April 06, 2016

Shh....This is the secret to work life balance!

                                           Walking

 

 

Stressed? Overwhelmed? Feeling like you want to improve your work life balance?

I'm going to share a secret that will help. The key to balancing work and life is.....take a walk!

Walking can fuel creative thought. It can provide bonding time with your spouse, child or friend. It can introduce exercise into your life at no cost. It can help you wind down for a better night's sleep. It can be a much needed relief from stress.

Today is National Walking Day, and many cities are participating. The American Heart Association introduced the annual event about 10 years ago because it felt people spend too much time sitting in front of screens at work and home.

Walking briskly for 30 minutes a day can offset inactivity and reduce the risk of heart disease. And, here is some really good news: The New York Times points out that research show walkers are most likely burning more calories than they think. 

It doesn't matter if you're walking outside or on a treadmill, a study by the American Psychological Association found walking improves the generation of novel ideas. The brain boost from walking even extends to when people sit down to do their creative work shortly after they finish walking. So, during the workday, if you hit a creative block or simple can't figure out how to resolve a problem you're facing, take a walk out to your car and around the building. The answer just may come to you.

Even the most time-pressed among us can squeeze a short walk into his or her day. Walk around the block before you head to work or get out and walk through your lunch break. At your next business meeting,instead of sitting in a stuffy meeting room, suggest walking around the office instead. Chances are it will probably be a more productive meeting. 

A few nights a week, my husband and I take a walk around the neighborhood with our dog. We leave our phones at home. It's become our alone time to plan our weekends, discuss our daily challenges and share our life goals. I really think it's been a big boost to our marriage. 

Lots of my friends love their fitbits or other activity trackers. But I am resisting getting caught up in counting my steps or making walking a chore. To me, it's all about decompressing or bonding. 

So, I'm suggesting you walk your way to a better work life balance. It's possible and today is a great day to start!

April 05, 2016

Exhausted by boarding time? Here's how to prepare for take off

                                       Take off

 

 

Recently as I prepared for my spring vacation, I found myself with tons to get done. I grabbed the mail and newspaper. Then, I began paying bills, cleaning out my fridge and responding to as many work emails as I could get to.

I always like to tackle my to-do list before I leave to ensure a more relaxing vacation. But the long, frenetic days leading up to take off are exhausting. I understand why a recent survey by Wakefield on behalf of Hilton Garden Inn revealed 71 percent of women would clone themselves to achieve everything they need to get done in a day.

Many Americans leave up to $52.4 billion worth of vacation days unused each year. But time off can be key to work life balance. In particular, a little bit of preparation can go a long way to ensuring you actually enjoy the vacation days you worked so hard to earn. Over many years of writing about work life balance, I have asked businesswomen who travel often for their careers to share simple rituals and tested time-savers to make travel easier.

 

If you plan to travel this spring, here are a few tips you might find as helpful as I do:



  1. Get sleep. The night before traveling, many of us have the urge to stay up late trying to get things done. I set a bedtime the night before take off and stick to it. Truth be told, I’m cranky when I don’t get a good night sleep and I want to start my journey pumped for adventure.
  2. Prepare for an easy exit.  The night before traveling, I put my suitcases by the front door along with a list of what I need to do before I walk out the door. That includes packing my phone charger, feeding the fish, turning off the lights etc.  Creating that list allows me to get out the door quickly and creates peace of mind.
  3. Make a playlist. Before I leave on a trip, I make myself a “wind down” playlist on my iPod. When I travel, I often have a lot on my mind (places to go, people to see). My playlist allows me to soothe myself to sleep on a plane, lull myself into a dreamy state in a hotel room or relax a bit if my flight is delayed. James Taylor is my go-to artist for calming tunes.
  4. Download apps. There are lots of apps that make travel easier and keep waiting time at airports at minimal such as those that offer restaurant suggestions, give updates on flight status and offer easy check-in at hotels. CityMaps2Go is one of my favorite travel apps because it allows you to preload city maps onto your phone so you don’t need an Internet connection to find your way around.
  5. Make an exercise plan. Traveling can be tough on the waistline but if you plan ahead you can fit some exercise time into your schedule. Look over your proposed itinerary to block out 20 to 30 minutes to go to the hotel gym or for a short run. If that’s too much time to dedicate on vacation, there are a variety of free apps such as Wahoo Fitness’s seven minute workout, which you can easily do in your room. Perhaps right before brushing your teeth.

