When someone mentions “video interviewing,” do you
immediately think Skype, Zoom or FaceTime?

While these are wonderful tools for connecting with friends and family, they really don’t unlock the full power of video for recruitment purposes.

Of course, technology will never entirely remove people from
the hiring equation. But, by using video interviewing tools that have been especially
designed for the HR professional, you can greatly enhance in-person interviews.

Here’s a look at how the latest video tools will help you
narrow your candidate pool quickly, while selecting the best person for the

Refine candidate pool with video interviewing

Receiving a large number of resumes in response to a job
posting can be both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you have lots of
options, but let’s be honest: many of the applicants are likely not suited for
the position. 

Hiring managers spend a tremendous amount of time conducting
preliminary telephone interviews, struggling to schedule a mutually beneficial
time for the call and draining energy by repeatedly asking the same questions.

Phone interview fatigue is real, and the worst part is, there are usually more unqualified applicants than qualified ones. Candidates are sent a link to record the answers to your list of interview questions whenever it’s convenient for them. Hiring managers review the recorded videos as time allows, so there’s no phone tag to arrange an interview time – and zero no-shows either.

Pre-recorded video interviews also save recruiters headspace by eliminating monotonous question asking. By switching to video interviews in the preliminary hiring stage, only applicants with the most potential are invited for an in-person interview.

Find the best person – regardless of location

You want to hire the absolute best person for the job, and
sometimes that’s someone who lives outside of your city – or even your country.
Maybe you’re considering offering them remote work, or maybe the individual
would relocate if hired.

Either way, pre-recorded video interviews allow hiring
managers to overcome the challenges of interviewing people in different
geographical areas and time zones. 

There’s no need for recruiters and applicants to be
physically together in the same room for an informative interview to take
place. Recruiters can watch the recorded answers on their own time, which
allows them to focus on other HR priorities.

But, video interviews save more than time. They can cut
travel costs substantially compared to conventional recruitment techniques.

Collaboration with the hiring team 

Some video interviewing platforms allow for more visibility
and collaboration among all those involved in the hiring process. Instead of
everyone setting time out of their schedules to meet with job-seeking
individuals, the pre-recorded videos can be shared with anyone in your

This way, recruiters can seek other people’s opinions and achieve a more rounded assessment of applicants. 

In live video interviewing, hiring decision-makers can chat privately in real-time, asking questions or making observations about candidate responses. This, of course, is impossible to do during in-person interviews, where you may want to remain circumspect.

No one can voice their opinions until after the interview
concludes, and even then, there can be debate among peers. Video interviews can
be re-watched, removing ambiguity. 

Whether it’s a pre-recorded or live video interview,
technology allows everyone involved in the hiring process to make better
informed assessments before the final in-person interviews. Everyone is already
acquainted with the applicants before they arrive, so no one is going into the
interview unprepared.

Video interviewing: Making in-person interviews count

Video interviews do a fantastic job eliminating applicants
who aren’t well-suited for the position, giving you greater confidence that the
final in-person interviews are worth everyone’s time. The people who arrive for
an in-person interview have already been vetted and identified as the most
promising candidates.

By introducing video interviewing into your hiring process,
you can save time, money, and your sanity—all while recruiting top talent.

The post 3 ways video interviewing boosts your recruiting results appeared first on HR Morning.


In the
next three years, about 120 million workers in the world’s 12 largest economies
will likely need to be retrained as a result of AI and intelligent automation,
according to a new IBM study.

Just two
in five CEOs surveyed said they currently have the people, skills and resources
required to execute their business strategies.

All that job retraining won’t come easy

The same study found the average time it takes to close a skills gap has increased 12-fold — from just three days on average in 2012 to a full 36 days last year!

The study,
called The Enterprise Guide to Closing the Skills Gap, showed that new
skills requirements are rapidly emerging, while other skills are becoming

instance, in 2016 CEOs ranked core capabilities for STEM and basic computer and
software/application skills as the top two most critical skills for employees.

