button Vol. 7
No. 2


Paid Family Leave
line NLRB Watch
line Violence Update
line Defined Contribution
line SSN Time Bombs
line Briefs

Braun Consulting News
News on Personnel, Labor Relations and Benefits

See our Archive Pages for Back Issues of Braun Consulting News!

button Briefs.

  • Bathroom Break Battle at Distiller Jim Beam          (link)
  • Shorter Naps Are Better                                             (link)
  • Health Insurance News at eBay                                 (link)
  • Employee Satisfaction: Is This A Good Thing?        (link)
  • Lowering Absenteeism with Paid Time Off Plans    (link)

button Bathroom Break Battle at Distiller Jim Beam.

Jim Beam's HR director Jack Allen told the Associated Press that his company's policy of limiting employees on the bottling line to four bathroom breaks per 8.5-hour shift is fair and reasonable.

According to this policy, reprimands may be issued for extra trips to the bathroom. Only one of these breaks can be unscheduled.

The employees brought the matter to Kentucky's Occupational Safety and Health office, which issued a citation against Jim Beam. Jim Beam, which is located in Clermont, Kentucky, is appealing the citation.

The United Food and Commercial Workers union says some of the employees are wearing protective underwear, and that others have even actually had accidents on themselves. The union's statement noted that: "the bathroom needs of menstruating women, older workers, and women who have had children do not follow Jim Beam's schedule."

Jack Allen has noted that 150 employees who work on the line can ask for a medical exemption. He also stated that a bottling line is a unique work setting that requires a more formal, organized procedure for taking breaks than most other work settings.

BRAUN Consulting addressed this issue as long ago as the 80's. Look to the essential elements of the job. Have good reasons for your requirements then go for it, UFCW or not. We have won every one of this type claim by a union.

Lets hope there is some resolution to this issue soon, for the sake of both the employer and the employees. This kind of disruptive issue is all too common in the workplace today.

button Shorter Naps Are Better.

A recent study claims that a 10-minute power nap will make you much more alert than a 20- or 30-minute nap. Employees even show increased performance immediately after the 10-minute nap, and often three hours after the nap.

"Employers may be able to avoid the adverse effects of impaired performance, productivity, and safety associated with daytime sleepiness. They can do this by allowing employees to take a 10-minute afternoon nap."

In addition to her comment above, Amber Tietzelshe has stated: "Research in our laboratory has shown the existence of an afternoon sleepy period".

Informal research done at many jobsites seems to back up that statement, and there usually is no shortage of volunteers to take part in such a study.

In the US Navy resting 15 minutes of each hour while on full battle ready status permits sailors to be alert and on duty for unbelievable time periods. Don't rest for more or less than the 15 minutes in each hour or alertness goes to sleep.

Ms Tietzelshe worked on a study led by Professor Leon Lack, at Flanders University School of Psychology in Australia.

button Health Insurance News at eBay.

In a new twist on group health insurance, eBay says it is planning to help its' most "loyal users" (also dubbed "PowerSellers") get health insurance coverage by looking for a group plan for them. The idea is to give group purchasing power to the many people who essentially use eBay as a full-time job.

The so-called "PowerSellers" are among those who sell at least $1,000 in goods on the site each month. eBay believes that this group is critical to its success.

"Over the last two to 21/2 years, we have seen an increasing number of people coming onto eBay and making eBay their full-time source of income," spokesman Kevin Pursglove said. "We've been hearing from our users that they wish there was some way eBay could work with an insurance provider to get health coverage."

Details are still being worked out, such as whether an individual would lose insurance just because one month he or she didn't sell over $1,000 worth of merchandise using eBay. "My guess is you'd look at it over a number of months. We'll probably look at it over a three- to four-month average of sales", spokesman Pursglove surmised.

Announced in June and set to debut in October, the program now has been pushed back to January 2003.

In a message to "PowerSellers" on its Web site eBay said: "eBay PowerSellers are composed of individuals and businesses scattered throughout the country, and thus, are not a traditional group as defined by healthcare providers," eBay said. "As a result, we have entered into complex negotiations with providers to create plans that meet our intended goal of allowing you to access low-cost, premium healthcare coverage. Our work will continue through the fall and we will be ready to start taking applications for enrollment in January."

button Employee Satisfaction: Is This A Good Thing?

The goal of working to create high levels of employee satisfaction in your company is an admirable one - or is it?.

For a long time now employee satisfaction has been considered important by many companies and HR departments. It was thought that measuring and studying this part of an employee's attitude would be an indicator of the success of the company, or the length of employment by the employee.

However, there are some who question the validity of "employee satisfaction", or even its value.

Judith Bardwick, who teaches at the University of California, San Diego, says that "happiness is an ephemeral emotion, too fleeting to have an impact."

She seems to think that if an employee tells you that they are "happy" it may be about as important as them telling you that they are sleepy... a condition that fluctuates depending on the circumstances at the time.

Another HR professional, who now gathers data on company performance for a survey firm, indicates that "People who are satisfied with their jobs are not necessarily higher performers, in fact, they might be mediocre."

Theresa Welbourne says that the most important reason that satisfaction is such a bad barometer of company success is that for any company to be successful in today's business environment, it has to continuously change.

"If everybody's happy and content with the way things are, your company is going to go down the tubes", Welbourne warns.

In the current job market it seems more appropriate to be asking questions like, "Is your job interesting? Are you challenged and motivated by it in a meaningful way?"

Now it is making more sense to ask questions that predict behavior, rather than reflect back on a feeling or mood an employee may have about the current state of affairs at the jobsite.

A more appropriate goal for an employee should be a balance between contentment, or job satisfaction, and being motivated to keep pace with the change that is necessary to survive in today's workplace.

So, the next time you hear the buzzwords "employee satisfaction", perhaps you will think twice about what it's real value is - or whether it has any real value at all.

button Lowering Absenteeism with Paid Time Off Plans.

The fact of the matter is that most employees consider sick leave theirs to take, no matter what condition their health is in.

Many employers have found that they can reduce the costly effects of absenteeism by switching to combined paid-time-off plans. These plans provide inducements that discourage employees from drawing on their accrued sick days and can help reduce the many hidden costs associated with an employer's sick leave liability.

Instead of traditional "designated benefits" programs which define sick time, holidays, and vacation time as separate times away from work, "paid time-off plans," or PTOs, combine all time off into a pool employees can use as they see fit. Earned time includes fixed calendar holidays like Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July as well as paid vacations and unscheduled events like illness.

The 2001 Survey of Employee Benefits, conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, reports that 62 percent of the employers questioned now offer some form of PTOs. That's almost twice as many as in 1997.

If you need help in transitioning into a PTO for your company, or would like assistance in any sick leave or absenteeism problems, just call us at Braun Consulting. Send us your questions, just click here.

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