Just For Fun

RSVP for Big Sky + Drones = Dreams, Nightmares, and Research!

RSVP for Big Sky + Drones = Dreams, Nightmares, and Research!

Join us on Feb. 21, 2018 as we briefly discuss the ultimate system-of-system integration challenges that is the current drone industry. From managing the minimally equipped, yet fully mission capable solutions of today, to multiple autonomous networks of drones sharing the same airspace of tomorrow- we, the drone community, are carrying a tremendous amount of responsibility. We must protect the safety of the airspace, while developing new technologies and procedures that enable greater use of the 3rd dimension, and fulfilling the potential of a modern aviation society. Kyle Snyder, the Director of the NextGen Air Transportation Consortium (NGAT) at NC State University, looks forward to the discussion and networking with this Meetup group!

Guest Blog! [How To] Successfully Start Your Own Business by the Founder of BMUR Branding Group

Guest Blog! [How To] Successfully Start Your Own Business by the Founder of BMUR Branding Group

The founder of BMUR Branding Group discusses ten tips and tricks for successfully starting your own business.  

It's 2017 and you can Microchip your Employees!

Microchipping employees is a thing and IDK what's going on anymore...

In your annual review of your company's employment handbook, I bet you've never once thought to yourself "Hey! We should add a microchip policy!"  But maybe one day you will....

On Aug. 1, 2017 a Wisconsin tech firm introduced a microchip that can be implanted in the hand of its employees.  This single chip can do things like allow access to buildings and networks, use copiers, open doors, and possibly purchase items from the company's cafeteria.  While their policy on this microchip was voluntary (read: employees who opted out were not retaliated against), more than FIFTY (50) opted to get said microchip implanted under their skin.  Apparently the microchip is smaller than a grain of rice.  BUT STILL!

Employer Security via RFID.

For employers working in large spaces and with sensitive data and technology, the microchip concept adds a level of security unseen until now.  The microchips being used for employment purposes are essentially mini GPS's also called radio frequency identification ("RFID").  It allows employers to monitor and regulate access, as well as monitor and regulate time.  For example, these RFID devices can alert employers if a certain someone is spending an excessive amount of time "getting coffee."  These devices can also collect data on access to certain buildings, units, labs, servers, etc.  

Attorneys Caution RFID use (duh).

Anytime employers ask about sticking a GPS device in an employee's hand, I shutter to think of all the ways this scenario can go wrong.  Who pays the medical bills when one employee's implant causes an infection?  What happens to data collected while the employee is not working for the employer (e.g. evenings and nights)? How many exceptions will need to be made for ADA/Title VII accommodations and how will this even work?  What happens when that rice grain goes rogue and your workforce turns into robots? All these questions and so little answers cause all us attorneys to shrug and say "it depends."  

What Happens Next?

Only a few U.S. companies are experimenting with RFIDs on a voluntary basis.  Right now the cost behind these microchips will deter most employers from even considering the concept but I would no longer consider microchipping employees a thing of the future.  In other words, we'll probably be hearing more on this topic in the next decade.  In the meantime, I think I'll stick with microchipping my cat. 

The Office Holiday Party Survival Guide

Consider this blog post Part Two of our October 2015 post on workplace harassment and Halloween, which you can review here.  

'Tis the season! It's time for the annual office Holiday party.  The party where you get drunk with your co-workers and realize that they are people just like you.  Also, the party where lawsuits are made... sometimes.  This post is the Survival Guide for the Office Holiday Party with the general theme: #bewareofdrunkmistletoe

Tip #1:  Attendance is never required.  

Not everyone wants to be part of a celebration, whether it is for religious or personal reasons.  If you are going to throw a holiday party, be conscious of the fact that not everyone may care and that has no bearing on that person's work performance.  In other words, do not retaliate against an employee who throws shade at your office holiday party.  Let them be a Grinch on their own terms! Attendance at holiday parties should always be voluntary with no threat of being treated better or worse for attending or not.  This voluntariness may also save you the headache of a worker's comp claim if someone were to get injured.  Remember this case we talked about last year? 

Tip #2:  If there is drinking, there is no driving. 

If you are going to have booze at the holiday party (which is probably everyone reading), make sure you offer easily-obtained sober rides home.  This could be something as extravagant as a party bus or as low-key as an Uber.  The point is, employees attending an office party with alcohol should have access to transportation home.  Bonus points if the sober ride home is complementary and paid for by the employer.  

