Conference season is exciting when you hear a solid debate, learn more about a topic you care about or discover a speaker who is a promising resource.

But it also means coming across speakers who sling dangerous or overly simplistic ideas to their audience, in this case employers. I want to take this opportunity to gripe about my biggest pet peeve(s) in the employer health and benefits space. These are ideas I’ve heard at several conferences over several years and/or have read in a good number of articles about.

Here’s the biggie: Workplace weight loss or nutrition programs that hinge on body mass index on an individual level, especially outcomes-based programs whose “rewards” rely on reaching a certain BMI or losing a designated amount of weight.

“BMI is useful when studying populations and trends,” according to Medical News Today. But it can only give a rough idea of an individual’s health and weight status. There are flaws in the formula.

This is important to point out because if employers want to continue to micromanage employees’ health, they should know the nuance behind certain health measures instead of blindly trusting wellness companies.

To be clear, I understand that obesity is a considerable public health issue in America. I understand that there can be health risks.

But it’s also an issue I feel employees should feel safe dealing with in the privacy of their doctor’s office rather than having to share private medical information with their employer. Also, I’m aware of the fact that people and organizations have misconceptions about BMI and weight that are important acknowledge. Here are some important facts to know:

  1. There’s a misconception that thinner people are healthier. This is not always the case, as weight is only one of many measures for health. (Northwestern Medicine)
  2. Using BMI gives us a false idea about who has weight issues and who doesn’t. (Northwestern Medicine)
  3. “It’s important to recognize that BMI itself is not measuring “health” or a physiological state (such as resting blood pressure) that indicates the presence (or absence) of disease.” (Harvard Health Blog)
  4. Plenty of people have a high or low BMI and are healthy and, conversely, plenty of folks with a normal BMI are unhealthy (Harvard Health Blog). [This fact might not be considered in certain settings. For example, the New York Times recently reported about how, even though women can still be healthy with a high BMI, fertility clinics often refuse to treat them.]

I don’t know if employers in general understand the limitations of BMI.

The American Journal of Managed Care published an interesting research paper in November 2015 called “U.S. Employee Wellness Programs and Access to Obesity Treatment in Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance.” Its primary results were that 16 percent of employers required wellness program participation in order to receive full health benefits (how employers do not realize that this is coercion and does NOT make the program voluntary is beyond me!). Further, while most wellness programs set targets for weight and for other health indicators, most organizations health plans did not provide coverage for evidence-based obesity treatments.

The paper concluded:

For people seriously affected by obesity, the coverage gap described here is problematic because substantial improvement in their condition is unlikely without evidence-based treatment. This is true because obesity and its complications are typically chronic and progressive. Wellness programs may have little impact on costs driven by severe obesity in the absence of access to effective treatment for this chronic disease.

This is one of my major issues with wellness programs: They should be treated as secondary to real, HIPAA-protected medical benefits. Adequate health care is important. A wellness program should not be a replacement for certain coverage areas in a health plan. Also, if an employee would rather deal with health issues (any health issue, not just weight) through their doctor rather than a wellness program, they should not have to lose the opportunity to get hundreds of dollars in “rewards” like wellness program participants do.

I enjoyed this Consumer Reports story about privacy issues on wellness program. Its basic argument is that wellness programs often pose major privacy problems and that people should have a choice on whether they want to participate. Financial incentives or insurance discounts muddy the waters and may coerce people into sharing medical information.

Why is the free choice to participate necessary? The goals and recommendations of a wellness program may not align with your personal health care decisions, the article noted.

“If something you’re being asked to achieve in your workplace wellness program is unhealthy in your doctor’s opinion, you shouldn’t be required to do it,” said one source, Dr. Anna Kirkland, professor of women’s studies at the University of Michigan. “Wellness programs should never replace or supersede your doctor’s advice.”

The final point I want to make is that bias against people who are seen as overweight or unhealthy does exist. This is more so for women than for men, unsurprisingly; women tend to experience higher levels of weight stigmatization than men, “even at lower levels of excess weight.” Some negative stereotypes against seemingly overweight people include that they are “weak-willed, lazy, unintelligent and gluttonous.”

