Top 13 Workplace Legal Issues Of 2014

Your favorite columns on bosses, breaks, firings and pay

law scales on table. symbol of...

I'm so grateful to you, my readers, for asking me questions, sharing your comments, and reading my columns every week. I'm taking a break for the holidays, so I thought I'd share with you the columns that you checked out the most in 2014. Here's a recap of the columns covering the employment law issues that concerned you the most this year:


1. The Little-Known ObamaCare Catch-22: You are concerned and confused about the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare, because every time I wrote about it, you read it. This column was about a concern I had about a gap in the ability to elect COBRA and the Affordable Care Act. It affected everyone who lost their job outside an open enrollment period. You spoke up and we got a partial fix, but the gap is still there.

2. 9 Out Of 10 Americans Don't Know This Secret About ObamaCare: If you got caught up in the gap, you have the opportunity to switch. Do you know your deadline? Do you know how to switch? I explain in this article.

How Not To Get Fired

3. 9 Ways A DUI Will Destroy Your Career: Before you drive on New Year's Eve, better know the consequences. A DUI/DWI will mess you up, career-wise. Here's how.

4. Can I Be Fired Because My Boss Knows I'll Be Leaving?: If you are planning to exit your job, but not right away, read this to make sure you protect yourself.

5. Does My Boss Have The Right To Ask For My Password?: If your boss demands the passwords to your office email or other accounts, can you say no?

Horrible Bosses

6. My Boss Kicked Me. Can I Sue?: What can you do when your boss gets physical at work? Lots of readers must have truly awful bosses, because this was a very popular column.

7. Am I Being Targeted For Layoff Due To My Age: If you think age discrimination is the reason behind your layoff or termination, then this column explains how to prove it.

8. Is Employer Nepotism Illegal?: Favoritism, hiring relatives and friends, and other nepotism are pretty common. When is it illegal? I tell you how to figure it out.

9. Can My Boss Make Me Assume Legal Liabilities For The Company?: Your boss demands you sign a contract that makes you personally responsible for company debt or other liabilities. Can you refuse?

Breaks And Leave

10. Can My Employer Force Me To Take My Lunch Break?: You want to work through lunch to get things done but your boss says no. Can they make you take a break? Best read this column before you say no.

11. Does My Employer Have To Pay Earned Sick And Vacation Time When I Leave?: Whether you quit or were fired, you earned that vacation and sick time. Do you lose it when you leave, or do they have to pay it? It may depend on where you live.

General Issues

12. ObamaCare, Handbooks, Benefits And More: Your End-Of-Year Career Checklist: You've clearly been paying attention and want to make sure you're ready for 2015, because many of you have read this column already. If you want to have a great 2015, career-wise, here's your checklist.

13. Employment Law: What To Do When Your Boss Is Violating Your Rights: One of my most popular columns was another compilation. If you want to see more columns covering your legal rights at work, this is a good place to start.

Have a safe New Year's Eve and a wonderful New Year! Join me again in 2015 for more on your rights at work.      

For the New Year, Skip Resolutions--Make Goals

5 tips to nail your career in 2015

blue sky behind two white and...

I've been thinking about what resolutions I should make for the new year, and, as usual, I can list many things: get healthier, become better organized, write a book (or three), and on and on and on... Basically, pretty much the same things every year. And every year, like most resolution-makers, I usually fail/forget before January 7.

So, I'm trying to find a better way to implement necessary self-improvement for 2015, and I think I found it.

Instead of a new year's resolution, set a new year's goal for your career in 2015!

What do you most want to accomplish in your career? If you are unemployed, you probably want a good job. If you are employed, you may want a better job - more money, a nicer boss, better working conditions. All are worthy and attainable goals, but they seldom happen automatically without planning and effort!

Here are some possible goals for 2015:

1. Figure out what you want next in your career.
Knowing what you want next is a major accomplishment and a very worthy goal! It is the basis of everything - from your career path to choosing your next employer or earning a certification or degree. When it comes to something as important as your career, take time to do some thinking and reflection. Read the classic career book "What Color Is Your Parachute?" If your library has only one book about careers, this is the one - for good reason. Be sure to do all the exercises in the book. Like millions of others, you'll find them very helpful.

After you've read Parachute, spend at least an hour, maybe two or more hours (you're worth it!), figuring out where you want to be in the future. That old saying about "not being able to see the forest for the trees" is about being buried too deeply in life's daily details to see "the big picture." Reading Parachute and then taking the time to think about your career is a very good way to see what is really going on, what your big picture is - or what you want it to be in the future.

If you finish this goal early in the year, you can add another goal (or two! See below)!

2. Create a list of your ideal next employers.
If you know what you want to do next (and even if you don't know), explore the employment options available to you. What are your selection criteria - location, industry, size, or something else? Think about where you and friends and family have been happiest working. Or, where you think you would have the best possibility of future growth. Research your options online. MapQuest and Google Maps are two great ways to identify employers.

