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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Minimum Wage 2016

Minimum Wages To Increase In 14 States By New Year’s Day

ByCole Stangler
International Business Times
December 28, 2015

Some of the country’s lowest-paid workers are about to get a raise. Fourteen states, including New York and California, will lift their minimum wages on either New Year’s Eve or New Years Day.

The hikes will come as most American workers continue to suffer from broad-based pay stagnation, even as the official unemployment rate falls. The pay raises also underline the growing gap between statewide wage floors and the federal hourly minimum, which remains $7.25.

Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have minimum wages higher than the federal pay floor, ACCORDING TO the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In addition to the wave of New Year’s pay hikes, Nevada, Minnesota and Maryland are slated to hike their minimum wages later in 2016. A number of cities are poised to follow suit during the year, including Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, which are all phasing in $15 minimum hourly wages. Those three cities’ wage hikes the most ambitious and controversial of the bunch ח are largely the product of the so-called Fight for 15, a union-backed protest movement.

Christine Owens, executive director of the NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT AND LAW PROJECT, a research and advocacy group, applauded the series of pay increases. But she said the hikes are unlikely to dramatically affect most workers paychecks.

“The increases in 2016, particularly those that aim for $15 within a reasonable period, are a good start but they will not immediately halt broad-based wage stagnation,” said Owens. “That’s because wages have been stagnant or fallen across the board for most workers - particularly for workers whose wages are lowest for many years, and it will take a while for these patterns to reverse.”

Dan Crawford, a spokesman for the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, said “policymakers should consider other options to jump-start wage growth across the board” like lifting the federal minimum wage and strengthening collective bargaining rights.

Democrats in Congress have proposed raising the federal minimum to $12 and $15 an hour, but the bills have stalled under Republican majorities in both chambers.

WALMART, the country’s largest private sector employer, LIFTED starting pay to $9 an hour earlier this year. In 2016, it plans to further boost its lowest wages to $10.

Still, many business groups have opposed efforts to lift minimum wages. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce focuses on federal policy, not state policy, but it warned of the impact of minimum-pay increases on employers.

“Any discussion about raising the minimum wage needs to recognize that small employers often have to operate under very slim profit margins and will have the hardest time absorbing these higher labor costs,” said Randy Johnson, senior vice president at the Chamber of Commerce. “They will have to find more revenues or trim costs to make up the difference.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 3 million workers earned the federal minimum wage or less last year. The federal minimum for employees who receive tips is $2.13 an hour.


Posted by Elvis on 12/31/15 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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Monday, September 21, 2015

A Toxic Work World

A workplace where there is total focus on the bottom-line and its leadership has forgotten that though the bottom line is important, far more important is our humanity, our human-ness, our spirit as individuals and as a collective.  It is a workplace that has not learned to balance the need for profits with concern about the heart and soul of its people.
Toxic Workplace

By Anne-Marie Slaughter
NY Times
Septemer 18, 2015

For many Americans, life has become all competition all the time. Workers across the socioeconomic spectrum, from hotel housekeepers to surgeons, have stories about toiling 12- to 16-hour days (often without overtime pay) and experiencing anxiety attacks and exhaustion. Public health experts have begun talking about stress as an epidemic.

The people who can compete and succeed in this culture are an ever-narrower slice of AMERICAN SOCIETY : largely young people who are healthy, and wealthy enough not to have to care for family members. An individual company can of course favor these individuals, as health insurers once did, and then pass them off to other businesses when they become parents or need to tend to their own parents. But this model of winning at all costs reinforces a distinctive American pathology of not making room for caregiving. The result: We hemorrhage talent and hollow out our society.

To begin with, we are losing women. America has unlocked the talent of its women in a way that few nations can match; girls are outpacing boys in high schools, universities and graduate schools and are now entering the work force at higher salaries. But the ranks of those women still thin significantly as they rise toward the top, from more than 50 percent at entry level to 10 to 20 percent in senior management. Far too many discover that what was once a manageable and enjoyable work-family balance can no longer be sustained regardless of ambition, confidence or even a partner who shares tasks equally.

Every family’s situation is different; some women may be able to handle with ease conditions that don\t work for others. But many women who started out with all the ambition in the world find themselves in a place they never expected to be. They do not choose to leave their jobs; they are shut out by the refusal of their bosses to make it possible for them to fit their family life and their work life together. In her book “Opting Out? Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home,” the sociologist Pamela Stone calls this a “forced” choice. “Denial of requests to work part time,” layoffs or relocations, she writes, will push even the most ambitious woman out of the work force.

A young lawyer I know from Virginia was offered a general counsel position, which she determined she could take but only if she could work from home one day a week to be with her two children. Her employer refused. Still another woman wrote to me about her aspiration to an executive-level position and the predicament of doing so with a 2-year-old at home: ԓThe dilemma is in no way the result of having a toddler: After all, executive men seem to enjoy increased promotions with every additional offspring. It is the way work continues to be circumscribed as something that happens in an office,ђ and/or between 8і6 that causes such conflict. I havenҒt yet been presented with a shred of reasonable justification for insisting my job requires me to be sitting in this fixed, 15 sq foot room, 20 miles from my home.

The problem is even more acute for the 42 million women in America on the brink of poverty. Not showing up for work because a child has an ear infection, schools close for a snow day, or an elderly parent must go to the doctor puts their jobs at risk, and losing their jobs means that they can no longer care properly for their children ԗ some 28 million and other relatives who depend on them. They are often suffering not only from too little flexibility but also too much, as many low-wage service jobs no longer have a guaranteed number of hours a week.

This looks like a דwomens problem,Ҕ but its not. ItҒs a work problem the problem of an antiquated and broken system. When law firms and corporations lose talented women who reject lock-step career paths and question promotion systems that elevate quantity of hours worked over quality of the work itself, the problem is not with the women. When an abundance of overly rigid workplaces causes 42 million American citizens to live day to day in fear that just one single setback will prevent them from being able to care for their children, itגs not their problem, but ours.

