Yes, yes I know. Where the hell has HRLori been? The short answer…after 10 months of unemployment, I found a job that I absolutely love. It’s amazing how wonderful life can be when you get to go to a place that appreciates you and what you do.

That being said, I really don’t want to be rubbing salt in the wounds of those who were affected by the latest round of layoffs at Yahoo.

Much of what’s been written about the layoffs came to light via confidential information released to various forms of press. One can be certain that Yahoo Product head, Blake Irving isn’t happy at all about the leaks:

One can’t blame him, though. This is confidential information after all. And along with the legal, financial and PR implications, there’s the enormous people (read: employees) implication in releasing this kind of information prematurely. If the employees didn’t know that their product was being phased out, they do now. Which means more disaffected employees, which means low morale, which means low productivity, which means more layoffs.

Round and round and round it goes, where it stops…

On another note, my dear friend, mikl em, who was in that round of layoffs tells me that [although he was], “”Affected by the reduction in force” as it were. I’m pleased with my prospects & with having some time off first. :)”

As always, I wish him nothing but the best.

NLRB: Firing Over Facebook Illegal

File this under “we shoulda seen it coming”. The National Labor Relations Board is taking issue with a company who fired an employee for making disparaging remarks against said employer.

The labor relations board announced last week that it had filed a complaint against an ambulance service, American Medical Response of Connecticut, that fired an emergency medical technician, accusing her, among other things, of violating a policy that bars employees from depicting the company “in any way” on Facebook or other social media sites in which they post pictures of themselves.

Lafe Solomon, the board’s acting general counsel, said, “This is a fairly straightforward case under the National Labor Relations Act — whether it takes place on Facebook or at the water cooler, it was employees talking jointly about working conditions, in this case about their supervisor, and they have a right to do that.”

It’s one thing to for employees to constructively discuss working conditions and how they need improving without the threat of backlash and another for an employee to make derisive comments about her manager on her Facebook page. In this case, Dawnmarie Souza, the terminated employee, evidently had some very choice words for her former manager when he wouldn’t allow her union to step in to defend her against a customer complaint.

Ms. Souza then mocked her supervisor on Facebook, using several vulgarities to ridicule him, according to Jonathan Kreisberg, director of the board’s Hartford office, which filed the complaint. He also said she had written, “love how the company allows a 17 to become a supervisor” — 17 is the company’s lingo for a psychiatric patient.

Really? Is this ever appropriate?

I just can’t see this particular situation being about employment rights. Ms. Souza is not a whistleblower who was terminated because she brought unfavorable conditions to light but rather an employee throwing a virtual temper tantrum in public at her manager’s expense. And while Ms. Souza may have friended co-workers on Facebook, it’s quite probable that her entire audience was not solely made of co-workers. Which may take some steam out of the “concerted protected activity” argument.

Either way, she’s got her hearing.

An administrative law judge is scheduled to begin hearing the case on Jan. 25. Marshall B. Babson, a member of the National Labor Relations Board in the 1980s, said a broad company rule that says one cannot make disparaging comments about supervisors is clearly illegal under labor law. But he said an employee’s criticizing a company or supervisor on Facebook was not necessarily protected activity.

We’ll just have to see where this goes. It’s sure to be groundbreaking either way.

Work for Google and Never Go Home

Adding yet another perk to its employees, Google is now providing the services of TaskRabbit which employs “runners” to perform tasks such as cleaning, cooking and general errands for its employees, at least according to Valleywag.

From the TaskRabbit site, users can:

1 – Post a Task! When you post a Task, you’ll describe it, indicate when it needs to be done & set the price you are willing to pay.

2 – Like magic, you’ll hear from a Runner who wants to help. They will bid on your job with a price they believe is appropriate.

3 – Your Runner does your task! If your runner pays for anything while doing your task (like groceries they pick up for you), you can reimburse them through our site.

