Salaries surge for in-office jobs; SpaceX accused of enforcing unlawful severance clauses

In our HR news review: employers are massively boosting pay for staff that are permanently in the office; SpaceX and the NLRB lock horns again; 10% of jobs are highly exposed to AI; plus lots more:

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Mar 28, 2024

US salaries surging for ‘in-office’ jobs

Data from by ZipRecruiter, which has been seen by the BBC, indicates US wages for fully in-office roles are surging compared to those for people who work fully remote or hybrid. By March 2024, companies were reportedly offering an average of $82,037 for fully in-person roles – an increase of more than 33% compared to this time last year ($59,085). This salary compares to those who are in hybrid arrangements ($59,992) and those who are in fully remote ($75,327) roles. The BBC claims workers appear to be more likely to increase their salaries if they return to pre-pandemic office schedules. The ZipRecruiter data shows that workers who swapped from fully remote to fully in-office set-ups in the US through 2023 received a 29.2% pay bump – nearly double that of those moving the other way. Said Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter: “The conclusion is that people demand higher pay increases for fully in-office job.” She added: “An employer offering flexibility can negotiate the overall compensation package of with non-monetary incentives, while an employer wanting teams on-site five days a week can only offer financial terms. A dollar value is placed on time spent in the office.” Companies are willing to pay more for in-office workers, she added, because there is still a perception that “remote workers are less productive.”

SpaceX accused of using illegal severance agreements

Commercial space company, SpaceX – which is part of the Elon Musk empire – stands accused of forcing terminated employees into unlawful severance agreements. So argues The National Labor Relations Board, which has filed a complaint along these grounds, after it alleged an employee was illegally fired or participating in protected activities and included unlawful confidentiality and non-disparagement clauses in severance agreements. It also alleged the space travel company unlawfully required workers to sign an agreement of arbitration and dispute resolution which waives their right to receive money in class-action lawsuits against the company. “These unlawful employment agreement provisions have been interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in the National Labor Relations Act,” the NLRB said in a statement to CNBC. The NLRB is asking the hearing judge to force SpaceX to rescind the severance agreements and class-action waivers and to broadly notify workers of a notice of employee rights. The complaint comes after the NLRB in 2022 filed a unfair labor practice charge alleging SpaceX illegally fired eight employees for criticizing Musk in an open letter. SpaceX filed a suit in federal court two months ago challenging the constitutionality of the NLRB’s oversight authority and depriving the company of its right to a jury trial.

10% of Americans in jobs ‘most exposed’ to AI

Around 10% of Americans are currently employed in jobs most likely to be impacted by artificial intelligence (AI), according to a new report by the White House. The finding was revealed in the Council of Economic Advisers’ annual Economic Report of the President – and according to reports, the President is personally concerned about the rise of AI and how it can best be developed to support, rather than eradicate, workers. Said Jared Bernstein, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers: “There have been developments in social media and technology that governments have under-attended to as they evolved. We won’t let that happen with AI.” White House economists analyzed the impact on workers by identifying 16 work activities with high exposure to AI. Researchers then tried to determine which occupations have AI-exposed activities that are central to the job itself. The report found that about 20% of workers are in these high-AI exposure occupations. The researchers then found that 10% of workers have high AI exposure and low performance requirements. The White House report found that 14% of high school graduates lacking four-year degrees have jobs that have high-AI exposure but low performance requirements. By comparison, only 6% of workers with a bachelor’s degree fall into that higher risk bucket. Finally, the report found that nearly 40% of workers in the third decile of earnings have high-AI exposure and low performance requirements.

US manufacturing expands, but overall US jobs growth is contested

In another show of resistance to claims the economy could cool this year, new data suggests that US manufacturing is growing at its fastest rate since June 2022. According to the S&P Global Factory Purchasing Managers Index, purchasing edged up 0.3 points to 52.5, marking the third straight month above a level of 50 that indicates expansion. Meanwhile, manufacturing output is at its strongest since May 2022, while employment in manufacturing has reached an eight-month high. This news comes as the Whitehouse has claimed that 15 million jobs have been added during the Biden administration. However, some are contesting this. Experts actually suggest that the net gain in jobs since Biden became president has only been 5.5 million, as around 9 million jobs were lost during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the 15 million gain quoted includes these lost jobs that have since been gained back. In February 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic reached the US, 152.3 million people were employed. Two months later, that number had dropped by 21.9 million, to 130.4 million. By the time former President Donald Trump left office, more than half of those jobs had been recovered. It took 17 more months, until June 2022, for the US economy to recover the remaining 9 million jobs lost during the pandemic.

Stellantis accused of using ‘sneaky’ tactic to lay off workers

Automaker, Stellantis, which produces marques including Jeep, Chrysler and Dodge, has been accused of laying off 400 workers last week using ‘sneaky’ tactics. The company reportedly sent out a notice to its employees informing them that it will implement a “mandatory remote work day” for “all US Salaried Non-Bargaining Unit” employees in its engineering and technology department on March 22. In the message it said an “important operational meeting” was being held, and workers were told to work at home unless their manager told them otherwise. During the meeting, roughly 400 employees were then informed that they were being laid off from the company. The move has been criticised as exemplifying poor layoff etiquette. It comes against the backdrop of staff posting TikTok videos of them being fired, while a 2023 survey by professional services company, PwC, revealed that 80% of the employees that were polled said that layoffs damaged their trust in companies, and 55% said that the way their company executed a layoff harmed their trust.

Ex-Walmart employee considering legal action for being fired over toilet mishap

A Walmart employee who claims he was fired for soiling himself is reportedly considering legal action. The man – who has irritable bowel syndrome, which causes unpredictable and sudden bowel movements – was forced to leave his shift after feeling an immediate urge to go to the loo. He was not able to get to the toilet in time before an ‘accident’ occurred, and he phoned his manager (who knew about his condition), to say he needed to go home and clean himself. His manager asked him to use his PPTO (protected paid time off) – if he still had any – but the worker said he didn’t have any. Later, the worker claimed his manager pulled him into his office to fire him. According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, it is unlawful for an employer to terminate an employee based upon factors including the employee’s race, religion, national origin, sex, disability, medical condition, pregnancy, or age. The employee is reportedly considering suing Walmart for its actions. He wrote on social media: “I have IBS which the management team knows about. I’ve had close calls, but I haven’t s**t my pants until yesterday…I said [to my manager], I was still here and that I wasn’t abandoning my job, it’s just that I s**t myself due to my IBS and I didn’t want anyone to smell it or really know about it.”

US fails to make ‘most paid holiday’ list

In this Easter week, perhaps unsurprisingly, the US has failed to make it onto this year’s ‘Top 30’ list of countries that offer their workers the most paid holiday. It means workers in America are given less paid vacation days than their peers in Cambodia, Equatorial Guinea; the Ivory Coast, Algeria, Turkmenistan and Peru. Even the worst of the top 30 countries (Austria) provides its staff an average of 38 paid vacation days per year, while the likes of Oman (29th) offer 39, Iceland (25th) offers 40; Russia (15th) offers 42; Azerbaijan (10th) offers 42; Bhutan (6th) offers 44 and third placed Yemen offers 45. Coming in first is Iran, which offer 53 days off a year due to its strict labor laws, which mandate generous annual leave entitlements for workers. Runner-up is San Marino, which pays staff to be off from work for 46 days per year. America is well known for being one of the countries with the least vacation days, with research by Pew last year showing that staff don’t even take what minimal holiday they are offered. It found than 4 in 10 employees (approximately 46%), take less time off than what they are actually offered by their employers.

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