The problem is with the workplace, or more precisely, with a workplace designed for the Mad MenӔ era, for Leave It to BeaverӔ families in which one partner does all the work of earning an income and the other partner does all the work of turning that income into care the care that is indispensable for our children, our sick and disabled, our elderly. Our families and our responsibilities donגt look like that anymore, but our workplaces do not fit the realities of our lives.

Irene Padavic, a Florida State sociologist, Robin J. Ely, a Harvard Business School professor, and Erin Reid from Boston University’s Questrom School of Business were asked to conduct a detailed study of a midsize global consulting firm where top management thought they had a “gender problem.” The firm had a paucity of women at the highest levels - just 10 percent of partners were women, compared with nearly 40 percent of junior associates.

After careful study, Professors Padavic, Ely and Reid found that an equal number of men and women had left the firm in the preceding three years, a simple fact that contradicted managements women, work and family story. Some of the men also left because of the long hours; others “suffered in silence” or otherwise made do. The firm’s key human resources problem was not gender, as management believed, but rather a CULTURE OF OVERWORK.

The firms leadership resisted these findings. They didnҒt want to be told that they needed to overhaul their entire organizational philosophy or that they were overpromising to clients and overdelivering (for example, making hundred-slide PowerPoint presentations that the client couldnt even use). They wanted to be told that the firmҒs problem was work-family conflict for women, a narrative that would allow them to adopt a set of policies specifically aimed at helping women work part time, or be mentored, or join support networks. As Professors Padavic, Ely and Reid wryly concluded, their attitude required a rejection of evidence on the part of evidence-driven analysts.Ӕ

Bad work culture is everyones problem, for men just as much as for women. ItҒs a problem for working parents, not just working mothers. For working children who need time to take care of their own parents, not just working daughters. For anyone who does not have the luxury of a full-time lead parent or caregiver at home.

But theres good news. Men are also beginning to ask for and take paternity leave and to take lead parent roles. According to a continuing study by the Families and Work Institute, only a third of employed millennial men think that couples should take on traditional gender roles. Some tech companies warring for talent are also beginning to compete by offering longer paternity leaves, which will hardly affect the average American workplace, but is a sign of changing cultural attitudes.

Even if men and women join forces to demand changes in the workplace, though, we cannot do this alone, as individuals trying to make our lives work and as workers and bosses trying to make room for care. Some other company can always keep prices down by demanding more, burning out its employees and casting them aside when they are done. To be fully competitive as a country, we are going to have to emulate other industrialized countries and build an infrastructure of care. We used to have one; it was called women at home. But with 57 percent of those women in the labor force, that infrastructure has crumbled and itҒs not coming back.

To support care just as we support competition, we will need some combination of the following: high-quality and affordable child care and elder care; paid family and medical leave for women and men; a right to request part-time or flexible work; investment in early education comparable to our investment in elementary and secondary education; comprehensive job protection for pregnant workers; higher wages and training for paid caregivers; community support structures to allow elders to live at home longer; and reform of elementary and secondary school schedules to meet the needs of a digital rather than an agricultural economy.

These proposals are not so far-fetched as they may seem. President Obama put forward proposals to expand access to affordable, high-quality child care in his 2016 budget. Hillary Rodham Clinton has made providing a foundation for working families, including child care, one of the central aspects of her campaign. One of the few states that offers paid family leave (workers pay the cost out of a small increase in their payroll tax) is New Jersey, under the Republican governor Chris Christie.

Republican senators have sponsored a bill that would allow employers to offer employees paid leave hours instead of overtime pay; some polls show that a majority of women who vote Republican support paid family leave. Senator Kelly Ayotte, Republican of New Hampshire, is co-leader of a bipartisan caucus across both the Senate and the House devoted to assisting family caregivers. She follows in the footsteps of former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas, who successfully sponsored legislation to allow homemakers to contribute to retirement accounts the same way that salaried workers can. And as the baby boom becomes an elder boom, we can expect a whole new constituency for care, on both sides of the aisle.

Change in our individual workplaces and in our broader politics also depends on culture change: fundamental shifts in the way we think, talk and confer prestige. If we really valued care, we would not regard time out for caregiving for your children, parents, spouse, sibling or any other member of your extended or constructed family - as a black hole on a resume. We would see it as engaging in a socially, personally and professionally valuable activity. We would see men who lean out for care as role models just as much as women who lean in for work. We would think managing kids matters as much as managing money.

Impossible, right? Yet I grew up in a society where my mother set out little vases of cigarettes on the table at dinner parties, where blacks and whites had to use different bathrooms, and in which almost everyone claimed to be heterosexual. That seems a lifetime ago, but I’m not so old. Our world has changed over the past 50 years, vastly for the better from the point of view of African-Americans, the L.G.B.T. community and families who lost loved ones to lung cancer. Given the magnitude of that change, think about how much we can still do.

We can, all of us, stand up for care. Until we do, men and women will never be equal; not while both are responsible for providing cash but only women are responsible for providing care. And though individual Americans might win out in our current system, America as a whole will never be as competitive as it ought to be. If we do not act, over time our families and communities, the foundation of our flourishing, will wither.

The women’s movement has brought many of us the right to compete on equal terms; it’s time for all of us to claim an equal right to care.

Anne-Marie Slaughter is the president of New America, a think tank and civic enterprise, and author of the forthcoming “Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family,” from which this essay is adapted.


Posted by Elvis on 09/21/15 •
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Sunday, August 02, 2015

Fleeing America Redux


For years, I’ve been thinking about LEAVING AMERICA, because I’ve lost faith in a lot of things that once made this country great. The lack of employment opportunity, upward mobility, and HOPE, almost makes it a NO-BRAINER.

Economics professor RICHARD WOLFF telle us HERE:

Germany and Scandinavia, because they provide more social services to their people than anybody else. And guess what: Not only are they not in trouble economically, they are the winners of the current situation.

Here’s a story of someone who moved to Switzerland and came back.

Living in Switzerland ruined me for America and its lousy work culture

By Chantal Panozzo
July 21, 2015

I was halfway through a job interview when I realized I was wrinkling my nose. I couldn’t help myself. A full-time freelance position with a long commute, no benefits, and a quarter of my old pay was the best they could do? I couldn’t hide how I felt about that, and the 25-year-old conducting the interview noticed.