In 2018,
the top two skills sought were behavioral — the willingness to be flexible,
agile, and adaptable to change; and the ability to prioritize.

are facing mounting concerns over the widening skills gap and tightened labor
markets with the potential to impact their futures as well as worldwide
economies,” said Amy Wright, Managing Partner, IBM Talent &
Transformation, IBM. Half of CEOs recognize “they do not have any skills
development strategies in place to address their largest gaps,” Wright said.

The core
recommendation is to take a holistic approach to closing the skills gap

  • peer-to-peer learning
    through agile teams and cross-training
  • hands-on practice served
    up in the flow of work, and
  • traditional classroom and
    online learning.

The study
stressed the critical role HR must play in helping to develop dynamic and flexible teams to enable the ongoing
reinvention of work and skills.

The post IBM Study: Businesses see big job retraining challenges ahead appeared first on HR Morning.


Because the current healthcare climate is heavily focused on meeting strict quality guidelines from the feds and payors while providing top-notch care, employee retention in healthcare is more critical than ever. But it’s also getting more challenging to keep workers from jumping ship.

Retention is difficult in the healthcare industry for
several reasons – one of the most significant being employee burnout.

Whether it’s your nursing team, your doctors or your
front-end staff, many healthcare workers are in danger of becoming disengaged. The
high-pressure atmosphere that comes with working in health care can quickly
drain even the most dedicated worker’s spirit and morale, causing your best
people to leave your organization.

Stories and data abound about how clinical staff at all
levels are feeling frazzled and overworked at hospitals, physician practices,
clinics and other healthcare organizations.

Between high patient loads with little time to provide
personalized care, dealing with data entry in electronic health records (EHR)
systems and long, task-filled shifts, many doctors and nurses are not only
considering leaving their current jobs – they’re thinking of abandoning their
career choice entirely.

Front-desk and registration positions aren’t much better.
Over time, these jobs have evolved from simply answering phones and scheduling
patients to more complex duties, including insurance verification and fielding
complicated coverage questions.

Leaders for Today, a healthcare staffing firm, surveyed
thousands of hospital employees
, including doctors, nurses and
administrators, to ask them about their employment plans. Of those who
responded, close to 69% planned to leave their current hospital within five
years – and 37% want to leave their current position within two years.

Not surprisingly, this creates high turnover in hospitals.
Over half of survey respondents worked for at least five different hospitals in
their entire career. Only 4% worked for one hospital during their entire career.

A recent analysis by nurse staffing firm NSI Nursing Solutions shows just how bad turnover is for many clinical positions: Overall hospital turnover was 19.1% in 2018, which is an increase over 2017’s percentage of 18.2%.

Turnover is a significant contributor to high burnout rates in healthcare. When staffing levels aren’t consistent, those left standing must shoulder a heavier burden. Patients must still be treated, and insurance claims must still be processed, so employees take on heavier workloads to keep things running, taking fewer breaks each shift.

This causes workers to feel disengaged. In fact, when looking at employee engagement across a variety of occupations, the healthcare industry ranks at the bottom. Consulting firm Quantum Workplace found that only about 57% of healthcare workers were engaged with their jobs.

Even more discouraging was the finding that 13% of
healthcare employees were either actively disengaged or openly hostile while
working each day.  

Disengaged, burned-out clinicians have significant negative impacts on healthcare organizations and their bottom line. Not only can burnout compromise the quality of patient care (44% of nurses fear that patient care will suffer because they’re tired, according to a survey from Kronos Inc.), it can also increase healthcare costs.

According to a recent article in NPR, doctor burnout adds around $4.6 billion a year to the cost of health care in the U.S. This figure represents how much it costs hospitals to replace doctors who quit – and how much income they lose while their positions are vacant.

What’s harder to swallow is that this a conservative
estimate: It only takes lost hours and turnover into account without
considering any other factors related to physician burnout that may increase a
hospital’s costs, including expensive settlements due to malpractice lawsuits or
issues with quality of care that could lower reimbursement.

That means the actual costs of burnout and turnover could be
even more significant for healthcare organizations. So it’s essential to get a
handle on the problem and improve employee retention.

