On a day when love is in the air, it's appropriate to take a look at what's happening to singles looking for love in today's workplace. According to the American Management Association, 30% of workers say they have dated at the office. And 44% have married someone they dated at work. (See AMA’s 2003 Survey on Workplace Dating.) According to one worker who later married her boss, "Old rules are vanishing...[w]orking with your partner is a wonderful way to get to know aspects of his personality." (See USA Today article.) Management attitudes about employees who date seems to be slowly evolving as well as younger employees become managers: according to the AMA survey, nearly 70% of managers in their 30s and 40s say it's OK for employees to date, compared to 66% of managers in their 50s and 60s who find it acceptable for employees to date. Some companies do ban office dating or dating between a supervisor and subordinate. A few companies even ask couples to sign contracts stating that the relationship is consensual, to minimize the risk of sexual harassment lawsuits. Some of the reasons for the rise in workplace dating: More women have joined the labor force, which means male and female co-workers come into closer contact than ever before, and workers are putting in longer hours and getting to know one another on a more intimate basis. These trends are likely to continue, making it increasingly likely that the partner of your dreams might just be in the next cubicle.
In another wild and wacky day in our nation's Capitol, one topic other than war and the budget on the Senate's agenda was federal judicial nominations, and what to do with no less than five different nominees to the federal appellate courts. The nominee furthest along in the process, Miguel Estrada, nominated to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, saw lots of talk and no action today, as Senate Democrats continued their filibustering efforts to prevent a vote before Estrada answers key unanswered questions about his judicial philosophy. (See NY Times article. Free registration required.) Four additional nominees, Jeffrey Sutton, Deborah Cook, John Roberts, and Jay Bybee, were all set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee for a vote. Bybee, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals nominee whose vote had not been previously scheduled (any Senator may invoke a one-week delay the first time a nominee is scheduled), was held over until the next meeting of the Judiciary Committee, which may or may not be next week. (The Senate was supposed to be in recess next week, but the Estrada filibuster could prevent that from happening.) The votes on Cook (6th Circuit) and Roberts (DC Circuit) were held over until the next committee meeting after an obscure rule preventing votes from taking place more than two hours after the beginning of the Senate day was invoked. Neither Cook nor Roberts had the opportunity for much questioning at their January 29th Judiciary Committee hearing, which lasted over twelve hours and mostly focused on the record of 6th Circuit nominee Jeffrey Sutton, and so Democrats asked for more time and information before a vote took place. Sutton's nomination is the only one which saw a vote today, as he was approved by the committee on a 11-8 vote, with Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) crossing party lines to vote in support of the Sutton nomination. (See Washington Post article). Activists vowed to carry on the fight against Sutton's nomination to the Senate floor (See Alliance for Justice press release); Senator Feinstein, in particular, is likely to be subjected to a great deal of pressure to change her vote and oppose Sutton.
With all of today's action on judges, it's a perfect opportunity to introduce our site’s new Workplace Fairness Action Center. You now can make your voice heard immediately on the issues workers care about most, in five minutes or less. Here you can find your elected officials and email them on workplace issues or any other issues that are important to you. This is also the place where you can learn more about current issues and legislation and look up media contacts in your local area. We already have a number of alerts focused on many of today's judicial nominees, so we invite you to take action now!
Most of us have been in a situation where we've been forced to deal with a bully at work: a co-worker or supervisor who engages in hostile verbal or nonverbal communication, interfering actions, or withholding of resources--time, information, training, support, equipment--that guarantee failure. You may have found that there's not too much that can be done about it, especially where the employer condones the bullying behavior as part of a "get-tough" management style. You might be interested to learn, however, that current research shows that bullying results in losses of hundreds of millions of dollars a year in terms of absenteeism, employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction, product quality and productivity. (See Cincinnati Enquirer article). That's exactly the kind of message employers should listen to, when other attempts to rein bullies have proven unsuccessful. Some employers may be listening, according to one expert. "I think as the economy has turned down, companies want to improve employee satisfaction in ways that don't have to do with money," says Gregg Campa, director of client relations with the Business Research Lab in Houston. Yet another expert is skeptical, however. Kurt Landgraf, president of Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J., and former chief executive of DuPont Pharmaceuticals, says "I think most organizations all talk about how much they care. But the real fact of the matter is, the corporate culture is so accepting of these kinds of aggressive actions, it's not going to go away." Bullying may be more prevalent in workplaces that have competitive reward structures - where managers compete for promotions, salaries, benefits, recognition and office space - which tends to promote more political behavior and abuse. Another previous study on workplace bullying and gender has found that half of all bullies are women, and that women bullies target women 84% of the time, while men bullies target women 69% of the time, making women the majority of targets in the workplace. A good resource for those who have been victimized by workplace bullying is the Workplace Bullying & Trauma Institute. The Institute is led by Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie, founders of the Campaign Against Workplace Bullying and authors of "The Bully At Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity On the Job" The Institute's website, www.bullyinginstitute.org, has a number of articles, surveys, and good advice for those encountering a bully at work, and discusses current efforts to pass an anti-bullying statute in California. This proposed law, if passed, would be the first of its kind in the U.S. or Canada--a trend we would like to see continue.
