Thursday, March 18, 2010

More Information Workers / Mothers Are Attracted to Flex-Hours at Home.

Martin Seligman, positive psychologist, has written on the issues of happiness and Pink, in his book "Drive" has discussed the sources of motivation. People are most motivated and happy when they are engaged in activities that are intrinsically rewarding.

The usual "reward-punishment" model is great short term, but long term, the drive, creativity, and satisfaction ebb. For example, Wikipedia was and is created by persons deriving intrinsic rewards (and no extrinsic pay-offs) yet they beat out Microsoft Encarta which paid its workers for years until folding. 

Point: Productivity, especially the type that is creative and problem solving focused, is higher where intrinsic pay-offs are present, such as the pay-off of working at home in a semi-autonomous manner that allows for a more balanced life.

"If the pink slip doesn't fit,
get redressed!"
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Wal-Mart Worker Fired Over Medical Marijuana

Joseph Casias, 29, has doctor’s prescription for pot to treat his brain tumor

By Eve Tahmincioglu contributor

updated 11:44 a.m. PT, Wed., March. 17, 2010

Joseph Casias has been legally using medical marijuana to deal with the gnawing pain caused by sinus cancer and an inoperable brain tumor pressing against his skull. He says he never used it when he was on duty as an associate at a Wal-Mart in Battle Creek, Mich, and he never went to work high.

But one morning he went to work and was fired for it.

“I never thought I would be terminated for this,” said Casias, who worked for the company for five years and was a Wal-Mart associate of the year in 2008. “At first I thought, ‘This wasn’t true. How could this be right?’”

Casias, 29, just couldn’t understand how Wal-Mart or any employer for that matter could fire a worker for using medical marijuana, which was prescribed by his doctor and has been legal in Michigan since 2008. He even has a card sanctioned by the state that says he can legally use the drug.

Fourteen states now have laws on the books legalizing marijuana. But many of the laws, which do protect users against criminal charges, are often unclear when it comes to protections in the workplace.
Michigan is another story. The state’s law includes some legal shields for workers.

“You can’t discriminate against a person if you have a medical marijuana card, and if they use it for medicinal purposes,” said James McCurtis, a spokesman for Michigan’s Department of Community Health that oversees the medical marijuana program.

Drug testing at work 

Most large corporations such as Wal-Mart have long-standing policies against drug use, and many screen prospective employees and conduct random drug testing on existing workers.

According to a 2006 report from the Society for Human Resource Management:

  • 84 percent of employers do pre-employment drug screening.

  • 73 percent do reasonable-suspicion testing.

  • 58 percent do post-accident screening.

  • 39 percent do random testing.

  • In the case of Casias, who has been using medical marijuana since last summer, a knee injury on the job prompted Wal-Mart to test him for drug use.

    Casias’ managers knew he had been battling sinus cancer and the brain tumor for some time, but he did not tell them he was using marijuana to deal with the pain because traditional painkillers alone weren’t working.

    When the test came back positive, a manager at the store at first told him it wasn’t a big deal because he was legally using marijuana. However, when he came in for work the morning of Nov. 24, he was immediately pulled into the store manager’s office and told he was fired. “The manager told me he was sorry and he had no choice. He said he wished he could help me out,” Casias said. “They went and got my personal belongings, and I walked out of the store.”

    Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter called the situation “unfortunate.”

    “We are sympathetic to Mr. Casias’ condition,” he said. However, like so many other employers, “we have to consider the overall safety of our customers and associates, including Mr. Casias, when making a difficult decision like this.”

    Difficult situation 

    Employment experts said companies across the country, especially those that operate in a number of states with different marijuana laws, face a Catch-22.

    “The federal law says the drug is illegal, but the states are telling people they are allowed to smoke,” said Richard Meneghello, an attorney in Portland, Ore., who works for Fisher & Phillips, an employment law firm that represents companies. If they accommodate marijuana use among some employees, he said, and a worker ends up injuring a customer, then they could face charges of negligence because they knew the employee was using the drug.