Are you interested in permanent jobs instead?” she asked.

“I could consider a permanent job if it was part-time,” I said.

She looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language and went right back to her pitch: long commute, full-time, no benefits. No way, I thought. Who would want to do that? And then it hit me: Either I had become a completely privileged jerk or my own country was not as amazing as I had once thought it to be. This wasn’t an unusually bad offer: It was just American Reality.

“Now that I’m back, I’m angry that my own country isn’t providing more for its people”

Before I moved to Switzerland for almost a decade, American Reality was all I knew. I was living in a two-bedroom apartment making $30,000 a year in a job where I worked almost seven days a week with no overtime pay and received 10 days of paid time off a year.

In other words, for the hours worked, I was making minimum wage, if that. The glamour of this job was supposed to make up for the hours, but in reality, working every weekend is a ticket to burnout not success.

My husband and I were so accustomed to American Reality that when he was offered an opportunity to work in Switzerland, we both thought about travel and adventure - not about improving our quality of life. It hadn’t occurred to us that we could improve our quality of life simply by moving.

But without realizing it, or even asking for it, a better life quality came to us. And this is why, now that I’m back, I’m angry that my own country isn’t providing more for its people. I will never regret living abroad. It taught me to understand another culture. And it taught me to see my own. But it also taught me something else to lose touch with the American version of reality.

Here are seven ways living abroad made it hard to return to American life.

1) I had work-life balance

The Swiss work hard, but they have a strong work-life balance. According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the average Swiss worker earned the equivalent of $91,574 a year in 2013, while the average American worker earned only $55,708. But the real story is that the average American had to work 219 hours more per year for this lesser salary.

Which brings us to lunch. In Switzerland, you don’t arrive to a meeting late, but you also don’t leave for your lunch break a second past noon. If it’s summer, jumping into the lake to swim with the swans is an acceptable way to spend your lunch hour. If you eat a sandwich at your desk, people will scold you. I learned this the hard way.

“Ugh,” said Tom, a Swiss art director I shared an office with at a Zurich ad agency. “It smells like someone ate their lunch in here.” He threw open the windows and fanned the air.

“They did. I ate a sandwich here,” I said.

Tom looked at me like I was crazy.

“No. Tomorrow you’re having a proper lunch. With me,” he said.

The next day, exactly at noon, we rode the funicular to a restaurant where we dined al fresco above Zurich. After lunch, we strolled down the hill. I felt guilty for being gone for an hour and a half. But no one had missed us at the office.

Lunchtime is sacred time in Switzerland. When I was on maternity leave, my husband came home for lunch to help me care for our daughter. This strengthened our marriage. Many families still reunite during weekdays over the lunch hour.

Weekends in Switzerland encourage leisure time, too. On Sundays, you can’t even shop ח most stores are closed. You are semi-required to hike in the Alps with your family. It’s just what you do.

2) I had time and money

The Swiss have a culture of professional part-time work, and as a result, part-time jobs include every benefit of a full-time job, including vacation time and payment into two Swiss pension systems. Salaries for part-time work are set as a percentage of a professional full-time salary because unlike in the United States, part-time jobs are not viewed as necessarily unskilled jobs with their attendant lower pay.

During my Swiss career, I was employed by various companies from 25 percent to 100 percent. When I worked 60 percent, for example, I worked three days a week. A job that is 50 percent could mean the employee works five mornings a week or, as I once did, two and a half days a week. The freedom to choose the amount of work that was right for me at varying points of my life was wonderful and kept me engaged and happy.
“When I took only 10 days for a trip to Spain, my colleagues chastised me for taking so little time off”

Often, jobs in Switzerland are advertised with the percentage of work that is expected. Other times, you can negotiate what percentage you would like to work or request to go from working five days a week to four days a week, for example. There is normally little risk involved in asking.

One married couple I knew each worked 80 percent, which meant they each spent one day a week at home with their child, limiting the child’s time in day care to three days a week while continuing full professional lives for both of them. According to a recent article in the New York Times, “Why U.S. Women Are Leaving Jobs Behind,” 81 percent of women in Switzerland are in the workforce, versus 69 percent in the US. I believe attitudes toward professional part-time work - for both men and women - have a lot to do with this.

3) I had the support of an amazing unemployment system

About three years into my Swiss life, I lost my job. And I discovered that in Switzerland, being on unemployment meant you received 70 to 80 percent of your prior salary for 18 months. The Swiss government also paid for me to take German classes, and when I wasn’t looking for jobs, I could afford to writea book.

In the United States, on the other hand, unemployment benefits generally pay workers between 40 and 50 percent of their previous salary, and these benefits only last for six months on average. However, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, some unemployed people now receive up to 99 weeks of benefits.

4) I witnessed what happens when countries impose wealth-based taxes

Compared with taxes in the United States, Swiss taxes are easy on the average worker. For example, a worker earning the average wage of $91,574 would pay only about 5 percent of that in Swiss federal income tax. Instead of taxing salaries at high percentages ח a practice that puts most of the tax burden on the middle class, where most income comes from wages and not from capital gains Switzerland immediately taxes dividends at a maximum of 35 percent and also has a wealth-based tax.

While the American tax system is supposed to be progressive ח so the more you earn, the more taxes you pay up to 39.6 percent tax for the highest income brackets, the superrich escape paying these kind of taxes because they aren’t making most of their money in wages.

For example, in 2010, Mitt Romney, whose total income was $21.6 million, paid only $3 million in taxes, or a tax rate of about 14 percent, which is amazing when you consider this is the same tax rate American families earning wages from about $16,750 to $68,000 paid in 2010.

The Swiss taxation method leaves money in the pocket of the average worker ח and allows them to save accordingly. The average adult in Switzerland has a net worth worth of $513,000 according to the 2013 Credit Suisse Wealth Report. Average net worth among adults in the US is half that.