Employee retention in healthcare tactics

In many ways, stress is the nature of the beast in health
care, so there will always be some turnover with certain positions. But in an
industry where staff can often make or break patients’ outcomes and experience
(which hospitals must keep tabs on as part of new reimbursement requirements),
it’s key to boost your employee retention rates to keep the best and brightest
from burning out and quitting.

With that in mind, what can healthcare organizations do to retain their staff, keep workers engaged and prevent burnout? While there’s no foolproof solution, there are several strategies organizations can try. Here are four that have worked well for your peers:

  1. Recognize staffers’ achievements. Healthcare employees want to feel that their work is valued. This may be especially important for those on the front lines delivering care to patients each day. Recognition makes workers feel like they’re an essential part of the team. Without recognition, employees may perceive themselves as merely cogs in a machine, not realizing how much their efforts matter to the higher-ups. It can be harder to recognize healthcare employees in a formal setting because the nature of their work doesn’t always lend itself to employee appreciation celebrations. But there are other ways to give employees kudos. Send out company-wide emails or put up flyers in hospital breakr ooms so workers can tell their efforts are noticed. Technology can be leveraged to make this easier, as well. Vendors offer various software solutions that help managers and executives easily recognize healthcare workers for a job well done. 
  • Give
    workers a purpose
    . To many workers, it matters whether they’re working for
    an organization that allows them to make their voices heard – and make a
    difference. Health care is no exception. Ensuring that employees feel valued is
    important, but forward-thinking organizations that want to keep their people on
    board will take the next step and help workers see exactly how their efforts
    are helping those around them, while allowing them to offer suggestions for
    improvement. Here, it’s essential to be transparent about your organization’s
    goals and mission. Many employees (especially millennials) won’t want to stick
    around at a hospital or practice that doesn’t prioritize the same values that
    they do. It’s also important to ask for employee feedback and ideas on
    everything from improving patient care to boosting community outreach. This
    makes them feel more engaged in their work and more invested in helping your
    organization accomplish key objectives.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to relax. Doctors, nurses and other clinical staff need an outlet for all the stress that comes with dealing with patients’ chronic and acute conditions every day. There are many different solutions healthcare organizations can try to alleviate this pressure, depending on their budgets and resources. Some hospitals have traded in their traditional break rooms for “renewal rooms,” allowing nurses to take whatever short breaks they can in a more tranquil environment on site. Others have brought in instructors to teach staffers meditation techniques they can practice during the workday or on their breaks. Animal therapy, typically reserved for patients, has also helped staffers feel less overwhelmed. Even offering healthier food alternatives in cafeterias can help reduce stress – since the salty snacks, sweet treats and processed foods clinicians often grab between patients can cause their energy to crash quickly, along with their moods.
  • Create a
    positive culture in your organization
    . Burnout and turnover can skyrocket
    if healthcare employees fear they’ll be blamed or punished for any mistakes
    that are made. There are numerous benefits to having a
    culture at your organization
    where employees feel comfortable communicating
    openly with their peers and managers about any issues they notice. Instead of
    seeing errors as reasons to punish workers, viewing them as learning
    opportunities can improve patient safety and enhance care delivery. Better
    communication helps managers provide workers with constructive feedback they
    can use to do their jobs better, and employees are more likely to be receptive
    to feedback that’s not given to shame them for their mistakes. Above all, a
    positive culture helps employees work better as a team and feel more connected
    with each other. This can improve their attitude toward coming to work each day
    – making them want to stick around longer.

The post Employee Retention in Health Care: 4 Keys to Keep Your Best and Brightest appeared first on HR Morning.


Valuable employees need to know their work makes a difference, so it’s important managers to thank good people.

For managers, letting people know their work matters may take a little forethought and effort, but it doesn’t have to cost a lot.

It’s really all about keeping them engaged.

A simple “thank you” goes a long way with making people feel valued. The return on investment is huge for this gesture. These two words can have a significant impact on motivation and morale.

When saying thanks to your good employees, acknowledge the hard work they do, and tie it in to how it’s helping your organization meet key goals. This reaffirms their work is vital to the company’s success.

Top 4 ways to thank good people

When thanking employees, there are several approaches to take.