4 – Once your task is complete & pay your Runner online, and then rate & review them to indicate your level of satisfaction.

It’s actually a fabulous idea. Everyone needs someone else to do things for them.

All of these things: free meals, on-campus dry cleaning, dental, childcare, massage, $1000 holiday bonuses and guaranteed 10% increases and now someone to take out the trash are all wonderful employee perks, no doubt. But it also seems that Google doesn’t want its employees to have to leave the premises. Ever. It’s an iron fist encased in a velvet glove. On the surface it all seems so wonderful, but underneath is hard, cold business. Every employer wants to make sure that they can get the full return on investment (ROI) from employees and employees, but sometimes Google goes a little too far over the line.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t particularly love picking up the dry cleaning or mopping the floor (and would love to give employees 10% raises across the board). But I don’t necessarily want my whole world handed to me by my employer either in order to keep me from going home at night.

My kitties would miss me too much.

McDonald’s: Vote It Our Way

Coming perilously close to breaking Ohio law, a McDonald’s franchise in Canton thought it appropriate to include with paychecks a memo that strongly hinted at the fact that raises and benefits wouldn’t continue if employees didn’t vote for certain (Republican) candidates.

Note that the letter states, “if the right people are elected we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels. If others are elected we will not.” In other words, vote Republican and you’ll get your raises. Vote Democrat and you won’t.

From ThinkProgress:

Not to mention that Kasich, Portman, and Renacci all oppose the health care reform law, a law that ensures employees like those at McDonald’s can afford health coverage and provides companies like McDonald’s with “significant flexibility to maintain coverage for workers.” And should these three adopt the Republican view of the minimum wage, the only happy face at the this McDonald’s will be the employer’s.

Perhaps realizing the error of his ways, the Franchise owner, Paul Siegfried of Siegfried Industries, apologized for distributing the memo. He did not, however, apologize for the content of the memo.

“As an independent business owner, my employees are a top priority for me. I work hard to create a positive restaurant environment for everyone. I greatly value my employees and the contributions they make to my business, each and every day.

Without a doubt it’s my employees’ right and his or her choice, if they decide to vote, and if so, for whom. I strive to comply with all laws, including state and federal election laws.

Distributing this communication was an error of judgment on my part. Please know, it was never my intention to offend anyone. For those that I have offended, I sincerely apologize.”

This less than adequate apology may not assuage the situation, as Adam Serwer from The American Prospect, notes:

Siegfried’s problems may be bigger than Ohio, however. Gerald Hebert, a former Acting Chief of the Voting Section of the Justice Department now with the Campaign Legal Center, said that it’s possible Siegfried’s actions may violate federal law.

Perhaps Mr. Siegfried should have heeded the wisdom of Burger King when they said, “Have it Your Way“, because we’re certainly not lovin’ it.

UPDATE: It looks like there could be more workplace voting issues ahead. Sharon Angle has filed charges with the US Justice Department accusing Harry Reid’s campaign with voter intimidation:

The complaint is based on an article, which appeared Tuesday morning in National Review, that alleged Reid’s campaign worked with sympathetic executives to put pressure on union casino employees to vote.

Supervisors were instructed to track down employees who hadn’t voted and find out why, according to e-mails obtained by reporter and conservative blogger Elizabeth Crum.

Of course, Reid’s campaign denies any such violations.

Reid’s campaign said the e-mails show no malfeasance, pointing out that Crum told Fox News she didn’t think “anything either illegal or unethical was done here.”

“This ‘report’ by a right-wing blogger who’s literally been embedded within the Angle campaign has no credibility on its face,” said Reid campaign spokesman Kelly Steele. “That being said, given Sen. Reid’s work to strengthen the state’s top industry, it should come as no surprise that casino employees support his reelection.”

I’m sure there’s more to come. Meanwhile, you can take a look at the email thread and judge for yourself.