While I witnessed the benefits of the Swiss tax system for the average person, I did not benefit from them due to my American citizenship. Instead, I paid both Swiss tax and American tax while living in Switzerland. Unfortunately, the US is one of the only nations in the world where tax is citizen-based instead of resident-based. (China, in a new push to enforce tax law for citizens working abroad, is one of the others, along with Eritrea.)

5) I had lots of paid vacation time and was never made to feel guilty about taking it

At my former American job, I received 10 days of paid vacation per year, and each of those days came with a sizable portion of guilt if actually used. But in Switzerland, my husband’s company gave employees six weeks of vacation a year. Most of the Swiss companies I worked for gave four the legal minimum is four. Moreover, everything shut down between Christmas and New Year’s, giving most employees like me another guaranteed week off.

People in Europe took vacation seriously. Once, when I only took 10 days for a trip to Spain, my colleagues chastised me for taking so little time off. I learned to take vacation chunks in two-week intervals. Well rested, I noticed that I felt more productive and creative when I returned to work. Recent American research confirms what I was feeling: Relaxing can make you more productive. So why don’t Americans embrace vacation time?

6) I never had to own a car

I’m currently cringing at the idea of being required to buy a car. A Honda dealer here in Chicago recently quoted me $18,000 for a 2012 Accord, and that seems like a lot of money - especially when you still need to pay for insurance, gasoline, and repairs. The price is even more daunting for someone who isn’t used to being required to pay for such a thing.

“The freedom to choose the amount of work that was right for me kept me engaged and happy”

Not owning a car is financially freeing and it saves the environment, too. In Switzerland, 21 percent of households do not own a car, versus 9.2 percent in the US.

The Swiss train connects to the bus that connects to the cable car to get you on the slopes in the middle of nowhere at the scheduled second. From Zurich, I could also take a high-speed train to Paris in three and a half hours. Now I can barely get from the western suburbs to the north side of Chicago in that amount of time - let alone have the option to do it carless. This means I’m turning down jobs instead of taking them. This isn’t good for the American economy or for me.

And let’s be clear: Living in a city suburb is no excuse for having bad transit options. I lived exactly the same distance from Zurich that I now live from Chicago (15 miles) but shared none of the public transport frustrations.

7) I had excellent health care when I gave birth and then enjoyed a fully paid 14-week maternity leave

When I gave birth in Switzerland, I was encouraged to stay five days in the hospital. So I did. The $3,000 bill for the birth and hospital stay was paid in full by my Swiss insurance. As was the required midwife, who came to my apartment for five days after I came home from the hospital to check on both my health and my baby’s.

Had I been in the US for my delivery, the cost would have been much higher ח and the quality of care arguably lower. The average price for a vaginal birth in the US is $30,000 and includes an average of less than a two-day hospital stay.

Swiss law also mandates a 14-week maternity leave at a minimum of 80 percent pay. I was lucky enough to receive 100 percent pay. Compare that with the US, where new mothers aren’t guaranteed any paid time off after giving birth. In Switzerland, it’s also common to choose how much work to return to after having a child. Since my Swiss job at the time had been full time, I chose to return at 60 percent.

Other American friends in Switzerland who gave birth also chose to return to their careers part time: My engineering manager friend chose 70 percent, and my lawyer friend chose 80 percent. We had great careers, we had balance, and we also had a Swiss government that paid a monthly child stipend whether we needed it or not. For Americans like me, Swiss Reality was privilege.

Finally, finally, after almost a decade abroad, my husband and I decided we needed to go home to see what home felt like, or if the United States even felt like home anymore. So we put our Swiss residence permits on hold for two years and went back to Chicago.

While I enjoy being close to family again, returning to the United States made me realize who I’ve become: someone who can’t believe companies aren’t required to pay into a pension fund beyond Social Security. Someone who is offended that most women in America don’t have the maternity benefits she had.

And someone who is mad that she must own a car for lack of efficient public transportation. Someone who, because of all of this, is still debating where she ultimately wants to call home.

Chantal Panozzo is the author of Swiss Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known. She has written about Switzerland and expat life for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.


Posted by Elvis on 08/02/15 •
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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Age Bias? Tell Us About It

By Rob Walker
New York Times
July 9, 2015

The Workologist has a problem. The question below has been in my inbox for over a year. I cant answer every query, of course, so I periodically clear out older emails. But Ive never been able to delete this one. So I’m asking for your help in (finally) responding to it:

I am a 52-year-old clinical research coordinator who has been looking for a new position. A contact told me her firm was hiring; the job involved marketing experience that I dont have, but she assured me this wasnҒt an issue. And the company did indeed set up an interview. I was told this would involve a short PowerPoint presentation. I stated I did not know PowerPoint but would learn it, and again was told that was fine.

During the interview, I met with several of my potential new colleagues all women in their 20s and 30s. One asked: דAre you sure you wouldnt mind reporting to women who are so much younger than you?Ҕ Then she quickly added, Forget I said that. What I meant is, you have so much depth of experience on your rөsum, and this is an entry-level position. I said this wouldn锒t be a problem Iגd rely on their judgment as I learned this new area. Everyone seemed satisfied.

Afterward, the H.R. person called to say the job required a PowerPoint expert,Ӕ but the company had been impressed and wanted to set up another interview to bring me on as a consultant. I told her I was thrilled; I even sent an upgraded version of my presentation and followed up by phone and email. But I never heard back.

What happened? Could age discrimination be a factor?


This touches on an important subject: the challenges of being, and also managing, an older employee. Now, before you start attacking me for suggesting that age 52 is anything less than the prime of life, please note that I mean the term olderӔ comparatively a mathematical age difference of a decade or two between a worker and supervisor, or job-seeker and hiring manager.

The Workologist has elsewhere addressed other details raised by this question ח age discrimination, the vanishing recruiter but itגs this issue, lurking under the surface, that I keep coming back to: Our work culture and the culture in general ח does seem to put a premium on more youthful qualities (perceived tech fluency among them), often shortchanging the value that could come with a more seasoned perspective. And this can manifest itself in subtle and even unintentional ways.

