Age Bias and the PricewaterhouseCoopers Case...

Hey companies filling your employment coffers with low priced talent!  You might want to take a look at the numbers...

In case you missed it, PricewaterhouseCoopers took an Age Discrimination case in 2016.  Some legal details from the site that's inviting others to join the class action: Old school

On April 27, 2016, Steve Rabin, an older CPA who was denied employment at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (“PwC”), filed an age discrimination class and collective action on behalf of himself and all other unsuccessful PwC accountant applicants aged 40 and over from 2013 to the present.  The lawsuit is titled Rabin v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Case No. 3:16-cv-02276, pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

The class and collective action complaint alleges that PwC has engaged in systemic discrimination against older applicants for accounting positions.  For instance, PwC primarily hires entry-level accountants through campus recruiting, does not post entry-level accountant positions on its website, and provides no ready mechanism for individuals no longer affiliated with a college to apply for these positions.  Moreover, PwC prides itself on maintaining a young workforce, focusing on attracting and maintaining “Millennials,” and requiring partners to retire by age 60.  The ageism that pervades PwC’s recruitment system and corporate culture has resulted in older accountant applicants being almost completely shut out of accounting positions at PwC. 

In February 2017, the Court ruled that Plaintiffs can pursue disparate impact claims against PwC under the ADEA.  PwC had argued that job applicants are not allowed to pursue such claims under federal law.  You can find more information about this recent ruling here.

In December 2017, the Plaintiffs asked the Court to allow all applicants covered by this case to proceed together on a collective basis rather than individually, in what is called a motion for conditional certification. A decision by the Court is likely this spring. Please check back in April of 2018 for updates.

The Goal of the Lawsuit
The class action seeks seeks to require PwC to hire accountants based on merit alone, without regard to their age, and to compensate accountants who might have been hired but for PwC’s discriminatory practices.

Yowza.  The Wall Street Journal reported some interesting numbers on Tuesday as a District Court Judge heard arguments from both sides on whether to allow 14,000 other older candidates who didn't get a job with PwC to join a class action on the same claim.  I can't share the exact text from the WSJ since it's behind a paywall, but here's a couple of tidbits:

--PwC hires less than 5% of the 300,000 applicants who apply annually in US.

--PwC hired 18% of the applicants who were under 40 to it's tax and assurance business, while only hiring 3% of the candidates over 40.

--Older workers claim that older workers are steered to part-time and seasonal roles are aren't considers for the entry level roles the company lists as full time opportunities.

For now, the judge is simply ruling on whether to allow the 14,000 older candidates who have raised their hand to join a class action suit.  An actual ruling on the matter could be years away.

Interesting legal battle.  Without question, companies like PwC prefer to hire young talent that's cheaper right out of college.  Is that bias? If so, will they be held accountable for it?

Going to be interesting to track this one.

 


Can HR Be Trusted to Lockdown Vulnerability and Secrets From the Employee Base?

At the end of the day, employees have to trust any HR pro enough to come forward and share bad stuff with said HR pro.  What type of bad stuff?  What type of bad stuff do your employees have?

Hate. Addiction. Family Dysfunction. Ambition. Concerns about others.  Just to name a few.

All these things and more are filed under topics that employees would love to talk to someone about. Due to the role of HR, a good HR pro is a likely target for an employee to vent to.  But before they make the decision to confide in you, they have to evaluate whether you can be trusted.

More from Jennifer McClure at Unbridled Talent:

"But I do recall a conversation I had one day with an employee who was experiencing some issues at work. When I offered to listen and provide support, she said “Unfortunately, I can’t talk to you about this. It’s not that I don’t trust you personally. It’s the chair that you sit in. You have the authority to fire me. And I can’t risk that.”

After she left my office, I thought about what she’d said. I wanted to be offended. But I kinda understood where she was coming from. While it was frustrating that she wouldn’t allow me to try to help out just because of my position in the organization, I also knew that sometimes it was part of my role to be involved in making decisions about her career. So sharing a weakness or performance problem with someone who has that type of influence could be perceived as a risk."