 Her are the most effective:

  • A hand-written note. Thank-notes may sound a bit old-fashioned, but there’s no better way to express gratitude than with a note. Employees will appreciate the gesture, and it provides a personal touch.
  • A face-to-face chat. Looking employees directly in the eyes and saying “thanks for all you do” is a real motivator that makes
  • them feel valued as people.
  • A phone call. Can’t talk to them face-to-face? Take a few minutes to give an employee a call and thank them. Verbal thanks are always appreciated.
  • An email. If there’s no time to pursue other methods, a quick thanks via email is good way to recognize an employee for a job well done.

Praise specific efforts

When praising employees for their work, be specific. Tell
them exactly why the work stands out.

Research shows simply telling employees they’re doing a
“good job” isn’t enough. Reason: They won’t know what they’re doing right, so
they won’t work to maintain their progress.

Instead, mention what they’ve done well in no uncertain

Example: “You always hit deadlines.” “Your research is
detailed.” “I never have to correct mistakes on reports.”

This feedback not only makes people feel their work matters,
it’ll motivate them to continue performing to top standards – it’s a win-win
for everyone.

Delivery matters

Besides recognizing employees for specific efforts, managers
should also keep in mind four other guidelines when it comes to doling out

  • Recognize workers in the moment. It’s best for
    managers to make note of employee accomplishments as soon as possible. This
    helps reinforce top performance by acknowledging employees’ good work right as
    it’s completed.
  • Keep praise in context. The best way for
    managers to recognize their employees is to let them know just how their hard
    work benefits the company’s bottom line. If workers are told that what they do
    is essential to the company’s success, they’ll feel motivated to keep it up.
  • Avoid praising work too much or too little. If
    managers praise their employees enthusiastically for every little thing, the
    words will lose their meaning – and their effectiveness. The recognition given
    should match up appropriately with the employee’s results.
  • Make the words meaningful. Thanking employees on
    auto-pilot out of obligation doesn’t promote results. Managers’ words have to
    be heart-felt and sincere. Inauthentic praise can actually demotivate employees,
    so praise should be reserved unless they mean it.

It’s key to note that for these methods to be effective for
employee recognition, managers need to promote a culture where workers feel
valued in general. Everyone should be treated as an essential part of the team.

If employees feel their managers care about them as people,
and don’t just see them as cogs in the machine, praise will be more meaningful
to them. Workers who feel valued by managers will be more invested in the company,
which inspires them to do their best work.

Give more responsibility

Another way for employees to feel like they matter is to
give them a bit more authority and responsibility as a reward for exceeding

Feeling challenged by assignments is key to employee
satisfaction, as reported by over a third (35%) of participants in the
CareerBuilder survey.

So to this end, assign best performers some challenging or
interesting tasks. Let them have a say in their next assignment. Suggest they
mentor or help train another employee.

Or, allow them to take the lead at the next company meeting
or training seminar. Stretching a person’s role outside their job description
and giving them more responsibilities can be its own reward.

Some managers may even wish to change the person’s job title
to better reflect his or her responsibilities and role in the company. With or
without a raise, a more authoritative job title can make an employee feel like
his or her work is being recognized.

As another reward, managers can offer to take on their least
favoritetask for one week to get it off their plates. In turn, they can take on
a manager’s task and really get an idea of what it’s like to be the person in charge,
if only for a day.

Acknowledge  efforts

When rewarding people, it’s a good idea to not only focus on
their raw accomplishments, but also on the effort it took to get there. After
all, managers want to encourage hard work and innovative thinking, even if the
end result wasn’t as planned.

Acknowledging a person’s efforts in pursuing an interesting
idea promotes an environment where employees aren’t afraid to try new things.

That could pay off in dividends for the company. Also,
rewarding loyalty is key to retaining good people. Managers want employees to
feel invested in the company because it encourages them to stick around and
continue doing a good job.

 That’s why it’s a
good idea to celebrate anniversary milestones with the company.

For every five years employees spend at their company,
recognize the time they put in. Hold a special ceremony for these employees, or
tie it in to a general employee appreciation celebration. Handing out pins,
ribbons or plaques are all good ideas.

