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Workplace Safety and Health Law Blog

Posts in leadership or management.

Employers rarely appreciate how strongly workplace safety affects employee attitudes about the Company or how devastatingly a union or other third party can use safety to destroy a Company's image. Conversely, executives can use a robust safety culture to increase employee satisfaction and productivity ... and it's the right thing to do. Don't allow a third party to use safety issues to destroy your company. This two-part article describes safety-based Corporate campaigns relying on safety and common sense preventive measures.

Third edition of my effort to summarize certain important employment law, OSHA, and labor developments, news and practical insight. I also include references to books and podcasts that you may find useful in becoming a better manager and addressing labor and employment challenges, as well as personal development. This week's edition has three pages of comments from readers and interviews in Part 2.

Last week I was honored to be named a Top Author in J.D. Supra Readers’ Choice Awards. I write a great deal when I should probably be billing, but you guys seem to enjoy my stuff, so thanks! However, I often read an article or have an experience which merits discussion, but I don’t have the time to prepare my preferred detailed analysis.

I recently blogged about the debate on CEO and employee pay ratios. I urged employers to seize the high ground and decide what their attitude is as to their “responsibility” is to their employees. I’m a pragmatist. I believe that in the long run, employers will prosper (and avoid the need for my services) by consciously focusing on improving their employees’ lives. I’ve made it clear that I do not believe that employers are social workers. Your role is to make money. Competition and drive is good for society. However, just as we develop business plans and marketing strategies, we must develop plans to treat our employees “fairly.” “Fairness” is a spongey concept, and one often high jacked by unions and the government. But it is also the best determinant of employee satisfaction. The term defies the quantification that my analytical nature desires, but somehow employees recognize “fairness.” They don’t expect the highest wages, the best benefits, the most engaging atmosphere, but they do expect to be treated fairly. We ignore this expectation at our own peril!

The SEC recently voted to require employers to disclose the pay gap between the CEO and his or her employees. Unions, investors, and other groups have increasingly been using this disparity to attack companies. As Fortune calmly pointed out:

The rule is well intentioned. CEO pay in 2014 was an eye-popping 373 times that of an average worker, according to data compiled by the AFL-CIO, and a sharp rise from 331 times in 2013. This imbalance contributes to America’s growing wealth gap and accompanying social and political inequities. Requiring companies, especially large public corporations, to disclose how richly their CEOs are paid would provide valuable information for shareholders and possibly help the larger national debate about economic fairness. WSJ the Big Flaw in the SEC’s Pay Ratio Rule.

First, hats off to our hosts, Master Builders and Constructors Association of Western Pennsylvania, who took the attendees to a Pirates-Padres game and better introduced us to the vibrant city of Pittsburgh. The content of the last two Committee meetings has also been outstanding. I’ll try to later post more information.

A. OSHA’s New Construction Confined Space Entry Standard

Jim Goss, the Government Affairs Committee, and a Pane of contractors ...

I thoroughly enjoyed my seven years as a Scoutmaster in an inner city housing project. The boys were poor and few of them had a dad at home, but they were good kids. Given decent examples, assistance, and a bit of luck, they could escape what had become a multigenerational cycle of poverty. However, despite being poor, these boys had been raised by their moms as little princes with no requirements placed on them. In other words, they were pretty much the same as overly entitled kids.

Most people acknowledge that they are not getting enough sleep and that this lack of sleep affects everything from their work to their marital life. Groups such as the National Sleep Foundation regularly announce that at least one-fifth of Americans sleep fewer than 6 hours a night and are sleep deprived. The National Sleep Foundation’s 2008 “Sleep in America Poll,” found that 29% of Americans fall asleep or become very sleepy at work. Phillips Consumer Lifestyle 2010 “Workplace Power Outage Sleep Study” found that nearly one-fourth of 1,000 U.S. office workers admitted to stealing a nap at work. We know better, but we skip sleep anyway. Likewise, management’s response ranges from disinterest to actively encouraging employees to skip sleep and get in more hours.

I wince whenever I see motivational posters with an eagle soaring over a mountain and a stirring phrase. That’s not me. Cute phrases and motivational posters have limited effect on a guy who has handled 520 worker fatality cases and hundreds of internal investigations, union drives, and corporate campaigns. But Jere Bucholz’ explanation of how NASA learns from failures was from the real world and motivated me. After the Challenger explosion, NASA could easily have shifted to a bureaucratic mode of always taking the safe course and spending time on justifying one’s actions in the event that they are challenged. That CYA approach won’t put men on Mars or attract and keep the talent necessary to meet that goal. I recently read a Wall Street Journal article about the highly regarded former Army General McCrystal. By all accounts, McCrystal was a superb battlefield general, but he became ensnared in an interview with the never-to-be-trusted Rolling Stone newspaper and had to resign. He’s not a whiner and doesn’t deny his actions. I can’t imagine the pain a genuine warrior feels at leaving the army at his zenith, but McCrystal has moved on and developed a business career.

A recent Law 360 headline described a corporate senior counsel explained providing an erotic book with “playful and provocative” drawings to a fellow manager as an “innocent gift.” He had even written an inscription which read, “a taste of Dharma Bum to remind that the Dharma breathes in and out and is nothing special,” referring, in part, to the Buddhist philosophy of life and the novel by beat writer Jack Kerouac. There are many other allegations and facts associated with the underlying discrimination claim, and I have no idea as to whether unlawful conduct actually occurred.

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