employment Lawyer Blog

Texas Employment Law Update

Texas HR Law Update

Texas Non-Compete Law Blog

The FMLA Blog

The Laconic Law Blog

The Legal Intelligencer

The Word on Employment Law Blog

Thoughts from a Management Lawyer (CA)

Toronto Employment Law Blog

Trade Secret / Noncompete Blog (Foley Lardner)

Transgender Workplace Diversity

Trading Secrets

Virginia Non-Compete Law Blog

Wage & Hour Counsel

Wage & Hour Development & Highlights

Wage & Hour Defense Blog

Wage & Hour Law Update

Wage Law

Wait a Second! (2d Cir. Civil Rights)

Washington DC Employment Law Update

What's New in Employment Law

Womble Carlyle Non-Compete & Restrictive Covenants Blog

Work Matters

Workplace Privacy Counsel

Workplace Prof Blog

World of Work

Wyatt Employment Law Report

[Updated Nov. 13] Alterted by their comments and duly impressed with their sites, I'm going to add two more to the list--really, what difference will 2 more make, we've already got 110.

Social Networking Law Blog

Overtime Advisor

Powerful Presentations: Links to Free Graphics

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn October 12, 2009In: Internet Resources, Resources, Seminars, Past

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I give a lot of presentations. And I take them seriously. Which may explain why my slides often get noticed as being "different" than many of the other presentations my clients see. I subscribe to the style of presenting advocated by Cliff Atkinson, known as Beyond Bullet PointsNancy Duarte and Garr Reynolds are two other visionaries in the field of visual communication who lead by example. In short, the principle theory behind my slide design is to present only one idea per slide and to present it with images instead of words.

And, while I could go on for many posts about the topic of effective presenting skills but I'll save that for another day.  Instead, I'll refrain from the evangelical sermon and, instead, offer a tiny bit of practical help.

One of the bigger stumbling blocks involved in this type of presenting is where to get the graphics you'll use instead of words on your slides.  There really are an unlimited number of ways to create images for this purpose. 

image

Of course, you can simply purchase them from stock photo sites.  I use Shutterstock to buy images and buy a one-month subscription to save on the cost. 

You also can surf the web to find images.  Google Images works great for this and so does Bing's image search. But beware of "borrowing" images--just because they're available online does not mean that they're publicly available.  You must determine if you're lawfully able to use the pictures that you find. Dave Paradi recently listed 10 excellent government sites that offer bunches of beautiful photographs for free!

One seriously underestimated tool is PowerPoint.  I use it constantly to create my own images--everything from simple stick-figure drawings to more substantial 3d graphics.  If you don't believe that this is possible for mere mortals (i.e., non-designers), just have a look at the wonderfully instructive blog, Slides that Stick for some excellent tutorials.  You may be amazed!

One of the greatest resources, though, is right at your fingertips--or, even better, they are your fingertips!  Pick up a pen and start drawing. Don't be "fancy"--really, it's best if you just avoid even attempting anything that will look even close to "artistic."  Just stick with the basics.  You'd be surprised at how well you can communicate using those same skills that you picked up as a toddler.  Need inspiration? Check out Dan Roam, who just won the World's Best Presentation Contest at Slideshare.net--using, you guessed it, simple marker drawings!