Go read Jennifer's post.  Then think about the kind of HR pro you are.  I'd tell you that when it comes to employees considering whether they want to confide in you on a deep level, there are 3 types of HR pros:

  1. No way, no how. You've got a reputation for sharing information about others with the wrong people. You talk too much, and this is most commonly manifested by you talking about other employees to... you guessed it.... their peers - other rank and file employees.  Which causes them to wonder what you would do if they shared something deep about themselves that they're struggling with.
  2. You haven't ####ed it up yet. They look at you as an HR pro and see someone they shouldn't distrust, but you haven't earned your stripes yet as someone that can go on lockdown and be fully trusted.  At some point, someone's going to test that, seeking to trust you and ask you for advice.  When that day comes, you'll have to listen, offer advice, put the info in a lockbox (shoutout to Al Gore, inventor of the internet) and not share with anyone.  You know, be trustworthy.
  3. The Rock. Employees have trusted you with some bad stuff about themselves in the past. You listened, offered advice and then most importantly, locked it down.  You didn't talk to other employees and just as importantly, didn't share the info with their boss, other senior team members in your unit, etc.  As a result, employees talk. You've got a reputation as someone that can be trusted, even though the employees who share that opinion never talk about what they shared with you.

HR pros earn their reps with results - either negative or positive - when employees choose to trust them. Like the rest of the human race, some HR pros are great building and maintaining trust, some aren't.

My advice for any HR pro is to develop a quick script to share with any employee that approaches you and tells you they're about to go deep.  My favorite is something related to confidentiality that suggests, "if you're asking for confidentiality, I can tell you I can deliver that with the exception of things that are legal issues or would negatively impact our business."

My experience is that the best HR pros usually have quite a bit of stuff on lockdown.  Do employees trust you?  That's a fair question any HR pro should ask themselves.

 


What Part of the Normal American Workplace Will Be Most Impacted by #metoo?

There's a ton of good that's come from the daily breaking news associated with the #metoo movement.  Creeps everywhere are being held responsible for their behavior, and society in general seems to have a higher awareness for what's appropriate and what's not.  There's a lot of details in between, but the one I spend the most time thinking about is the following:

When does the #metoo movement hold common day, ordinary creeps accountable Work deep into the American workplace, where there's no media coverage of the proceedings?

I'm not sure I know the answer. For all of the good that's come out of the #metoo proceedings, it's still murky how the ordinary American workplace will be impacted.  Awareness is great, but the true creeps can keep on giving the creepers to all around them at the soft drink distributor in Peoria, IL.  There's no media to report on those stories, and without the positive impact/protection of coverage, many impacted by harassment are less likely to report.

The industry that might have the most potential for a #metoo movement aware from media coverage?  It might be your local restaurant.  Here's more from the New York Times:

"Restaurants are like pirate ships. Each has its own code, with distinct values and rules. Some crews are kind, supportive and disciplined, relatively speaking. Others are angry, surly, misogynistic and drunk. New crew members quickly fit in, or jump ship. Like pirate crews, restaurant staffs are cohesive societies, but they aren’t big on transparency, and it’s hard for outsiders to know what’s happening.

Fifty years ago, when nobody cared what went on in restaurant kitchens except health inspectors and tax collectors, acting like pirates was probably a useful skill. Today, though, it is outmoded.

Customers may enjoy the occasional sample of salty pirate speech, but they also care about the inner workings of kitchens. They know the names of the chef, the sous-chef, the pastry chef, the head bartender. They’ve watched TV documentaries about the creative process behind trout roe in little cups made of pig’s blood. They’ve heard many chefs talk on many occasions about certain kinds of ethical behavior, having mostly to do with livestock.

Something has gone grotesquely wrong when chefs brag that the chickens they buy lived happy, stress-free lives, but can’t promise us that the women they employ aren’t being assaulted in the storage room."

I'd encourage all to go read the NYT piece.  There have been celebrity chefs who have been taken down my #metoo, but the vast majority of the industry isn't driven by celebrity chefs.  

