Will WeWork’s New Meatless Expense Policy Backfire?

Will WeWork’s New Meatless Expense Policy Backfire?

The flexible office startup WeWork told its 6,000 employees last week that it would no longer pay for any red meat, poultry, or pork at company events or allow employees to expense meat meals, Bloomberg reported:

In an email to employees this week outlining the new policy, co-founder Miguel McKelvey said the firm’s upcoming internal “Summer Camp” retreat would offer no meat options for attendees. “New research indicates that avoiding meat is one of the biggest things an individual can do to reduce their personal environmental impact,” said McKelvey in the memo, “even more than switching to a hybrid car.” Individuals requiring “medical or religious” allowances are being referred to the company’s policy team to discuss options. A WeWork spokeswoman confirmed the contents of the memo.

Other startups have adopted no-meat policies, but these companies are predominantly makers of health and lifestyle products, which attract a specific set of customers and employees whose values and interests align with those policies. WeWork, by comparison, is a growing player in the global commercial real estate business with offices in 76 cities around the world. As such, Felix Salmon comments at Slate, the policy of banning meat (but not fish or eggs) at company-provided meals will likely “cause a ridiculous amount of agita for its frontline staffers and, especially, the benighted HR folks tasked with enforcing the policy.” He also criticizes the policy as internally incoherent when measured against its own stated purpose:

It bans lamb, for instance, and it bans chicken, but it doesn’t ban eggs. Eggs cause just as much environmental damage as chickens do, and much less than lamb does. It’s hard to see much environmental logic in a policy that’s fine with factory-farmed salmon but that forbids people from eating pigeon. (There are far too many pigeons in the world, eat as many as you want.)

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How the Workplace Will Change in 2018

How the Workplace Will Change in 2018

Over the past few years, we have witnessed a marked acceleration in the pace of change in the workplace. Each year brings with it new innovations, ideas, and passing fads, as well as social, political, and economic events that affect employers all across the world. 2017 was no exception: Tight labor markets driving competition for talent, concerns over automation and displacement amid the growing embrace of new technologies, the first year of the Trump administration, and the rise of the #MeToo movement were just a few of the many events and trends that impacted the working world last year. In 2018, we anticipate that some of these developments will continue to reverberate, while new challenges and opportunities will arrive.

Here are some of the major developments that employers can expect to see this year, in the US and around the world:

The Sexual Harassment Reckoning Will Only Grow

In the second half of 2017, revelations of sexual harassment, misconduct, and assault poured out of Silicon Valley and Hollywood, sparking a long-overdue conversation about the treatment of women and the harboring of known abusers in these male-dominated industries, as well as in politics, media, and other fields. Powerful men, from Hollywood moguls to tech CEOs to members of the US Congress, were toppled by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct ranging from inappropriate workplace behavior to outright assault. Organizations in all sectors are facing unprecedented public attention to their sexual harassment policies, how diligently they enforce them, and whether they uphold an inclusive and respectful work environment. If the reckoning didn’t come to your industry in the past few months, it likely will this year. Business leaders in corporate America and around the world will have their past and present behavior scrutinized, and some will be exposed as abusers and face strong public and investor pressure to step down. Addressing toxic workplace cultures that enable sexual harassment will become an issue of even greater concern for directors and HR leaders. Companies can ill afford to close their eyes and hope for this problem to go away on its own; time really is up.

The Private Sector Will Lead the Way on Raising the Minimum Wage

Congress is unlikely to take action to increase the federal minimum wage in 2018. Some states will raise their minimum wages, as will some cities, while other states will take action to preempt local hikes. Meanwhile, companies will take it upon themselves to increase their pay floors in order to attract and retain talent in a tight labor market. As large employers of low-wage hourly workers like Walmart and Target increase their own minimum wages, other companies will need to follow suit to remain competitive.

Technology, Social Media, and Journalists Will Continue to Bring Transparency into Company Culture

Companies’ cultures and employer brands are in the spotlight now more than ever before. The decisions, approaches, policies, and beliefs through which companies manage their employees will play a dramatically larger role in how consumers and investors (not just candidates and employees) view the company. In 2018, this will put pressure on companies to manage their employer brands through HR as aggressively as they protect their consumer brands through PR.

CEOs Will Be Forced to Take Stands on Political And Social Issues

Throughout 2018, the political polarization and dysfunction that has prevailed in Washington, D.C. recently will almost certainly persist, while gender equality, diversity, immigration, LGBT rights, and other issues with major workplace implications will remain hot-button topics. While some CEOs have already found their voices when it comes to responding to the news of the day, others will feel pressure this year from customers, employees, and investors alike to be more vocal about their beliefs and to back them up with concrete actions within their companies.

