The Growing Problem of Work Stress & How to Address It

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It's not uncommon to encounter employees who are concerned about work stress these days. Work stress is compounding across the workforce. What's to blame? Research shows that most of the time it's the workplace itself. How can employers solve it? Changing the workplace.

Work Stress: A Growing Problem

Three 2013 national surveys show that work stress is a growing problem. A survey by Harris Interactive shows that 10% more workers are stressed in 2013 when compared to 2012, and that about 8 in 10 workers (of 1,019 surveyed) report being stressed by something at work. Only 17% of workers say that nothing stresses them out about their jobs.
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Women & Leadership: How to Develop More Female Leaders

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Women & Leadership: How to Develop More Female Leaders

Not only have gender-related leadership conversations emerged lately in the media, the attraction, retention, and development of talented women has become an important issue for many employers in recent years. Organizations are increasingly recognizing the need to develop and support more female leaders in their workplace.

"We seem to be getting more and more requests lately for training and coaching programs that address the specific needs of women in the workplace," says Chris Kutsko, Director of Learning & Development at ERC. She explains, "Subjects like Assertiveness, Personal Branding, Empowerment, and Leadership for Women are topics that are getting more attention. In addition, C-Level executives are making a more conscious effort to equip their female leaders with the tools, training, and support to help them achieve higher levels within the organization."

Developing more female leaders sometimes raises challenges and questions for organizations, in terms of how they can support, train, and develop them, as their needs are often different from male leaders. Here are some suggestions.
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Evolving Gender Roles in the Family and the Workplace

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In the media

So far, in 2013, the media has placed a great deal of attention on the evolving roles of women in the workplace largely thanks to Marissa Mayer - first for her noteworthy rise to CEO of Yahoo and then for her controversial decision to eliminate telecommuting and work-from-home arrangements at the struggling tech giant.

These high profile cases act as a catalyst to push a healthy, or sometimes less healthy, or even sensationalized dialogue regarding 21st century gender roles both in the home and in the workplace. While Mayer’s high profile case study in a “C-level” position at a global corporation is unquestionably a key piece towards achieving a better understanding of these issues, she is only part of the larger story about gender roles that will continue to unfold for years to come.
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Workplace Flexibility Trends

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At the Executive HR Women's Network event on March 20th, 2013, Staffing Solutions Enterprises and ERC teamed up to provide participants with information from the Alfred P. Sloan and NorthCoast 99 programs.

 

SueAnn Naso, President of Staffing Solutions (establishing company of the Women's Network), presented data from the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility. Having been a winner of the prestigious national award in 2012, SueAnn explained some of the WorkFlex options Staffing Solutions offers its employees.
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FMLA & Facebook: 6 New Lessons for Employers

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FMLA & Facebook: 6 New Lessons for Employers

Increasingly, Facebook and other social media postings are entering the courtroom as employers use them as evidence for taking adverse action against employees. Here are two cases regarding Facebook and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which serve as models for employers on this issue and offer six (6) important lessons.

Case Law Overview

Case #1

In Lineberry v. Detroit Medical Center, a federal district court ruled that an employer is entitled to fire an employee if they have an "honest belief" that he or she is abusing FMLA leave.

In the case, Carol Lineberry was employed by Detroit Medical Center as a Registered Nurse. She injured herself on-the-job when moving stretchers, was treated by her physician, and was told not to return to work. As a result, Lineberry received approved FMLA leave from her employer.

While on leave, Lineberry took a vacation to Mexico. The trip was approved by her physician who stated that the vacation would not conflict with her recovery nor would be as physically demanding as performing her job duties. During her vacation, however, Lineberry posted photos on Facebook suggesting that she misrepresented her need for FMLA. Her coworkers saw these postings and complained to Lineberry's supervisor.

When questioned, Lineberry informed her supervisor that she used a wheelchair during her travel, however during a subsequent disciplinary meeting, when reminded that airports have cameras, admitted to lying about using a wheelchair. As a result, Detroit Medical Center terminated Lineberry for dishonesty and falsifying information. Lineberry sued the hospital, alleging that it interfered with her FMLA rights and retaliated against her.

The court considered Lineberry's Facebook postings and dishonesty about the use of a wheelchair as facts which led Detroit Medical Center to reasonably believe that she had misused FMLA leave.

Case #2

A similar case, Jaszczyszyn v. Advantage Health Physician Network, involved Sara Jaszczyszyn, a customer service representative employed at Advantage Health Physician Network. Sara requested and obtained the appropriate medical certification for intermittent FMLA leave as a result of a car accident.

After receiving certification, Sara was absent for a continuous and open-ended length of time. While on FMLA leave, Sara posted pictures of herself at a festival, socializing and enjoying time with friends. Her coworkers viewed these pictures and complained to their boss. Sara was eventually terminated and filed a retaliation claim against Advantage Health Physician Network.

Sara's claim was dismissed by court, primarily because the organization was able to show that it had an honest belief that she was engaging in fraud and relied on facts in its decision to terminate her. Also, the organization conducted a complete and thorough investigation of the issue and inquired about the discrepancy between her claim and Facebook photos.