Keys to recognition ceremonies

There are other ways to thank employees that won’t hurt a
company’s budget. Have a monthly or quarterly recognition ceremony where
managers take time out to acknowledge the people who have gone the extra mile
with their work, and present them with certificates for achievement.

Although it doesn’t take much to plan these ceremonies, the
ones that are the most effective:

  • Fit in with the company culture. If you have a
    more casual work environment, a black tie gala isn’t the best bet to honor your
    employees. Consider your culture and work from there.
  • Have specific personal touches. At many
    companies, honorees are encouraged to invite guests. And besides work
    achievements, accomplishments like birthdays and anniversaries are also highlighted.
  • Incorporate unique company elements. Using a
    cookie-cutter ceremony likely won’t have an impact on your people. Add some fun
    and excitement to the festivities.

The award for ‘big thinker’ goes to …

Often employers reward their people by naming them “Employee of the Month” or “Employee of the Quarter.”

While these are great for highlighting general good work,
try honoring employees for more specific behaviors to encourage it in the

Specific categories to incorporate include:

  • big thinker
  • cost-saver
  • best idea
  • most hard-working, and
  • life saver (complete with a package of the candies).
  • ultimate team player
  • mountain mover
  • Mr. or Ms. Above and Beyond

Even awards for things like “best attendance” can encourage
positive behavior and motivate your people.

The post Employee engagement: Key steps to recognize and thank good people appeared first on HR Morning.


In a recent case study detailing what worked and what didn’t, Dan Bengyak, Vice President of Administrative Services at Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital in Newburgh, NY, shares how his company dealt with a vacation time issue:

We had an interesting problem on our hands when it came to employees’ vacation time — they had too much of it.

The majority of our staff was accruing a ton of PTO, and the demands of their jobs made it nearly impossible to use it all.

We knew this was a sore spot for employees — those who left often mentioned it in the exit interview. We didn’t want people moving on with a bad taste in their mouth.

It was clear we needed to come up with a way to ensure the PTO got used without impacting our productivity.

Cost effective

During this time, we’d also been discussing ways to boost our recruitment efforts for new grads.

That’s when we had the idea to start a student loan repayment benefit, and we’d use employees’ extra PTO to do it.

Our CFO was very receptive to the idea since it was so cost effective. Vacation time was already in the budget, so all we had to do was move some money around.

Bigger impact

Here’s how the program works. Twice a year, any full- or part-time employee can take 30 to 75 hours of their unused PTO and convert it into student debt payment.

This means our people can be paying off as much as $5,000 of debt a year. The best part? Nearly every employee can take advantage of this.

When we first rolled it out, we assumed this benefit would mainly impact employees fresh out of college. But so many more workers were interested in the perk.

There were older employees who’d been with us for a long time who wanted to go back to school. We also had parents who’d taken out student loans on their kids’ behalf.

We quickly realized this benefit was going to have a much bigger impact than on just new young grads.

Overwhelming response

When we first announced the benefit, we were expecting a little hesitation and a lot of questions. Instead, we got cheers and applause!

We were blown away by the employee response — it’s by far the best reaction we’ve ever received when rolling out a new benefit.

The program launched at the start of the year, and we had 40 people sign up right away.

We’re expecting some major growth and wouldn’t be surprised to see as many as 100 people participating by the end of the year.

Improvements all around

We figured this would help with recruiting efforts, but it’s worked wonders on retention, too.

Since parents with college kids can take advantage of this benefit, we have them practically guaranteed to stay on throughout their children’s college years.

Not only that, but morale has gone up. Now, our people don’t feel like their PTO is slipping away, and their student debt is much more manageable.

The post Benefit switch allowed unused PTO to go toward student loans appeared first on HR Morning.


For decades now, the hiring process has been the same: candidates apply, employers interview them, and the best one gets the job.

But in recent years it’s become apparent that interviews are starting to lose their effectiveness. Someone who interviews well isn’t necessarily going to be a great employee.

One in two hires fail

A lot of research points to problems with the interview. According to Leadership IQ, 50% of new hires fail within the first 18 months. HireVue found that some managers’ hiring choices only work out 20% of the time.

