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Monthly Archives

January 2015

NLRB Continues its Aggressive Social Media Stance with Employers

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments
In Three D LLC, 361 NLRB No. 31 the NLRB held that an employee’s use of Facebook’s “Like” button was protected activity under the NLRA. Two employees were terminated after they complained about erroneous taxes withheld from their paycheck. One employee criticized the company on his Facebook page which another employee liked while adding a comment calling the owner an expletive. In overturning their termination the Board found that the Facebook discussion involved in ongoing dispute about pay practices and the comments were made on a private Facebook page rather than on one directed at the public.
A few of the Board members also attacked the company’s Internet blogging policy in the employee handbook as placing a potential chill on Section 7 and 8 rights. Not the first time they have gone after handbook policies
Employer lesson: be careful about terminating employees due to any social media activities critical of the company. Even if they are rude, distasteful and potty mouthed. While there are limits to employee activity they are broad. Seek the advice of counsel before terminating anyone on these grounds.
Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit www.ThinkHR.com.

The Problem with Stereotypes

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments
An eight person San Diego federal court jury recently awarded Rosario Juarez $185 million dollars against AutoZone because the corporation didn’t like women working at stores, especially in management positions. According to the lawsuit, the corporate philosophy was summed up by the Vice President for Western Operations during a visit to a store staffed by a female manager and other women. He allegedly took the district manager aside and said: “What are we running here, a boutique? Get rid of these women.”
This is exactly what was done with Ms. Juarez, who was demoted after becoming pregnant. To cover their tracks, the company alleged she was responsible for a $400 cash shortage. Even the investigating loss prevention officer said there was no reason to suspect Ms. Juarez. She too has sued AutoZone. Additional testimony would cause any decent person to wonder how such conduct can still occur in today’s hyper-legal work environment.
AutoZone will no doubt file an appeal. Under the Federal Rules a significant bond may be required (“In a civil case, the district court may require an appellant to file a bond or provide other security in any form and amount necessary to ensure payment of costs on appeal. Rule 8(b) applies to a surety on a bond given under this rule.”). That bond requirement can be the entire verdict amount unless the Court feels like being more lenient.
The attorneys on the case have already won multi-million dollar lawsuits against AutoZone. You can expect to see several copycat filings given the testimony offered and the sizable verdict.
Lessons to be learned: for AutoZone, perhaps none. Apparently one of the responsible managers still has his job and AutoZone stock as of this writing has hit a record high. Unless there are some corporate officers, Board Members or powerful shareholders who care, chances are little will change.  For everyone else, train your managers on discrimination, including the “glass ceiling”. Hire people for their talent and do not stereotype them…or you too will risk a substantial verdict.
Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit www.ThinkHR.com.

FMLA Leave Request Does Not Create Automatic OSHA Recordkeeping Obligation

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments
In Secretary of Labor v. United States Postal Service the question was whether an employee’s indication of an industrial injury on a FMLA request form triggered an OSHA recordkeeping obligation.  To make a long story short, that claimant complained she was having an allergic reaction to dust produced by machinery she worked with. Her doctor provided her a note stating she was not to return to work at that machine. She eventually filled out an FMLA leave request form.
As this was going on, her complaint and that of another employee triggered an OSHA investigation. None of the inspections or analysis generated by her physician or OSHA found any kind of violation of OSHA standards or the exact allergic substance she was reacting to.  The OSHA inspector was none the less concerned the company had not recorded her allergic reaction in the OSHA injury logs, a violation for which they were cited.
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission overturned a decision by the lower court and ruled due to privacy provisions associated with the FMLA, the employer was required to not share this information with the OSHA coordinator or the employee’s supervisor. The only time it would be appropriate to do so is for job accommodation purposes or emergency medical treatment.
The Commission also ruled the obligation to report an OSHA injury could come from someone’s position or other unique circumstances. According to the Commission no such facts existed to generate the obligation. Which is rather surprising given it was abundantly clear she claimed to be having allergic reactions to working around the machinery and told numerous people about it.
The court reminded employers they should separate FMLA files from the work comp or injury ones.
Take home lesson: do NOT share medical information across the organization unless that person has a “need to know”, there is an accommodation to consider, or there is some kind of emergency. Keep FMLA requests private and don’t automatically share the info with the OSHA compliance team.
Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit www.ThinkHR.com.

Editors Column: Who’s Happy at Work?