 

As a new member of the HGI Bright Minds team I’m excited to share work/life balance tips with all the superwomen out there to help make their lives easier. For more tips, be sure to follow me on social media and join the conversation at #HGIBrightIdeas.

March 31, 2016

Why women will get equal pay and who we will thank for it

Women are capable of achieving amazing feats, and for centuries we've done it without recognition. But now, we're achieving way too much to do it without equal pay.

In the last few months, female voices are getting louder, the discontent over the gender wage gap is getting stronger and we're rallying the way we did decades ago when we wanted the opportunity to vote in America. Today, I woke up to learn that five players from the World Cup-winning U.S. national team have accused the U.S. Soccer Federation of wage discrimination in an action filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Women soccer players want equal pay and they should get it. It's an awesome goal.

Soccer2
 

The soccer players' lawsuit comes only weeks afters the subject of equal pay in tennis grabbed headlines. It started with awful comments by BNP Paribas Opentournament CEO Raymond Moore said female players in the Women’s Tennis Association “ride on the coattails of the men.” He followed up by suggesting that women should “go down every night on [their] knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.” Moore has since issued an official apology for his “erroneous” comments that were in “poor taste.” But Novak Djokovic, the world’s top men’s player, who won on the men’s finals this weekend, added more fuel to the fire, saying that men should “fight for more” money because their matches have more spectators that those played by women.

Serena Williams, wasn't going to take that and fired back, saying “I think Venus, myself, a number of players—if I could tell you every day how many people say they don’t watch tennis unless they’re watching myself or my sister—I couldn’t even bring up that number,” she added.

SerenaSerena got her point across. Moore took so much heat for his comments about women's pay that he announced he was stepping down as CEO of the tournament.

Outside of the sports world, the call for fair pay has cropped up in other professions. In my Miami Herald column yesterday, I wrote about young female lawyers in Florida surveyed by the Florida Bar who complained of inequities in compensation in the legal industry. Their collective voices are bringing attention to the issue in the legal community.

And then there is the attention Jennifer Lawrence has brought to equal pay in Hollywood for actresses. In a widely read essay Jennifer addressed wage gap in Hollywood, which was made explicitly clear to her after the Sony hacking scandal revealed she was paid less than her male co-stars in "American Hustle."  She wrote that she wasn't so much upset with Sony as she was with herself, believing she "failed as a negotiator." She attributed this failure to "an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn't want to seem 'difficult' or 'spoiled.'" 

Her piece sparked not only sparked discussion, it launched the Women Entertaining Change movement in JlawHollywood in which actresses and female directors are speaking out about fair pay and opportunities for women. The Today Show has been highlighting outspoken women in Hollywood and their demands for an equal playing field.

Women may have gotten the Equal Pay Act in 1963, making it illegal to pay men and women differently for the same type of work, but today, women are still paid, on average, only 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. For women of color, that pay gap is even wider. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, intended to restore and improve on equal pay law.

Yet, women still experience pay inequality across the board -- whether you're Hollywood's , a clerk in a retail store or a businesswoman.

My mother's generation went mostly for jobs that were set aside for women. My generation fought to ascend into careers that had been off limits and we're still fighting to get the leadership positions in businesses that we think we deserve. Now come the millennial women and they assume they are going to be business leaders, law firm partners, world renowned athletes and Oscar winning actresses --  and they want to be paid equally for it. They are speaking out about it -- loudly. 

I believe they will be heard.

Not because the men want to hear them, but because they no longer can afford not to hear them. These women are their daughters, their wives, their bosses.They are smart, competent, and increasingly well educated and think big. They are saving lives, directing corporate strategy, winning sports events, bringing audiences to the movie theaters, representing litigants, discovering cures and inspiring the next generation of women who will make a difference in the world.