Google has gone as far to suggest that interviews are often no better than a coin flip, saying there’s no correlation between how well someone scored on an interview and their eventual job performance.

Gaming the system

So what specifically is wrong with interviews today? According to HR expert and professor John Sullivan, it’s our modernized job search process.

With all the online resources available to candidates, they can prepare for interviews in a way applicants couldn’t in the past. Websites like Glassdoor allow job seekers to see what their likely interview questions will be.

Here are the top reasons Sullivan says companies should rely less on interviews:

  1. Candidates have canned answers at the ready. Since they’re able to study up on the interview questions ahead of time, it’s very likely candidates are giving you rehearsed answers. It’s like a student knowing the questions on an upcoming test in advance — the exam then loses its effectiveness.
  2. Lying is easier to get away with. Many candidates have realized that little lies or exaggerations on their resumes will typically go unnoticed. Reference checks usually only involve confirming dates of employment and job title, leaving candidates some room to exaggerate what their responsibilities really were.
  3. Employers disguise realities of the job. In a world focused on the candidate experience, many employers might try to spin what the job actually is in order to attract candidates. But by only highlighting the good aspects, employers practically guarantee the new hire will ultimately leave because the job isn’t what they thought it’d be.
  4. Too much focus on cultural fit. Employers want a candidate who will fit in nicely with the rest of the team. But too much focus on this arbitrary factor reduces the value of the interview. Not to mention, managers could be passing over great candidates just because they do things differently.

Try these instead

The interview probably isn’t going away anytime soon, so here are tactics you can use in the meantime to make more successful hires.

  1. Test cognitive abilities. Intelligence tests might seem unnecessary, but studies have shown mental ability is a great predictor of job success.
  2. Evaluate skills. Along with an intelligence test, a skills test can help demonstrate if the candidate has the talent the job requires. This will help weed out a candidate who’s a great talker but doesn’t have the job skills to back up their claims.
  3. See what your best employees are doing. To figure out what you’re looking for in a new hire, check out what your best people are currently doing. How did these employees perform on cognitive and skills tests? Their results can help you create a threshold for where candidates’ results should be.
  4. Start hires out as temps if you can. Obviously, a great way to make a new hire is to test the person out in the role first. If you can, start a hire out as a temp and transition to permanent if they perform well.

The post A great interview doesn’t make a good hire: Here’s what does appeared first on HR Morning.


Google has told its employees to cut out political debate and politics at work.

The company put out employee guidelines last week, according
to widely published news reports, informing staffers that “disrupting the
workday to have a raging debate over politics or the latest news story”
does not help build community.

Google always took pride in embracing free speech and open debates among employees. But that free-range approach is creating challenges. For instance, the tech giant found itself in the crosshairs of some prominent politicians accusing it of an anti-conservative bias, as well as some employees who said they were retaliated against for speaking out about equal treatment and equal opportunity.

Guidelines on politics at work

“Community guidelines exist to support the healthy and
open discussion that has always been a part of our culture. They help create an
environment where we can come together as a community in pursuit of our shared
mission and serve our users,” a Google spokeswoman told CNN Business.
“It’s critical that we honor that trust and uphold the integrity of our
products and services. The guidelines are official policy and apply when
employees are communicating in the workplace.”

Google first published community guidelines about a year ago
concerning how employees engaged with each other, specifying that trolling
online and name calling are not okay in the workplace.

The new guidelines take that a step further, noting
employees should not make “statements that insult, demean, or humiliate
(whether individually or by reference to groups) other employees, our extended
workforce, our business partners, or others (including public figures).”

The guidance also applies to internal channels, including
the company’s email listservs, where a lot of employee conversation takes

Google is also seeking to cut back on employees making
“false or misleading statements about Google’s products or business that
could undermine trust in our products and the work that we do,” according
to its guidelines.

In addition to the new guidance, which was first sent in an
email by CEO Sundar Pichai to employees before it published online, the company
said there will be a new “central flagging tool” for employees to report
content that may not align with its guidelines. A new “community
management team” will then assess whether the content is in violation.

The post Google tells its employees to focus on work – not politics appeared first on HR Morning.


