Get ready – it’s Superbowl ‘sickie’ time (as layoff ‘anxiety’ also grips Americans)

In this week's roundup of HR news - employers are urged to brace themselves for more than 16 million 'Superbowl Sickies' next Monday - plus lots more:

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Feb 8, 2024

Get ready! It’s Superbowl ‘sickie’ time

Employers are being urged to have a back-up plan in place to cope with the expected 16.1 million people due to throw a ‘sickle’ next Monday morning, as they nurse hangovers from the previous day’s Superbowl LVIII. The prediction has been made by a Harris poll on behalf of the UKG Workforce Institute, which has been tracking absenteeism surrounding the big game for nearly two decades. The 16.1 million figure includes the more than 6 million US employees who will risk a workplace penalty for faking sick or “ghosting” work altogether and not showing up. It is also thought one in ten people managers will also miss work that day. As well as those not coming into work at all, a further 6.4 million US workers also plan to go into work late, with another 11.2 million saying they’re “not sure” whether they’ll miss work or not. An additional 6.4 million employees will decide at the last minute what to do. All in all, some 14% of US employees (or 22.5million people), plan to miss at least some work on Monday following the big game. This includes one in five people managers. More than a quarter of all US workers (28%) – roughly 45.1 million employees – say they’ll be less productive than usual at work on Monday. The only good news is that the anticipated 16 million who won’t come in at all is slightly lower than last year’s 18 million. Another positive development is that 10 million US workers have already requested the day off, which should help managers better prepare for game-related absences.

Last minute deal can’t stop striking casino workers

Super Bowl week has kicked off to a less than auspicious start, after a deal struck by the Culinary Workers Union with four hotel-casino workers in Las Vegas wasn’t enough to stop workers at three other hotels from striking. The union had announced reaching a tentative five-year contract with Binion’s, Four Queens, Fremont and Main Street – which covers about 1,000 workers – but The Golden Nugget, Downtown Grand and Virgin Las Vegas near the Strip still hadn’t reached an agreement with the union by the start of the working week. The union announced last week that it would go on strike if tentative contracts weren’t in place by 5 a.m. Monday for downtown casino workers at properties that hadn’t reached agreements. The Las Vegas Strip’s three largest employers — MGM Resorts International, Caesar Entertainment and Wynn Resorts — reached deals late last year, with union that covered 40,000 members, narrowly averting a historic strike. The Culinary Union is the largest in Nevada with about 60,000 members statewide. It negotiates on behalf of its members for five-year contracts.

The ‘return to office or else’ trend is having “limited effect”

Pleas – nay demands – from employers to have staff return to the office are falling on deaf ears, according to a report by NBC Boston. Despite the likes of Boeing and UPS recently calling on staff to return five days a week – or suffer the consequences – it argues a “critical mass of workers are still ignoring Return To Office (RTO) mandates.” It adds that while many companies have increased the rhetoric around “return to office or else,” they’re not necessarily seeing action, said Henry Nothhaft, Jr., president of EssentialDx, an organizational diagnostics company. It also quotes Laura Putnam, chief executive of Motion Infusion, who says: “Even if they [employers] want to take a hard line, there are other factors at play such as not wanting to lose or disenfranchise otherwise good workers.” A recent FlexJobs poll of more than 8,400 workers showed 56% said they know someone who has quit or planned to quit because of return-to-office mandates. The survey also found that 63% of professionals were willing to accept a pay cut for a remote opportunity. “No matter what you force people to do, people will only work so much, and they will find ways around whatever stick you decide to provide,” said Jennifer Dulski, chief executive and founder of Rising Team, a platform for improving team connection, engagement and performance.

New jobs data reveals surprising strength of the US jobs market…

Data for the first month of 2024 is shattering expectation that the US economy could be slipping slowly into recession, after US labor market statistics showed the US economy added 353,000 jobs in January. Hiring blew past economists’ expectations for 176,000 new jobs, with wages also rising and the unemployment rate remaining at a near 50-year low of 3.7%. All-told, the hiring data means that for the first time since the late 1960s, the nation’s jobless rate has been below 4% for two consecutive years, according to PNC Financial Services Group. Wage growth was also surprisingly strong in January. Average hourly earnings increased 19 cents, or 0.6%, to $34.55, and have risen 4.5% over the past 12 months, keeping just ahead of inflation. “The stronger than expected jobs report shows how the job market continues to be a bright spot within the US economy,” commented Joe Gaffoglio, president of Mutual of America Capital Management. He added: “Fed chair, Jerome Powell, recently signaled that interest-rate cuts may not start as soon as the market wanted, and this jobs report hasn’t given him any reason to change that stance.” Notable layoff announcements, from the likes of UPS, Google and Amazon, had raised concerns about whether they might herald the start of a wave of job cuts. But measured against the nation’s labor force, these recent layoffs haven’t been significant enough to make a dent in the overall job market.

…as lay-off anxiety grips workers

Anxiety about being laid off is “gripping Americans,” according to, which reports new data from Glassdoor showing employee confidence has dropped to an 8-year-low amid high-profile layoffs – even though the labor market remains strong. It found the share of workers reporting a positive six-month business outlook for their employer fell to 45.6% in January – the lowest level on record since Glassdoor began tracking the sentiment in 2016. This worry comes as – paradoxically – the economy appears to be bubbling along, adding 353,000 new jobs. Yet given the near-onslaught of layoff news, especially in tech and media, “job security remains top of mind for employees,” Glassdoor noted. If found the share of reviews of companies on Glassdoor that mentioned ‘layoffs’ was up 27% in January (compared with the same month last year). But Tessa White, a career-navigation adviser and founder of the Job Doctor said: “Almost every CEO I know is planning layoffs right now. I think things are going to slow down much more than we expect.” Around 1.6 million people were laid off in December 2023, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This was still below the pre-pandemic normal of 1.8 million.

Former Cobb & Douglas health worker wins $200,000 for unfair sacking

A former employee at Cobb & Douglas has won $200,000 in compensation after the Department of Labour ruled she was unfairly sacked after a two-day hospital stay and subsequent care needs thereafter. The pharmacy was found to have violated the worker’s rights to protected leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), including failing to inform the worker they may be eligible for FMLA leave, allowing the employee to exercise their rights under FMLA and illegally terminating the worker. Commenting on the decision, wage and hour division district director, Steven Salazar, said: “Employers cannot deprive an employee eligible for family and medical leave of their legal rights, forcing them to make the hard choice between keeping their jobs and caring for themselves or their families.” He added: “The Family and Medical Leave Act allows workers to take reasonable unpaid leave for specific family and medical reasons, ensuring job security and health benefits during these periods.” In fiscal year 2023, the Wage and Hour Division concluded 334 FMLA compliance actions with violations and recovered more than $987,000 in back wages for 395 workers.

Time running out for Texans to claim unpaid back wages

The US Department of Labor has said the clock is ticking for some 12,000 Texans to claim more than $8million in back wages that is rightfully theirs. The unclaimed money comes from employers who were found to be underpaying employees during DOL investigations. The US Department of Labor says the average Texan with unclaimed back wages is entitled to hundreds of dollars each, but if more than three years pass, the money they’re owed gets returned to the US Treasury Department. “Once that money is deposited into that account, we make every effort to try to locate the workers,” said Jesus Valdez, the Dallas district director of the Department of Labor. “We really recommend that people enter their current employers name or former employers name and try to determine if they may be owed any wages,” Valdez explained. One employer alone, in Denton, owes 487 employees more than $260,000, while 46 workers in Dallas are owed $120,000 between them. The average amount affected workers are owed is $662.