But, the familiarity of customers with the chefs and staff at private restaurants across America presents an interesting opportunity.  If you care about where the chickens come from as a patron, do you care about the treatment of the women staff at La Paz?

Not many customers are sensitive to how anyone is treated at the cable company.  They already hate the cable company, so it stands to reason that the cable company treats their people like garbage (no matter how wrong the treatment is).  No one would be surprised by that.

But your local white cloth restaurant?  What would you say if you new the owner was asking female servers to come pick up the cash bag at his place and opening the door in a robe?

Yeah, you'd probably get the creepers and not go back.

With tools like Yelp out there, were only a new feature away from the review economy telling you how female friendly that privately-owned restaurant is.

For that reason, the restaurant industry is ripe for accountability related to the #metoo movement.

Interesting times.


NBC's New Rules on Workplace Hugging Means NO HUGGING....

If you thought you were going to just keep doing what you are doing related to PDA (public displays of affection) in the #metoo era, you're not only naive, you must be saved from yourself.  All your hugging, your slight touches to the shoulder, the full mouth kissing (OK, hopefully you weren't doing that) is persona non grata, or at least it should be.  That's why NBC, after s#x machine Matt Lauer got outed, is creating specific rules about what's acceptable and what's not.

More from Page 6:

"NBC has issued strict new anti-sexual harassment rules to employees — including that staffers must snitch on any misbehaving colleagues — in the wake of the firing of disgraced “Today” show host Matt Lauer.

A source tells Page Six that NBC employees have been ordered to report any inappropriate relationships in the workplace — and if they fail to do so, they could be fired for covering up for colleagues. Side hug

Detailed rules also have been issued about conduct in the office, including how to socialize and even how to hug colleagues.

One rule relates to hugging. If you wish to hug a colleague, you have to do a quick hug, then an immediate release, and step away to avoid body contact."

The NBC rules on hugging show just how far we still have to go when it comes to legislating hugs in the workplace.  My friend, Tim Sackett, is the world's leading expert on workplace hugging.  Lucky for you I'm here to give you the new rules for hugging in the workplace.  Let's use the framework for what's been reported related to the hugging rules at NBC.  Here's the new NBC guidance on hugging:

"If you wish to hug a colleague, you have to do a quick hug, then an immediate release, and step away to avoid body contact."

Here's the new HR Capitalist Rules on Hugging:

1.  Are you a guy?  And, correct me if I'm wrong, you still want to hug someone?  You may have a high IQ, but street smarts aren't your thing.  Why are we talking about hugging?  Oh, I see, you're different, no one will get the creeps from your hugs.  Riiiiight.

2.  You still want to hug?  OK, the NBC rules don't go far enough.  If you must, go in side to side for a "side-hug", with outside of shoulders touching.  For best results, lean in for the side hug at least a foot, leaving all other parts of your body far from the subject of your hug.

3. Your hand should be top of the shoulder - nowhere else. Release in under 1 second.

4.  This just in, if you wait to think about avoiding body contact until you release the hug (like the NBC rules remind you), you've already lost in the new world.  

The final rule of hugging in today's workplace is that it's Darwinian in nature.  It's like natural selection in some ways.  Those that think hugging is still cool and they'll never be misinterpreted are missing the adaptation that others will automatically get. 

I get that most of you aren't perves.  But when NBC is issuing rules on hugging, the clear message is that you shouldn't hug.  

I know, you had so much to give to build a more compassionate workplace with your hugging.  Sucks to be you.  Maybe a hardy handshake is your best bet.

 


The HR Capitalist Playbook for Men Avoiding Workplace Harassment Claims...

Harassment claims have been in the news lately, and it's an interesting time for HR leaders.  Whether you're talking about the latest Harvey Weinstein reports or all the crazy stuff that went down at Uber, you've probably never had everyone's attention on the male side of the house like you do today.