3. Expand your professional network so that you will have more options in your next job search.
This may mean bringing your LinkedIn profile up to the 500+ connections level and becoming more active in LinkedIn groups related to your job and career goals. Outside of LinkedIn, consider joining a national association related to your profession (or your target profession). Employee referrals are employers' favorite method of filling jobs - you are five times more likely to be hired if you are referred by an employee than if you simply submit a resume or application.

4. Become more active in the local community to expand your local network.
To meet more people in your community, join the local chapter of a professional or industry association related to your career goals or volunteer for a non-profit in an appropriate role (like being an officer in the parents' organization for your kids' school). You could also go to your high school or college reunion. I met many interesting and influential people helping my PBS station with their annual fund-raising.

5. Learn something new that will help you in your career.
Perhaps you have a gap in your knowledge or the requirements for your next step up the career ladder or the salary scale. Make your goal for this year to - at a minimum - get started meeting that requirement. If possible, meet that requirement. Perhaps the goal is learning one skill: improving your understanding of effective email marketing, getting a law degree, or creating beautiful watercolor landscapes. Once you have learned that skill, use it as much as possible, inside your job or outside of it in your personal life or networking activities, to gain experience and confidence.

What are your goals for 2015?

The list above represents only a few possible goals for your career in 2015. Think about how you would like to be positioned for 2016, and create your own goal if none of the examples above work for you. Then, set your goal(s) for 2015, and go for it! Or, you'll be in the same spot next year that you are now.    

Ask Jack: Holiday Time at the Office + Job of the Week

Holidays can mean humbug at the office. Tell Jack your troubles.

Do Men Gossip More Than Women in the Office

Gossip, rumor-mongering, and catty behavior know no gender

Whisper Words

I chose a career in finance for a number of reasons. I liked the classes in college, I wanted a challenging career, I wanted to make money. However, more than anything, I was interested in pursuing a career that was not filled with women. This fact is surprising to many; however, those that know me know that after growing up with five sisters and attending an all-female Catholic high school, I was ready to leave the drama of cattiness, gossip, hormones and cliques behind. Before I started working, I glorified the world of finance as being removed from drama. After all, I argued to myself that the lack of estrogen was bound to make for a smoother work environment.

It took about two weeks on the trading floor of a large investment bank for me to come to the realization that men gossip as much as any woman I know.

Typically after a big deal closed, many would leave the office early to celebrate over a few beers, and since I wanted to bond with my new co-workers, I joined them for a few that led to many. The evening took a turn for the bizarre when the group ended up at a strip club, and I had no ride home. Thankfully, one of the guys from the floor offered to drive me. Unfortunately, when he drove me home, he offered other things, but took my rejection like a gentleman.

As I crawled into bed in the wee hours of the morning, I said a prayer of thanks that I worked with men and would not be judged the next day in the office. A few minutes after I took my seat on the floor, a teammate asked me to step off the desk for a conversation, and he shared with me the word that had spread around the floor about the evening before. I stared at this friend in shock that word had traveled that fast--in a matter of minutes, since most people arrived at 6:00, and it was now 6:30 in the morning.

Fortunately for me, my evening chauffeur did not make up stories and told the truth--in fact, he shared the full story, including my rejection of him. From that moment on, I began to view my male co-workers in a completely different light. For the better part of my life, I had always assumed that women were gossipers and that men could not be bothered with sharing stories. However, I realized quickly that men are just as bad--if not worse--than women when it comes to the gossip department.

I would love to say that I learned my lesson about partying with co-workers after that first incident. However, there were numerous other times that I walked into work the next morning to a buzz about the happenings of the night before. Finally, after a male co-worker shared some intimate knowledge of a female teammate, I realized that I needed to find more friends outside of work.

Women typically gossip in small groups of one or two close friends, and usually stick with one person or one topic of conversation. From my experience, men seem to gossip in large groups, around broad subject matter. I have sat on a trading desk and heard men gossip about everything from outfits that women wear to rumored hook-ups of co-workers from a decade before--and the more outrageous the story, the longer it seems to be discussed across the desk. Even after I left the trading floor and worked for a smaller hedge fund, I found out that it was the men in the group who spread information more than the women.

Looking back on my 14 years in the finance world, I feel that I have heard and witnessed more gossip spread from men rather than women. Perhaps it's just because women are better at keeping gossip low-key--and I know that, working in finance, my perspective is skewed since the majority of financial service professionals are male. However, I have not heard gossip stories from other industries that rival mine.

I may be wrong in my assumption that men gossip more than women. However, until someone convinces me otherwise, I will keep my friends close and watch out for the men if I misbehave or have a few too many.      