Further, a research report about this, “The Impact of Workplace Health Promotion Programs Emphasizing Individual Responsibility on Weight Stigma and Discrimination,” was released in November 2018. The research identified workplace health promotion programs as “potent catalysts of weight stigma and weight-based discrimination, especially when they emphasize individual responsibility for health outcomes.”

This is a lot of information, but my main argument here is that employers shouldn’t look at employee weight and BMI in such a black-and-white capacity. Also, I want to stress the point that health plans (covered under HIPAA, unlike wellness programs) should cover evidence-based obesity treatments. Finally, as employers focus more and more on employee health, be aware that weight discrimination is serious and should never be tolerated.

Also read: Some Constructive Criticism on Wellness

The post Employers, Stop Oversimplifying Your Employees’ Body Mass Index appeared first on Workforce.

New research by ADP, a leading provider of human resources software and services, suggests managers striving to understand the art of employee engagement take lessons from the “team leaders” who report to them.

ADP says just 16% of employees surveyed said they are “fully

So, what are the other 84% up to all day long?

If you’re a manager concerned with elevating engagement, reducing turnover and attracting top talent, you’ll want to see these key takeaways from ADP’s international survey of 19,000 workers:

  • Biggest driver of engagement is whether you work
    on a team: Employees who identify as part of a team are 2.3 times more likely
    to be fully engaged.
  • Trust is a foundation of engagement: Employees
    who trust their team leader are 12 times more likely to be fully engaged in
    their work
  • The United Arab Emirates has the highest
    percentage of fully engaged workers at 26%, while China has the lowest with
    just 6%. Engagement in the United States sits at 17%

According to ADP, the study surveyed more than 19,000 employees (one thousand per country in a stratified random sample) around the globe to measure their level of engagement and identify the work conditions most likely to attract and retain talent.

Team leaders drive engagement

Results suggest a real driver of engagement is team
leadership. Employees who worked in teams reported being 2 to 3 times more
engaged than those who work alone. The finding is especially notable since in
most organizations team leaders do not have direct authority over the other
employees on the team.

In some ways, it should be no surprise that team leadership drives engagements as team leaders are in the trenches with their fellow employees day-in and day-out, sharing directly in the wins and losses and being held accountable by their managers for the results.

Because of this close interaction, team leaders generally have the opportunity to connect with employees on a far more personal level than the typical manager does. A good team leader knows how to find and fire-up the motivation insides good employees.

Good team leaders generally:

  • Develop a strategy the team will use to reach
    its goal
  • Provide any training that team members need
  • Communicate clear instructions to team members
  • Listen to team members’ feedback
  • Monitor team members’ participation to ensure
    the training they are being provided is being put into use, and also to see if
    any additional training is needed
  • Manage the flow of day to day operations
  • Create and distribute reports to update managers
    on the progress

Great team leaders take it up a notch by having:

  • A clear elevating goal — they have a vision
  • Results driven structure — visions have a
    business goal
  • Competent team members — with right number and
    mix of diversity
  • Unified commitment — they are a team, not a
  • A collaborative climate — aligned towards a
    common purpose
  • High standards of excellence — they have group
  • Principled leadership — the central driver of
  • External support — they have adequate resources

The post Your Team Leaders Drive Engagement: Here’s why appeared first on HRMorning.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and CEO of SHRM, told a meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board that more should be done to track and measure investments in worker training. A common training metric could help define worker training.

When the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) raised health plans’ out-of-pocket maximums for next year, it also increased the penalties on employers whose group plans don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act’s coverage and affordability requirements.

In this podcast, Aaron Crews, Littler’s Chief Data Analytics Officer, Natalie Pierce, co-chair of Littler’s Robotics, AI and Automation Practice Group and Diversity and Inclusion Council and Garry Mathiason, co-chair of Littler’s Robotics, AI and Automation Practice Group discuss what impact AI and automation will have on employers in the future.

“I know it when I see it.” These are the famous words of Justice Potter Stewart defining legal obscenity in his concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964).

I feel the same way about a hostile work environment. For a hostile work environment to be actionable, it must (among other factors) be objectivity hostile. What does this mean? It’s hard to define, but I know it when I see it.