What do you do with that attention? Well, it's probably not enough just to email Harvey Weinstein and Uber rundowns to your management team.  While that seems reasonable, a new Cavemanreport from The New York Times shows that all the well-intentioned promises may have resulted in some serious unintended consequences:

"A big chill came across Silicon Valley in the wake of all these stories, and people are hyper-aware and scared of behaving wrongly, so I think they’re drawing all kinds of parameters," an anonymous venture capitalist told the Times.

The anonymous VC told the Times that he's actually cancelled one-on-one meetings with female engineers and potential recruits to protect himself from any "reputational risk."

YEP - THESE ARE ARE MALE MANAGERS.  SIMPLE FOLK.  CAVEMEN.  "SOMEBODY GOT A HARASSMENT CLAIM, SO I'M NOT MEETING ALONE WITH LADIES".

WTF...

As much as I'd like to think this attitude doesn't touch companies like yours and mine, it does.  It's the "let's take our ball and go home" mentality.  Crazy but true.

Lucky for you, I'm here as a guy HR leader to give you my straight up Playbook for Men Avoiding Workplace Harassment Claims.  Here we go:

1--Don't have designs on sleeping with someone at work.  Whether you're single or married, don't do it.  I'm not the morality police, but if you target someone for romance at work, you get what you get.  It's just problematic.  Don't do it.  And for the ladies in my family life who read my blog, I should mention this (morality alert!), if you're a guy who's married, don't be a sleaze.  Honor the commitment.  But if you're incapable of that, stay out of the workplace, Jack.

2--When on the road, don't do stupid stuff.  I'm on the road a lot, and things like having a lady hold your bag in her room is just problematic.  Check your bag and handle small stuff on the road without treating a female co-worker like your wife/girlfriend.

3--Be personable in conversation without probing.  Look, it's OK to make small talk about life with your female co-workers, and every once in awhile, it goes to a place of personal information.  It's not uncommon for that to happen, what matters is what happens next.  Don't probe for more, get out and take the conversation back to something rivaling a mundane USA Today article.

4--Hold your one-on-one meetings with females in public or somewhat public places.  The more private the room is, the more you really don't need to be there.  If you meet on the road in a hotel room with a female, you're a moron.

BONUS - and I call this the Harvey Weinstein rule - don't answer the door on the road in a robe.  Who the #### uses a robe in hotel room?

That's what I got.  What do you have to add?


The Tyranny of Single Stall, Gender-Neutral Bathrooms in the Workplace...

Notes to follow from life on the road...

Topic: Transgender individual's rights to use either bathroom (men's or women's) they desire.

Buckle up, people. But it's probably not going to be what you think. TG

I spend a lot of time on the road, and I spend that time in a lot of different parts of the country.  One thing that's happening in retail (shops, restaurants, etc) points to a trend I hope doesn't come to office parks.

Here's the trend... Businesses - faced with legal pressure or simply wanting to accommodate Transgender individuals - are increasing changing single stall bathrooms (one for men, one for women) to gender neutral status.  That "reclassification" means that either men or women can use either bathroom that is available.  That solves the transgender issue without the economic burden of retrofitting a third bathroom to exist alongside men's and women's facilities.

I understand that I'm probably going to get emails from what I've wrote already, because I'm not an expert in Transgender issues.  Send your emails, however, because I do want to learn more and understand to a greater degree.

But I am an expert in some things.  Allow me to school you on why reclassifying a men's and women's bathroom to gender neutral-status doesn't work:

Men are pigs.  Females deserve better.  

If 10 dudes use a bathroom during the day, odds are it is not going to be suitable for a woman, or anyone who wants to sit down.  This just in - Men often go to the bathroom standing up.  Hit this link if you want to see the legal world in action on this issue.  

When businesses make existing single-stall bathrooms gender neutral, females (anyone identifying as female) lose.  And this trend is alive and well in some areas of the country.  It's a natural, completely understandable reaction to the capital cost of building new facilities.  

I can only hope this trend can be avoided as transgender issues become more accepted and we work through the same challenges in the workplace.

Rights for everyone - Ok and check.  Let's evolve together.

Rights for dudes to use bathrooms on a frequent basis that females will have to use afterwords - we're better than that America.  

