Weekly Wrap: Boeing Pension Battle, Defining a Son/Daughter, Racy E-Mails

Do you ever feel like there is just a lot more going on every day than you can possibly get to? That’s how I feel too, and that’s why I try to get to highlight some of those items here before the week runs out.

A lot of you seemed to like this last week, so here’s another dose of news and trends from the world of talent management and HR that I found interesting, readable, and thought-provoking. I round them up so you don’t have to:

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  • Important FMLA clarification of what constitutes a son or daughter. The Labor Department waded into FMLA waters this week by issuing a clarification to the Family and Medical Leave Act “to ensure that an employee who assumes the role of caring for a child receives parental rights to family leave regardless of the legal or biological relationship.” This is a nod toward the growth of so many “non-traditional” families where the child-parent relationship isn’t always clear cut. For example, an uncle who is caring for his young niece and nephew when their single parent has been called to active military duty may exercise his right to family leave under FMLA. And, an employee who intends to share in the parenting of a child with his or her same sex partner will be able to exercise the right to FMLA leave to bond with that child. Here’s the actual DOL interpretation , and it’s important stuff for HR pros to keep up on .
  • Racy e-mails help put Georgia county director on paid leave. If you work in HR, this is one of your worst nightmare’s come true, according to a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution . “The planning director for Forsyth County has been on leave the past six weeks while officials review thousands of e-mails that include photos of naked women, bedroom talk and lewd jokes he exchanged with his girlfriend, county employees and others.” And in the Dept. of Making Matters Worse, the newspaper added that, “(The director) … acknowledged that he had failed to manage his employees and his behavior. The photos of naked women and the offensive jokes were mailed to him over a period of months and he did not take action to stop the employees, though he verbally warned several about the e-mails, he said.”
  • A battle at Boeing over pensions. Defined-benefit pension plans have been going the way of the DoDo, except for public workers. And, except at a few private sector employers like Boeing. Now, the aerospace giant is in a battle with its union over a “company proposal (that) would actually increase pension payouts for current employees. But no one hired after 2011 would get a defined-benefit pension. Instead, the company would contribute an amount equal to 4 percent of their pay to the 401(k) plan,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch . The union is fighting the proposal because it says that “a new worker under the Boeing plan might retire with only two-thirds the income he would receive under an old-fashioned pension.” Like it or not, that’s the premise behind defined-contribution plans like the 401 (k). It’s just rare to see this kind of battle still going on at a private sector employer.
  • Paying the most while getting the least. This probably won’t be a big surprise, but the 2010 version of the annual Commonwealth Fund comparison of the U.S. health system with those in other industrialized nations found that “the U.S. spends more — much more — on health care and gets much less value for those dollars,” according to NPR . “About the only good news for America, said Commonwealth Fund President Karen Davis, who was also the study’s lead author, is that the new health law could put the U.S. on a path towards improvement.
  • HR nightmare — over stock options. Dealing with stock options is probably comparable with getting a root canal for most managers and HR professionals, but it could be worse. You could get sued, as Fidelity Investments did, by a departing executive who claims that “the company administered their stock and incentive compensation plans ‘in an inconsistent, arbitrary and capricious manner,’ paying some employees for unvested options when they left, while refusing to do so for others,” according to The Boston Globe . To make matters worse (if that’s possible), the guy filing the lawsuit is the former “chief financial officer for Fidelity Employer Services Co., which provides benefits and human resources administration to companies.” I’m guessing he probably has a pretty good idea how Fidelity’s incentive compensation system operates and is the last guy they want to be in litigation against.
  • Executive perks on a Rocky Mountain high. CEOs in Colorado are still getting some pretty nice perks, as The Denver Post points out , including “company-paid ski-school privileges and related resort services” for a chief executive and his family. Clearly, the more things change, the more they stay the same, even through an economic downturn.

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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