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments
To work we love, with delight we go. William Shakespeare
There has been much discussion about happiness at work. We are constantly reminded of the Gallup survey indicating 72% of employees are disengaged. According to a September 2014 Money Magazine poll roughly 54% of those surveyed said their job is “okay”, 26% said “they can’t stand it” and 20% felt it was their “dream gig”. Other surveys talk about what jobs have the happiest workers, what cities have a happiest workers and how much you have to earn to be happy.
What we make of all of this? A few thoughts:

1. As Abraham Lincoln once said “People are about as happy as they choose to be”. How is it so many people allow themselves to work at jobs they can’t stand, where they are disengaged, or even worse? How many of these people try to educate themselves so they can move to a job where they can be engaged and happy? Many people like being victims because it gives them something to complain about.

2. Who is hiring these people? And why? Apparently Zappos is not. After initial orientation and training they offer their employees some $3000 to get up and leave. The math is clear: if you have a less than engaged $30,000 yr. employee they will be at least one 10th less productive, if not more so, and who wants that cancer in the workplace anyway? Bottom line: don’t hire disengage people and if you accidentally do, provide them a severance and get rid of them.

3. Don’t ignore the reality of the bell curve. Most employees a more intent on being comfortable then they are anything else. They want to make enough money so they can live comfortable by cultural standards, watch TV, eat junk and hang out with friends. Less than 10% of employees have any desire to be great at what they do. As they say, there’s plenty of room at the top.

4. Perhaps the best idea is to hire people already happy knowing it’s an internal choice. Then put them in an environment where they can be happy growing and contributing on it ever improving basis. For these people mediocrity is death. If they’re not doing something exciting or meaningful there’s no opportunity for them to be happy. But if they are in that sweet spot they will be the most valuable of all employees.

5. Pay a “fair day’s wage”. This means you pay at market rate or better. Remember: “when you pay peanuts you get monkeys” …and disengaged employees.

6. Last, look at what makes you happy…or not happy… in the work at your company. Others probably are similarly affected. Use the power of a Positive Mental Attitude to make amazing things happen at your company!

Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit www.ThinkHR.com.

Seven Healthy Workday Snacks That Promote New Year Weight Loss

By Employment Resources | No Comments

If your New Year’s resolution includes losing weight, stress and busyness at work can quickly put a wrench in your well-meaning plans. You need a few healthy snacks that satisfy hunger without sabotaging your resolution.


1. Apples


Eat three crunchy and nutritious apples a day to lose weight. That’s because they’re loaded with fiber that helps you feel full. Whether you eat them whole or dip slices in peanut butter, you’ll want to carry at least one apple to work every day.


2. Nuts


Enjoy a handful of nuts during snack time, and you’ll eat less during meal time. Almonds, walnuts, pecans and peanuts are all high in fiber, protein, unsaturated fats and other important vitamins. Plus, they’re easy to store in your desk or briefcase.


3. Yogurt


Traditional or Greek yogurt stands out as a weight loss food. Pack your favorite flavor in a portable cooler to indulge in a calcium-rich snack at your desk.


4. Eggs


Hard boiled eggs taste delicious alone or with a little salt or cheese. Store these protein-packed snacks in your portable cooler to enjoy when you’re feeling hungry.


5. Tuna


Versatile tuna tastes delicious straight out of the can or bag, and it’s high in protein and omega-3. Stock tuna, a few crackers and a fork in your desk to enjoy the next time you feel hungry.


6. Hummus


Made from chickpeas, hummus contains protein and no saturated fats. Spread it on vegetables or whole grain crackers for a healthy and delicious snack.


7. Dark Chocolate


That’s right, dark chocolate features beneficial antioxidants and several nutrients like fiber, manganese, copper, iron and magnesium. A few squares satisfies your hunger and feels like a fun indulgence.


With these seven snacks, you eat your way to a healthier you. You also keep your New Year’s weight loss resolution. Talk to your doctor and health insurance company for more tips on how the right snacks help you stay healthy this year.


Can Employers Require Biometric Screenings?

By Employment Resources | No Comments

With the new year upon us, you might hear water cooler conversations about biometric screenings. There’s probably numerous misconceptions, so learn the truth before you decide whether or not to comply.


What is Biometric Screening?


A 15-minute health exam, a biometric screening assesses your risk for developing certain medical conditions or diseases. It’s often part of a wellness program offered by your insurance company or employer.


Typically, a medical professional in a private room at your job or in a physician’s office checks your weight, height, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure. Expect to have your blood drawn, which requires a short fast, and your finger pricked. Also, the doctor or nurse will listen to your heart, take your pulse and check your blood pressure.


What Happens Afterwards?


A few days after the screening, you’ll receive the results during a consultation with a doctor or nurse. You’ll also receive information about risks and, if applicable, a detailed treatment plan.


Who Receives the Results?


The only people who see the results of your confidential biometric screening are you, the medical team and the insurance company. Your employer can receive a copy or portion of the screening, but those results cannot specifically identify you.