Employer Takeaways

These two cases have some important implications for employers in terms of managing social media postings and FMLA leave, specifically:

  1. Social media postings may be legitimate evidence, coupled with other relevant facts and evidence from many different sources, to aid in an investigation and substantiate that an employee is abusing or misusing FMLA leave.
  2. Coworker complaints or reports about behavior on Facebook and other social media websites can be taken seriously and may prompt further investigation.
  3. Employers are permitted to properly investigate an employee's FMLA leave if they suspect that an employee is violating the terms of their leave.
  4. It's important to follow your disciplinary policy and procedure. These organizations remained compliant and consistent with their disciplinary policies and procedures, and took steps to obtain the appropriate information prior to terminating the employees.
  5. Organizations should obtain the appropriate information about an employee's medical restrictions under FMLA before taking adverse action on an employee.
  6. Employers should focus on responding to complaints about Facebook and other social media behavior, rather than routinely "spying" on employees' Facebook profiles and social media behavior.

There will undoubtedly be much more case law to glean insights from as Facebook and other social media postings make their way into the courtroom. As these cases unfold, employers should use them as models and lessons for how to manage FMLA and other employment laws.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

Additional Resources

FMLA Administration & Services: ERC's Preferred Partner, CareWorks, provides ERC members with discounts on services related to day to day management, tracking, and overall administration of FMLA. CareWorks' approach is outcome-based, streamlined, and cost-effective, and ensures that claims are handled consistently and in compliance with state and federal laws. 

Employment Law Fundamentals: This seminar is designed to provide managers and supervisors with an overview of relevant employment law considerations and to support a proactive, positive work environment. Presented in an interactive style, this seminar can be customized to specific topic areas desired by the employer.

ERC Preferred Partner CareWorks provides Absence Management and FMLA Administration. ERC Members save 5% off per EE per month fee or a $500 discount off Initial Set-up Fee

Social Media Policies Guide Employees and Protect Companies

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Your employees use social media.

It’s a safe assumption to make—almost 70% of internet users use social media. And because your workers are using social media, it’s crucial that you supply a social media policy.

Why do social media policies matter?

Social media policies establish guidelines for how your employees use social media. These policies outline what is and is not appropriate for employees to post on social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and other related platforms.

Successful social media policies:

  • Offer guidance to employees.
  • Protect companies.
  • Are clear and straight-forward.
  • Are easy to understand easy to use.

An effective policy will inform employees of the boundaries of acceptable posting. It should encourage employees to avail themselves of social media, both independently and as an employee.
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Business Related Social Media Use on the Rise

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Despite a strong focus over the years on the types of policies and restrictions being placed on employee’s social media use in the workplace, an equally important story regarding the growing use of social media among employer’s for business related purposes  is also emerging.

This change can be seen through a simple comparison of the results of ERC’s Social Media in the Workplace surveys over time. First conducted in 2010, employers indicated that the primary obstacle preventing their organization from actively engaging in social media use was “a lack of knowledge or expertise in using [social media] tools”, Facebook was ranked fourth among the most common social networking sites used by employers for a small list of business related purposes, and responsibilities related to social media fell to HR and Recruitment type positions.
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What Truly Motivates Employees (Besides Money)

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Leaders want motivated employees, but often believe that money is the main motivator. Misunderstanding what really motivates employees can have negative consequences when it comes to engaging employees and motivating higher performance.

For example, researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer interviewed over 600 managers and uncovered that the widespread majority of managers misunderstood what motivates employees. Managers viewed making money and receiving raises and bonuses as the primary motivators, when in fact, upon analyzing over 12,000 employee diary entries, the number one work motivator was actually emotion and not financial incentives. Positive emotions were linked to increased motivation. Meanwhile, negative emotions were linked to decreased motivation.
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Employee Engagement Definition: What it Is, What Affects It, Where Employers Lag

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Understanding the employee engagement definition is on every employer’s priority list these days. The number of companies that want to measure, track, and improve employee engagement in their workplace continues to increase – a testament to engagement’s increasing popularity.

Understanding the concept of employee engagement can be confusing for many employers since so many conflicting definitions and research exists on the topic. This article seeks to clarify what employee engagement is, what affects it, and where employers typically lag in engaging employees.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement refers to an employee’s involvement in, commitment to, and satisfaction with their work. Many people mistake employee engagement for simply employee satisfaction. Engagement measures more than just an employee opinion of how satisfied they are at work. Rather, engagement measures how emotionally connected the employee is to their work.
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Keeping Pay Adjustments In Perspective

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In a 2013 overview of the state of compensation, Steve Bruce, contributor to HR Daily Advisor, makes a less than rosy comparison of where businesses stand today versus where a full economic recovery would have put businesses in terms of their compensation options. Employment overall is up and voluntary separations are beginning to increase, but for businesses looking to attract and retain top performing employees, rewarding these individuals through traditional compensation methods remains a challenge.

With merit increases averaging right around 3% according to World at Work, and several local surveys also pointing to the 3% mark, Bruce suggests that in fact, 3% may be the new norm. While it may not seem like much on paper, it is worth noting that 2012 was the first post-recession year that pay adjustments, merit based or not, hit that 3% threshold. At the macro level, 2012 also saw the percentage of Northeast Ohio organizations predicting at least some pay increase to 89%, a significant recovery in comparison to the all time low of 45% in 2009 (2012 ERC Pay Adjustment & Incentive Practices Survey).
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