But what, as a practical matter, can real-life workers and managers do about it? And that, readers, is what I want to ask you. Are you a worker on the older side who has figured out how to overcome the not-always-conscious biases of a youth-venerating workplace? Are you a younger manager who has learned how to see past age differences? What advice would you offer to job-seekers who suspect that the market puts a premium on younger prospects?

The occasion for this turning of the tables is the approaching two-year anniversary of this column. Id like to mark that by offering you the floor to counsel fellow readers. Send your advice to workologist at

Scheduling Scrutiny

When I was hired, my boss (who does not work out of this office) told me that I could choose the hours I wanted to work.

I chose to work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. My colleagues either work those hours or from 7 to 4. Sometimes I have altered my schedule to suit my needs. Recently, for example, I came in at 7 so that I could leave early. I did not ask permission, because I was told that I could choose my hours. I know that others sometimes do the same thing. But one of my colleagues, M., has started criticizing me for not clearing my schedule changes with everyone else in advance. She is not my superior, but she is close to our boss. Now she says I need to ғcoordinate any changes to my schedule ahead of time.

Others (including M.) come and go early and late without saying a word to me, so why should I not be able to do the same? ANONYMOUS

Your boss’s scheduling system sounds like a recipe for chaos. That’s not your fault. But giving your colleagues advance notice that you’ll be leaving early seems straightforward. If you dont want to position this as asking for permission, state your plan as a fact, presented as a courtesy.

This approach is likely to give you more autonomy. If you wait until you’re asked why youre skipping lunch, you end up on the defensive. And even if your behavior is technically defensible, you come across (intentionally or not) as indifferent to the office at large. It is not your job to think up a better scheduling scheme. But sometimes it’s easier to use your own better judgment to rise above a poorly designed system.

Send your workplace conundrums to workologist at, including your name and contact information (even if you want it withheld for publication). The Workologist is a guy with well-intentioned opinions, not a professional career adviser. Letters may be edited.



Dozens of Companies Are Using Facebook to Exclude Older Workers From Job Ads

By Julia Angwin, ProPublica, Noam Scheiber, The New York Times, and Ariana Tobin, ProPublica
December 20, 2017

This story was co-published with The New York Times.

A few weeks ago, Verizon placed an ad on Facebook to recruit applicants for a unit focused on financial planning and analysis. The ad showed a smiling, millennial-aged woman seated at a computer and promised that new hires could look forward to a rewarding career in which they would be “more than just a number.”

Some relevant numbers were not immediately evident. The promotion was set to run on the Facebook feeds of users 25 to 36 years old who lived in the nations capital, or had recently visited there, and had demonstrated an interest in finance. For a vast majority of the hundreds of millions of people who check Facebook every day, the ad did not exist.

VERIZON is among dozens of the nation’s leading employers - including Amazon, Goldman Sachs, Target and Facebook itself - that placed recruitment ads limited to particular age groups, an investigation by ProPublica and The New York Times has found.

The ability of advertisers to deliver their message to the precise audience most likely to respond is the cornerstone of Facebook’s business model. But using the system to expose job opportunities only to certain age groups has raised concerns about fairness to older workers.

Several experts questioned whether the practice is in keeping with the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which prohibits bias against people 40 or older in hiring or employment. Many jurisdictions make it a crime to “aid” or “abet” age discrimination, a provision that could apply to companies like Facebook that distribute job ads.

“It’s blatantly unlawful,” said Debra Katz, a Washington employment lawyer who represents victims of discrimination.

Facebook defended the practice. “Used responsibly, age-based targeting for employment purposes is an accepted industry practice and for good reason: it helps employers recruit and people of all ages find work,” said Rob Goldman, a Facebook vice president.

The revelations come at a time when the unregulated power of the tech companies is under increased scrutiny, and Congress is weighing whether to limit the immunity that it granted to tech companies in 1996 for third-party content on their platforms.

Facebook has argued in court filings that the law, the Communications Decency Act, makes it immune from liability for discriminatory ads.

Although Facebook is a relatively new entrant into the recruiting arena, it is rapidly gaining popularity with employers. Earlier this year, the social network launched a section of its site devoted to job ads. Facebook allows advertisers to select their audience, and then Facebook finds the chosen users with the extensive data it collects about its members.

The use of age targets emerged in a review of data originally compiled by ProPublica readers for a project about political ad placement on Facebook. Many of the ads include a disclosure by Facebook about why the user is seeing the ad, which can be anything from their age to their affinity for folk music.

The precision of Facebook’s ad delivery has helped it dominate an industry once in the hands of print and broadcast outlets. The system, called microtargeting, allows advertisers to reach essentially whomever they prefer, including the people their analysis suggests are the most plausible hires or consumers, lowering the costs and vastly increasing efficiency.

Targeted Facebook ads were an important tool in Russias efforts to influence the 2016 election. The social media giant has acknowledged that 126 million people saw Russia-linked content, some of which was aimed at particular demographic groups and regions. Facebook has also come under criticism for the disclosure that it accepted ads aimed at ғJew-haters as well as housing ads that discriminated by race, gender, disability and other factors.

Other tech companies also offer employers opportunities to discriminate by age. ProPublica bought job ads on Google and LinkedIn that excluded audiences older than 40 ԗ and the ads were instantly approved. Google said it does not prevent advertisers from displaying ads based on the users age. After being contacted by ProPublica, LinkedIn changed its system to prevent such targeting in employment ads.

The practice has begun to attract legal challenges. On Wednesday, a class-action complaint alleging age discrimination was filed in federal court in San Francisco on behalf of the Communications Workers of America and its members - as well as all Facebook users 40 or older who may have been denied the chance to learn about job openings. The plaintiffs lawyers said the complaint was based on ads for dozens of companies that they had discovered on Facebook.

The database of Facebook ads collected by ProPublica shows how often and precisely employers recruit by age. In a search for ғpart-time package handlers, United Parcel Service ran an ad aimed at people 18 to 24. State Farm pitched its hiring promotion to those 19 to 35.

Some companies, including Target, State Farm and UPS, defended their targeting as a part of a broader recruitment strategy that reached candidates of all ages. The group of companies making this case included Facebook itself, which ran career ads on its own platform, many aimed at people 25 to 60. ԓWe completely reject the allegation that these advertisements are discriminatory, said Goldman of Facebook.