Do you Have to Consent?


Your insurance company can charge you, even if you’re under a physician’s care, if you don’t consent to the screening. That’s because they incur lower costs and less risk if you’re healthy.


Can Your Employer Fire you if you Don’t Comply?


Federal law prohibits wrongful termination based on health information they wrongfully obtained. If this happens to you, seek legal counsel immediately.


Your biometric screening results reveal important information about your current health and future risks. This information helps you and your physician create a wellness plan that improves your health as you addresses any problems like diabetes, asthma or high blood pressure. While many insurance companies and employers request biometric screenings, you may choose compliance and any resulting consequences.

Flu Prevention Tips That Protect You and Your Coworkers

By Employment Resources | No Comments

Flu season typically peaks between December and February, but it can last as long as May. Because the flu spreads quickly between people who work in close quarters, you really need to understand flu prevention tips as you protect yourself and your coworkers this flu season.


Get Vaccinated


The flu shot is one of the best preventative measures you can take since it combats the season’s main flu virus that is expected to affect the most people. Although the vaccine’s antibodies won’t begin protecting you for two weeks, get yours today, and encourage your coworkers to get their flu shots, too.


Stay Home if You’re Sick


Of course, your job is essential, but going to work when you’re sick only infects everyone else. Stay home, focus on getting better and remind your coworkers to stay home if they’re sick.


Disinfect Office Surfaces


Disinfectant spray and wipes will be your best friends this flu season. Use them to clean germs off your computer keyboard, printer key pad, phone, pens and pencils, doorknobs, drawer pulls and anything else you and your coworkers touch regularly.


Cover Your Nose and Mouth


Sneeze or cough into a disposable tissue to prevent your germs from spreading to others.


Wash Your Hands


As frequently as possible, wash your hands in hot, soapy water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer or wipes also kill germs, but use them only when soap and water are unavailable.


Don’t Touch Your Face


Flu germs on your hands spread quickly when you touch your face, so protect yourself by keeping your hands away from your mouth, nose and eyes.


Go to Bed


Enough rest increases your immunity and ability to fight germs. Your chances of staying healthy increases when you grab a few a few extra minutes of sleep every night.


Eat and Drink a Healthy Diet


From loading up on fruits and veggies to drinking water, your body will stay strong when you fuel it with healthy foods.


Are you ready to stay healthy this flu season? Follow these tips and talk to your doctor about additional ways you and your coworkers can stay healthy this year.

Thomas Fenner Woods Agency 614-481-4300 Website


Why Your Office Needs to Schedule a Blood Drive

January is National Blood Donor Month, and your entire office can join the celebration when you schedule a blood drive. Not only will you help your local blood bank, but your good deed provides numerous benefits for your entire company.


Save Lives


Chances are high that you, one of your coworkers or someone you know will one day need a blood transfusion. One pint of blood saves three lives, so donate blood this

January and be a hero.


Combat Blood Shortages


While every local blood bank needs are different, most communities face blood bank shortages. Everyone’s donation combats shortage and meets a critical need.


Increase Awareness


Many people don’t give blood because they don’t realize there’s a need, don’t think about it or are too busy. Schedule a blood drive at your office to emphasize the importance of this small but powerful action.


Boost Morale


If you and your coworkers are feeling the winter doldrums, a blood drive offers a beneficial distraction. It’s the perfect opportunity to boost morale, and it increases employee satisfaction, productivity and performance, too.


Improve Community Relations


People in the community appreciate local businesses that care. A blood drive goes a long way toward improving community relations.


Tips That Make Your Blood Drive a Success


Now that you’ve decided to host a company blood drive, consider a few tips that make it a success.


  • Contact your local Red Cross and set up a time and location for the blood drive.
  • Advertise the blood drive on all your office bulletin boards.
  • Invite customers, vendors and other people to schedule a donation appointment.
  • Build excitement by holding a raffle for donors or awarding prizes like discounted services or free products.
  • Encourage participants to drink plenty of water or fruit juice and to eat healthy, iron-rich foods during the 24 hours before their donation. These actions stabilize blood pressure and blood sugar levels while reducing dizziness.


Your office’s blood drive does more than give you something to do this January. It celebrates National Blood Donor month and provides numerous benefits that build office morale, improve community relations and save lives.

What Are The Penalties For Not Having Health Insurance?

By Life and Health | No Comments

The Affordable Care Act requires all US citizens who meet income thresholds to have health insurance. You can choose your employer’s coverage, buy private insurance, join your state’s exchange or receive coverage from Medicare or Medicaid. What penalties will you incur, though, if you don’t have health insurance this year?




