In a study published in 2000, two professors – one from Princeton, the other from Harvard –concluded that blind auditions exponentially increased the probability of female musicians being selected for seats on major symphony orchestras. In blind auditions, musicians play from behind screens, thus removing the distraction of the person, including the person’s race, age or (the focus of the study) gender. The study collected data from eight symphony orchestras over four decades. The problem is, according to a Wall Street Journal article, the data presented a “tangle of contradictory trends” that did not support the unequivocal bottom line presented by the authors. Indeed, “[t]he paper includes multiple warnings about small sample sizes, contradictory results and failures to pass standard tests of statistical significance. But few readers seem to have noticed. What caught everyone’s attention was a big claim in the final paragraph.”

Continue Reading Behind the Blind Selection Screen

By now most everyone has heard about the travails of WeWork arising from the swift downfall of founder Adam Neumann. If you have not heard, you are missing some fascinating stuff.  A Wall Street Journal piece was first to chronicle Neumann’s manic behavior (such as pondering how to become immortal and transporting large amounts of marijuana on a private jet trip, much to the chagrin of the jet’s owner!). In the wake of these disclosures, private equity investment firms that had committed tens of millions to WeWork became skittish, a planned IPO was pulled, and a faction of WeWork board members called for Neumann’s removal as a CEO. Indeed, within roughly a week of the WSJ article, he was forced to vacate his leadership role. Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and other investment houses now have written down the value of their investments by tens of millions of dollars.
Continue Reading Executive Rules of Etiquette for RIFs

In May of 2013, some Walmart employees boarded buses bound for Bentonville, Arkansas to attend the Company’s annual shareholders meeting. The buses formed a caravan, picking up employees at Walmart locations on the way. The employees handed strike letters to their managers before departing.

The caravan was dubbed the “Ride for Respect.” It was organized by OUR Walmart, a group formed with the assistance of the United Food and Commercial Worker Union (UFCW). Once in Bentonville, the employees held demonstrations, attended the shareholder meeting, and engaged in other activities to publicize their grievances.
Continue Reading Ride for Respect: Intermittent “Hit and Run” Strike or Presumptively Protected Work Stoppage?

Debt can alter one’s future trajectory for good or for ill.  The latter is reflected in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.  Although they are the most educated generation ever in the U.S., Millennials at the tail end of their generation incurred unprecedented debt for college – often six figure debt – then graduated into the Great Recession.  Their employment opportunities were truncated.  As a result, their income potential (and debt repayment capability) has been damaged, seemingly beyond repair. They have collectively put off home buying and starting families, which has ripple effects for the future, from reduced home buying opportunity to delayed or foregone child rearing. 
Continue Reading Debt or No Debt? Your Employees’ Future in the Balance

$3.8 million dollars. That’s what a Tucson, Arizona jury awarded to a former fire paramedic denied workplace accommodations required under the Fair Labor Standards Act for women who want to pump breast milk for their infants. Under the law, for the first year after the birth of a child, employers must provide non-exempt employees with reasonable breaks to pump. Employers also must provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from the view of others and that is free from intrusion by coworkers or others.
Continue Reading Lactation Law Verdict Sends a Message: Don’t Mess With Mom!

On April 23, 2019, a divided U.S. Supreme Court answered a question that had been left open by the Court in 2010: namely, whether an agreement that is ambiguous on the availability of class-wide arbitration could form the basis for an order compelling the arbitration of such claims.  In Lamps Plus, Inc. et al. v. Varelathe Court ruled that such an agreement does not support an order compelling arbitration of class action claims.
Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Holds Arbitration of Classwide Claims Not Required Where Agreement is Ambiguous

According to Pharmajet Blog, a surprising number of pharmacists suffer from trypanophobia – the fear of giving injections, which most in their profession have to do these days during flu season. As Pharmajet notes, the Americans with Disabilities Act generally does not help the needle-phobic pharmacist because companies have a right to define the essential functions of a job.


Continue Reading Pharmacist Afraid of Needles? Be a Stickler About Essential Job Functions!!

So, you say you want to avoid employment jury trials?  Let’s talk.

The Federal Arbitration Act (and the law of virtually all States that have enacted a version of the Uniform Arbitration Act) favor arbitration.  Contractual agreements that clearly and unmistakably set forth an intent to arbitrate disputes normally will be enforced (barring a judicial “lapse of judgment”).  Key benefit: in arbitration, there is no jury!  Employers know that juries are fickle, and may decide an issue based on empathy and anger rather than the rules of law enunciated in the jury instructions. 
Continue Reading One! Two! Three! Four! What Do You Say We’re Fighting For? Arbitration!

My brilliant law partner, Fiona Ong, explained last week about why it is unwise to treat a reduction in force (“RIF”) as a “golden opportunity” to rid yourself of those pesky under-performers whose deficiencies were not documented properly.  (We do know why there is no documentation, BTW.  Those underperformers often are gifted at deflecting responsibility, and honest performance evaluations require, well, honest feedback, which unpleasant people abhor.  For managers, who just want to do their jobs, it is much easier to select “meets expectations, meets, meets, meets” than lose hours debating the ratings.) 
Continue Reading Now that You Know that a RIF Is Not a “Magic Bullet” (Performance Management Advice for Managers in Five Easy Pieces)

Whether you are looking out your window at the wonder of snow or trying to prognosticate when it will hit, one thing is for sure.  If you are in a state with mandatory sick leave, employees may be invoking their right to no-questions-asked leave when you otherwise prohibit any excuses.  Such “no excuse” policies are common during snow events at businesses that must provide service – hospitals, property management companies, no-stop assembly lines. Think patients to be cared for, sidewalks to be cleared, machines that will seize without humans.
Continue Reading Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful (I think I Need a Sick Day)!!