AI Will Play a Bigger Role In Hiring, Raising the Risk of Algorithmic Bias

The use of AI and algorithms in hiring decisions has already grown dramatically. In 2018, companies will continue to adopt these technologies, but many will also begin to recognize the danger of algorithmic bias. While these automated solutions have shown promise in terms of improving quality, efficiency, and even fairness in the recruiting process, they also run the risk of harming diversity in the workforce by replicating biases that already exist within the company.

Adoption of Wearables in the Workplace Will Increase

In 2017, 3 percent of companies introduced wearable technology in the workplace, giving employees smart badges to monitor their behavior in order to track productivity and identify inefficiencies in the use of office space. In 2018, as more companies adopt technology that can track the location and behavioral data of employees, companies will begin to use this data to redesign workspaces, schedules, and workflows to maximize employee productivity. As these technologies become more mainstream, employers may not have to worry as much as they think about employees resisting their implementation, but should think carefully about how much actionable insight they are gaining by monitoring their employees.

More Employees Will Change Jobs Due to a Lack of Respect

While compensation continues to be the top driver of attraction for candidates globally, respect was the the fourth most important driver in our Global Talent Monitor Report for Q3 2017. In 2018, the labor market will continue to remain tight and employees will feel that they have enough control to speak openly about the lack of respect or appreciation. If companies aren’t able to provide increased compensation or opportunities for growth, they should look at ways to improve employees’ sense of respect in order to retain talent.

Business Leaders Press Congress on DACA After Judge Blocks Trump’s Order

Business Leaders Press Congress on DACA After Judge Blocks Trump’s Order

Late on Tuesday, a federal judge in California issued an injunction blocking US President Donald Trump’s order winding down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program put in place by his predecessor Barack Obama to protect undocumented immigrants who were brought into the US as children, CNN reported on Wednesday:

Judge William Alsup also said the administration must resume receiving DACA renewal applications. But the ruling is limited — the administration does not need to process applications for those who have never before received DACA protections, he said. …

The ruling came in a challenge to the Department of Homeland Security brought by the University of California and others. In his 49-page ruling, Alsup said “plaintiffs have shown that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the rescission was arbitrary and capricious” and must be set aside under the federal Administrative Procedures Act. The judge said a nationwide injunction was “appropriate” because “our country has a strong interest in the uniform application of immigration law and policy.”

The DACA program, which is based on the principle of prosecutorial discretion, was enacted in 2012 and has benefited some 800,000 individuals under 31 who arrived in the country before the age of 16, have lived in the US continuously since 2007, and are in school or have graduated. In total, up to 1.1 million so-called “dreamers” were eligible for the program, though not all who were eligible applied—potentially out of fear of “outing” themselves to the federal government as undocumented.

Trump, who campaigned on a pledge to drastically reduce legal and illegal immigration and to hasten the deportation of undocumented immigrants, ordered the DACA program canceled last September, giving Congress until March to find a legislative solution or the administration would begin phasing out its protections. Talks over a deal have stalled over disagreements between Democrats and Republicans over whether to pair it with funding for Trump’s proposed wall along the US-Mexico border. The Trump administration intends to fight Alsup’s injunction, but the court battle could drag on for years. The upshot, the Washington Post explains, is that DACA beneficiaries remain uncertain of their future status unless and until Congress acts.

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Microsoft Endorses Bill to Outlaw Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Claims

Microsoft Endorses Bill to Outlaw Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Claims

The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill recently introduced in the Senate by Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Republican Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, would as its title suggests would bar employers from enforcing mandatory arbitration clauses on employees who come forward with sexual harassment claims. These controversial clauses in employment contracts, which require employees to resolve disputes with their employer in arbitration rather than in court, have been criticized as an impediment to victims speaking out and even more disconcertingly, as tools for silencing victims and letting harassers avoid accountability.

Microsoft on Tuesday publicly announced that it was supporting the bill, with President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith writing at the company’s blog:

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve learned more about the provisions of this bill and the issues it will address. When I recently met with Senator Graham on Capitol Hill to discuss cybersecurity and immigration issues, he followed those topics with a compelling appeal that we consider this new legislation. As he pointed out, as many as 60 million Americans today have no legal ability to bring a sexual harassment claim in court because they work under an employment contract that requires that all such claims be subject exclusively to private arbitration.

