Quick Hits - September 28, 2022 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

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Quick Hits - September 28, 2022

If you have a policy how to communicate absences, don’t let managers deviate:  In a recent ruling, Roberts v. Gestamp (Decided August 15, 2022), the Fourth Circuit reversed, in part, the lower court’s decision to grant the Company’s motion for summary judgment on the grounds that the employee did not follow the Company’s “usual and customary” absence notice procedures as required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Because the terminated employee’s manager accepted previous messages regarding absences via Facebook Messenger, the Company’s position that using Facebook Messenger was not its “usual and customary” notice practice for reporting FMLA absences, was called into question. The Court found that previous utilization of Facebook Messenger to communicate absences raised a question of material fact for a jury to determine if a Facebook Messenger Chat satisfied the FMLA’s notice requirements.  In light of this, employers should communicate and train all managers on their attendance and leaves of absence policies and instruct them to not accept an employee’s report of an absence that does not follow the Company’s stated policy.  Source:  Seyfarth Shaw 9/9/22

Who’s in the office? According to a survey by Kastle Systems, a data property management and security firm that tracks key-card entries, found that nearly half (47.5%) of workers who were in the office in 2020 before the shutdown were in the office from September 8 to September 14. That’s a record high over the past couple of years as white-collar workers settled into their home offices and adjusted to newfound flexibility. The middle of the week is most popular among workers back in office. Kastle's data shows that about 55% of the pre-pandemic workforce returned to the office on Tuesday and Wednesday last week. Office attendance still isn't near the 100% some managers are pushing for. Hybrid work remains a fixture of the workforce; data from Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven J. Davis of WFH Research found that employers have increased the number of days they’ll let their employees work remotely.   Source:  Fortune 1/19/22

HR leaders focusing on hiring slowdown and flexiplace:  A growing number of organizations are responding to economic volatility by slowing or outright freezing hiring, according to the results of an August 31st Gartner webinar poll of more than 330 HR leaders. More than one-third, 37%, said their organizations had slowed hiring, compared to 32% in Gartner’s July polling and 27% in its June polling. Gartner also found that a plurality of respondents appeared to embrace some form of flexible work. Per the data, shared with HR Dive in an email, only 5% of respondents said they required employees to report on-site five times per week, while 31% had no on-site requirements whatsoever. Among those that did have some form of requirement, the most common was three days per week at 25% of respondents.  Source:  HR Dive 9/19/22

Is the open office hoteling layout dead? Lots of people always hated the “open” office layout designed to foster collaboration. There’s nowhere to hang your stuff, nowhere to have a sensitive conversation, and nowhere to focus without overhearing colleagues’ blabbering. Plus, several studies indicate that the supposed benefits of togetherness and transparency are overrated. The privacy many got used to while working from home only intensified the loathing—as did the “hot” desk system businesses adopted for hybrid employees to drop into reopened office buildings. Now workers craving extra space are spurring the revival of two more vintage staples: cubicles and private offices. With doors that shut! “Seated privacy” is the latest buzzy term in office design, says Kristi Buchler, principal at Interior Architects, which helps companies plan workspaces. Many new cubicles in formerly open setups feature low walls topped with glass, giving workers a sense of solitude when in their chairs, she says. “But I can still pop my head up and easily go, ‘Oh, my colleague just got here. Great! I had a question for them.’”  Source:  Wall Street Journal 9/15/22

Are your job ads turning away older applicants?  Economics professors Ian Burn (University of Liverpool in England) and Daniel Ladd, Daniel Firoozi and David Neumark (all UC Irvine) conducted a clever experiment where they placed hundreds of fake job postings in cities all across America for some basic, low-skill jobs: security guard, administrative assistant, retail. In half of the ads, they used careful, neutral language. In the other half they used coded words and phrases designed to let older people know that they needn’t bother applying.  For example, the ads stated that applicants needed to be “fit and energetic.” They needed to be “digital natives” with a “background in social media” (whatever that means). They needed to be “up to date with current industry jargon” and ready to deal with a “dynamic” workforce. The key result is that the coded ads attracted a lot fewer applicants over 40. The AARP has already highlighted a handful of key phrases in job postings that discriminate against older workers, including obvious ones like “recent college graduate” and “five to seven years’ experience.” But as the new study shows, employers don’t have to be that obvious.  Source:  Market Watch 9/17/22

Woman who sued after being fired for calling police on African American birdwatcher loses: A New York federal judge tossed a race and sex discrimination lawsuit brought against investment firm Franklin Templeton by former employee Amy Cooper, who was let go after a viral video surfaced of her calling the police on a Black birdwatcher. A former Franklin Templeton employee who called the police on a black birdwatcher lost her suit alleging she was fired because she's a white woman. U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams said in a 17-page decision that she uncovered no evidence of racism or sexism in the firm's decision to fire Cooper, who is white, and dismissed all of Cooper's allegations against her former employer. The dispute stems from an incident in May 2020 between Cooper and a Black birdwatcher in Central Park. Cooper, who was walking her dog in the park, was recorded by the passerby screaming at him and calling the police, claiming that "there's an African American man threatening my life." The video quickly spread widely on social media, and Franklin Templeton terminated Cooper the next day.  Source: Law360 9/21/22

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