Most Americans Can Be Fired for No Reason at Any Time, But a New Law in New York Could Change That
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek
By Josh Eidelson
Melody Walker had just finished working the lunch rush at a Chipotle in New York City when her manager walked up and told her, in front of several co-workers, that she was fired. When the 36-year-old single mom asked him for an explanation, he said it was because she wasn’t smiling. (This was 2018, pre-masks.)
This is how the U.S. works under at-will employment, a legal standard that allows companies to fire people for almost any reason—and sometimes for no reason at all. Unlike in other wealthy countries, where bosses generally have to provide just cause for termination, at-will positions account for most U.S. jobs.
In 2018, a few months after Chipotle fired her, Walker began working with union organizers and local officials on a groundbreaking two-law package that will make New York City a little more like Europe. The laws, which take effect on July 5, ban at-will employment among the city’s fast-food businesses, meaning that from now on, Chipotle and its peers will have to provide just cause to fire one of their roughly 70,000 workers in the five boroughs. The standard requires employers to show workers have engaged in misconduct or failed to satisfactorily perform their duties.
Nick’s take on just cause
Employers knew it was coming, but they’ve filed lawsuits pretending they can stop it. We’re talking about laws that stop employers from firing employees without cause. This practice has always been unfair and uncivilized. (Attorney Bernie Dietz has explained why employment contracts are desireable.) I think New York City is just the start of this trend — employees can be fired only for “just cause,” not just because. Learn what just cause is because soon it will affect everybody’s job.
What’s your take? Should employers be able to fire employees without reason? Or is “just cause” a reasonable protection for employees? I’d love to hear from both sides — employers and workers. What’s your take?
The end of non-compete agreements nationally
Source: Carey & Associates, PC
By Mark Carey
The epidemic use of non-compete agreements has gotten out of control and too many employees have needlessly and financially suffered under this onerous default management practice. The end of this BS employment practice has now arrived!
Non-compete agreements were created by employers for employers. Roughly half of private-sector businesses require at least some employees to enter NCAs, affecting some 36 to 60 million workers. Employees never had a chance to negotiate these agreements.
[President Biden’s] Executive Order banning non-compete agreements marks the beginning of the end of abusive management practices that has enveloped the nation’s workforce since the founding of this country.
Nick’s take on NCAs
We have discussed NCAs here many times, including advice about how to negotiate NCAs. If you’re lucky, you’ve never had to contend with the kind of corporate extortion these agreements represent. It seems the end is near for NCAs, though it seems the Federal Trade Commission still must go through a rule-making process.
Have you ever been under an NCA? Did you have a choice about signing it? How did it affect you? Have you ever refused an NCA? What was the result? Maybe you’re an employer and would like to defend NCAs. We’re listening! The times they are a-changin’!
Iceland tested a 4-day workweek. Employees were productive — and happier, researchers say.
Source: The Washington Post
By Paulina Villegas and Hannah Knowles
Several large-scale trials of a 4-day workweek in Iceland were an “overwhelming success,” with many workers shifting to shorter hours without affecting their productivity, and in some cases improving it, in what researchers called “groundbreaking evidence for the efficacy of working time reduction.”
Some of the trials’ key findings showed that a shorter week translated into increased well-being of employees among a range of indicators, from stress and burnout to health and work-life balance.
The trials ultimately involved 2,500 workers, more than 1 percent of the nation’s working population, who moved from working 40 hours a week to a 35- or 36-hour week, without a reduction in pay.
To be able to work less while providing the same level of service and productivity, workers and managers alike made strategic and creative changes to their working patterns and dynamics, constantly rethinking how tasks were completed and using working hours in a more efficient way.
Nick’s take on 4-day workweek
A 4-day workweek for 5 days pay is really about efficiency. And I think we all know it. Many successful businesses seem to succeed in spite of themselves, because employees find ways to get the work done. Cut the work week to 4 days, and it seems workers figure out how to still get it all done for the same pay. Don’t miss the quote from the Stanford professor who suggests cutting the work week and cutting pay — what do you think of that?
Is a 4-day workweek really feasible? What would it take to make this happen in the U.S.?
We can’t ask your age in this job interview, but please take this quiz about rotary phones
Source: The New Yorker
By Wendy Aarons & Devorah Blachor
Per the human-resources department and the federal government, it’s illegal to ask a job candidate their age because it may lead to discrimination. We carefully consider all candidates, no matter the year they were born, when hiring new talent. After all, age is just a number!
But, to help us get to know you better, please fill out this questionnaire that is not at all about your possible irrelevance in a modern office.
- Where were you when J.F.K. died?
- Do you know what a SASE is?
- Is it ever O.K. to use a smiley-face emoji?