These young women see that they are sacrificing as much as men and working just as much and they want to be appreciated for it. Not with praise or trophies but with equal treatment and compensation.

Their voices are loud. Their strategies are targeted. Their actions are creating dialogue. I believe the time is now and equal pay is in their grasp. 

 

                                            Equal

March 30, 2016

How I overcame fear and improved my work life balance

As a young girl, every time the mention of skiing came up, my mother told me about how my father and my aunt both had broken a leg while learning the sport. So, while I found the idea of learning how to ski intriguing, I was too fearful to try it. I had convinced myself I had no interest in skiing.

This spring break, friends invited my family to join them on a ski vacation. Learning to ski is something that has always been on my husband's bucket list. So, I convinced my husband it was time for us to "go for  it." Off we went on a ski vacation with our youngest son.

Now, I won't go so far as to claim I mastered the sport. But I tried it, and I didn't break any bones. As small children whizzed effortlessly past me, I stayed calm and focused. I even discovered I liked skiing. To me that's a victory!

Typically, I am the reluctant one who wants to do something safe on vacation, or stay close to home. When my husband proposes adventures, I hesitate, even though I know in the back of my mind that breaking out of my comfort zone will be a good reprieve from life's daily stressors. Now, I am more willing to try something new.

Conquering fear is crucial for work life balance. Fear -- particularly fear that we won't be able to maintain a work life balance - often holds us back from taking promotions, accepting new jobs, having children and taking vacations. 

This morning, I happened upon a blog post about overcoming fear by Neil Pasricha, the director of the Institute for Global Happiness and author of The Book of Awesome and The Happiness Equation.

I particularly liked this tip he provided: Before you do anything, you have to feel like you can do it first—and then you have to actually want to do it second. You place action in front of capability and motivation. You put do it before can do it and want to do itTurns out, it’s easier to act yourself into a new way of thinking than it is to think yourself into a new way of acting.

Pasricha suggests we apply the "action leads to motivation" approach to a personal or career goal such as running a marathon, giving a big presentation or writing a novel.

I have a entirely differently outlook since I returned from skiing. I won't let the fear of what can go wrong give me stress or stop me from tackling activities on my bucket list. I know I won't be winning any Olympic medals for my skiing prowess, but gliding down a mountain slowly has its reward, too.

IMG_1403
 

 

 

March 29, 2016

5 Ways to Overcome Work Life Balance Obstacles

Some professions are more demanding than others. Law is one of those demanding professions. It can be particularly challenging for young attorneys who want to prove themselves, but also want a life outside the practice of law.

In a new Florida Bar survey of young women lawyers, one female attorney complained her partners had no understanding of work life balance or her need to pick up a sick child from school. "Too many male partners  have stay at home wives who don't understand that I have to do the same things their wives do while also working."

Another female attorney suggested firms entirely reinvent their culture to respect singles who want a personal life. Both are valid reasons why work life balance concerns need addressing.

Today, my guest bloggers are  Leslie R. Pollack and Christina M. Himmel, associates at Kluger Kaplan in Miami. The two women have some great suggestions for lawyers or anyone struggling to overcome work life balance challenges:

 

 

Leslie Pollack
(Leslie Pollack)          

This is 2016. It is a year where we could witness Hillary Clinton become the first female President of the United States. It is a time where women have ostensibly shattered whatever glass ceiling may have existed in the past. Yet, despite the perceived progress for women, there are still obstacles to overcome, including work-life balance.

For young women lawyers, navigating through the ever-changing legal world can be challenging for a multitude of reasons. Inequality in pay, respect, and advancement are among the issues confronting young women lawyers. According to a recent survey conducted by the Young Lawyers Division of the Florida Bar, 43% of young women attorneys have experienced gender bias.

One of the survey participants said that she left a job because she “was told by the managing partner that [she] did not have to worry about making money and moving ahead because [she] would get married one day and will not have to worry about living expenses."

