Dell staff prioritize working from home over career; Nike doubles parental leave benefits

In this week's HR news round-up: Dell employees emphatically reject WTO calls; Nike beefs up paternity benefits; workers sue Disney over relocation:

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Jun 27, 2024

Dell employees reject promotions in favor of working from home

In a stark display of what employees think is meaningful to them, a massive 50% of Dell’s employees have decided that working from home is more important than advancing their careers. According to a report in Fortune, half of Dell’s full-time staff have decided they want to carry on working remotely – a choice that carries with it the warning that those that do this will not progress as quickly as those who come to the office. Fortune says: “Remote workers were willing to defy company policy because the perks of staying at home simply outweighed what they believed working in person had to offer.” In March, Dell’s RTO policy reclassified employees into remote and hybrid workers, with those in the latter category required to work in person for at least 30 days per quarter, or about three days a week. In May, it cracked down on enforcement of this, with those who came as-per-its mandate given blue flags, while employees who showed up less frequently received green and yellow flags. Never-seen employees got literal red flags from the company. Dell said it believes “in-person connections paired with a flexible approach are critical to drive innovation and value differentiation.” But many are now rallying against this – including 5,000 SAP workers, who recently signed a letter to company execs claiming they’d been “betrayed” by the RTO policy. A recent FlexJobs survey found 17% of staff would sacrifice up to 20% of their pay if it meant being able to work remotely.

Target to roll-out AI that will help staff work more efficiently

A new chatbot rollout called ‘Store Companion’ is being promised to help staff work more efficiently, and concentrate on the customer experience, rather than cutting jobs. Reports claim every Target worker will be equipped with a handheld device that will help them locate items, check for stock availability and give them the answers they need to answer customer questions. The device will also be able to be used to sign people up to its Target Circle Loyalty program. Because the device will save employees having to refer to physical handbooks, or other guides, Target claims staff will be equipped with the ability to answer questions faster. The bot will also provide information on company protocol and what to do in certain situations, like a power outage. To develop the tool, Target said its in-house technology team used real frequently asked questions and training documents from its store teams across the US. Target’s Chief information officer, Brett Craig, said: “We know technology will continue to play an outsized role in the future of retail – for our team members, our guests and our business. With that in mind, we’re continually experimenting with new tools to make it even easier for our team to do their jobs and to bring more of what guests love about shopping at Target to life.”

American Accountability Foundation to publish list of ‘blocker’ federal employees

With a $100,000 grant from the influential Heritage Foundation, The American Accountability Foundation is set to publish the names of up to 100 senior federal employers that it believes will act as blockers if Trump is re-elected president. Not surprisingly, the move has attracted significant backlash, with Jacqueline Simon, policy director at the American Federation of Government Employees, described the action as “shocking.” Conservatives, however, have long-viewed the federal workforce as having overstepped its role to become a power center that can drive or thwart a president’s agenda. Although the American Accountability Foundation won’t be pressing for people to be fired or reassigned, its work aligns with Heritage’s Project 2025 program, which proposes reviving the Trump Schedule F policy that would try to reclassify tens of thousands of federal workers as political appointees, which could enable mass dismissals. Heritage President Kevin Roberts said the “weaponization of the federal government” has been possible only because of the “deep state of entrenched Leftist bureaucrats.” He said he was proud to support the work of American Accountability Foundation workers “in their fight to hold our government accountable and drain it of bad actors.”

Nike doubles parental leave benefit

Sports apparel giant, Nike, has announced it has doubled the amount of parental leave it gives to staff – increasing it from eight to 16 weeks. It is designed for any employee who has had their own child, adopts a child, or fosters a child. And, for the first time, the company is also extending this to part time retail employees too. Nike announced the news via a LinkedIn post, where it also shared new products for new and expectant mothers. It explained that it had made the change in order to support employees on their journey to parenthood. A Nike spokesperson said: “New parents are some of the hardest working athletes around, and when you’re a new parent on our team, we want to make sure you have the time you need to care for your family. That’s why we’ve doubled our parental leave benefit from eight to 16 weeks for all US-based Nike employees, including, for the first time, part-time retail teammates, to give them more time with their child after birth, adoption or foster placement.” Nike also offers its employees competitive pay, retirement plans, fitness opportunities and discounts for all levels and goals, paid time off, paid holidays, summer hours, an employee discount, health care packages, volunteering time, and a Nike Group Insurance Plan.”

CEO faces backlash for posting about firing an employee

Matthew Baltzell, founder and CEO of Cap X Media, has been branded as “out of touch” and told to “grow up” for publishing a post on LinkedIn about firing an employee. In his post, Baltzell described how the meeting was kept “short and direct” and mentioned that the employee was offered a severance package and a reference for future employment. He praised the former employee for handling the news “professionally an with grace.” But despite him claiming the approach was intended to show that if someone had to be fired, they would be treated with respect, his post has received mixed reactions. The backlash intensified when a screenshot of the post was shared on X, accompanied by the caption: “Imagine getting fired, heading over to LinkedIn, and seeing this.” One respondent to the post said publicizing someone’s departure like this was inappropriate, while other argued true leadership does not require boasting about how well one handles a firing. Another simply called the post “horrifying.”

American Airlines CEO forced to respond to racial discrimination allegations

Robert Isom, the boss of American Airlines, has been forced to tackle claims that passengers were racially abused, after flight staff removed them from an aircraft over a complaint about their “offensive body odor.” In a letter to staff, he said: “I am incredibly disappointed by what happened on that flight and the breakdown of our procedures. We fell short of our commitments and failed our customers in this incident.” Three of the eight black passengers concerned sued the airline in federal court last month alleging attendants removed them from the flight due to racial discrimination. The men, all flying from Phoenix to New York on Flight 832 in January, were not traveling together, did not know each other and appeared to be the only Black passengers on the plane, according to the complaint. Flight attendants made no mention of an offensive odor on an earlier flight the three plaintiffs took from Los Angeles to Phoenix, the complaint said. The passengers were eventually re-boarded when there were no other flights to New York with space. Plaintiffs recorded the incident, and in the video, a gate agent seemed to agree race was a factor in the decision to remove the men from the flight. A newly-created advisory group would, the letter said, “focus on improving the travel experience for black customers,” and promote accountability to deliver an “inclusive” travel experience. The employees involved will be on leave while the airline conducted an investigation, American Airlines said in a later statement.

Workers sue Disney after being told to move to Florida

Workers who were told they needed to relocate to Florida (or risk losing their jobs), are suing Disney, after selling their homes, only for the animation studio to then put the relocation on hold. According to a legal submission, in July 2021, Disney Parks chiefs told up to 2,000 workers in California that most white-collar employees would be transferred to the new campus in Orlando to consolidate different teams and allow for greater collaboration. Many workers were reluctant to make the move given their longstanding ties to southern California and fears of uprooting their families. But Disney encouraged the move by promising a state-of-the-art, centralized workplace and greater affordability in central Florida, according to the class action lawsuit filed earlier this week. By June 2022, though, Disney leaders told the California workers that the opening of the new Orlando campus was being delayed and that they could postpone moving until 2026. In May 2023, Disney then told its workers that the plans to open the billion-dollar campus in Orlando were being scrapped completely. By this point housing prices surrounding the campus dropped and the price of housing in California continued to increase, just as mortgage interest rates also rose higher in 2023. Staff forced to move back to more expensive homes are now claiming undisclosed economic and punitive damages.