    Most of his clients are choosing not to make such accommodations and are terminating workers. And, he added, the courts are increasingly siding with employers in these matters.
    One key case that many labor experts point to as seminal was Ross v. Ragingwire Telecommunications, Inc., in which California’s Supreme Court decided in 2008 that the telecommunications firm was within its legal right to fire Gary Ross, an administrator at the company, even though he was legally using medical marijuana.

    In most states, said Carol Gillam, a Los Angeles attorney that represents workers, employers can legally fire employees. Medical marijuana use has been legal in California for more than a decade, she said, “and still employees are not protected.”

    California legislators recently tried to pass a bill that would have included such protections, but the governor vetoed it, she said.

    Many ill workers may not realize that even though several states have passed laws legalizing medical marijuana, they could easily lose their jobs for using it.

    “You have to tell patients who may not know this stuff that it’s great that you can get marijuana as medicine but you’re really in a terrible predicament,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, known as NORML. “If you’re tested in the workplace, or they come to know that you have one of these cards, you can get fired.”

    Legal recourse 

    Some marijuana and privacy rights advocates believe Wal-Mart’s firing of Casias may be found to be illegal if contested because Michigan’s law is stronger than most.

    “The attorney general can enforce it because the law is quite clear on what is and what is not allowed under the act,” said Dan Korobkin, a lawyer with the ACLU in Michigan. “Wal-Mart is sending a shameful message that people who become ill and have chronic pain have to chose between their health and leaving a job.”

    John Sellek, a spokesman for Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, said in a statement that Casias’ situation is the “first such situation we are aware of.”

    “As this is a private employment situation, the person in question would need to seek private legal council to decide if there is an avenue to pursue. The AG's office does not represent individuals in civil cases,” the statement said.

    Casias has contacted Michigan's Department of Civil Rights about his situation. While the department does not enforce the medical marijuana law, the agency is planning on investigating the situation to see if Wal-Mart violated Michigan's disabilities protection laws, said Harold Core, a spokesman for the agency.

    Drug use or illness? 

    One thing the Michigan law does not protect is a worker who shows up at work under the influence, legal experts said. And Casias has said he only used marijuana when not at work.

    The other issue for employers and employees is whether the decision to fire or not hire a worker has to do with the marijuana or the underlying illness.

    If an employee feels they’ve been fired or didn’t get a job because they have a disability covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, they have more rights under the nation’s labor laws.

    But the courts have found that just using medical marijuana is not protected under the ADA, said Jeanne Goldberg, senior atttorney adviser with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. “The term ‘individual with a disability’ does not include an individual who is currently engaging in illegal drug use,” she said, adding that the ADA relies on the federal designation of what are illegal drugs, and under federal law pot is still illegal.

    Los Angeles attorney Gillam suggested workers protect themselves by disclosing their disability before they’re tested because then employers can’t claim they didn’t know you had a disability once they find out you’re using marijuana for health reasons.

    Aside from whether Casias’ firing was legal or not, a key question is whether it is ethical, said Greg Francisco, executive director of the Michigan Medical Marijuana who protested alongside Casias at the Battle Creek store after he was fired. “Wal-Mart wants to portray itself as a proud part of the community, but they will destroy this man.”

    Casias hasn’t decided yet whether he will fight his termination in court, but he is worried about his family’s future. This father of two young children, who was making about $27,000 a year and is $10,000 in debt because of his medical bills, sees his job prospects in Michigan — which has nation's highest unemployment rate, at 14.3 percent — as few and far between.

    And, he added, any prospective employer will probably test him for drug use before they hire him, and the whole issue could arise yet again.

    “My goal was getting better opportunities and moving up, and what better place to do that than Wal-Mart,” he said. “I don’t understand why they let me go. I tried so hard to be a good employee.”


    © 2010

    "If the pink slip doesn't fit,
    get redressed!"
    Click to see my wardrobe of remedies.