 

Christina Himmel-1
(Christina Himmel)

 

More than a quarter of the female lawyers surveyed reported that they resigned from a position due to lack of advancement, employer insensitivity, and lack of work-life balance.

Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles for a young woman lawyer—and young lawyers generally—is the expectation of being accessible and “on call” 24/7. When the partners were our age and they left for the day, they left. Because of the ease of technology, we're never really away from office as long as we have our phones. 

While 24/7 access may seem overwhelming, here are a few tips to keep everything in perspective and help maintain that sought after work-life balance:

1.     Establish boundaries. For example, when you get home from work you may decide not to check your emails for the first hour so you can spend uninterrupted quality time with your family. On the weekends, you might look at your phone and address an issue with a quick email saying you will handle the matter first thing Monday. That way, you are appeasing your employer but still maintaining a level of balance

2.     Stick to your plan. Don’t get discouraged if you have a week where work completely infringes on your personal life.  Work-life balance is a process and work demands often are cyclical. Ride the cycle and keep your eye on the big picture rather than becoming frustrated by the work life balance challenge going on in the moment.

3.     Take time for yourself. Whether you like exercising or traveling, be sure you make time to pursue your interests outside the practice of law. It's always easy when work for a partner who is understanding and takes family life seriously. Make an effort to convey that personal time is important to you and that if if one suffers, the other will too. 

4.     Create your own definition of success. Success looks different to everyone so it is important to establish your own personal career goals and pursue them. For one person, success might be billing 2,500 hours and taking the quickest track to partner. For another person, success might mean doing well at their job and being someone who the client comes to for advice, but not necessarily being the first one in and last one out.

5. Have a work life conversation. Don't be afraid to discuss flexible work options with a law partner or manager. One of the great advantages of technology is the ability to leave the office at a reasonable time, go meet friends or family for dinner, and then finish a pending assignment later in the evening from the comfort of your own home.

While modern technology has certainly changed the way we work, it has also opened the door to benefits like flexible schedules and the ability to work from any location. For young  lawyers, navigating through the ever-changing legal world can be challenging, but also quite doable.

March 26, 2016

Michelle Obama on sexism: Can you relate?

 

Are the obstacles for women leaders around the world real? And, if so, what exactly are those obstacles?

First lady Michelle Obama took the stage in Argentina on Wednesday with Argentinian vice president Juliana Awada to talk to young girls about becoming leaders. She warned them about the obstacles they will face.

The first obstacle happens in the classroom, Michelle Obama noted.

“[I’ve dealt with] teachers who didn’t think I was smart enough and would call on the boys instead of the girls, even though the girls had better grades,” she said in the speech, which is part of her “Let Girls Learn” initiative. “People who thought a girl shouldn’t have ambition—and they would ask my brother what career he planned to have but would ask me what kind of man I wanted to marry.”

The next obstacle happens while walking down the street or entering a room full of strangers.

Michelle explained: “As I got older, I found that men would whistle or make comments about how I looked as I walked down the street, as if my body were their property, as if I were an object to be commented on instead of a full human being with thoughts and feelings of my own. I began to realize that the hopes I had for myself were in conflict with the messages I was receiving from people around me. Messages that said that, as a girl, my voice was somehow less important. That how my body looked was more important than how my mind worked. That being strong and powerful and outspoken just wasn't appropriate or attractive for a girl."

The final obstacle comes from within, she explained.

“I started to question myself: Was I too loud? Too much? Was I too bossy? Was I dreaming too big? And for years, I would lie awake at night and those doubts would eat away at my heart."

But Michelle said she managed to get past those obstacles. "I got tired of worrying about what everyone else thought of me."

Instead, she took another path. 

"I decided not to listen to the voices of those who doubted or dismissed me. Instead, I decided to listen to my own voice and to rely on the support of the people in my life who believed in my ability to achieve my own dreams.”

In tackling the naysayers, Michelle told the audience she dreamed of attending the best university, becoming a lawyer and being a leader in her community. She urged the young women out there to take on the challenges they face as women by getting an education, fighting to be paid equally and balancing the demands of family and work. 