Any HR pro would raise an eyebrow reading the broad outline of this FMLA abuse investigation.

An employee schedules a knee surgery, then postpones that procedure to have a different operation done to remove a tumor on his foot.

While he’s out on FMLA leave, an employee takes a vacation trip to Mexico. After he gets back, he lets the employer know he might soon request additional FMLA leave to have the postponed surgery on his knee.

Already annoyed about the possible follow-on leave request, the employer finds out about the vacation, investigates possible FMLA abuse and sees a video of the employee lifting luggage out of a car.

In spite of the employee’s argument that his activities on vacation complied with doctor’s orders, the employer fires him for FMLA abuse.

Took FMLA abuse case to court

Seem pretty clear cut? The employer thought so and decided not to settle when the employee sued for retaliatory termination under FMLA, ADA and Massachusetts discrimination law.

In the end, however, a jury heard a more detailed version of the story and awarded the fired employee more than a million dollars in damages.

Appeals went all the way to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, where judges upheld essentially all of the huge award. (DaPrato v. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority).

The court’s agreement with the original jury decision provides a valuable reminder that FMLA investigations and related employment decisions need to be thorough, carefully documented, and conducted calmly based on facts rather than emotion.

What the employer got wrong

Of course, employers have the right to terminate an FMLA abuser. And even if it gets to court, many organizations successfully fend off claims of interference and/or retaliation

So, why did this employer miss so badly in deciding that the employee had abused FMLA leave and deserved to be fired?

First of all, the employer got some basics wrong.

The HR director told the court that she believed that an employee out on FMLA could not take a vacation during their leave.

The court made it clear that there is no prohibition against someone recovering anywhere he or she wants to during medically-approved leave.

But, said the court, “an employer may validly consider an employee’s conduct on vacation—or, for that matter, anywhere—that is inconsistent with his or her claimed reasons for medical leave, when the employer has such information at the time the employer is evaluating whether leave has been properly or improperly used. “

Doctor’s orders key to FMLA determinations

The employee said his conduct wasn’t inconsistent with his doctor’s instructions, which said he needed six to eight weeks of FMLA leave, should wear a walking boot, and needed to avoid some putting a lot of weight on his foot for a period.

He was following those instructions, he said – wearing the boot and being very careful not to put excessive weight on his foot.

And the court agreed. The Supreme court’s decision noted “An employee recovering from a leg injury may sit with his or her leg raised by the sea shore while fully complying with FMLA leave requirements but may not climb Machu Picchu without abusing the FMLA process. Careful consideration of the reasons for the medical leave and the activities undertaken, including the timeline for rehabilitation and recovery, are required to determine whether FMLA leave has been abused.”

“Shock, outrage and offense”

When HR recommended he should be fired for FMLA abuse, however, it didn’t consider those factors. Nor did HR share that information with senior management.

Since the employer ignored the plaintiff’s medical records and FMLA application, the trial court said, the decision to fire the employee was instead based on “shock, outrage and offense” because the employee indicated he might request more FMLA leave for knee surgery.

And the evidence that the decision was actually driven by emotion came directly from HR’s emails.

The employee asked for a copy of the organization’s salary continuation policy in case he needed it when deciding about requesting leave for the planned knee surgery.

The HR director didn’t provide a copy of the policy. Instead, she forwarded the request to an HR manager with a note asking, “Is he serious?” The HR manager replied, “OMG.”

Later that day, the HR director launched the FMLA investigation.

A $1.3 million lesson

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court upheld the jury award in the original case – $206,000 for back pay and lost future income and benefits, $200,000 for emotional distress and $715,385 in punitive damages. It also let stand the trial court’s award of $634,133 in liquidated damages and attorney fees.

In the end, the company learned a series of very expensive lessons. Make sure employment actions, especially around FMLA, are based on clear facts rather than emotion. Review all documentation carefully when weighing an employee’s version of events. And remind all your execs and managers about the risk that careless communication might later resurface in court.

One final caution that might help other HR pros from hurting their case if they end up in court over an FMLA abuse claim – no time travel allowed.