    Tuesday, March 09, 2010

    Forgiveness in Personal and Public Discourse.

    "Civility Is Not a Sign of Weakness."  John F. Kennedy.

    I meet monthly with a group of judges and lawyers for breakfast in a group known as "Daniel's Inn".  We sit in a local Coco's, order from a menu we now know by heart, and spend about an hour discussing the stresses of our profession from a spiritual perspective.  Our motto is "You Are Not Alone".   Because we are Christian lawyers, we understand that we are not alone because God is with us, and we have one another as a community of believers.

    This morning's topic was generally how do we deal with the stress of often  antagonistic differences we have with those who do not see the world as we do.  There is no single answer we are given from these meetings.  It is a time of dialogue and exploration.  We share our personal stories of events that illustrate our own struggles, victories, and failings.  Over the years, the value of a "good meeting" I find is whether I continue to think about the issues after the meeting is over.  Then there is a possibility of new insight and change.

    My reflections from this morning lead me to observe how relational I am.  I am wired for relations, and my physical, emotional, and mental health are all greatly influenced by how successfully I am connecting to other people.  My connections, business and personal,  can be so different than I in outlook, culture, values, dreams, interests, and personality.

    These persons are the agents of my growth and happiness, just as I am for them.  The result of this "wiring for relationship" is that if my relationships are filled with anger, frustration, deprivation, insult, tension, or exhaustion, my physical health itself will ultimately collapse.  That is why so many of my clients come to me after a period of hostility at work with high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and anger.  Just as often, after months away from the distressing environment, they express relief to be away, despite the new stresses of unemployment.

    I'm tempted now to flippantly ask:  "Can't we all just get along?"  The answer of course is no.  There inevitably will be conflict, hurt, and injustice in our relationships at work.  We experience the same dilemma even in our homes as we desperately need and yet do not receive the close, intimate connection we need from family members.  The challenge is to embrace the reality that relationships don't always function at the level of the ideal.  Then we can begin to work with the reality to improve those relationships.

    The topic this morning at Daniel's Inn was "forgiveness."  I came to see, as I drove to my office this morning reflecting on the topic, that forgiveness is part of the process of "embracing the reality" of inevitable tensions in our relationships.  We fail one another.  We fail ourselves.  Everyday, we fail, falling short of being the "perfect" persons most of us strive to be.  Clients lie to me.  Judges operate from cynicism and bias.  Opposing counsel plays games, and obstructs legitimate discovery.  The court's research attorney misconstrues the law.  I fail to be as aggressive or foresightful as I need to be in a case. Morality means something completely different to one generation than to another.   We fail as surely as we breathe.  It is the human condition.

    I saw today that forgiveness is the lubricant by which failing people are able to move past their failures to create better relationships.  Forgiveness is not agreement.  Forgiveness is not forgetfulness.  Forgiveness is not lack of self-protection.  Forgiveness, I think, is born out of two characteristics:  compassion and humility.  Compassion, because we see that "hurt people hurt people" and humility because we do not put ourselves in the position of God to condemn other people,  We can be humble because we can look at how we ourselves fail so often.

    When we forgive, we give up vindication and hatred, we release resentment, and we open up a space in the relationship for reconciliation and peace.  The result may be that we experience better physical, emotional and spiritual health.  We discover that our resentment has "been a poison we drank, expecting the other person to die."  

    "If the pink slip doesn't fit,
    get redressed!"
    Click to see my wardrobe of remedies.


    Revamping your job-search strategy

    Revamping your job-search strategy
    If you’re not landing interviews, it’s time to try something new
    By Eve Tahmincioglu contributor
    updated 4:31 p.m. PT, Sun., Feb. 28, 2010

    Stephen Cobain was laid off from his executive position at a major Pittsburgh financial services company in December of 2008 and spent nearly a year looking for a job with little to show for it.

    “I was doing all the things everyone tells you to do,” he said. “I prepared my résumé, wrote letters, contacted recruiters, looked on all the job boards, responded to 400 positions and maybe sent out 1,500 résumés.”

