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Jan 18, 2024
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

Employee videoing herself getting fired goes viral – and forces CEO to say sorry

A TikTok posting by Brittany Pietsch, filming herself getting fired from internet security company, Cloudfare, has gone viral and forced the CEO of the business to apologize, after the organization faced a barrage of criticism for the way it handled the situation. Pietsch – who sensed what might be about to happen – filmed herself (see pic above) taking a video-call with a director and someone from HR, neither of whom she had ever met before. Her actual manager was conspicuously absent. Despite asking why she was being fired (including defending her performance over the three and a half month period she had worked for the company), she was repeatedly not informed of the reasons for her termination. In the video, she told them: “It must be very easy for you to have these little 10, 15 minute meetings, tell someone that they’re fired, completely wreck their whole life, and then that’s it with no explanation – that’s extremely traumatizing for people if you can imagine that.” The HR representative she was speaking to replied: “I don’t think there’s anything we can say at this moment or today, Brittany.” Such has been the outcry, that the CEO of the company was forced to defend the sacking, saying: “When we’re doing performance management right, we can often tell within three months or less of a sales hire, whether they’re going to be successful or not. Sadly, we don’t hire perfectly. We try to fire perfectly.” He added: “The mistake was not being as kind and humane as we were. And that’s something @zatlyn [Michelle Zatlyn – COO of Cloudflare] and I am focused on improving going forward.”

…as video demanding staff return to the office gets slated

As excruciating videos go, this has to be one of them. Internet Brands – the company that owns healthcare information site WebMD – has become the butt of its own joke after its awkward return to office clip went viral. The video, which was originally posted on its Vimeo account, shows how some staff have returned to the office [the film cuts to happy engaged people], but then the po-faced CEO of Internet Brands CEO, Bob Brisco, reveals that “too big” numbers are still working remotely [it then cut to shots of empty desks and chairs]. Brisco then says he’s “getting serious” and isn’t “asking or negotiating at this point” about a return to office, but rather “informing of how we need to work together going forward.” The video also shows a senior HR representative noting that “your manager will be in touch shortly about how this will be implemented and tracked.” Although the posting was swiftly taken down after it was widely commented on other platforms, it was not before the brand was mocked, and the original video was reposted on X by other people so people could watch it “for posterity.”

Musk sues labor court’s right to exist

Hot on the heals of last week’s news that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is pursuing rocket and satellite maker, SpaceX, for unlawfully firing eight employees who criticized Musk’s erratic behavior in a letter to the board, Musk has launched a legal attack on the US labour watchdog, claiming it is unconstitutional. It is now trying to stop it from probing the firm’s sackings. In a request for a temporary order filed against the NLRB, SpaceX argues that the judges in charge of the wrongful sacking case should not be able to decide if SpaceX fired its workers illegally until the federal government rules on the firm’s constitutional questions about the NLRB’s proceedings. In essence, SpaceX is not targeting the claim that it fired workers illegally, but the federal agency itself. In an article in Business Insider, labor lawyer David Wimmer said: “What you’re seeing from SpaceX is, maybe, a sign that the complaint on its own is a strong one. Instead, Musk is thinking: Is the best defense a good attack and claim that the NLRB is unconstitutional?” SpaceX’s request says: “Defendants are prosecuting and presiding over such a proceeding accusing SpaceX of breaking federal law. Because the structure of that proceeding breaks the United States Constitution under Supreme Court and Fifth Circuit rules, SpaceX respectfully asks for an order stopping the NLRB proceedings unless and until the constitutional faults are fixed.”

New York poised to become first to offer pre-natal leave

The State of New York State is poised to become the first to offer paid-leave to workers ‘before’ they give birth, after New York Governor, Kathy Hochul, proposed to expand paid parental leave and offer any eligible New Yorker 40 hours of paid leave for prenatal care. Commenting on the proposal, Hochul said: “We hope what we’re doing in New York will raise the bar for the rest of the nation.” She added: “Consistent medical care in the early months makes all the difference.” According to Time Out: “Although the proposal has yet to be reviewed by New York’s Legislature, the fact that the subject is even being brought up on a legislative level is heartwarming.” It added: “It’s time to take a hard look at how maternity leave is being handled both in New York and all across the country.” The proposal follows state employees being offered 12 weeks’ fully paid parental leave benefits last year. The United States is the only developed country in the world without a national paid parental leave policy.