No.  Just no.

 


Can The Fired Google Engineer Show Us The Political Affiliations of Tech Companies?

By now, you've likely heard about the Google engineer who got fired for writing a diversity manifesto.  If not, here's what happened:

"Google employees are up in arms after a senior engineer at the company penned an anti-diversity manifesto that has spread through the Google-row-diversity-1company like wildfire. 

The manifesto criticizes company initiatives aimed at increasing gender and racial diversity and argues that Google should instead focus on "ideological diversity," according to a report by Vice's Motherboard, which first reported the news late on Friday. The 10-page treatise also claims that biological difference between men and women are responsible for the underrepresentation of women in the tech industry.

"We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism," reads the document, a copy of which was obtained by Gizmodo."

As you might expect, that type of manifesto was greeted with much criticism.  So much so, it created the following events this week:

  1. Google fired the engineer.
  2. There was a backlash related to the decision to fire the engineer.
  3. The Google CEO sent an email telling everyone it was all going to be OK.
  4. The email didn't tamper down the storm.
  5. Google's CEO understood the storm was so bad inside his company that he came back from a vacation in Africa with his family to be present for an all-hands meeting.

As I've said before in this space, freedom of speech is alive and well in the American workplace.  The problem is that employees believe that freedom of speech means they can't be fired.  As Google demonstrated in firing the engineer, a company's code of conduct and professional conduct policies generally give them the right to move people out if they are communicating ideas that aren't embraced by the majority of the company.

And there, my friends, is the rub.

Google fired the engineer because they thought the employee base dramatically would support that move.  As it turns out, a lot of people at Google thought his macro point was right - female engineers are hard to find because there's some genetic wiring in females that make careers in engineering less attractive to them.

So the sh*t show builds after the firing, and the CEO is coming back from halfway across the globe - because he knows he's ultimately responsible for calming this thing down.  

There's some macro points in the manifesto that many of you, if not most, would agree with.

But the guy is an engineer.  Of course, he takes it way too far.  That's what engineers who know no shades of gray do.

The most interesting thing I've seen about this case is polling on whether the engineer should have been fired across the major tech companies in America. Blind, an anonymous corporate chat app,  asked its users if they thought Google should have fired Damore, over 4,000 from different companies weighed in.

Perhaps most pertinently, 441 Google employees responded. Of them, more than half  – 56% to be precise– said they didn't think it was right for the company to fire Damore.

Here's how the poll worked out across the major tech companies - enable images or click through if you don't see the chart below.

Blind

Notable is that at Uber, 64% of employees who participated in the survey thought Google shouldn't have fired Damore. Employees at Apple and LinkedIn were nearly evenly split in the poll but leaned slightly toward approving Google's decision. Meanwhile, 65% of respondents from Lyft were good with the way it went down.  That kind of follows what we know at Uber and Lyft related to how they view the world.

The chart feels like most presidential elections, and tells you that even in the tech bubble, what seems obvious is not obvious.

Which is why the CEO of Google had to cut his vacation short to come back and try and hose down the situation.

Good times - and a reminder that employee sentiment isn't always (hell, ever) as simple as we think it is.

 


How To Be A Complete D**k During a Deposition (Google-Style)...

Who here has every been the subject of a deposition?  Who here has ever acted like jerk during a deposition towards an arrogant attorney from the other side?  

Great!  It's not just me.  Just one more thing we have in common... Page

A young HR capitalist was once the subject of a deposition featuring an arrogant, condescending attorney on the other side.  The young HR capitalist reacted in such a negative way that the attorney on his side had to call for a break and counsel the young HRC to stop being a d##k to the other side - even though they had it coming.

Favorite plays from the deposition playbook of mine the young HRC included -

--only answering questions in yes/no format when the question clearly called for more...

--answering questions framed in a negative tense (so you don't believe that manager...) "yes".  Because in my mind I'm saying yes to your statement, not going with the informal flow.  This is a formal event, right?