    It all led to no job, just frustration.
    Until this past Thanksgiving, when his always-supportive wife stunned him by saying: “You must accept the fact that you’re doing something wrong.”

    “My reaction was to say, ‘I think I’m doing everything right. The right thing will come along,’ ” Cobain recalled. “And her response to me was, ‘It hasn’t come along yet.’ ”

    It’s hard to hear this type of criticism, especially when you feel you’re doing everything in your power to land a job. And clearly, most job seekers have a great excuse right now — a crummy economy.
    But if you’ve been job searching for months with few tangible results, it may be time to take a hard look at yourself in the job-hunter’s mirror.

    A change of strategy

    That’s just what Cobain did.

    Instead of wearing pajamas, he started dressing in a suit every day to go to his home office. He stopped searching the job boards. He hired a financial services placement firm and a career coach.

    The placement firm led to just one phone call back from an employer. However, he said the career coach he found through Guerrilla Job Search International helped him focus his search. The coach aided him in revamping his résumé, taking it from three and a half pages to one page, and ditching the job-chronology format for a list of his major career accomplishments. The coach also advised him to target an assortment of companies he would like to work for even if they had no advertised job openings.

    “I mailed out 10 résumés, got eight interviews and got three job offers,” he said.

    Today, he starts his new job as senior vice president for a financial services firm in Pittsburgh.

    New networking approach

    Valentina Janek has been looking for work for nine months since she was laid off from her job as chief marketing officer for an investment company on Long Island.

    Janek is a consummate networker, and even started a networking group for the unemployed called the Long Island Breakfast Club, which now has more than 800 members. But she recently realized she needed to start networking with top executives of companies, not just hiring managers or administrative people.

    “My newest strategy is to meet every president I can. Go from the top down,” she said, with a goal of meeting five company executives a month.

    She’s gotten herself invited to corporate functions and political events where business leaders are in attendance. “I went to an awards event where a president was the honoree,” she said. “I bought him a book and gave it to him there and got his business card.” As a result, she landed several interviews at the company.

    While she didn’t get the job and is still looking for one, she said the new approach reignited her job search.

    Knowing what’s not working

    There isn’t a cookie-cutter, job-search strategy that fits everyone, but the key is knowing when the old techniques aren’t working.

    “Trying something new is a matter of being able to persevere and not give up, stick to the job search and keep active,” said Tim Schoonover, chairman of outplacement company OI Partners in Cincinnati. “It's when the job search starts becoming inactive, and you begin to lose interest in it, that you need to try something different.”

    He provided some warning signs that you may be in a job-hunting slump:

  • You aren't landing job interviews or informational interviews.

  • You aren't learning anything new about possible employers and job opportunities.

  • Your enthusiasm for the job hunt is waning.

  • You haven't been outside for three days.

  • Another reason to drastically change your job-hunt strategy is “if you realize that there aren’t any available positions within your field that you qualify for,” said Paul Klein, director of the Career Services Center at Cleveland State University.

    It may also come down to mistakes you’re making during the application process.

    “Approximately 60 percent of the people that apply for government jobs fill out the application incorrectly,” he said. “By alternating their strategy, even by simply buying a book or going on a Web site that instructs people how to successfully apply for a government job, it can make a huge difference.”

    Target 20 companies

    David Perry, co-founder of Guerrilla Job Search and author of “Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 2.0,” advised job seekers to create their own private job market by making a list of 20 companies they’d like to work for. “Or Google phrases such as, ‘best companies for minorities’ or ‘most admired employers in Texas’ to help refine your search.”

    In addition, he suggested that job seekers:

  • Get each company’s mailing address and phone number — they’re often on the Web site — and the name, title and contact information of the person who can offer you a job.

  • Send that person your résumé and a cover letter, which should be tailored to the company specifically, and include a postscript at the bottom.