Supreme Court agrees to hear Starbucks firing appeal

The Supreme Court will decide whether seven employees fired by Starbucks were done-so illegally, after it agreed to listen to the coffee giant’s appeal. Starbucks claims that the employees (who were participating in a union organizing drive), were fired for breaching safety policies by allowing journalists into the store after hours. However, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency tasked with enforcing labor laws, determined that they were unlawfully fired for attempting to unionize. The case – which has now become high-profile – dates back to 2022, where US District Judge, Sheryl Lipman, initially ordered the chain to rehire the employees. In 2023, the Cincinnati, Ohio, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision. Starbucks maintains that the NLRB applies inconsistent standards, and is asking the Supreme Court to ensure “a single standard is applied as federal district courts determine whether to grant … injunctions pursued by the National Labor Relations Board.”

US House votes to repeal labor board rule on contract/franchise workers

The House of Representatives has voted to repeal a federal labor board rule that was due to take effect in just a matter of weeks – one that would require employers who have contract and franchise workers to bargain with those workers’ unions. The House voted 206-177 to defeat the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule, which has been heavily criticized by business groups. The rule would have treated companies as “joint employers” of contract and franchise workers when they have control over key working conditions such as pay, scheduling, discipline and supervision, even if that control is indirect or not exercised. A company deemed a joint employer must then bargain with unions representing contract and franchise workers and can be held liable for violating those workers’ rights under federal labor law. Ahead of the vote, Republican chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Virginia Foxx, described the proposal as being “anti-freedom” and “anti-growth,” and which would compel SMEs to come under “big government regulation.” Democrats, however, said Republicans were making misleading claims how the rule’s affect on SMEs, saying the issue was “simply about whether or not an employer is obligated to come to the bargaining table.”

Accenture reveals gap between workers’ and leaders’ perception of the impact of AI

New research by Accenture reveals there is a significant ‘gap’ between workers’ and business leaders’ perceptions of the impact of AI in the workplace. Its report – “Work, workforce, workers: Reinvented in the age of generative AI,” – reveals almost 60% of workers worry about AI eliminating their jobs, but less than one-third of C-suite leaders feel job displacement is a worry for their people. As a result, Accenture says there is an urgent need for business leaders to look beyond how generative AI affects specific tasks and roles. It wants leaders start to begin to scale generative AI by redesigning processes across their organizations, as well as how people experience work. Commenting on the data, Ellyn Shook, chief leadership and human resources officer, Accenture, said: “Success starts with leaders who are willing to learn and lead in new ways, to scale gen AI responsibly, to create value and ensure work improves for everyone.” She added: “What we’ve learned from the past is that what happens next is up to us. The best outcomes are ours to shape.” According to the research, just 9% of organizations are described to be “leading” when it comes to their capabilities for reinvention and how they maximize the potential for generative AI to boost the bottom line. It finds leading organizations are twice as likely to invest in growing people’s soft skills and tech skills, and are twice as likely to anticipate workforce productivity gains of 20% or more in the next three years.

A quarter of companies won’t be giving pay rises this year

With most employees still getting their finances back into shape after the Christmas festivities comes the news that a quarter of them will unlikely see a pay rise this year. Data by ResumeBuilder finds that while three-quarters (74%) of US employers say they plan to give employees raises in 2024, some 18% are say they’re undecided, while 8% have already ruled out offer pay increases. Even amongst employers that say they will offer rises, not everyone in their business will get one, with the data revealing just 14% said they plan to issue raises to all staff. It found half of employees or less would actually receive a raise at raise-giving organizations. Commenting on the figures, Stacie Haller,’s chief career advisor said: “Last year, chief executive officers were, on average, paid 273-times as much as their employee, and this is just not equitable.” According to the research – which polled 600 businesses – more than half predicted they would be making layoffs this year. In slightly better news though, for those that do get rises, 79% of businesses said they would be giving larger rises than in recent years. A majority of respondents said they’d be giving performance-based raises (82%), cost-of-living adjustments (69%) and promotional-based raises (55%).

This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.