Also, make sure someone is responsible enough to observe those that may have had too much to drink but may also try to drive.  If someone's state of sobriety is even slightly in question, get them a ride home.    Remember, the term is "DD" for Designated Driver and not "DDD" for Designated Drunk Driver.  Another easy thing you can do regarding alcohol consumption is limit its use without being a prude.  For example, tell the bartenders no shots or limit an open bar for just an hour or so.  

Side note:  If there are booze there should also be food.  Hangry people are bad enough but hungry drunk people are the worst.

Tip #3:  Invite partners but kill the mistletoe.

Inviting spouses, partners and, significant others is a good way to get know your co-workers.  It can also help keep the crazies in line.  Most partners will do a decent job making sure the other isn't belligerent or causing trouble.  This will also make the quality of conversation way better.  Speaking as an attorney, we are some of the most boring people you've ever met.  Luckily at our office holiday party, the spouses bring up "normal" conversation topics like movies and music as opposed to attorney conversations that usually start with "Have you read that opinion out of the Fourth Circuit?"   Whether kids attend or not should be coordinated by the employees with kids.  Offering childcare paid for by the company is a cool perk that may bring out the parents in the group who never get to party. 

Regardless of who is invited to the party, leave the mistletoe behind.  Employees should be reminded of policies prohibiting things like physical contact (this could be as easy of reminding employees of your anti-harassment policy).  Party games like Twister, Spin-the-Bottle, or  Cards Against Humanity should also be shelved. (However, if you are reading this and can still master Twister, I'm impressed beyond words.)  

Tip #4:  Consider doing more than just drinking and eating.

Food, drink, and great conversation are a great way to bond with co-workers but you should add something else to the office holiday party.  Consider hosting a White Elephant gift exchange to the mix, organize a private screening of a movie, or have the party at a fancy bowling alley.  This will break up the excessive drinking and will also allow people to bond in a different way.  

Tip #5:  Remind employees that holiday parties are a luxury, not a right.

Monitor those in attendance at the office holiday party and make sure everyone is happy, healthy, and having a good time.  If someone's bad behavior starts to show, politely ask them to leave and/or order them an Uber home.  To the extent trouble can be stopped before it happens, the better for all.  Also, despite my title to Tip #5, office gatherings are, in my opinion, a great way to show appreciation for your employees and should happen at least annually.  It's important that your workforce operate as a team, even if the workforce is hundreds of people.  Bringing everyone together and showing them you care about them (and want to hang out with them) will go a long way when it comes to recruitment and retention.  

A Summary of the Office Holiday Party "Do's" and "Don'ts:"

  1. Don't dance like you're at a Frat Party, Strip Club, or Junior Prom.  This is a fine line so use discretion when hosting a dance party for employees.
  2. Don't allow employees to be over-served with alcoholic beverages.  
  3. Do arrange for transportation home for those employees who cannot drive.
  4. Don't hug, kiss, or grab an employee.  We're talking handshakes and high-fives only, people. 
  5. Do invite spouses, partners, significant others, and kids (if the party is kid-friendly). 
  6. Don't comment on appearances or engage in behavior that would be considered harassment inside the workplace.  
  7. Do offer food at the party.
  8. Do make holiday parties voluntary in terms of attendance. 
  9. Do remind employees of policies and expectations before the party.
  10. Don't be a total Scrooge! Allow employees to have some amount of innocent, non-harassing fun. Just be aware if things start to go badly (and in the words of Liz Lemon, "SHUT IT DOWN"). 

If you have any other questions specific to your office Holiday party, give me a call or email and we'll chat! Just remember:  #bewareofdrunkmistletoe 

 

PS:  This movie looks funny and is timely considering this post. 

 

 

How to Make Millennials Like You, Part 4 :-)

How to Make Millennials Like You, Part 4 :-)

How to Make Millennials Like You, Part 4 :-)  The #Millennial with the Dragon Tattoo (and why it doesn't matter)

How to Make Millennials Like You, Part 3 :-)

Why Communication is Key (and may require #texting)

We're back by popular demand! #ihavebeenreallybusy  Our apologies for the delay in your favorite #LawBlog!

Today I'm going to write about one of the most talked about topics when it comes to Millennials in the workplace:  COMMUNICATION.  (dun, dun, dun....)