And 17 more…
Nick’s take on age questions
I love this assault on employers and recruiters who use trick questions to figure out how old you are. Give us a break! But it’s no joke. The only joke is how stoopid employers can be. This New Yorker column calls attention to the really wrong methods used to discriminate against older workers. Ageism has become so obvious — it’s really gotten old, dontcha think?
What’s your take? Do you disclose your age on job applications and in job interviews? What methods and tricks have employers and recruiters used to determine your age? How did you deal with it? What should be done about it?
The Myth of Labor Shortages
Source: New York Times
By David Leonhardt
The idea that the United States suffers from a labor shortage is fast becoming conventional wisdom. But before you accept the idea, it’s worth taking a few minutes to think it through. Once you do, you may realize that the labor shortage is more myth than reality.
One of the few ways to have a true labor shortage in a capitalist economy is for workers to be demanding wages so high that businesses cannot stay afloat while paying those wages.
If anything, wages today are historically low. They have been growing slowly for decades for every income group other than the affluent. As a share of gross domestic product, worker compensation is lower than at any point in the second half of the 20th century. Two main causes are corporate consolidation and shrinking labor unions, which together have given employers more workplace power and employees less of it.
Corporate profits, on the other hand, have been rising rapidly and now make up a larger share of G.D.P. than in previous decades. As a result, most companies can afford to respond to a growing economy by raising wages and continuing to make profits, albeit perhaps not the unusually generous profits they have been enjoying.
Nick’s take on greedy employers
We discussed this recently: The labor shortage is really a pay shortage. David Leonhardt explains it better than anyone: Wages are historically low and corporate profits are huge. Employers on the whole can afford to raise wages without any real pain. It’s time to shut down the economic bullies crying that lazy labor is living off pandemic relief funds.
What’s your take? Is there really a labor shortage or is it about greedy employers? Are they unwilling to spend what it takes to keep their businesses profitable? Is this greed in action?
5 Outdated Pieces of Career Advice You Should Ignore
By Pete Ross
[These are short excerpts from Ross’s article in Medium. That’s right: there’s more, if you can swallow it…]
1. Don’t get involved in office politics
Dear god, this is some clueless shit right here. Office politics are everything when it comes to success in the corporate, military and even academic world. Anyone that tells you otherwise is hopelessly naive or flat out lying to you.
2. Dress plainly for an interview
This one must come from the book of “just an opinion with no actual facts behind it.” I’ve seen this everywhere when it comes to job interview tips and in my experience, it’s just a great big bunch of bullshit.
3. Leaving a job on good terms
I actually read an article where it said you should resign in person because it’s the right thing to do. What is this, a fucking break up? Why does my boss deserve to get treated better than I do in the situation?
4. Making life easy for your boss
“What is my boss willing to do for me?” For many of you, I bet seeing that question was like getting a cold slap across the face, because you’ve suddenly realised that the answer is something along the lines of jack shit. I’ll admit that the first time I heard that question, my mind was blown — I’d never once considered what my boss would do for me.
5. That you need work/life balance
This is a super outdated concept, because it assumes everyone is the same. It assumes we all dislike work and love life, so we have to find some balance that minimises the former and maximises the latter. It’s just not true.
Nick’s take on bullsh-t career advice
Bad career advice seems to be selling nowadays, so I want to inoculate you against nihilists like Pete Ross. I don’t know him, but I know his ilk: unhappy people who want you to be miserable, too. I think I can summarize his points quickly:
That seems to be his message. How is this “News you can use?” You know what they say about bullsh-t: Know what it is so you don’t step in it. (Occam’s Razor might help you cut through stuff like this quickly.)
What’s your take? Do you buy any of this guy’s advice? What’s your best advice on each of these 5 topics?
An Employment Severance Agreement Explained in Detail
Source: Carey & Associates, PC
By Mark Carey
Whether or not you use an employment attorney to review and negotiate your employment severance agreement, you need to know the mechanics of the agreement. Generally, all severance agreements accomplish one task, paying employees to release their claims against the company in exchange for money and confidentiality. I have seen thousands of these agreements in my twenty-five years of practicing employment law for employees and executives. They are all relatively the same in the terms, but differ in their layout.
Every severance agreement contains a non-disparagement clause, but one only applicable to the employee and not the employer. We advise clients to include a mutual non-disparagement clause to be signed by the employer so it does not engage in blacklisting, which is a very real phenomenon.
We often see employers sneaking into severance agreements brand new non-competition and non-solicitation provisions where none previously existed during the employee’s employment… The following discussion will go in depth and explain the legal terms in an understandable way…
Nick’s take on the severance agreement
My buddy Mark Carey, a leading employment attorney who represents only executives and employees (not employers), shows you how to hack that severance agreement. You don’t need to hire Mark to get his insights and advice about how to protect yourself when you part ways with an employer — he shares a lot here! I learned a couple of things myself. (Don’t miss Mark’s column about employment at will on Ask The Headhunter.)
