Weekly Wrap: Bias Verdict at LucasFilms, and No Jobs for Smokers

If you’re anything like me, you hope that Friday is a nice, quiet day without any drama or problems popping up. When that happens, it makes Friday an ideal day for catching up on things that you may of missed during week, and that’s why I try to get to highlight some of those interesting news items here.

I‘ve been getting decent feedback to this weekly wrap-up, but would like to get more – either posted as a comment here, or by e-mail. And once again, here’s another dose of news and trends from the world of HR and people management that I found interesting, readable, and thought-provoking this week. I round them up so you don’t have to:

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  • Who wouldn’t love a four-day work week? Once upon a time, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I had a regular four-day work week. And guess what? I loved it! Now, city employees in Winston-Salem, North Carolina are going to get a chance at experiencing this wonderful schedule, too, but there’s a catch: it’s in trade “for no pay increases to city employees for the second straight year,” according to the Winston-Salem Journal . And, “city service levels would have to remain the same.” Think it’s worth it?

  • Smokers need not apply. A private hospital in Georgia has jumped into the debate over helping workers to get healthy in a big way – it has instituted a policy of not hiring smokers. “By not hiring people that use tobacco products and helping current employees to quit, we are trying to lead by example,” Steve Nadeau, vice president for human resources, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Think this policy will stick, or survive a court challenge?
  • A new way to pay for health insurance. Bank of America has come up with a new way to handle the cost of health insurance: “how much employees make will determine how much they pay,” according to the Charlotte Observer . “The Charlotte bank has been informing its U.S. employees about the new approach,” the newspaper said, “which means lower-paid workers will pay less and higher-paid ones will pay more for their coverage in 2011.” Hewitt Associates says that such salary-tiered health insurance programs are still an “emerging trend,” but that an increasing number of companies are adopting this approach.
  • Pregnancy bias verdict against Lucasfilm. You can’t deny a woman a job simply because she’s pregnant, and although most every HR professional worth their salt probably knows this, maybe they didn’t at George Lucas’ film company. “A Marin County jury awarded $113,800 in damages against (Lucasfilm) … for withdrawing a job offer from a San Francisco woman after she disclosed that she was pregnant., according to story in the San Francisco Chronicle . Lucasfilm denies engaging in discrimination and says it will appeal. But here’s the money quote from the pregnant woman’s attorney: “This verdict is David smacking Goliath with the biggest rock you can find,” she said.”Women who are pregnant are so discriminated against, and nobody talks about it.”
  • Moonlighting while on sick leave. “A top executive at the financially troubled San Jose/Evergreen Community College District earned a full salary while on sick leave this spring — yet, during that same period, she earned a separate salary teaching at another nearby district,” the San Jose Mercury News reports. A female executive who remains on paid sick leave from her $123,000 per year job “until further notice …was apparently healthy enough to hold down a $5,775 teaching position in the (nearby) Foothill-DeAnza Community College District.” This comes as the district is cutting classes and programs due to the economy. Still, the woman in question denies the accusation, telling the Mercury News in an e-mail that “I do not have concurrent employment. Your information is incorrect.” The college district’s HR office won’t comment on the case or say whether they have hired an outside physician to review the sick claim, “or if they have scheduled any ongoing reassessments of her leave.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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