After being contacted by ProPublica and the Times, other employers, including Amazon, Northwestern Mutual and the New York City Department of Education, said they had changed or were changing their recruiting strategies.

“We recently audited our recruiting ads on Facebook and discovered some had targeting that was inconsistent with our approach of searching for any candidate over the age of 18,” said Nina Lindsey, a spokeswoman for Amazon, which targeted some ads for workers at its distribution centers between the ages of 18 and 50. “We have corrected those ads.”

Verizon did not respond to requests for comment.

Several companies argued that targeted recruiting on Facebook was comparable to advertising opportunities in publications like the AARP magazine or Teen Vogue, which are aimed at particular age groups. But this obscures an important distinction. Anyone can buy Teen Vogue and see an ad. Online, however, people outside the targeted age groups can be excluded in ways they will never learn about.

ԓWhat happens with Facebook is you dont know what you donҒt know, said David Lopez, a former general counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who is one of the lawyers at the firm Outten & Golden bringing the age-discrimination case on behalf of the communication workers union.

They Know IԒm Dead

Age discrimination on digital platforms is something that many workers suspect is happening to them, but that is often difficult to prove.

Mark Edelstein, a fitfully employed social-media marketing strategist who is 58 and legally blind, doesn’t pretend to know what he doesn’t know, but he has his suspicions.

Edelstein, who lives in St. Louis, says he never had serious trouble finding a job until he turned 50. “Once you reach your 50s, you may as well be dead,” he said. I’ve gone into interviews, with my head of gray hair and my receding hairline, and they know I’m dead.”

Edelstein spends most of his days scouring sites like LinkedIn and Indeed and pitching hiring managers with personalized appeals. When he scrolled through his Facebook ads on a Wednesday in December, he saw a variety of ads reflecting his interest in social media marketing: ads for the marketing software HubSpot (15 free infographic templates) and TripIt, which he used to book a trip to visit his mother in Florida.

What he didn’t see was a single ad for a job in his profession, including one identified by ProPublica that was being shown to younger users: a posting for a social media director job at HubSpot. The company asked that the ad be shown to people aged 27 to 40 who live or were recently living in the United States.

ғHypothetically, had I seen a job for a social media director at HubSpot, even if it involved relocation, I ABSOLUTELY would have applied for it, Edelstein said by email when told about the ad.

A HubSpot spokeswoman, Ellie Botelho, said that the job was posted on many sites, including LinkedIn, The Ladders and Built in Boston, and was open to anyone meeting the qualifications regardless of age or any other demographic characteristic.

She added that “the use of the targeted age-range selection on the Facebook ad was frankly a mistake on our part given our lack of experience using that platform for job postings and not a feature we will use again.”

For his part, Edelstein says he understands why marketers wouldn’t want to target ads at him: “It doesn’t surprise me a bit. Why would they want a 58-year-old white guy who’s disabled?”

Looking for ‘Younger Blood’

Although LinkedIn is the leading online recruitment platform, according to an annual survey by SourceCon, an industry website. Facebook is rapidly increasing in popularity for employers.

One reason is that Facebooks sheer size җ two billion monthly active users, versus LinkedIns 530 million total members җ gives recruiters access to types of workers they cant find elsewhere.

Consider nurses, whom hospitals are desperate to hire. ғTheyre less likely to use LinkedIn,Ҕ said Josh Rock, a recruiter at a large hospital system in Minnesota who has expertise in digital media. Nurses are predominantly female, thereӒs a larger volume of Facebook users. Thats what they use.Ҕ

There are also millions of hourly workers who have never visited LinkedIn, and may not even have a rsum, but who check Facebook obsessively.

Deb Andrychuk, chief executive of the Arland Group, which helps employers place recruitment ads, said clients sometimes asked her firm to target ads by age, saying they needed 驓to start bringing younger blood into their organizations. ԓIts not necessarily that we wouldnҒt take someone older, these clients say, according to Andrychuk, ԓbut if you could bring in a younger set of applicants, it would definitely work out better.

Andrychuk said that ԓwe coach clients to be open and not discriminate and that after being contacted by The Times, her team updated all their ads to ensure they didnԒt exclude any age groups.

But some companies contend that there are permissible reasons to filter audiences by age, as with an ad for entry-level analyst positions at Goldman Sachs that was distributed to people 18 to 64. A Goldman Sachs spokesman, Andrew Williams, said showing it to people above that age range would have wasted money: roughly 25 percent of those who typically click on the firms untargeted ads are 65 or older, but people that age almost never apply for the analyst job.

ғWe welcome and actively recruit applicants of all ages, Williams said. ԓFor some of our social-media ads, we look to get the content to the people most likely to be interested, but do not exclude anyone from our recruiting activity.

Pauline Kim, a professor of employment law at Washington University in St. Louis, said the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, unlike the federal anti-discrimination statute that covers race and gender, allows an employer to take into account ԓreasonable factors that may be highly correlated with the protected characteristic, such as cost, as long as they donԒt rely on the characteristic explicitly.

The Question of Liability

In various ways, Facebook and LinkedIn have acknowledged at least a modest obligation to police their ad platforms against abuse.

Earlier this year, Facebook said it would require advertisers to self-certifyӔ that their housing, employment and credit ads were compliant with anti-discrimination laws, but that it would not block marketers from purchasing age-restricted ads.

Still, Facebook didnt promise to monitor those certifications for accuracy. And Facebook said the self-certification system, announced in February, was still being rolled out to all advertisers.

LinkedIn, in response to inquiries by ProPublica, added a self-certification step that prevents employers from using age ranges when placing an employment ad, unless they affirm the ad is not discriminatory.

With these efforts evolving, legal experts say it is unclear how much liability the tech platforms could have. Some civil rights laws, like the Fair Housing Act, explicitly require publishers to assume liability for discriminatory ads.

But the Age Discrimination in Employment Act assigns liability only to employers or employment agencies, like recruiters and advertising firms.

