Workplace Coach Questions
Tuesday, 8th January, 2013
Date: April 19, 2013
Question: Facebook is a way to market, interact with the public, and communicate with your customers. However, with this come risks. The question is: How do you manage these risks?
Answer (from coach Richard Birdsall):
1. Are you going to allow customer postings and comments?
This is usually a positive but what happens if you have a disgruntled customer that you can never satisfy? Will you be able to control the postings?
2. What about employee postings and comments?
If you are going to have employee participation, I recommend a social media policy to make clear your expectations. Again, there have been occasions where employees have used Facebook as a forum to disparage the business and management. However, this can be a touchy subject to regulate because the National Labor Relations Board views employee criticisms of management as protected speech about workplace conditions. If you are going to be including employee participation on your Facebook page, professional assistance formulating a policy would be useful here.
In a nutshell, I recommend some simple ground rules to manage the information.
- Coach Richard Birdsall
Date: January 8, 2013
Topic: Sexual Harrassment
Question: I am a bit confused about the rights of employers to fire employees on the grounds of \"attraction\". Can an employee ask for a transfer for being \"attracted\" to their employer? What kind of law do we need to protect the rights of employees?
Answer (from coach Richard Birdsall):
Let’s look at this from a different perspective that I believe will help. Employers in Alaska, Washington, Iowa and many states have the right to terminate employees “at will” with one exception – the termination cannot be done for unlawful reasons. This would include terminations based on EEO considerations such as race, sex, national origin, pregnancy, etc.
The difficulty the court was faced with is that federal Title VII and most state laws do not include attractiveness, or lack thereof as a protected class. To state the issue another way – is it gender discrimination when the discrimination is based on “pretty” and not the gender? Here the court wrestled with the issue and concluded it was not a protected class. While the facts of the particular case in question show evidence of discrimination based on sex (sexual harassment), for some reason that cause of action was NOT presented to the court. Perhaps the statute of limitations had passed or the plaintiff elected not to allege it for personal considerations. In this particular incident there did appear to be a remedy but the terminated employee, for whatever reason, failed to avail herself of it.
Having said this, I am aware of instances where employees were fired by co-owner jealous wives and for no other reason. I am not aware of instances where this type of termination has been recognized to be unlawful discrimination under federal law and the law in most states, including Alaska.
However, it is worthy of special note that the District of Columbia has additional EEO rights beyond title VII for their District. District of Columbia makes it unlawful to discriminate based on “personal appearance.” While I suspect “personal appearance” was designed to protect individuals who suffer from disfigurement (which may not qualify as an ADA disability), arguably this would be a “personal appearance” type case.
If Alaskans would like to address this particular issue they can simply amend the Human Rights Act to include “personal appearance” as an unlawful basis of discrimination following the District of Columbia model.
Coach Rick Birdsall
Thursday, 7th February, 2013 12:27 PM
Thank you for this excellent piece of information.
When does sexual harassment go too far?
Thursday, 14th February, 2013 11:46 AM
This is a wonderful topic to discuss because it is such a difficult and sometimes vague topic. In response to the original question, when trying to decide what goes too far, you have to put yourself in that person's shoes and think "at what point would I become uneasy/uncomfortable in my work setting when it comes to workplace relationships and dating?" For some, this may be repeated propositions for dates or sexual favors, for some it may just be offhanded comments about their appearance. It all depends on the individual at the receiving end.
I believe it is best to always err on the side of caution. It isn't about someone's looks, personality, or what you perceive their intentions to be if accused with sexual harassment, it comes down to hurting that other person and making them uncomfortable. Everyone deserves a welcoming, open environment to thrive in professionally. While you spend a lot of time with co-workers, I always advocate separation of your work life and personal life.
Thursday, 14th February, 2013 3:26 PM
Kevin, great & thoughtful comment. And we welcome your comments -- and if you have questions, we'd love to hear them as well, Lynne