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Mar 4, 2022
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

Young workers enjoy the biggest pay boost

The country’s youngest workers are securing the fastest wage rises of any age group, according to new data reported in The Wall Street Journal this week. Median pay for those aged 16-24 was 10.6 higher in January than a year earlier – which massively outpaces the average 4% pay gain across all age groups. Even though pay increases seem high because young people typically start from a lower base, the data suggests this rate of growth is the highest for a quarter of a century. The statistics reveal young people are benefiting from employers struggling to fill positions in traditionally low wage sectors, and having to raise their rates accordingly. In 2020, 48% of all workers earning the federal minimum wage were under the age of 25.

First Starbucks outside NY votes for unionization

Employees at a Starbucks in Arizona have become the first outside New York to be able to form a union. With a 25-3 vote in favour of union status, staff will now be able to collectively bargain on issues including benefits, seniority pay and pandemic safety protocols. Initially the vote was delayed, after Starbucks filed a request for a review with the Washington, D.C.-based National Labor Relations Board. But the board denied the request, saying it did not see any issues with staff being allowed to vote. According to NBC News “Starbucks officials have spoken against unionizing, asserting the company functions best when it can work directly with its employees.” Reacting to the outcome of the vote, a spokesperson for Starbucks said the company “will respect the process and will bargain in good faith.” Said one pro-union barista: “I am super excited. This is like enormous for the entire country for all Starbucks workers across the whole.” More than 65 stores in 20 states have now filed petitions with the labor board to hold their own union elections.

Target raises starting salaries to $24 per hour

Evidence that labor shortages are starting to bite were dramatically revealed this week when retailer, Target, announced it was raising its starting wage for workers in some positions to up to $24 per hour. The retailer employs more than 350,000 people across 1,900 stores, and the rise it announced applies to hourly workers at its discount stores, supply chain facilities and headquarters. It means the business will be spending $300 million more on its workforce each year. In addition to this, employees who work a minimum average of 25 hours a week will be eligible to enroll in a company medical plan. This is down from the previous requirement for 30 hours per week. It means that, depending on their position, employees will be able to get comprehensive health care benefits three to nine months sooner. Although its minimum wage will stay at $15 p/h, Target says some workers will qualify for higher starting pay depending on the nature of their job and prevailing wages in their local market.

Estee Lauder grandee fired for re-posting racial slur

The danger of publishing inappropriate content on social media has been revealed once more after Cosmetics giant, Estee Lauder, confirmed it had fired veteran executive, John Dempsey, from his $10 million a year job overseeing MAC and Clinique. Dempsey re-posted a racial slur contained in a Sesame Street-themed joke to his 73,000 followers. According to Estee Lauder, the slur, posted on his own Instagram account, “did not reflect the values of The Estée Lauder Companies, have caused widespread offense, are damaging to our efforts to drive inclusivity both inside and outside our walls, and do not reflect the judgment we expect of our leaders.” In a later apology, Dempsey claimed he’d re-posted the meme “carelessly” and “without reading it beforehand.” He claimed it was an “awful mistake” and said: “This meme is the furthest thing from what I stand for and I should have never reposted [sic] it.”

Court supports claim Covid could be classed a ‘disability’

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama has made what could be a landmark decision in determining whether a person having Covid and presenting symptoms of the virus can now be classed as disabled. It has ruled that a nursing assistant fired for following quarantine protocols after testing positive for Covid-19 is able to pursue her employer for disability bias. The Court held that the terminated nursing assistant sufficiently asserted that her symptoms could constitute an actual disability under the American Disabilities Act (ADA), or that her employer regarded her as disabled, allowing her lawsuit to move forward. The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has previously said that Covid-19 may qualify as a disability. What the decision now supports, is that when an employee is presenting symptoms, the likelihood of Covid-19 qualifying as disability under the ADA increases.

Demand to protect cannabis users at work intensifies

Cannabis legalization advocates are renewing their calls for states to do more to protect workers. Although 37 states allow adults to use marijuana medically or recreationally, in most of those states, people can be still fired or denied a job for using cannabis in their free time. Campaigners also say workplace drug testing – which is mandatory for some employers – has become an equity issue, as tests are more common in blue-collar jobs and disproportionately affect non-white workers. Amazon, the nation’s second-largest private employer announced plans last summer to stop requiring job candidates to pass a marijuana drug test. Amazon executives said the growing number of states legalizing marijuana, combined with equity concerns and the tight labor market were all part of this decision.

Morgan Stanley finds reticence to offer staff equity

Data from Morgan Stanley’s just-published ‘State of Equity Plan Management at Private and Public Companies’ report finds big differences in the way public and private firms treat offering staff equity. It finds just 35% of private companies offer equity to executives and all employees, compared to 43% of public companies. Moreover, when asked about any initiatives undertaken to retain employees in the past year, 48% of public companies said they’d expanded their offering of equity to a wider range of employees versus 35% of private companies. Data showing private firms lag behind comes despite the research also finding nearly one in three (32%) HR decision-makers said their number one goal for offering equity compensation was to attract and retain talent.



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