The lawsuit filed against Facebook on behalf of the communications workers argues that the company essentially plays the role of an employment agency җ collecting and providing data that helps employers locate candidates, effectively coordinating with the employer to develop the advertising strategies, informing employers about the performance of the ads, and so forth.

Regardless of whether courts accept that argument, the tech companies could also face liability under certain state or local anti-discrimination statutes. For example, Californias Fair Employment and Housing Act makes it unlawful to ғaid, abet, incite, compel or coerce the doing of discriminatory acts proscribed by the statute.

ԓThey may have an obligation there not to aid and abet an ad that enables discrimination, said Cliff Palefsky, an employment lawyer based in San Francisco.

The question may hinge on Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which protects internet companies from liability for third-party content.

Tech companies have successfully invoked this law to avoid liability for offensive or criminal content ԗ including sex trafficking, revenge porn and calls for violence against Jews. Facebook is currently arguing in federal court that Section 230 immunizes it against liability for ad placement that blocks members of certain racial and ethnic groups from seeing the ads.

Advertisers, not Facebook, are responsible for both the content of their ads and what targeting criteria to use, if any,Ӕ Facebook argued in its motion to dismiss allegations that its ads violated a host of civil rights laws. The case does not allege age discrimination.

Eric Goldman, professor and co-director of the High Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University School of Law, who has written extensively about Section 230, says it is hard to predict how courts would treat Facebooks age-targeting of employment ads.

Goldman said the law covered the content of ads, and that courts have made clear that Facebook would not be liable for an advertisement in which an employer wrote, say, ғno one over 55 need apply. But it is not clear how the courts would treat FacebookԒs offering of age-targeted customization.

According to a federal appellate court decision in a fair-housing case, a platform can be considered to have helped develop unlawful contentӔ that users play a role in generating, which would negate the immunity.

Depending on how the targeting is happening, you can make potentially different sorts of arguments about whether or not Google or Facebook or LinkedIn is contributing to the developmentӔ of the ad, said Deirdre K. Mulligan, a faculty director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology.


Posted by Elvis on 07/12/15 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pay Secrecy

When the Boss Says, ‘Don’t Tell Your Coworkers How Much You Get Paid’

By Jonathan Timm
The Atlantic
July 15, 2014

Whether I was working as a barista or a paralegal, the story was the same: My employers wanted me to keep my mouth shut about money

Last fall, I became a barista in a small, “socially responsible” coffee company. A few months later, I got a temporary paralegal position at one of the world’s biggest multinational, corporate law firms.

The two companies had little in common, but both told me one thing: Don’t talk to your coworkers about your pay.

At the law firm, this warning was conveyed to me during my salary negotiation. After I had worked for three months through a temp agency, the firm offered me a spot on their payroll. Given the size and success of the firm, the starting salary seemed low.

The HR manager tried to convince me that the offer was competitive. She told me that she couldn’t offer more because it would be unfair to other paralegals. She said that if we did not agree to a salary that day, then she would have to suspend me because I would be working past the allowed temp phase. I insisted that she look into a higher offer and she agreed that we could meet again later. Before I left, she had something to add.

“Make sure you don’t talk about your salary with anyone,” she said sweetly, as if she was giving advice to her own son. “It causes conflict and people can be let go for doing it.” (This is to the best of my recollection, not verbatim.)

It wasn’t all that surprising to hear this from a corporate HR manager. What was surprising was the daja vu.

Just three months earlier, some of my coworkers at the coffee shop told me that our bosses, who worked in the office on salaries, and even the owner, got a higher cut of the tips than we did. One barista told me that when she complained about it, the managers reduced her hours.

When you make minimum wage and have to fight for more than 30 hours per week, tips are pretty important, so I sat down with my managers to discuss the controversy. That頒s when they told me not to talk about it with the other baristas. T"he owner hates it when people talk about money,” my manager added, “and would fire people for it if he could.” I sulked back to the espresso machine, making my lattes at half speed and failing to do side work.

In both workplaces, my bosses were breaking the law.

Under the NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS ACT of 1935 (NLRA), all workers have the right to “engage concerted activity for mutual aid or protection” and “organize a union to negotiate with [their] employer concerning [their] wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.” In six states, including my home state of Illinois, the law EVEN MORE EXPLICITLY PROTECTS the rights of workers to discuss their pay.

This is true whether the employers make their threats verbally or on paper and whether the consequences are firing or merely some sort of cold shoulder from management. My managers at the coffee shop seemed to understand that they weren’t allowed to fire me solely for talking about pay, but they may not have known that it is also illegal to discourage employees from discussing their pay with each other. As NYU law professor Cynthia Estlund EXPLAINED to NPR, the law “means that you and your co-workers get to talk together about things that matter to you at work.” Even “a nudge from the boss saying ‘we don’t do that around here’ ... is also unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act,” Estlund added.

And yet, gag rules thrive in workplaces across the country. In a report updated this year, the Institute for Womens Policy Research found that about HALF of American employees in all sectors are either explicitly prohibited or strongly discouraged from discussing pay with their coworkers. In the private sector, the number is higher, at 61 percent.

This is why President Obama recently signed TWO EXECUTIVE ACTIONS addressing workplace transparency and accountability. One prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their pay with one another. The other requires contractors to provide compensation data on their employees, including race and sex. But while these actions protect workers at federally contracted employers, they do not affect others.

The bill that would cover the rest of workers is the PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT. The law would both strengthen penalties to employers who retaliate against workers for discussing pay and require employers to provide a justification for wage differentials.

These reforms are necessary to address this widespread, illegal problem that the law has failed to address for decades. Gag rules violate a fundamental labor right and allow for discriminatory pay schemes.

Given their illegality, why are gag rules so common? One answer is that the NLRA is toothless and employers know it. When employees file complaints, the National Labor Relations Board’s REMEDIES are SLAPS ON THE WRIST: “reinstatement for wrongful termination, back-pay, and/or informational remedies” such as the “posting of a notice by the employer promising to not violate the law.”

At the same time, ignorance of the law can just as easily fuel gag rules. Craig Becker, general counsel for the AFL-CIO, used to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. He told me that workers who called the NLRB rarely were aware that their employers pay secrecy policy was unlawful.