One major concern that employers have expressed about employees' internet access at work is that employees will spend too much time conducting personal business or surfing the web, rather than fulfilling work responsibilities. However, a new study suggests that employers have little to fear, as employees who spend time on the Net at work on personal matters more than make up the time at home. (See NY Times article. Free registration required.). In the annual National Technology Readiness Survey (NTRS) conducted by the Center for e-Service at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, researchers found that workers with Internet access at both home and work spent an average of 3.7 hours per week engaged in personal online activities while at the job, but also spend an average of 5.9 hours per week online at home for work-related purposes. A total of 73% of workers spend as much or more time using the Internet at home for work purposes than at work for personal reasons, while only 27% spend more time on personal pursuits than they give back at work. According to the Center's Director, Roland Rust, the survey results suggest that "Businesses often clamp down on personal use of the Internet at work, citing concerns about productivity, but this study indicates workers more than make up for it at home...The survey suggests companies should accept some personal use of the Internet at work as not only inevitable, but as positive to the organization." Some of the reasons that employees with home access still conduct personal business at work: the workplace offers more desirable infrastructure such as high-speed connections and is likely to already be on, rather than requiring the effort of booting up; and the growth in e-services creates new reasons to go online that might be conducted during the workday. Employees are more likely to engage in work while at home for some of the following reasons: computers give workers newfound freedom. For example, a person can now leave the job early enough to have dinner with the family, and finish up business on the Internet afterwards. This might include checking email, conducting research, ordering travel or purchasing things for work. Workers may also telecommute, and telecommuting may be spontaneous or temporary, such as staying at home in the morning to catch up without distractions. The results of this study suggest that employers need not be so concerned with worker productivity that they devise restrictive policies on personal Internet usage in the workplace, as restricting Internet usage at work may have the opposite effect of discouraging an employee's work-related internet use at home, which is more likely to benefit the employer in the long run.
Almost every day now, it seems, we learn a little bit more about the labor and employment policies of Wal-Mart. And it's hardly ever good news. As recently reported in USA Today, "[n]ever before has the retail empire, founded in 1962, come under such blistering attack [for the way it treats its employees.]" (See USA Today article.) Currently facing Wal-Mart may be the largest sex discrimination case ever, a class action case filed in California on behalf of female employees claiming that Wal-Mart discriminates against women in promotions, jobs assignments, training, and pay throughout the United States. (See Wal-Mart Class website.) This case just received a critical boost when two studies by experts studying Wal-Mart's pay structure found statistically significant evidence of pay discrimination. (See LA Times article. (Free registration required.)) One study, conducted by Oakland-based expert Richard Drogin, found that female workers at Wal-Mart earned 4.5% to 5.6% less than men doing similar jobs and with similar experience levels between 1996 and 2001 and that among nonsalaried workers, men earned an average of 37 cents an hour more for similar work. The study also found that the pay gap widens higher up the management ladder, with male management trainees making an average of $23,175 a year, compared with $22,371 for women trainees. The second study, a management analysis by Washington, DC-based economist Mark Bendick, Jr., determined that 20 comparable retailers employed a greater average percentage of women in 1975 -- 41.6% -- than Wal-Mart did more than 20 years later. Today, women make up an average of 56.6% of the management positions at those competitors, the report said. The study found that women were underrepresented in management in Wal-Mart in 49 states, with the greatest gender gaps found at Wal-Mart stores in Texas, Florida and California. (Copies of both studies are available at the Wal-Mart Class website.) Another class action lawsuit claims that Wal-Mart routinely underpays its hourly employees by forcing them to clock out and continue working beyond the end of their paid shifts, and locks the doors of the store to prevent any employees from leaving before the work is all completed. (See Wal-Mart Employment Practices Class Action information.) In a similar case in Oregon, a federal jury in December 2002, found Wal-Mart Stores guilty of forcing its employees to work overtime without pay from 1994-1999. After deliberating for four days, the jury issued its unanimous verdict that Wal-Mart violated federal and state wage-and-hour laws in requiring employees to work "off the clock." (See Federal Jury Finds Wal - Mart Guilty in Oregon Overtime Pay Case.) Union groups have long had a beef with the nation's largest retailer, which has historically resisted all of its workers' attempts to unionize, for its anti-union activities. The United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) maintains on its website a number of charges against Wal-Mart, including most recently, information about two new National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaints for its illegal campaign of intimidation, harassment and retaliation against workers attempting to organize with UFCW in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Noblesville, Indiana. Some of Wal-Mart's actions under dispute in those cases include allegations that Wal-Mart managers: told associates their union activities were being monitored; asked associates to spy on co-workers on behalf of the company; refused to allow distribution of union literature and confiscated materials from employees; threatened workers who accepted union literature; threatened workers with reprisals including loss of profit sharing due to union activity; and attempted to buy-off workers with increased hours, promises, and tokens in order to discourage support for the union. (See UFCW press release.) According to the UFCW, there are a total number of 45 National Labor Relations Board complaints against Wal-Mart in 25 states. Wal-Mart has been found guilty in 10 of those cases, settled 8 of them and the rest are pending. For further information about some of the ongoing battles against Wal-Mart on behalf of workers, see some of the following websites:
Wal-Mart Litigation Project