"I devoted all of my energy to doing well in school. I made sure I was one of the most well prepared students in my class. While some doubted a girl like me good attend a top university, I went ahead and applied anyway. And I got accepted and eventually got a law degree from Harvard University. That education was everything for me."

She continued: "Because of my education, I had opportunities my parents could never have dreamed of for  themselves. I want to urge you to get the education you need to get your voice heard in the world and rise up as leaders at every level of society around the world." She spoke about how women need to advocate for equal pay, for access to education and for leadership roles in their country, their workplaces and in global organizations..

 

Personally, I found Michelle Obama's speech motivating, timely and important. 

Have a listen and let me know what you think. Will the next generation of young women be the leaders we hope they will be?

March 24, 2016

How Adam LaRoche got the work family conversation started again

 

 

                            Adam

 

 

Years ago I worked in a newsroom bureau next door to a charter school. Every afternoon, my co-worker would pick up his young son from school and bring him to the office to do his homework. While I thought it was awesome, I also kind of resented it because I thought that a mother who brought her child to the office every afternoon would get disciplined.

The topic of bringing your child to work became top of mind again last week when Adam LaRoche, a power-hitting first baseman, informed the White Sox that he intended to retire with a year and $13 million left on his contract. He made the decision after being told by club President Kenny Williams that his 14-year-old son, Drake, should appear less frequently in the clubhouse.

Initially, the White Sox welcomed LaRoche's son Drake and even outfitted him with a uniform and gave him a locker inside the clubhouse. Drake began traveling with his father during baseball season, receiving home-schooled lessons.

But Williams had enough of Drake’s constant presence and defended his position to ask his player to leave his son at home by saying, "Where in this country can you bring your child to work every day?"

The answer, of course, is hardly anywhere. And that got me thinking.

Some parents like LaRoche may want to bring their child to work. Some may need to bring their child to work. Indeed, as the Washington Post notes, “most people who wrestle with children-at-work issues do it for straight-up survival, not to form an unusually close bond with a child.” And, while it was LaRoche's choice to quit because he couldn't bring his son to work with him, some people (particularly mothers) have been fired for doing it. 

Fortunately, for workers who prove themselves valuable, businesses are starting to bend a little to keep their top talent happy.   Now, it’s up to each of us to ask for what we need to keep our work and home lives on track, convince our employers to give us those accommodations, and be prepared to make decisions based on the response to our requests. In Adam’s case, he faced a tough choice between work and family, and chose family. His decision resonated with baseball players around the country who rallied behind him when he quit, citing #FamilyFirst as the reason.

Tadd Schwartz, a father of two young children and owner of Schwartz Media Strategies, says thinks LaRoche should be able to bring Drake to work with him. Schwartz just allowed an employee to bring a sick dog with him to work. “Culture is critical and if an employee is productive and wants his or her son/ daughter (or dog) in the office and it's not a distraction then I'm fine with it. It’s called flexibility.”

I asked another employer what he thought about LaRoche's action and he told me doesn't think that anyone, male or female, should bring their child to work: "We're paying people to focus on their job, not their child. On an emergency basis, that would be different. But on a day to day basis it's a distraction for the parent and a liability for the company." 

I appreciate LaRoche's position as a father who travels a lot for work and wants to spend time with his son. I also appreciate the fact that LaRoche has America discussing this important topic. The movement to make workplaces more kid-friendly has been slow to take hold. But, as more men take on their fair share of childcare duty, I foresee fathers making the tough decision LaRoche made and more employers suffering the consequences for refusing to be open-minded. 

March 14, 2016

My Birthday Work Life Balance Lesson

 

 

                                                Cake2

 

Today is my 51st birthday and I'm officially in the "Over 50" age bracket. That could be a little depressing but instead of looking at what's behind me, I'm looking at what's ahead. 

Fortunately, I read something this morning that inspired me in my quest for work life balance in a stage of life that depends less on taking care of my children (two who are now in college) and more about finding the right fulfillment from work and life. 

