button Vol. 5
No. 6
Winter 2000

line INSIDE line

America's Work Ethic: How Hard Do We Really Work?
line Terminating Employees: Ease the Pain
line NLRB Allows Temps to Join Unions
line Woman Not Hired Because She Valued Family Life Too Much
line Notes on Recent NLRB Decisions
line Leave for Domestic Violence-Related Services
- New Law
line The Trusted Advisor
- Book Review
line Briefs

Braun Consulting News
News on Personnel, Labor Relations and Benefits

See our Archive Pages for Back Issues of Braun Consulting News!

button Briefs.

- "Labor on the Line" - New Cable Show In Portland, Oregon Focuses on Labor Issues

A new Cable show originating in Portland Oregon, "Labor On The Line", has had six programs aired over the last six months. Each program is aired six times on three channels covering most of Portland Oregon's metropolitan area.

The focus is on issues of general interest to labor activists or potential activists. There is a minimum of talking heads in favor of colorful actions. Some topics covered have been: the WTO action with Labor Video Projects' "The Battle of Seattle", Steelworkers' actions in their struggles with Oregon Steel and Kaiser Aluminum, and Teamsters leafleting Bi-Mart in support of their boycott to get a contract at the warehouse in Eugene, Or.

Some brief interviewing is done, but most of the show is aimed at showing the actions as the colorful, interesting, fun and important activities that they are.

This is just one more way the unions are making a push to add members. They are making the union look like a "fun" place to be. Your employees may be watching programs like this - so don't be surprised if the union comes knocking.

"Labor on the Line" can be reached at 503/286-5850 or c/o Dave King 8728 N Edison St. Portland, OR. 97203.

- Stress and Rapid Change Can Lead to Workplace Mental Health Problems, a recent report says.

Mental health problems at the workplace are expected to increase dramatically in the coming years, according to a joint report by the International Labor Organization and World Health Organization. Most companies will have troubles in preparing for these changes and may be impacted adversely by them if caught unawares.

In the United States, some 200 million work days are lost because of mental-related illnesses, with between $30 billion and $40 billion spent on treating depression alone, the report said. Globalization can put new strains on the workforce as companies seek to expand production and productivity while fending off new competitors.

We are confident that our readers will notice that the ILO is a sponsor of the report so it is no big surprise that it finds work is just to stressful for workers. Remember that your employees may be reading this kind of "information" to justify why they need a union.

- Watching Sunday Morning Religious Shows A Religious Right?

Some employees might not be required to work on their Sabbath if they attend religious services every week. Some employees need not even have "traditional" religious beliefs to qualify for this accommodation. But what about an employee who was not part of any congregation and whose religious practice was watching Sunday morning religious programming?

An employee was fired for refusing to work Sundays so he could watch religious programming. Eventually the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission upheld the firing and said he should have no special treatment for his demand for taking Sundays off to watch TV.

Even with the EEOC finding the company made a settlement under which the worker will receive $19,500 and a neutral job reference.

Have a policy that works. Call BCG if you need help with issues like this one.

- Child's Claim for Prenatal Injuries Upheld.

A child who was seriously injured in utero--allegedly by her mother's on-the-job exposure to contaminants in raw meat--can sue the mother's employer, according to a California appellate court. "The traditional method of protecting interests of those too young to protect themselves is to communicate to their parents or guardians," the court said.

The mother, a meat inspector, charged that her employer, Lucky Stores Inc., failed to warn her of the fetal risk. While some employers may wish to limit women from hazardous work to prevent such tragedies and attendant costs, they should be aware that doing so violates federal civil rights law.

Now compare this to a finding by the EEOC that requires the employer to permit an employee to work in a dangerous job even if the employee of fetus may be injured (ADA Decision of the EEOC). Give us a call if you are running into this type of issue.

- In a Tight Job Market Avoid the Temptation to Cut Corners in Hiring Decisions.

As employers look for short cuts in hiring, many are eliminating pre-hire drug tests and psychological exams. Attorneys' caution that failing to screen job applicants thoroughly can lead to negligent hiring claims. Meanwhile, hiring experts say that employers can be fast and efficient by streamlining their application process, using the Internet, and taking advantage of employee referrals.

Reaching beyond typical labor markets and speeding up the hiring process are crucial in today's tight labor market, yet when it comes to hiring, faster is not always better and expanding recruiting markets must be done thoughtfully and carefully rather than in a hasty manner. Caution and thoroughness are not a luxury these days, but a necessity. Take a look at 3rd party companies that will screen applicants for you over the internet or by fax. Some do a good job for a little as $30 each for a basic credit review.

- Don't Dial and Drive.

Employers are banning workers entirely from using their cellphones while driving is a practice that more employers are instituting. Others employers are providing their workers with safety tips and training.

Many people and employers are only now becoming aware of the dangers of driving and phoning. Some companies are finding that it is a good idea to have a policy that lets employees know they don't encourage them to drive while using their cellphones. It is possible for a company to be held liable for a crash if the accident involves an employee using a cellphone to conduct business at the time of the crash. In 1999, the brokerage firm Salomon Smith Barney paid $500,000 to settle a case brought by the family of a motorcyclist killed when he was hit by a stockbroker using a cellphone while driving.

Traffic accidents present the greatest hazard to workers, accounting for more fatalities than any other job hazard. According to a Harvard Center for Risk Analysis survey, more than 80% of the USA's 94 million cellphone owners use their phones while driving at least some of the time. Don't forget that if the employee is working by using the cell phone they may be covered by OSHA safety rules and workers compensation laws. Review what your workers are doing while driving.

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