Weekly Wrap: Real-Life Michael Scott, a Safe Driver, and Same-Sex Benefits

With Fourth of July weekend just about upon us, I’m scrambling to catch-up on all I missed this week while attending the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) annual conference in San Diego. Maybe you are, too, and that’s why I try to highlight some of those interesting news items before the week runs out.

I have been getting pretty good feedback to this weekly wrap-up – and I always LOVE to get your thoughts and feedback either posted as a comment here, or by e-mail — 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 this week. I round them up so you don’t have to:

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  • Helping to cover the cost of same-sex partner benefits. This may end up being one of those “only at Google” stories, but The New York Times reports that the Silicon Valley tech giant  “is going to begin covering a cost that gay and lesbian employees must pay when their partners receive domestic partner health benefits, largely to compensate them for an extra tax that heterosexual married couples do not pay. The increase will be retroactive to the beginning of the year.”  Google isn’t the only company to offer this benefit, but they are one of the most prominent, and the Times story adds that, “benefits experts say Google’s move could inspire its Silicon Valley competitors to follow suit, because they compete for the same talent. “
  • Wal-Mart increases wages to get foothold in Chicago. When you’re the world’s largest retailer, you get used to getting your way. That’s how it is with Wal-Mart, but sometimes, they have to give to get – as they did by raising the amount they were willing to pay workers to get approval for new stores in Chicago. As the Chicago Sun-Times reports , “After six years of stonewalling labor’s demand for a ‘living wage,’ Wal-Mart agreed to pay its starting Chicago employees $8.75 an hour, 50 cents above Illinois’ minimum wage. For a corporate titan known for its intransigence, it was a gigantic step … and (city) Finance Chairman Edward M. Burke, who had blocked Wal-Mart, told colleagues it was time for labor to ‘declare victory’ and go home.” That’s what happens when the economy is shaky and jobs are scarce, but apparently not in New York. Wal-Mart is getting a cooler reception there, according to Crain’s New York Business . “This is New York; this is not Chicago,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, told the business weekly. “They’ve got a long way to go before they would be welcome here.”
  • Whistle blowers left hanging in California. It’s no surprise that workplace whistle blowers get retaliated against, but when they do, any investigation of the alleged retaliation is supposed to be completed in 90 days, according to OSHA rules. Well, that’s not happening in California. According to a blog post at LAObserved.com , “investigations drag on longer in California than in any other state,” reports Myron Levin on the Fair Warning website . “In California it takes more than 400 days on average (in Indiana it’s 58 days).” Why the hold-up? Well, there are only five (5) investigators on the job in California, a state with 38 million residents and a workforce of more than 18 million .
  • An employee you would love to have working for you. What can you say about a UPS driver who has been on the job 34 years, driven more than 300,000 miles, and never had an accident? According to The Boston Globe , John L. Hart has “the best safety record among the company’s 1,789 Massachusetts delivery drivers and ranks in the top half-percent of its 102,000 drivers worldwide. And, there are no incidents on his personal driving record, either.” He’s also rewarded for his skill and effort, earning “about $29 an hour, with generous benefits. On average, UPS drivers earn $70,000 annually, including overtime.” It’s pretty good work if you can get it.
  • A firing worthy of  a television sitcom.” As a former newspaper editor, I’ve always found that real life is usually much stranger than fiction, and so it seems to be with the termination of Larry Platt, the editor of Philadelphia magazine “largely due to … (a) history of inappropriate and unprofessional remarks and jokes to his employees, in what closely resembled the behavior of the fictional “The Office” boss Michael Scott.” According to the “Gossip” blog in the Philadelphia Daily News , “Platt’s recent gift of a framed photo of a cyst removed from his testicle to a departing female staffer was one of the examples that led to the decision of Herbert and David Lipson, chairman and president of Metrocorp, which owns the magazine, to relieve him of his duties.” Yes, this goes to prove once again that truth really is stranger than fiction. You just can’t make this kind of stuff up.

John Hollon is managing editor of Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. He's also the former founding editor of TLNT and a frequent contributor to ERE and the Fistful of Talent blog.