Life coach Martina E. Faulkner says two little words can make a big difference in how we live our lives. Do you want to know those two words?

Get ready because they are simple and complicated at the same time....

“What if..?”

For example, you can ask yourself, "What if I could..." or What if I did..."

Instead of feeling frantic, overwhelmed or unfulfilled ...What if we ask ourselves "What if?"

What if I wrote the book? What if I published it? or What if I took on a new position at work? What if I asked my boss for flexibility?

Martina says “What if..?” is a simple little phrase that belies its greatness. It is an incredibly powerful tool that can be used to manifest the greatest joys or undermine even the most assured confidence. It all depends on how you use it. 

What if I let go of the sad feeling I have that I don't have toddlers to tuck in bed at night and embrace the fact that I can talk to my kids about my work challenges or hear their thoughts about who should be President?

What if I allow myself to feel less stressed about the constant stream of information coming at me from every direction and make more effort to work productively and pursue new outside interests?

There are so many ways to strike a better balance if we ask ourselves "What if.."

I look forward to all the possibilities that those two words bring. Happy Birthday to Me!

March 10, 2016

We have to stop stressing ourselves out

                                                 Stressed

 

Today I judged the Miami Herald Silver Knight contest for high school seniors. One of the students I interviewed had Chinese parents -- her father is a doctor and her mother has doctorate degree in psychology. The student, a high school senior, had dozens of activities on her resume, really time consuming activities such as working in a medical lab 20 hours a week, playing violin in a youth orchestra and tutoring students in math. She did this all while getting straight As in 17 AP courses.

"How do you do it all?" I asked her. "My parents raised me to be busy all the time doing the things I love to do,"  she replied. She said this matter of fact without appearing the least bit stressed, despite all the demands on her time.  

Look around and you will see that most Americans have a lot to learn. We may be accomplishing as much as this young girl, but we're completely stressed about it.  People are stressed about such things as   “deadlines,” “traffic,” “over-commitment,” “not enough time,” "difficult bosses" and “dealing with stupid people.”

Many of us are too stressed to take vacation. The latest survey commissioned by Alamo Rent A Car found that "vacation shaming" or being made to feel a sense of shame or guilt from co-workers for taking a vacation has become prevalent in the American workplace.

"We've created this kind of work martyr culture," said Cait DeBaun, spokeswoman for the U.S. Travel Association's "Project: Time Off." The number of vacation days American workers take annually has fallen steadily since about the dot-com era..."

Meanwhile, we walk around completely stressed while we are at work. Only about a third of employees are happy on the job, according to a Gallup and the Families and Work Institute study. The study also showed that more than half of workers felt overworked or overwhelmed at least some of the time.

Now, let's look a little further....We aren't taking all our vacation so that's stressing us out, we're stressed when we're at work, and we're definitely stressed when we're commuting back and forth to work. So, what about at home? Are we stressed at home?

study from the Council on Contemporary Families found people are actually more stressed at home than at work. Three Penn State researchers measured people’s cortisol, which is a stress marker, while they were at work and while they were at home and found it higher home.

Ugh...we can't go on like this. We have to lower our stress levels. 

Here are my top 7 suggestions:

  1. Get moving. Every time you find your stress level on the rise, get up and move. You can stretch, run in place, dance, or walk around the office or building. Just try to get your blood and endorphins flowing.
  2. Think positive. It's inevitable that something during your day is going to go wrong, or not as planned. You can take the sting out of these negative events by focusing on what’s great in your lives.
  3. Say no. Be polite but firm: Explain to others (even your manager) that you are overcommitted and that you must say no.
  4. Gift yourself time. Plan time in your day for fun, creativity and socializing. Even if it's just five minutes.
  5. Shake it off. Life is hectic. People are busy. You can choose to let small things stress you out, or you can let the little things go and tell yourself we deserve to live a happy, contented life. Focus on what you can control and shake off what you can't.
  6. Make a list. I bet you can think of a million stress-relieving, calm-inducing activities when you don't need them. Keep a list in your car, on your phone or in your office to refer to when you need to get back in balance.
  7. Set your alarm. It's up to us to establish a clear time to go home or set times after which we don't check email. Even if you have a difficult boss or client, it's up to you to set your limits.

