Fridays with Frank – Oct 18, 2019


Happy Friday!

Ever had one of those weeks where there are more demands on your time than time to give? We all have. But, somehow, we get it all done! If your week has been like mine, it’s time to celebrate our successes! So, grab your favorite drink, find a comfortable spot to relax, and enjoy this week’s edition of Fridays with Frank…because you’ve earned it!

Who says that (insert poop emoji here)?  For today’s installment of “always engage your brain before your mouth,” we travel across the pond. A teacher in England told her class of 28 ten-year-old students, including 11 Jewish children, “You better finish off your work quick, or I’ll ship you all off to the gas chambers.” Yes, you read that correctly. The teacher quickly apologized and asked the children not to tell anyone. Of course, the children knew better and told their parents. The school acted quickly and wisely fired the teacher.

Would you know how to handle a similar situation if it happened in your workplace? Can a single, sufficiently severe comment or stray remark create a hostile work environment? (Yes!) Does the intent of the commenter matter? (No!) The impact on those receiving the comment is all that matters. Now, ask yourself, as an employer, do you view harassment prevention training as a tool to educate employees, demonstrate respectful workplace behaviors, and prevent comments like the one from the teacher? Or, do you find the quickest, cheapest training only to show you did something? My team works with both types of employers. We provide meaningful training and support for the first group. Our work with the latter group begins when their attorney hires us to conduct a workplace harassment investigation.   

Quid pro quo of a different kind  According to a July 2019 survey of 10,500 job seekers with student loan debt, 63% would give up paid time off (PTO) in exchange for their employer’s help paying their student loans. Although slowly gaining traction, few employers (~8%) offer student loan repayment assistance as an employee benefit. However, that could change. Read on…

It’ll take an act of Congress  Introduced in February 2019, the bipartisan, bicameral Employer Participation in Repayment Act of 2019 (H.R. 1043 and S. 460) would allow employers to provide up to $5,250 in annual student loan repayment assistance to each eligible employee as a tax-free benefit. It’s hard to understand why—with student loan debt increasing an incredible 96% since 2010—Congress hasn’t acted on this legislation since its introduction! Now is your time to take action by calling and writing your representatives. You can also use social media to convey your support. Don’t forget to include the Twitter handle for your members of Congress and use the hashtags #HR1043, #S460, #StudentLoan, and #EduLoanBenefit. Get those fingers busy! 

When did that become a rule?  U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the first and second justice to violate new guidance that provides each attorney two minutes of uninterrupted time to present their argument. It seems Justice Sotomayor couldn’t contain herself as attorney Paul Hughes began speaking in an immigration case. In the second case of the day, Justice Sotomayor again began to interject too soon, but this time caught herself. With each side typically limited to 30 minutes—and attorneys at times struggling to complete a thought or sentence while being bombarded with questions from the justices—I imagine the two-minute rule is a welcomed change.

Speaking of rule-breakers  This one has nothing to do with employment law, but it is an excellent example of ethical behavior and accepting negative consequences. Having last played in the LPGA in 2008, Lee Ann Walker knew there were significant rule changes she needed to review before  playing in the Senior LPGA Championship at French Lick Resort in Indiana. Unfortunately, until a competitor’s caddie pointed out her violation during the second round, she wasn’t aware of a new rule that prohibits caddies from lining up golfers on putting greens. After contacting a rules official to discuss the issue, Walker herself determined she was due 58 penalty strokes (in case you’re not a golfer, that’s really bad!). “I’m glad I went. I got to see a lot of great friends, it was a great golf course, great event…Everything was great except for my penalties.”

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