HR professionals and people managers have a responsibility to ensure employees are working hard but not succumbing to workaholic tendencies. To successfully carry this out, consider these tips for combating workaholism in the office.

Insurance company Hiscox just released its 2019 Ageism in the Workplace Study [pdf], which revealed some sobering statistics about the growing problem of age discrimination for American employers.

  • The number of age-related discrimination charges filed with employers and the EEOC by workers aged 65-plus doubled from 1990 to 2017.
  • 44 percent of employees report that they or someone they know experienced age discrimination in the workplace.
  • 21 percent report they faced age discrimination themselves.
  • 36 percent feel their age has prevented them from getting a job since turning 40.
  • 26 percent feel there is some risk they could lose their current job because of age.
  • Only 40 percent who experienced age discrimination filed a charge or complaint.
  • Employers paid $810.4 million to settle age discrimination charges filed with the EEOC between 2010 and 2018 (excluding litigation).

These numbers are only going to get worse. By 2024, workers age 55 and older will represent 25 percent of the nation’s workforce, with the fastest annual growth rates among those aged 65 and older. Indeed, according to the Hiscox survey, 67 percent of surveyed workers age 40-65 plan to continue to work after they turn 66.

This trend is not without its cost to employers. Age discrimination hurts employers, and I’m not just talking about the $810 million paid in settlement costs.

  • It demotivates employees, which can hurt productivity, customer service, and product quality.
  • It causes a loss of talent and institutional knowledge, due to experienced workers leaving from a stalled career or hostile environment.
  • It causes employers to miss the opportunity of hiring and retaining workers who possess knowledge, experience, good judgment, and commitment to the job.

So, how can an employer help prevent age discrimination from permeating its workplace? The EEOC, in its State of Age Discrimination Report, published last year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the ADEA, offers the following five suggestions.

1. Leadership needs to create and foster a workplace culture that is committed to a multi-generational workplace where all workers can grow and thrive, which extols ability and reject discriminatory stereotypes and words.

2. Employers and employees must recognize and reject stereotypes, assumptions, and remarks about age and older workers, and treat them no differently than stereotypes, assumptions, and remarks about sex, race, disability, national origin, religion, or other protected classes.

3. Companies should work to increase the age diversity of the workforce by hiring, retaining and engaging employees of all generations,

4. Businesses should implement recruitment and hiring strategies that avoid age bias by seeking workers of all ages and not limiting qualifications based on age or years of experience. These strategies should include training recruiters and interviewers to avoid ageist assumptions and common perceptions about older workers, assessing interviewing strategies to avoid age bias, and having an age-diverse interview panel for prospective employees.

5. Employers should develop retention strategies to keep older workers. I’ve written about this point before, which you’ll find here.

A United Kingdom (U.K.) employer’s review of a departing employee’s e-mail was appropriate under the circumstances, the High Court of England and Wales ruled. The decision places workers on notice that they shouldn’t rely on data privacy law to argue that a contract has been breached and they are thus freed from post-termination restrictions, legal experts say.

Transgender discrimination is not prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) told the Supreme Court in a brief.

I was on the phone with one of my favorite colleagues debriefing a recent client engagement.

We’d done a series of focus groups for an organizational assessment and we’d gotten some fantastic data and comments.

“They’re such a great client!” my colleague exclaimed. I enthusiastically agreed.

That exchange got me thinking about great clients. What makes them “great” to work with? And what are the consequences when a client isn’t “great”?

Consultants are here to serve clients, yet we are most effective when clients help us help them. Being a “great client” doesn’t just matter when working with diversity consultants — it matters in engaging any external partner for leadership development, organizational strategy or change management. However, sometimes those leaders engaging diversity and inclusion consultants are less experienced in how to work with external professionals.

What makes clients great to work with — and more successful afterwards as a result — are the following three behaviors:

Trust the consultant. Clients who are unable or unwilling to be fully transparent inhibit the consultant’s ability to serve them and do an excellent job. Even pre-contract intake conversations are confidential, and an ethical consultant will ensure their client’s data, documents and personal disclosures are kept private. If you’re wary, have the consultant sign a non-disclosure agreement, but just as full honesty with your physician is critical to receiving the best health care, full transparency with your D&I consultant is critical to properly diagnosing your problem and getting meaningful results. Avoid keeping secrets from your diversity consultant even if they portray your organization in a less-than-flattering light.