“The problem isnt so much that the remedies are inadequate,” Becker said, “but that so few workers know their rights.” He says that even among those workers who are aware of the NLRA, many think that it protects unions but no one else. Now overseeing organizers at the AFL-CIO, Becker has found that before organizers even begin helping workers, they have to educate employees on this very basic law. Workers call us up saying they’re unhappy and they want to organize, Becker explains, “and when organizers look at the employee manual, sure enough, they find a policy saying that workers aren’t allowed to discuss their pay.”

Gag rules, then, are policies that flourish when employers know the law and their employees do not.

But why do employers do this in the first place? Many employers say that if workers talk to each other about pay, then tension is sure to follow. Its understandable: If you found out that your coworker made more than you for doing the same work, then you’d probably be upset.

A STUDY by economists David Card, Enrico Moretti, and Emmanuel Saez from Berkeley and Alexandre Mas from Princeton supports that prediction. To study the relationship between pay transparency, turnover, and workplace satisfaction, they selected a group of employees in the University of California system and showed them a website that lists the salaries of all UC employees. They found that employees who were paid above the median were unaffected by using the website, while those who were paid lower than the median became less satisfied with their work and more likely to start job hunting. This result suggests, according to the authors, that employers have an incentive to keep pay under wraps.

The limitation of this research is that it doesn’t tell us much about whether those employees’ dissatisfaction was a bad thing. While its possible that those employees were getting a fair wage and just felt belittled by their comparative pay, it’s also possible that they were getting stiffed.

And many workers are, in fact, getting stiffedespecially women and people of color. Recall the story of Lilly Ledbetter, the inspiration of the LILLY LEDBETTER ACT, which gives workers a longer period of time to file pay discrimination suits against their employer. Ledbetter was told that she WOULD BE FIRED if she talked about pay with her coworkers, but after nearly three decades of work with Goodyear, someone slipped her a note saying that she was underpaid.

Ledbetter’s case shows how pay secrecy can cause the pay gap between men and women, a gap that widens between men and women of color. More than 50 years after the Equal Pay Act, STUDY AFTER STUDY show that women are still paid less than men for the same work. SOME HAVE ARGUED that the pay gap is effectively a myth, attributing it to womens career choices rather than workplace discrimination. If only that were true. As the National Women’s Law Center has repeatedly POINTED out, this ignores the fact that womens’ jobs often pay less precisely because women do them, because womens work is devalued, and that women are paid less even when they work in the same occupations as men. Even when you look at industries dominated by one sex or the other, the pay gap EXISTS OIN BOTH.

Ariane Hegewisch is the study director at the Institute for Womens Policy Research and the author of several reports on pay secrecy and wage discrimination. One of the reasons she sees behind the pay gap is that, five decades after the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex, old-fashioned workplace beliefs still justify sexist pay distribution. For example, in one case, in which a group of women sued Walmart for sexist discrimination in pay and promotions, women TESTIFIED that their managers said men “are working as the heads of their households, while women are just working for the sake of working, even though women are now the sole or primary breadwinners in around 40 percent of American households.”

OTHERS HAVE EXPLAINED the pay gap by showing that women are less likely to ask for raises. True as this is, the solution isn’t as simple as TELLING WOMEN TO SPEAK UP. Several experiments by Hannah Bowles of Harvard and Linda Babcock and Lei Lai of Carnegie Mellon University have shown that employers are more likely to penalize women than men for negotiating. This suggests that women bite their tongues to avoid being called “pushy,” or “bossy,” words with PARTICULARLY NEGATIVE CONNOTATIONS FOR WOMEN.

We don’t know whether gag rules directly cause wage discrimination, but they undoubtedly open the door to it. Employers who keep pay secret are free to set pay scales on arbitrary bases or fail to give well-deserved raises because of social norms. “When you don’t have transparency and accountability,” Hegewisch told me, “employers react to these pressures and biases and women tend to lose out.”

Of course, one of the time-tested mechanisms of preventing wage discrimination, unionization, has been in steady decline for decades. Jake Rosenfeld, associate professor of sociology at the University of Washington, has studied UNIONS and is now researching the relationship between pay secrecy and wage discrimination. He told me that although there is not enough data to draw a direct causal line between pay secrecy and unfair wages, we do know that in the public sector, where wage transparency is far more common, pay tends to be more equal and benefits are more evenly distributed.

But in both the public and the private sector, union decline has shifted the balance of power toward employers in a way that can allow employers to keep wages secret and pay their workers unfairly. “Removing a key source of collective power in the vast majority of workplaces opens up space for employers to institute new wage setting practices, and pay secrecy is one of them,” Rosenfeld says. “It’s much harder to keep the books closed when you have a union arguing left and right to open them up.”

Republican lawmakers have blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act three times, CLAIMING that it would just increase lawsuits against employers. Theyve also argued that forcing firms to share their compensation practices would hurt business. But according to Hegewisch, there’s no evidence that lawsuits have increased in states where pay transparency laws have been strengthened, and firms already share compensation information through human resources services like WORLDATWORK

If the law did change, we would still face one of the biggest barriers to pay transparency: workplace culture. Even the most confident among us can melt into awkward, self-conscious messes when we have to negotiate our salaries, and asking a coworker about pay seems akin to asking about their sex life. PRIVATE COMPANIES are showing that opening up the books completely can work, while the public sector has done that for decades, yet many still fear that talking about pay would destroy our workplace collegiality.

On the day my bosses at the coffee shop told me not to talk tips, my morale hit bottom. An organization I once trusted was telling me not to ask basic questions about my compensation. Even if pay secrecy comes with good intentions, this is its unintended effect: It tells workers that their bosses have something to hide, or that they don’t have the right to get a second opinion on whether they are being treated fairly. As Craig Becker told me,<b> “Workers can only improve their situation when they can understand their working conditions. Deciding whether a pay scale is fair cannot be left up to the employer alone.”


Posted by Elvis on 07/17/14 •
Section Dying America • Section Workplace
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