  • Send your résumé through UPS, FedEx or two-day mail, and ask to be notified by e-mail when it’s been signed for.

  • Once you get that e-mail, wait about 30 minutes. Then, pick up the phone and call the person. 

  • Whether you get them personally, or a voicemail recording, say, “Hi, this is so-and-so. I see you just received my package. I’d like to meet with you for coffee to talk about how I can help your company achieve X, Y, and Z.”

  • And if you still haven’t joined to cyber networking world, it may be time.

    “LinkedIn is an important site for job hunters. So, create a profile if you don’t have one, and use it to post your résumé, articles you’ve written, key PowerPoint presentations you’ve created and so on,” Perry said.

    A creative approach

    Mary Berman, one of Perry’s clients, was laid off in February 2009 after 12 years in the publishing industry. She tried different tactics to get a foot in the door, including creating baseball cards with her picture on the front and a résumé  on the back.

    Alas, nothing worked.

    “By August I was starting to feel beaten up because I wasn’t getting anywhere,” she said. Then she decided to try something new.

    Perry suggested she send a Starbucks paper cup with her résumé and cover letter rolled inside to a company she was interested in working for and deliver it personally. She included a note that said, “I’d like to discuss what I can bring to you over a cup of coffee.”

    Within two hours, she got a call. “She told me she didn’t have a position but wanted to thank me for being so creative,” Berman said.

    Her second attempt with the cup at another company scored her an interview. After the interview, she sent the hiring manager a 60-day plan of what she’d do for the company if she were hired.
    In November, she was offered a job and is now a marketing executive assistant for InStar Services in Detroit, a disaster recovery company.

    “If you want to stand out, you have to get creative,” she said. “You have to use a new approach.”

    © 2010

    "If the pink slip doesn't fit,
    get redressed!"
    Click to see my wardrobe of remedies.


    Friday, March 05, 2010

    More Men Filing Sexual Harassment Claims

    Percentage of complaints filed by men has doubled over last 20 years

    By Sam Hananel
    The Associated Press

    updated 1:14 p.m. PT, Thurs., March. 4, 2010

    WASHINGTON - Jonathan Pilkington's boss wouldn't take no for an answer.

    During more than two years as a food runner at an upscale steakhouse in Scottsdale, Ariz., Pilkington says his male supervisor groped, fondled and otherwise sexually harassed him more than a dozen times.

    "It was very embarrassing," Pilkington said. "I felt like I had to do something because the situation was just so bad."

    Now Pilkington, a married father of two, is the star witness in a federal lawsuit against Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and one of a growing number of men claiming they are victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.

    From 1990 to 2009, the percentage of sexual harassment claims filed by men has doubled from 8 percent to 16 percent of all claims, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
    Women still file the overwhelming majority of sexual harassment claims with the EEOC and state and local agencies. But lawyers at the commission say they've noticed the increase in complaints by men — more than 2,000 were filed in 2009 out of about 12,700 cases.

    Male claims made up about 12 percent of all cases a decade ago, but the percentage has continued to rise even as the overall number of sexual harassment complaints has declined. And last year, the percentage of lawsuits the EEOC filed on behalf of male victims hit an all-time high, making up 14 percent of all cases.

    "It's certainly possible that there's more sexual harassment of men going on, but it could just be that more men are coming forward and complaining about it," said Ernest Haffner, an attorney in the EEOC's Office of Legal Counsel.

    While some cases allege harassment by female supervisors or co-workers, most charges involve men harassing other men. Sometimes it's unwelcome romantic advances. Other times, men are picked on because they are gay, perceived as being gay or not considered masculine enough for the work setting.
    In the past, some employers might have shrugged off such antics as "boys will be boys" horseplay or fraternity-type behavior. But the EEOC has been filing more lawsuits involving male victims, saying it wants to send a message that such behavior is unacceptable and unlawful.

    In November, for example, the Cheesecake Factory restaurant chain agreed to pay $345,000 to six male employees who claimed they were repeatedly sexually assaulted by a group of male kitchen staffers at a Phoenix-area restaurant.