Work at least as hard as the consultant. The consultant will eventually leave, and you will stay behind. Ultimately, you are the owner of the problem you have hired the consultant to help solve. Just as it’s up to you to follow your physician’s advice and change your behaviors to improve your health, you are responsible for implementing solutions and creating results that matter for your organization. Involve the right people in meetings with the consulting team, and enlist the right internal people to take on tasks. Follow up on action items by the agreed-upon deadlines. Communicate changes in priorities or key personnel to the consultant, as well as crises that arise during the project. Make it easy for the consultant to do their job well by executing critical functions they can’t, such as internal communications, scheduling and on-site logistics. It’s a waste of time, talent and budget to not ensure proper building access, fill focus groups, or brief stakeholders on the project goals.

Follow the consultant’s advice. Great clients hire excellent consultants because they need expertise they don’t have in-house. The fields of diversity and inclusion, organizational development, coaching and others require years of study and practice. When a consultant uses their expertise to provide recommendations, great clients often ask for clarification or provide necessary pushback. But just as a patient may not get good outcomes if they ignore a health practitioner’s advice, a client who does not heed their consultant’s expertise will not get the best results. Just as in health care, second opinions and questions are welcome, but great clients don’t waste their budget on consultants they plan to ignore or use as a scapegoat.

In short, great clients treat D&I consultants like healers, not magicians. Just like other types of healers, we partner with clients to understand their situation and context, diagnose the problem, co-create a treatment plan and provide support. We can’t do the work for the client just as the physician can’t heal the patient. The patient’s body does that with the right intervention and support. We can’t wave a wand and make the problem vanish, and we cannot fix it for you. Great clients get it, which is one of the reasons they can be so successful after working with great consultants.

Several chicken processing plants in Mississippi may have violated federal law by knowingly employing undocumented immigrants, according to immigration officials. Company employees, however, said they never knowingly employed people who presented false documentation to work.

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) plans to update its rules on the fluctuating workweek method of calculating overtime pay to cover more workers and provide employers with greater flexibility. This is just one of several employer-friendly proposed changes the DOL is pursuing.

Most multinational companies should have global employment policies that are lawful and reflect company culture—not a global handbook that dictates exactly what must be done under any circumstances.

Global employers that want to promote diversity and inclusion can support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees and advocate for LGBT rights, even in countries with policies and attitudes that are hostile to those rights—if they approach their activities with care.

With so many employers focused on how the legalization of medical and/or recreational marijuana might affect them, it’s understandable that companies may be less adept at dealing with worker drug and alcohol use.

But the truth is, mishandling these situations can get you in as much legal trouble as not complying with your state’s marijuana laws.

Real-world scenarios

Here are some common situations involving employee drug and alcohol use you may encounter, and guidance on how to handle them:

1. An employee wants an ADA accommodation or FMLA leave for a drug or alcohol addiction.

A series of DOL opinion letters addressed this issue, and it was determined that under certain circumstances, addiction can be considered a serious health condition under the FMLA.

Addicts are eligible for FMLA leave if they’re currently seeking treatment from a healthcare provider.

It’s important to note that FMLA leave can’t be used due to absences caused by substance use. So if an employee relapses and is absent because of that, they’re no longer FMLA-protected.

As for the ADA, an addict currently in recovery might qualify for an accommodation. For example, if an employee requests that their schedule gets adjusted so they can attend AA meetings, an employer may have to grant that request.

2. An employer wants to ask an employee questions about their drug, alcohol or medication use.

When you learn an employee is using any of the above substances, it’s natural to want to know more information as it may affect their performance.

However, there are only certain circumstances when it’s acceptable to ask.

In Lansdale v. UPS Supply Chain Solutions, a jury found an employer didn’t violate the ADA by asking about an employee’s drinking habits and alcohol use.

During an audit, some discrepancies were found between an employee’s expense report and the charges on their corporate card. When questioned, the employee admitted he purchased alcohol on the company card so his wife wouldn’t find out.

After learning this, the employer asked follow-up questions about the employee’s drinking — he later sued, claiming this violated his ADA rights.

A jury sided with the employer. Since it was conducting a credit card misuse investigation, the ADA hadn’t been violated.

However, in other cases, questions like these may violate the ADA if the employee is protected. The Act states an employer “shall not make inquiries as to the nature or severity of the disability unless it is consistent with business needs.”

The same goes for questions about prescription medications. The EEOC says employee medication use would rarely impact someone’s ability to do their job. However, in limited circumstances employers may ask.

For example, medications might impact a police officer or pilot’s ability to safely perform their jobs, so an employer may inquire about prescriptions and possible side effects in that case.

3. An employer wants to screen job candidates for marijuana, even though it’s legal in a good portion of the country now.

There are a few places that have outlawed pre-employment marijuana screenings: New York City and the state of Nevada. But everywhere else, it’s up to the employer whether or not to conduct these screenings.

Many employment lawyers advise against this unless jobs are safety-sensitive, such as a federal DOT employee or a doctor. Unnecessarily screening candidates for marijuana can severely limit your candidate pool.

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