The employer tried to back up its FMLA abuse claim using photos of the employee in Mexico standing and holding a large fish. But, the court noted, it only got ahold of those pictures AFTER it fired the employee, so it couldn’t have used them as part of its decision making.

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Ageism continues costing employers dearly.

The Los Angeles Times is on the hook for a $15.4 million jury award for demoting an older worker.

It’s just the most recent example of just how much emphasis HR pros should put on educating managers and executives on how to avoid age discrimination.

Former LA Times sports columnist T.J. Simers sued the paper in October 2013 after the paper first reduced and then eliminated his column.

The paper claimed that Simers’ work quality declined after he developed migraines.

Simers pointed to the onset of the migraines as the beginning of a change in his responsibilities.

And he said, he faced increased criticism from managers who had previously praised his work.

Intolerable conditions

He quit, claiming intolerable working conditions and age discrimination and sued the paper and its then-owner Tribune Publishing.

A jury awarded Simers $7.1 million in economic and non-economic damages in 2015, but the judge in the trial later voided much of the original judgment.

Simers and Tribune Publishing both appealed the decision.

A second, more expensive award

In January 2018, a appeals court tossed the intolerable working conditions claim.

But, the court said, a jury should reconsider whether Simers was the victim of age and disability discrimination.

This time the jury awarded Simers $15.4 million for personal and emotional suffering caused by the paper’s treatment of the writer after his health problems started.

Tribune Publishing could still appeal the latest decision.

However, if it stands, the company could be looking at a $22 million bill after interest is included, according to Simers’ lawyer.

Rising tide of ageism claims

This case follows other recent multi-million dollar age discrimination judgments against Google, Lockheed Martin and other large employers in recent years.

It looks like the tide of age-related discrimination lawsuits will only keep rising as boomer workers age.

In June four Ford Motor company workers sued, claiming that the auto giant targeted them and other older workers in its ongoing restructuring.

And just this week, the principal at a New Jersey public school sued, saying he was pushed aside because of his age.

He claims the school forced him to move his workspace from his former office into an electrical closet after it hired a second, younger principal.

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I mean really, can you blame them?

Little white lies about cellphone service and Wi-Fi are acceptable to half (49%) of US employees to avoid workplace interruptions while on vacation, according to the 2019 Vacation Confidence survey released by Allianz Global Assistance.

“Email creep,” (no, not that strange new guy sitting next to you) when work obligations encroach on personal time, affects two thirds (65%) of workers who feel the need to check-in with the office while on vacation.

Crappy WiFi to the rescue

Hence, blaming limited phone service or crappy Wi-Fi has become the excuse du jour for employees this summer.

Most likely to use the excuse are:

  • Millennials (59%)
  • Gen X’ers (49%)
  • Boomers (32%).

While men and women are equally honest (or dishonest), with no difference between the sexes at 49% each, those earning more than $50,000 a year are significantly more likely (53%) to use the excuse compared to those earning less than $50,000 (39%).

Who is the most likely person to pull the “I’m cutting out” excuse? A white (53%), college-educated (50%) Millennial (59%) who is married (53%) with children (53%) and working full time (50%) for an annual salary more than $50,000 (53%) in the Northeast (53%). (Insert photo here)

1 in 4 like ‘working vacations’

A quarter of all working Americans (24%), make a point not
to go on vacation in places where poor cell reception or Wi-Fi access could
disrupt their connection to the office.

Millennials (74%) are the most likely to check email while on vacation, but the rate is also high for Gen X’ers (58%) and Boomers (63%), with the most common reason: it makes catching up on work easier when returning to the office (34%).

A work/life balance issue

Despite the pressures to stay “online” and
connected to the office while on vacation, the majority of working Americans
(54%) would choose to work even more while away if it meant they were able to
take more vacations throughout the year.

Millennials were more likely (64%) to opt for more vacations
with more checking in at work scenario. Boomers were more likely (54%) to
prefer fewer vacations if it means they could be unplugged from the office.

“Most working Americans feel pressured to spend their
vacations attached to their work email, when they may just need a few days to
unplug. Consequently, half of U.S. workers are willing to lie about lack of
connectivity to set them free from work obligations,” said Daniel Durazo,
director of marketing and communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA.

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