    The EEOC said the abusers would drag some victims kicking and screaming into a walk-in refrigerator, touching and grinding against the victims' genitals and take turns simulating rape. The company denied the allegations but agreed to make a financial settlement and educate its employees and managers about sexual harassment.

    Susan Strauss, a consultant who advises companies about how to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace, said she's seeing more cases in which men are subject to a sexualized form of hazing.
    "If you don't fit the masculine stereotype or are viewed as effeminate, you get picked on in a sexual way to demean you," Strauss said.

    Cases involving women making unwanted advances toward men may also be rising as women make up a growing part of the work force. Last year, the Regal Entertainment Group, which operates a national chain of movie theaters, agreed to pay $175,000 to settle a lawsuit by a male employee who claimed a female co-worker repeatedly grabbed his crotch at work.

    When the employee complained to his supervisor and the theater's then-general manager, he claims, she failed to stop the harassment and instead retaliated against the victim with unfair discipline and lower performance evaluations.

    The number of cases filed by men has grown steadily since a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1998 held that same-sex harassment is a valid claim under federal anti-discrimination laws. That ruling involved an offshore oil rig worker who said he was subject to humiliating sex-related treatment by other workers, including being sodomized in the shower with a bar of soap.

    In Pilkington's case, he claims the restaurant's chef would grope and pinch his genitals or grab his backside when Pilkington walked to the kitchen or stock room. Despite his complaints to the restaurant's operating partner, he says the conduct didn't stop.

    After one incident, Pilkington lost his composure and yelled at the chef, making a scene. Days later, he was fired — an action he claims was retaliation for his complaints. An EEOC lawsuit on behalf of Pilkington and three other current and former employees is pending.

    "I think maybe it's just harder for males to come out and file a complaint because of how embarrassing it is," Pilkington said. "When I talk about it I get this nauseous feeling in my stomach."

    The restaurant has denied the charges. In a statement, the company that owns Fleming's said the restaurant "has always been committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace free of harassment for all of its associates."

    Many victims are hesitant to come forward because they are afraid of being considered unmanly or being derided by co-workers, said Mary Jo O'Neill, a regional attorney in the EEOC's Phoenix District office.

    "All sexual harassment victims feel humiliated, lacking control and power," O'Neill said. "This has a different twist because everyone expects that they would be able to handle it and take care of it themselves."

    Pilkington has since moved on to another job. While he is embarrassed by the publicity his case has received, he says it was the right thing to do. The EEOC lawsuit seeks damages for him and other workers alleging harassment, along with back pay and compensatory and punitive damages.

    © 2010

    "If the pink slip doesn't fit,
    get redressed!"
    Click to see my wardrobe of remedies.

    Most Stressful Jobs

    Taken from MSNBC:

    FIRST:  Surgeons top the list of most stressful jobs because their work can be physically demanding, require meeting tough deadlines and involve life or death situations.

    By the way, the least stressful jobs are actuary, dietitian, computer systems analyst, statistician, astronomer, mathematician, historian, and software engineer, according to CareerCast.

    The jobs included in the ranking can change annually depending on Surgeons have to stay on their feet for long hours at a time and often have many people dependent upon them.

    That goes for surgeons who work in small-town hospitals as well as in big cities.

    SECOND:  Few events can ever be as stressful as trying to land a plane full of passengers safely in the Hudson River after a bird strike. That explains why pilots like Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger, at left in cockpit, rank second on the list.

    Pilots generally have only one chance to correctly take off and land each flight, and the lives of often more than 100 passengers hang in the balance.
    "They have to handle fairly sophisticated technology," Lee said, adding that they have to ready to react at a moment's notice. "Their jobs can be quiet and unstressful for long periods of time and then suddenly it can be the most stressful job on earth."

    "If the pink slip doesn't fit,
    get redressed!"
    Click to see my wardrobe of remedies.