Do you feel like you're living your life more stressed than your parents lived theirs? Do you think job stress and the stress of trying to strike a work life balance is inevitable, or do you think we can learn to manage our stress better than we are now?

March 03, 2016

Big changes in the workplace in 2016

Now that we welcomed March, the luster of the new year is starting to wear off. I've been hearing people complain more about their co-workers, their bosses, their clients, their workplaces. With all the grumbling going on, it's good to stay abreast of legal changes that affect us in our workplaces. Some of them may put more money in your wallet, make your work life easier, or prevent you from getting fired. For employers, keeping up with changes is critical for avoiding a costly lawsuit or government audit.

Adam Kemper Photo 2

Fort Lauderdale labor attorney Adam Kemper, of Greenspoon Marder Law weighs in today to bring us up to date on the changes we need to know about:

 

 

 

 

Ten Employment Issues to Lookout for in 2016 

 

  • 1- Increased Salary Requirement for Exemptions: Employees may get a boost in salary in 2016. The threshold for many exempt (salaried) employees is increasing later this year from $455 a week (or $23,660.00 per year) to $970.00 a week (or $50,440.00 per year). For workers affected, employers will need to increase salaries or pay overtime.

 

  • 2- Increase in Minimum Wage: As of January 1, fourteen states increased their minimum wage requirements. Employers  in those states must pay the new minimum wage or risk wage violations.

 

  • 3- Sexual Orientation is a Protected Characteristic: Employers are now liable for sexual orientation discrimination in their workplace. Expect employers to implement policies to avoid potential claims for sexual orientation discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation.

 

  • 4- Transgender Rights in the Workplace:  Employers must ensure all anti-discrimination workplace policies include protection for transgender workers. They also must provide their employees adequate access to restrooms that correspond to their employees' gender identity.

 

  • 5- Increase in Age Discrimination Claims: Another year, another birthday for the country's aging baby boomer demographic. Employers must now give more thought to eliminating positions belonging to individuals in the protected age class (of age 40 or over). 

 

  • 6- Safety in the Workplace: In 2015, there were a number of violent attacks in the workplace. Employers have a legal obligation to protect their employees from harm. Employers will need to revisit workplace safety policies to ensure their employees are adequately protected.   

 

  • 7- Marijuana Regulation: In 2016, expect to see more regulations passed that permit individuals with health conditions to be treated with marijuana. That means employers will need to revisit their workplace policies. Overly restrictive policies on the use of medical marijuana (or any prescribed medication for that matter) could result in a potential ADA violation.

 

  • 8-Social Media: While the boss might want to keep employees off social media, a complete ban on can run afoul of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act because employees have a right to engage in concerted activity on social media. Additionally, employees can now refuse to give their employers their Facebook or Twitter passwords as more states have enacted legislation which ban an employer's request for login and password information for employees' social media accounts.

 

  • 9-Background Check Litigation: Worried that a background check will unfairly be used against you? With increased safety concerns, more employers are conducting background checks on their applicants and employees. However, many employers are not familiar with laws concerning background checks and violations of both the Fair Credit Reporting Act and federal anti-discrimination laws. Employers will need to ensure that their background check processes complies with all laws.

 

  •  10-Misclassification: Are you a contractor or an employee? The Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service are now sharing information to notify the other of instances when employers are misclassifying their employees as independent contractors. The consequence of misclassifying is penalties assessed by both federal agencies (in addition to lawsuits by private litigants).  Employers will need to understand the distinction between employees and independent contractors, and classify workers properly. That could mean paying benefits and overtime to workers who are misclassified.

 

We all know there are many personalities in a workplace and issues that arise that can easily lead to conflict. Kemper advises being mindful of legal changes to avoid major headaches and disruption! Expect to see more changes in the year ahead!