Juan Williams, NPR and Employee Confidentiality

So much has been written about Juan Williams and NPR, ad nauseum, but in coming across this post on Mediaite, I couldn’t help but wonder about the apology made by NPR’s CEO, Vivian Schiller, to NPR’s program partners.

Dear Program Colleagues,

I want to apologize for not doing a better job of handling the termination of our relationship with news analyst Juan Williams. While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. I know you all felt the reverberations and are on the front lines every day responding to your listeners and talking to the public

This was a decision of principle, made to protect NPR’s integrity and values as a news organization. Juan Williams’ comments on Fox News last Monday were the latest in a series of deeply troubling incidents over several years. In each of those instances, he was contacted and the incident was discussed with him. He was explicitly and repeatedly asked to respect NPR’s standards and to avoid expressing strong personal opinions on controversial subjects in public settings, as that is inconsistent with his role as an NPR news analyst. After this latest incident, we felt compelled to act. I acknowledge that reasonable people can disagree about timing: whether NPR should have ended its relationship with Juan Williams earlier, on the occasion of other incidents; or whether this final episode warranted immediate termination of his contract.

In any event, the process that followed the decision was unfortunate – including not meeting with Juan Williams in person – and I take full responsibility for that. We have already begun a thorough review of all aspects of our performance in this instance, a process that will continue in the coming days and weeks. We will also review and re-articulate our written ethics guidelines to make them as clear and relevant as possible for our acquired show partners, our staff, Member stations and the public.

The news and media world is changing swiftly and radically; traditional standards and practices are under siege. This requires us to redouble our attention to how we interpret and live up to our values and standards. We are confident that NPR’s integrity and dedication to the highest values in journalism and our commitment to serving as a national forum for the respectful discussion of diverse ideas will continue to earn the support of a growing audience.

I stand by my decision to end NPR’s relationship with Juan Williams, but deeply regret the way I handled and explained it. You have my pledge that the NPR team and I will reflect on all aspects of our actions, and strive to improve them in the future.

What troubles me (other than the politics of the situation), is the national airing of an employee’s poor performance.

An employee’s record is not a public record but rather a confidential agreement between employee and employer. By announcing that Mr. Williams should have been terminated earlier, Ms. Schiller broke that agreement and has now set an unintentional precedent for all NPR employees: “Say something stupid on air and we’ll make sure everyone knows about your performance.”

While I don’t think Ms. Schiller is a Communist (not that it would bother me if she were), nor do I necessarily think that NPR was wrong in terminating Mr. Williams, I do think that she could have handled the situation in a more professional manner.

Unprofessional Overheards

Overheard today: a TSA agent yelling across the room to another “I don’t trust anyone as far as I can throw a dead person body”. He said this in front of a number of passengers waiting on line to go through the security checkpoint.

Overheard on another day: a manager at a retail store reaming out an employee for being late for her shift in front of customers.

Overheard yet another day: an employee bitching to another employee about how bad his job is and that he’d just like to go home and smoke up.

See anything wrong with any of the above?

While the workplace has become more casual than it has been in the past, some things are just not appropriate. As a consumer, I don’t want to hear employees’ problems aired in front of me. It’s not of my business and frankly, it makes me question if I ever want to return to that place of business (excluding the TSA – no choice there).

Outbursts like these need to be brought to the attention of managers and managers need to deal with it appropriately. If it’s the manager who is acting inappropriately, then it needs to go up the chain until the issue is resolved. It’s not fair to subject customers to how much someone hates their job, how poorly an employee is performing or even how much disdain employees have for humankind.

And I’m not afraid to let management know about such gaffes:

Then again, I’m always there to give a well-deserved compliment for outstanding service.

It’s easy to understand that, in a poor economy, why employees are frustrated. Lack of finances, job freezes, etc. can leave any employee feeling helpless, but that is no excuse for poor customer service. And managers need to mitigate the “lucky you have a job” mentality and set the example for what customer service should be.

Otherwise, they’ll be hearing from someone like me.