For example, consider the case of Curtis Anthony, an African-American quality inspector for Boeing at its North Charleston, South Carolina, plant, sued his employer for allowing a racially hostile work environment.

According to ABC News, his allegations include white co-workers urinating in his seat and on his desk, leaving signs with the “n-word” near his workspace, and ultimately leaving a noose above his workspace. Boeing, for its part denies the allegations, stating that Boeing spokesperson wrote, that Anthony “is a valued Boeing South Carolina teammate, [and] there is no validity to his allegations.”

Bingo. Hostile work environment. I can’t necessarily define it, but I know it when I see it.

Regardless of whether an employee can hold you legally responsible for, let’s say, another employee peeing on his desk, why would let this misconduct go unchecked? Even if you think it’s just horseplay, you can’t ignore it.

If an employee complains about misconduct, your reaction should never be, “Well, I understand, but it’s not that bad, or at least not bad enough for you to sue us; now go back to work.” Your obligations as an employer-recipient of a complaint of workplace harassment never changes. Investigate and take prompt remedial action to reasonably ensure that the harassment stops and does not repeat.
Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for a very difficult and expensive lawsuit. In other words, urine trouble (sorry … not sorry).

The post What’s a Hostile Work Environment? You’ll Know It When You See It appeared first on Workforce.

A long-time worker at Boeing’s North Charleston, North Carolina plant says that he has experienced repeated racial harassment at work for years, including finding a noose hanging over his desk when he returned from an off-site assignment earlier this year. He says the plant management retaliated against him for complaining about harassment by his co-workers.

Curtis Anthony is suing the company, alleging that Boeing allowed a hostile work environment at the plant where the aerospace giant builds its 787 Dreamliner plane.

A Boeing spokesperson told ABC News last week that it investigated the noose incident and identified and fired the individual responsible.

Anthony says that the noose incident followed years of racial harassment from some of his white co-workers beginning in 2017.

He alleges that he informed plant management about incidents including finding signs with racial epithets near his workspace and someone urinating on his desk and chair.

FMLA leave to deal with stress

In his suit, Anthony says that stress caused him to relapse in his sobriety and he took FMLA medical leave to seek treatment for stress.

Anthony says he also enrolled in Boeing’s Employee Assistance Program to help deal with the stress. Boeing’s website says its EAP provides up to 6 no-fee counseling sessions. The EAP helps workers address issues such as emotional and mental health, substance abuse and workplace-related concerns, including conflicts with a co-worker.

The company notes that Anthony’s requests for leave were “consistently and repeatedly approved,” but denies Anthony reported other incidents or experienced retaliation.

Retaliation for complaining?

In addition to laying out his allegations of racially-motivated harassment, Anthony’s lawsuit claims that he faced retaliation after complaining to management about the alleged incidents and about workers using “the n-word several times” in his presence.

He claims he Boeing moved him to a building with no air conditioning when he returned from FMLA leave and passed him over for promotion that went instead to “lesser qualified Caucasian workers.”

Was the company told of earlier incidents?

The company denied that Anthony reported harassment other than the noose incident. In a statement, Boeing told ABC News that Anthony ” is a valued Boeing South Carolina teammate, [but] there is no validity to his allegations.”

That could prove a critical claim in resolving the lawsuit.

In a 2017 case, a court found that, as long as a company didn’t subject an employee to any tangible employment action, it can avoid liability by satisfying two key criteria.

Those criteria:
1. The company must exercise reasonable care to promptly correct any harassment it’s made aware of.
2. The employer must also show that the victim/employee failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities it provided —  or failed to otherwise avoid harm.

The court said in its ruling, “Failure to report harassment … deprives the employer of an opportunity to take corrective action and does not justify the failure to report.”

Anthony’s case could impact Boeing financially, in addition to any damage to its reputation.

Plaintiffs have received multi-million dollar settlements after showing employers in similar cases failed to protect workers from harassment or retaliated against them for reporting harassment.

The post Boeing employee suing for harassment, retaliation found noose above his desk appeared first on HRMorning.

Muslims in Turkey who observed Ramadan this year kept working despite the strain of fasting during the day, waiting to eat after sunset and waking early in the morning, before sunrise, to eat again.