What’s your take? Do you have a severance agreement? Has one ever hamstrung you? Got a horror story? How about a positive experience with a severance deal? Let’s dissect these agreements!
Making Freelance Academic Work a Fairly Paid Venture
Source: Inside Higher Ed
By Brian DeGrazia
As a graduate student and early-career scholar, building a portfolio of professional academic experiences provides a lot of potential value. Freelancer jobs in editing, translation, indexing, research and similar kinds of work… The benefits of such work are certainly real, but they should not be thought of as compensation or reason enough by themselves to take on a project. Indeed, one of the main challenges of this kind of work is receiving market-rate pay for it. The notion that working for free or less than market rate can be “worth it” for the experience or exposure is pervasive and certainly not limited to the academy.
Freelancers, regardless of their title or position within the university, are workers, and they should be treated and compensated as such. A fair rate of pay, beyond helping to pay the bills, also offers one last but vital piece of professional development for early-career scholars: it helps them see the value of their time and work, hopefully giving them more confidence throughout their careers to seek properly paid freelance and full-time opportunities and avoid those that are less desirable and less fair.
Below I suggest some best practices, both for those of you looking to be hired to do this kind of work and for those looking to hire them.
Nick’s take on freelancer abuse
Academic and commercial employers get highly educated graduate students and other academics to do freelancer work cheap. These folks are usually terrified of the job market and will often accept jobs for no pay at all “to gain experience.” DeGrazia exposes this slave-wages racket. Read his article for great suggestions about how to get fair pay! (Also see 20 pointers for new graduates.)
What’s your take? Are you a grad student or other academic just starting out? Have you taken jobs that pay little or nothing? Is “experience” worth working for slave wages? How do you convince employers to pay for your work? If you’re an employer, do you pay academic freelancers fairly?
Report: Wage Gap Narrows for Women Ages 25 to 30
Source: SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management)
By Kathy Gurchief
The gender pay gap narrowed overall by 6 cents in three years, with women ages 25 to 30 seeing the most improvement in that time, according to a new report released in conjunction with U.S. Equal Pay Day on March 24. In 2017, women in that age group made about 79 cents for every $1 men made; that increased to 86 cents in 2020, a 7-cent gain.
Women earn less, on average, than men, and so must work longer for the same amount of pay. Based on its findings, Visier [an HR consulting firm] forecasts that women could achieve pay equity in about nine years at the rate the wage gap is closing.
Other projections are not as rosy. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research, for example, estimates pay equity won’t be reached until 2059. The American Association of University Women (AAUW) projects that women won’t achieve pay equity until 2093.
The Society for Human Resources Managers (SHRM) says its members can’t fix a national compensation problem. But HR is in charge of compensation. If SHRM can’t lead HR managers to a solution, how will HR managers lead their companies to pay equity? How much are companies paying those HR people, anyway?
What’s your take? Who’s going to fix the pay equity problem? Why do professional women’s associations say it’s going to take longer than HR says it will? Why do HR departments own compensation policy if they can’t manage compensation? Is this another reason to eliminate HR altogether?
Millions Are Out Of A Job. Yet Some Employers Wonder: Why Can’t I Find Workers?
Source: NPR Morning Edition
By Kat Lonsdorf
At a time when millions of Americans are unemployed, businessman Bill Martin [who runs a medical plastics company] has a head-scratching problem: He’s got plenty of jobs but few people willing to take them. “I keep hearing about all the unemployed people,” Martin says. “I certainly can’t find any of those folks.”
His difficulties are putting a spotlight on a peculiar problem in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. Julia Pollak, a labor economist at employment recruitment site ZipRecruiter, says Martin is not alone in struggling to find workers. Most job seekers, she says, are looking for remote work. The problem is that those are not the jobs available right now.
“There’s this huge gap between the kinds of conditions under which people are prepared to work and the kinds of conditions that they actually find in the jobs that are available,” Pollak says. That is leading to a mismatch in filling jobs, and it’s contributing to the painful, slow recovery in jobs.
ZipRecruiter claims only 1 in 10 posted jobs provide the option of remote work — so that’s why you’re unemployed. It’s because you want only remote work. I dunno, maybe that’s true, and I don’t blame you if it is. But that’s why employers like Martin are scratching their heads. So the net is, there are loads of jobs going begging today.
What’s your take? Is this why you’re unemployed? Would COVID pay (like combat pay) change your mind? Better protection against infection? On-site testing? Or is there something else that’s keeping you unemployed?