--not giving enough details on process because I can't clearly define it as it works a variety of ways - although there is a certain way it's supposed to work, but you didn't ask me that, did you?

No wonder that attorney called for a break during the young capitalist's deposition.

That's why the notes below from a deposition of Google co-founder Larry Page are so fun.  Page was recently deposed by attorneys representing Uber in a lawsuit filed by Google related to the allegation of stolen IP from self-driving car company Waymo.  Take a look at the notes below from the deposition Business Insider and see my notes in brackets and all caps:

----------------------------------------

 

The transcript is full of examples of Page responding tersely to questioning, such as this exchange:

Uber: Google invested in Uber, correct?

Page: Yes.

Uber: Do you recall when?

Page: My answer is yes. (PRO MOVE - JUST ANSWERING THE QUESTION YES/NO.  DID THEY WANT MORE? SURE, BUT YOU ANSWERED THE QUESTION.  SUCKS TO BE THEM)

Page said he wasn't familiar with how Google stores source code:

Uber: Do you know the way that Google typically retains things, like source-code materials and design specifications, and things like that?

Page: Yeah, I'm not that familiar with how we do that.

Uber: Is there an online repository, or do — do you even know that?

Page: I mean, there's some code-based repository thingy.  (THE SENIOR LEVEL "THINGY" OR "DOHICKIE" REFERENCE.  WELL PLAYED)

And this feisty exchange:

Uber: You're not familiar with the details of the trade secrets that are at issue here?

Page: Yes. (ANSWERING A QUESTION CALLING FOR A SIMPLE NO WITH A YES. IT'S NOT LARRY'S PROBLEMS THAT THEY PHRASED IT IN A WAY THAT HE COULD HAVE FUN WITH. "THAT'S CORRECT" IS BORING.  "YES" IS MUCH MORE FUN)

Uber: You don't know, for example, what the trade secrets are that Uber allegedly misappropriated?

Page: No, I do not.

Uber: Whenever it was that you learned — let me make sure I'm clear on this. You don't remember, sitting here today, when you learned or how you learned that Uber may have misappropriated Google or Waymo trade secrets. Is that right?

Page: That's correct.  (MISSED OPPORTUNITY - HE COULD HAVE SAID YES)

Uber: And you don't remember how you learned?

Page: I mean, that's correct, yes.

Uber: Did you authorize the filing of the lawsuit against Uber?

Page: I mean, I'm certainly aware of it, yeah, and then allowed it to proceed, I suppose. I'm not sure I authorized it. I'm not sure that's the right word.

Uber: Well, could a lawsuit of this magnitude be filed without your consent and approval?

Page: I mean, I guess I'm not — I'm the CEO of the company — parent company of Waymo, and Waymo operates more or less as an independent company.

Uber: Is Waymo authorized to file a lawsuit like this on its own without even consulting you?

Page: I mean, I don't know all the details of that.  (I'M FLYING AT 100,000 FEET PEOPLE.  YOU REALIZE I COULD BUY YOUR FIRM TODAY, RIGHT?  I'M NOT TALKING ABOUT GOOGLE BUYING IT, I MEAN ME PERSONALLY)

---------------------------------

Pros moves all the way around.  Holla if you've ever been a barrier to a successful deposition - as the actual subject of that deposition.


Mansplaining Gender-Related Harassment...

I'm up today over at my other site - Fistful of Talent - with a post called, "A Man’s DIY Guide to Rid Your Company of Gender-Related Harassment".  Here's a taste:

"Ready for some mansplaining?  Good, because I’m a guy, and damn, it seems like companies are having a hard time avoiding gender-related harassment.  So I’m here to help.

I’m referring to s*x**l harassment, but I have to call it gender-related harassment because a lot of you have email filters at the corporate level that won’t allow content in with the word s*x**l.  You know, because you can’t be trusted.  As a result, you end up missing good stuff like this and Marvin Gaye videos your friends might send you.  Sucks to be you.  But I digress."

Go get the full post over at Fistful of Talent by clicking here.

 

A Man’s DIY Guide to Rid Your Company of Gender-Related Harassment