I recently taught a really great class through ECU CMGT that was divided into students and professionals.  It was a boring legal seminar where we only talked about two cool things: (1) drones and (2) Millennials.  When I added the Millennial section to my HR presentation, I was worried that people would give me The Glare.  For anyone who has not taught before, The Glare is the look people give you when they feel like you are wasting their time or otherwise ruining their day.  For anyone who has taught a legal seminar, you pretty much get The Glare the entire time you talk. Regardless of this imminent threat, I added the Millennial section anyway and as a compromise so this entire section wasn't just about me venting about things, I focused the section on paid leave as a recruiting tool for Millennials.  Shockingly, I didn't receive a single Glare from anyone.  In fact, this part of the presentation sparked some of the most interest and questions and made me realize that I, the quintessential Millennial, had in fact done something right.  #selfhighfive

One of the greatest topics discussed at this class was communication and how to preserve interpersonal communication in a world where we only seem to text, instant message, chat on Facebook, etc AND how this common concern plays out in the workplace.  To jump start this post, I ask one simple question: What is interpersonal communication

While an undergrad at UNC, I actually studied Interpersonal Organizational Communication Studies as one of my majors.  If you are a Duke or NC State fan you can go ahead and stop laughing (b/c I never had a "paper class").  Everyone made fun of this major.  The comments I received from people were rarely positive but more like: "You're learning to talk?!" "Don't you already know how to communicate?"  "How will you ever find a job?!"  HAHA! Not.  Considering communication and how we communicate is one of the biggest topics surrounding Millennials, the joke is on all the #haters because I learned to define "communication" based on the value of the exchange and not so much by its mechanics.  

FOR EXAMPLE:  Professional Poker players have excellent non-verbal communication skills.  They can play the "poker face" and cause their opponents to fold.  Is resting "you-know-what face"  a valid form of communication?  Sure - considering it did exactly what the player wanted it to do. 

FOR EXAMPLE AGAIN:  I text my law partner and ask him to get our mail.  He gets the mail.  Success! That text was a form of communication. #10-4

FOR EXAMPLE AGAIN AGAIN:  I email a client and ask for documents.  Client sends documents.  #Winning 

JUST FOR FUN:  I text my spouse a bunch of cat emojis while on a run and when I get home, he has hidden my car keys.  He clearly got the message that I wanted to bring home a bunch of stray cats encountered on my run.  #boom #messagereceived 

See where I am going with this?  

We are facing a reality where they are more options to communicate with others than there have ever been before.  Due to this plethora of communication types, we are more connected with one another than we have ever been in the past.  Before texting, we had email. Before email, we had phones.  Before phones we had telegraphs and before that, letters. Before letters we had a face-to-face communication.  Interestingly enough, when the phone was invented, it was lauded as one of the greatest inventions of it's time.  When texting became a recognized form of communication about 15 years ago, it was seen as a social demise by the adults and one of the easiest ways to communicate with friends while in a classroom by the youngsters.  Alas, here we are with the #GreatDivide and I haven't even discussed the rise of Emojis... 

I give you this extended background to point out that text messaging, as odd as it may be, is still communication.  Because this is fact, not fiction, non-Millennials are going to have to learn how to deal with a generation of texting and emails as opposed to telephone and in-person conversations.  

The caveat to this general rule:  you tell the Millennials otherwise.  It's a shocking concept but for the Employers dealing with this Millennial issue, consider telling Millennials you prefer they call or talk in-person as opposed to text messaging or another alternative (albeit equally useful) form of communication.  We're not all idiots so we tend to respect our authority in the same way we listen to the airline attendants: we don't want to lose our coveted jobs just like we don't want to crash a plane.  If you get lip from some cocky Millennial (looking at you 15-20 year olds), then you hopefully have policies and procedures in place that would permit you to pass down some discipline.  If they don't want to work with you after that, then let them rejoin the unemployment line.  However, you cannot expect your Millennial employees to forgo from texting their boss if their boss is texting them so the conversation needs to go both ways and apply across the board to avoid confusion. 

In other words, don't yell at me for poor communication if you haven't communicated your expectations to me first. After all, you said it yourself that communication is key!

#itsallwordsandmeaning

 

That Time Kesha Taught Us Something about Employment Law

This one's for the employees. 

If you ever check People.com or a similar celebrity-centric website, you've heard about Kesha (f.k.a. "Ke$ha") and her on-going legal battle to get released from her recording contract.  For those of you who don't know what a "Kesha" is, I recommend you start here.  

Image Credit:  RollingStone / ABC/ Getty 

Image Credit:  RollingStone / ABC/ Getty 

Kesha, who brought us charming ballads like "Tik Tok" and "Die Young,"  signed a recording contract with music producer Dr. Luke.  Allegedly over a 10-year period of time Dr. Luke was sexually and physically abusive which prompted Kesha to file a lawsuit in 2014.  This 2014 lawsuit included a request to be released from the recording contract due in large part to the abuse allegedly suffered.  A few weeks ago, a New York Supreme Court Judge ruled against Kesha's request.  This in turn made Taylor Swift,  Lady Gaga, and these fans very angry.  