Microsoft is also changing its own arbitration policies in line with it support for this legislation, Smith added, acknowledging that “we have contractual clauses requiring pre-dispute arbitration for harassment claims in employment agreements for a small segment of our employee population” and announcing that effective immediately, these clauses are waived.

As Smith notes, the tech giant has been studying the bill for several weeks, but the announcement happens to come in the wake of new revelations about past allegations of sexual harassment and assault at Microsoft and how the company handled them, which were reported at Bloomberg last week after they came to light in files unsealed in an ongoing class-action lawsuit alleging that Microsoft discriminates against women.

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Supreme Court Declines to Hear Case on LGBT Workplace Discrimination

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Case on LGBT Workplace Discrimination

The US Supreme Court denied an appeal in a case concerning whether discriminating against LGBT employees on the basis of their sexuality violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination, the Hill reported on Monday. Giving no explanation for its decision, the court refused to hear the case of Jameka Evans, a former security guard at Georgia Regional Hospital, who claims she was harassed and forced out of her job because of her sexual orientation and gender-nonconforming appearance.

Evans, represented by attorneys from the LGBT legal advocacy organization Lambda Legal, had taken her case to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, but a panel of judges in that court ruled against her in March on the basis of a precedent from 1979. The 11th circuit declined to rehear the case en banc (by the full court), so Lambda Legal petitioned the Supreme Court to resolve it instead. According to the Hill, the organization expressed disappointment in the court’s decision, noting that it leaves unresolved a split decisions among different circuit courts regarding the rights of LGBT Americans in the workplace:

“But this was not a ‘no’ but a ‘not yet,’ and rest assured that Lambda Legal will continue the fight, circuit by circuit as necessary, to establish that the Civil Rights Act prohibits sexual orientation discrimination,” Greg Nevins, the group’s employment fairness project director, said in a statement.

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Major Companies, CHROs Call on Congress to Protect DACA Beneficiaries

Major Companies, CHROs Call on Congress to Protect DACA Beneficiaries

Over 100 human resource leaders have expressed their support for undocumented workers and made a call to action in light of the Trump administration’s announcement that will phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that grants temporary work permits and protection from deportation to younger undocumented immigrants who arrived in the US as children. Recently, according to Erin Mulvaney at the National Law Journal, chief human resource officers from companies such as Target, HP, and 21st Century Fox signed and sent a letter to Congress late last month calling for a legislative solution to preserve DACA and expressing concern over the intensity of political rhetoric on immigration:

“We are concerned that the rhetoric around immigration issues often obscures the truth about how foreign-born workers of all skill levels benefit their companies, American workers, American communities, and the American economy,” according to the letter, organized by the HR Policy Association. “Further, while we believe the existing immigration laws need to be responsibly enforced, we are concerned that discouraging these workers’ participation in the U.S. workforce through stricter policies would reduce productivity, intensify the ongoing workforce crisis, and disadvantage American businesses and their U.S. employees operating in the global economy.”

Last month also saw the launch of the Coalition for the American Dream, a group of employers dedicated to lobbying for the rights of these workers, which includes major power players such as Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft. The coalition is also urging Congress to take action to protect the DACA program’s participants, often referred to as “Dreamers”:

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76 Companies Urge US Supreme Court to Rule on Protections for LGBT Employees

76 Companies Urge US Supreme Court to Rule on Protections for LGBT Employees

A group of 76 US companies, including major tech players like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Viacom, submitted a brief to the Supreme Court asking it to weigh in on whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, also protects LGBT employees, Reuters reports:

The companies asked the Supreme Court to take up the case of Jameka Evans, a former security guard at a Georgia hospital who says she was harassed and forced to quit her job because she is gay. The companies said the lack of a federal law clearly prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation has hindered recruitment in the 27 states that have not adopted their own such laws.

And “the uncertainty and vulnerability LGBT workers face results in diminished employee health, productivity, job engagement, and satisfaction,” wrote the companies’ lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

In March, a three-judge panel from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled against Evans in an appeal filed on her behalf by the LGBT legal advocacy organization Lambda Legal, dismissing her claim on the basis of a circuit court precedent from 1979. Lambda petitioned the full court to rehear Evans’ case, but it declined to do so in July, so the group took the case to the Supreme Court last month.

Different circuit courts have handed down contradictory opinions on this issue, so the high court is likely to take it up at some point in the near future, as it often does when federal judges split on a question of federal law.

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