In 2014, the penalty is the greater of $95 or one percent of your income. That figure rises to $325 or two percent of your income in 2015. By 2016, expect to see a $695 or 2.5 percent penalty. Additional points to remember include:


*Your 2014 penalty is capped at around $9,800, the average price for a bronze plan.

*If you didn’t have health insurance, you’ll owe a pro-rated tax penalty. That means you’ll pay the full penalty if you’re uninsured for the entire year but only one-twelfth the penalty if you’re uninsured for one month.

*The penalty is due for the current year on next year’s tax return. So penalties for 2014 will be due with your 2015 tax return.




The 2014 penalty for an uninsured family caps at the greater of $285 or one percent of income. Expect to pay the greater of $975 or two percent of your income in 2015 and $2,085 or 2.5 percent of income in 2016. These penalties apply whether you have one dependent or a dozen.




If you’re an individual or part of a family that doesn’t make enough money to file income tax, you could either receive a subsidy to buy insurance or be exempt from the tax penalty. Unemployed people are also exempt. Likewise, if you can’t find a policy that costs less than eight percent of your modified adjusted gross income, you won’t owe the penalty.


Enroll Today


With a qualified health insurance plan, you avoid tax penalties. Plus, you’re able to receive the preventative and routine medical care you need. So enroll in the Healthcare Marketplace any time before February 15, 2015 or talk to an insurance agent today and learn more about your options.

National Hug Day Instantly Improves Physical and Mental Health

By Life and Health | No Comments

Whether you’re a hugger by nature or prefer not to be touched, your physical and mental health benefit when you celebrate National Hug Day, held annually on January 21. Give a few hugs this day and every day as you improve your overall health and wellbeing.


Increase Oxygen Flow


Touch increases your body’s hemoglobin, and it carries oxygen to all your body’s organs. With oxygen, your body’s able to fight diseases as it recovers from illness.


Reduce Physical Pain


UCLA Pain Control unit’s Dr. David Bresler see the need for physical touch. He prescribes bear hugs four times a day as part of his patients’ pain management treatment plan. To give and receive a bear hug and reduce your physical pain, he suggests you face your partner and use both of your arms to fully embrace him or her.


Improve Mental Health


Hugging releases oxytocin, an important hormone that affects your mental health and wellbeing. With it, you feel happier and less anxious.

Reduce Stress


A study performed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researched the responses of 50 people after a stressful event. Part of the group held hands and hugged for 20 seconds while the rest of the participants sat quietly and did not touch. When asked to recall a recent stressful event, the cuddlers experienced lower heart rates and blood pressure readings then the non-cuddlers. You, too, will enjoy reduced stress when you hug.


Sleep Better


Instead of fighting insomnia or relying on sleeping pills, participate in a few hugs every day. They relax your body and your emotions so that you can enjoy a better night’s sleep.


Live Longer


Hugging stimulates your skin’s nerve endings, which allows them to signal your brain to slow cortisol release. It’s a hormone that fights stress, builds your immune system, reduces inflammation and assists you in living longer.


Hugs do more than show affection. They also improve your physical and mental health. Implement them into your daily routine on National Hug Day, and talk to your doctor about additional ways you can be healthy and whole.

What Is The Difference Between The Four Main Life Insurance Types?

By Life and Health | No Comments

When shopping for life insurance, you might be confused by all the options. Which ones earn cash? Which ones build cash value? What’s the best option for you? Learn more about the differences between the four main types of life insurance as you make this important decision.


Term Life Insurance


Term life insurance is easy to understand and affordable, but it offers coverage for only a limited time, usually anywhere from 10 to 30 years. If die before the policy term expires, your beneficiaries receive the death benefits to pay the mortgage, fund college or save for the future.


Whole Life Insurance


As long as you pay the premiums, a whole life insurance policy covers you for your entire life, which means your beneficiaries receive the death benefits whether you die this year or in 70 years. You can also borrow from the policy’s guaranteed cash value if you need money to pay expenses. The amount of money your policy earns depends on your specific policy.


Universal Life Insurance


Also known as a Flexible Premium Adjustable Life Insurance, this type of life insurance provides tax-deferred savings. The insurance company invests a portion of your policy into a savings account. You choose between a cheaper death benefit that pays the policy’s cash value or a more expensive option that pays the policy’s cash value plus the accumulated cash amount.


Variable Universal Life Insurance


With this life insurance, you pay for a death benefit and decide the premium percentage you want to invest. When you choose to end your policy, the appreciated money applies toward your policy’s premiums. Remember, though, that the invested money isn’t guaranteed and can lose value.


Some life insurance policies build cash value while others do not, and you can mix and match different types based on your needs. Talk to your insurance agent to discuss your specific needs and learn more as you decide which life insurance policy is right for you.