Although I am not privy to the details of the recording contract at issue, my guess is it is written a lot like an employment contract since at its core, it's a contract for employment.  As you may know, most states (North Carolina included) are "at-will employment" states which means an employee can quit a job at any time for any reason and employers can terminate an employee at any time for any reason.  There are exceptions to the at-will doctrine such as employment discrimination and as you may have guessed, employment contracts.  

Kesha's case is an interesting example of when at-will employment may turn out to be a better deal for employees.  Usually at-will employment is seen as a vicious tool for employers to purge itself of unwanted employees but as seen in Kesha's case, it is kind of the same vicious tool for employees.  

The lesson learned is this:  tread cautiously before signing an employment agreement, particularly a long-term employment agreement.  Employment agreements may give you a certain level of job security but it may also give you a taste of job-clauterphobia because you are likely stuck for the duration of the contract.  So long as you are decently intelligent, it would be rare for a court to void a contract or otherwise release a party from a contract without some mutual agreement (or a lot more evidence of sexual and physical abuse).  Also keep in mind most employment contracts include non-compete language that may inhibit your future job-hunt within a reasonable time and territory after the agreement.   

Another lesson learned?  Never (ever, ever, ever) sign an employment agreement without taking it to an attorney for a review - even if it's a quick review.  I promise it will be worth learning what exactly you are getting yourself into. 

How to Make Millennials Like You, Part 2 :-)

#OVERQUALIFICATION (And why it's a moot point)

Picture this:  You just graduated from college and its *literally* the best day of your life. Your family is so proud and you just posted 1,000 photos to your Facebook page so all your friends who had to take a victory lap can see what they missed.  Then the worst question of all time comes up at your celebratory dinner:  "DO YOU HAVE A JOB?" No, Random Family Member, no I do not.  #whywouldyouaskthat

A lot of Millennials share the above story.  Graduated during a recession - check. Unable to find employment post graduation- check.  Living in parents basement (which many older people think we love to do) - check.  So what do you do?  What advice were we given by college and career counselors? STAY IN SCHOOL! GET A MASTERS DEGREE! GO TO LAW SCHOOL! Then $100K of student debt later, you are told you're OVER-QUALIFIED for pretty much every job you apply for. :-(  :-(  :-(

In some cases, the term "over-qualified" may be an honest analysis that the candidate's knowledge and experience simply doesn't fit the needs of the job. However, "over-qualification" is also another way of telling someone "I'm unwilling to pay you what the letters after your name say you're worth."  It's also a way of saying "your skill set may be too advanced for this position" (a.k.a. "you may be smarter than me and one day take my job.")  It depends on the context, but it appears this term is a bit overused nowadays and is quite frankly a moot point in today's economy.  Here is why:

(1) Shockingly, Millennials are not all idiots.

Grad school doesn't always mean more $$$$; experience means more $$$$.   Most Millennials recognize the fact that even with an advanced degree, its really experience that gets you big money.  So if I am fresh out of grad school and have never worked a real-world job, I'm probably not interviewing under the assumption I will start at a company for $100K+ a year.  I probably just want a job so I can move out of my parents' house  and make a few unsubstantial payments on my student loans.  We're also damn good creative problem solvers thanks to 20+ years of education (see below). 

(2)  A lot of Millennials didn't even want to go to grad school but were told (maybe by you) that it was the appropriate route to take.  

Most Millennials didn't ask to be an over-qualified, unemployed adult.  Just because a lot of us have an advanced degree doesn't mean we can't get creative with our respective career paths. We may actually be very qualified for the job but you will never know that until you take the resumes seriously and invite Millennials for an interview.  For example, due the the flux of lawyers in recent years, many J.D.s are actively pursuing alternative careers in education, business, and consulting.  Law school may not teach students how to run A/R reports but it teaches critical thinking, which last time I checked is paramount to any career.  My guess is the same is probably true for other grad degrees so keep this in mind. 

Bottom line: Millennials have some pretty cool skill sets that are surprisingly versatile for a lot of different careers - you just have to get past the M.A.'s, MBA's, and J.D.'s and realize not everyone wants to pursue a career in their field of education.  

.... And if you don't give us jobs, eventually we will start our own companies and put yours out of business.   #omgburn  <insert evil smile emoticon here>.