​Buying thousands of dollars’ worth of Starbucks gift cards and claiming it was for "coffee with a contact."Taking clients to a strip club, then submitting the expense as a steakhouse business dinner. Boarding a pet snake while on business travel. Those are some of the unusual "work" expenses unearthed by employers and auditors. Sometimes employees can successfully explain why the expenses are necessary, and they’re reimbursed. Sometimes they can’t, and they’re not. &quo

When a client calls me to ask for advice about firing an employee, the first question I always ask is, “What does the employee’s file look like?”

I want to know if there exists a documented history of performance issues to justify the termination, and whether said issues are known and understood by the employee.

I ask these questions for two reasons:

    1. Can the employer objectively prove the misconduct to a judge or jury? Fact-finders want to see documentation, and if it’s lacking, they are more likely to believe that the misconduct was not bad enough to warrant documentation, or worse, that it did not occur. In either case, a judge or jury reaching this conclusion is bad news for an employer defending the termination in a lawsuit.
    2. Surprises cause bad feelings, which lead to lawsuits. If an employee has notice of the reasons causing the discharge, the employee is much less likely to sue. Sandbagged employees become angry ex-employees. You do not want angry ex-employees going to lawyers, especially when you lack the documentation to support the termination.

So what does quality documentation to support a termination look like? Consider Anderson v. Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (N.D. Ohio May 29, 2019)

Jason Anderson, African-American, claimed that GCRTA discriminated against him because of his race by denying him a promotion, issuing excessive discipline and ultimately terminating him. He lost. Why? Because his employer had a long and documented history of his performance and discipline issues.

  • On April 17, 2012, Anderson received a coaching for being involved in a preventable motor vehicle accident in an unmarked RTA Transit Police Vehicle.
  • On March 5, 2013, Anderson received a coaching for making disrespectful and unprofessional comments about a fellow officer over the police radio.
  • On August 14, 2014, Anderson received a coaching for failing to report to work for an overtime shift that Anderson had volunteered to work.
  • On January 1, 2015, Anderson received a coaching for neglecting his responsibilities as a first responder after witnessing a motor vehicle accident involving an RTA coach. Anderson continued driving rather than stopping to provide assistance to injured passengers.
  • On August 5, 2016, Anderson received a coaching for allowing a person to ride without proof of payment purchase or validation of fare and failing to take any enforcement action.
  • On August 5, 2016, Anderson received a First Written Warning for a disruptive, disrespectful and unprofessional outburst directed at Anderson’s supervising officer during the Republican National Convention. He yelled, among other things, “You disgust me. The very thought of you is disgusting to me and your presence sickens me.”
  • On January 25, 2017, Anderson received a coaching for failing to address the resistive and disorderly behavior of a fare violater at the Tower City Rapid Station.
  • On April 12, 2017, Anderson received a coaching for failing to attend to scheduled court appearances.
  • On May 30, 2017, Anderson received another First Written Reminder for violation of Employee Performance Code for failing to maintain control of a suspect following an investigative detention.
  • On June 13, 2017, Anderson was charged with multiple misdemeanors following an off-duty incident with his girlfriend during which he allegedly assaulted her while he had his loaded service weapon unsecured in their hotel room.
Based on this history, the court had little difficulty dismissing Anderson’s claims:

Plaintiff was issued three (3) First Written Warnings and (2) two non-disciplinary coachings, each based on a particular circumstance of Plaintiff’s problematic or violative conduct. Plaintiff provides no direct evidence to support a finding that his discipline or termination were made because of his race. Plaintiff also fails to demonstrate how any similarly situated employee received more favorable treatment. The record does however support a finding that GCRTA’s actions against Plaintiff were made for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons following Plaintiff’s unlawful conduct the morning of May 26, 2017 at the Double Tree Hotel.

This employer gave this employee a very long leash before ultimately terminating his employment. Your leash may not, and likely need not, be this long.
However, no matter the length of your leash, you must ensure it’s documented and communicated to the employee each step of the way. Otherwise, you are asking for a lawsuit and issues in said lawsuit post-termination.

The post How Long of a Leash Must You Give an Employee Before Firing? appeared first on Workforce.