5 jobs for the marketing team of the future

Ashley Furness, CRM market analyst, software advice 

During a recent business leaders' conference in London, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts declared marketing dead, saying, "The further up in a company you go, the stupider you become – and the further away from new things."

While I agree with his latter sentiment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics expects marketing payrolls to increase by at least 13 percent between 2010 and 2020. Perhaps what Roberts meant to say is that the old ways of marketing are dead, as evidenced by the dramatic shift in skills desired from today's marketer. Recruiters are ditching mass media and direct mail for candidates who are savvy in search-engine optimization, analytics, mobile platforms, social media and content.

I asked more than 30 marketing and recruiting specialists what new marketing job titles they expect will become popular in the next decade. Here are five of the most common roles they named.

1. Crowdsourcing specialist
"You don't [market to today's customer] by just vomiting sales pitches on them, you do it by listening to how the product has helped them," says Josh King, director of business development at Peacock Virtual Solutions.
This role has two parts: listening and promoting. Companies can no longer dictate their brand identity to the customer. To that end, the crowdsourcing specialist would monitor conversations about the brand on the Internet and develop messages that respond to customers' expectations. On the promotion side, the crowdsourcing specialist would send out calls to action, such as inviting customers to compete to create the best video about the brand and perhaps tying the theme to something trending on Twitter.

2. Vice president of marketing data analytics
"Accountability wasn't present [in marketing] before. It's required now, because we can measure every aspect of a campaign," says Jennifer Pockell-Wilson, vice president of marketing and demand operations at Demandbase. "You can't judge success by return on investment on a specific campaign anymore because traffic, brand awareness and consumers come from multiple sources that interact together."
People in this job would decide when, why and how marketing data should be tracked. This includes data collected through marketing automation, website analytics, social media, email campaigns, mobile platforms, SEO, content marketing and other channels. The goals: to improve marketing performance and continually refine the company's definition of the ideal customer. This information would be shared with brand and campaign strategists who design promotions.

3. ROI and marketing budget officer
Marketing budgets are shifting from quarterly allotments for print, direct mail and media advertising to constantly shifting spending from one channel to another. Data about return on investment are often instantly available -- from paid search ad spending, for example -- so marketing can be more nimble with resource allocation. The budget officer would track ROI from all promotion channels and adjust spending based on those results.
"The idea is to get marketing tactics out there quickly, track results, then continue with ones that work and dump ones that don't," says crowdSPRING co-founder Mike Samson. "The idea is to try a bunch of things and learn through constant trial and error."

4. Marketing integration planner
"People don't call directly in from an infomercial or click a banner and immediately buy items," marketing consultant Jocelyn Saurini says. "They search for reviews, they interact with brands, they pay attention to trending topics."
People in this job would identify ways to deliver a single marketing message, campaign or branding effort across multiple digital channels. An example includes using a pay-per-click advertising campaign to promote a viral video or using SEO keyword analysis to help craft a press release. They might also use tools such as Demand Metric's Marketing Channel Ranking Tool to prioritize message delivery channels based on cost and other indicators.

5. Content marketing chief
"The people who are able to create a lot of value in the marketing organization of the future think in terms of content, not channels, and in terms of insight, not data," says Zach Clayton, CEO and founder of Three Ships Media.
People in this job would plan the development of websites, blogs, videos, infographics, webinars, social media and other content vehicles. The individual would decide how that content would be promoted and cross-promoted, then track its performance. Finally, the content marketing leader would look for externally created content about the company on the Internet and find ways to use it for SEO and other marketing purposes.

What's your take?
It's doubtful that every marketing department will need all of these positions. The point here is to show the future of marketing through the most highly desired skills and emerging job titles.
"All the top-down, brand-driven marketing disciplines aren't dead, they just must be balanced now with the consumer-centric disciplines that require brands to let go of the steering wheel and let the consumers drive," says Tom Cotton, partner at marketing consultancy Protagonist.

Staying Focused During The Job Search

Don't knock the idea of a routine--or a bit of exercise

Woman sitting in meditating position outdoors, close-up

Whether you're a first-time job seeker or someone who's been looking and looking, everyone can hit a wall of frustration, loss of focus, and even resignation during a prolonged job search.

If you've suffered a few setbacks (you were one of two final candidates, or at the end of the process they decided not to fill the position due to budget, etc.) it can be hard to keep at it with all of the energy, enthusiasm, and zest necessary to come across as a great candidate. If you're living this reality, I'd like to offer some ways to help you recharge, stay focused, and get that job.

Letting go of rejection

First of all, please stop beating yourself up. Sometimes there are obvious reasons why we don't get a job (wrong skill set, experience, culture fit), and other times we'll just never know why. Yes, it's frustrating. But when we continually focus on what didn't work and hit replay over and over, it literally sucks emotional and creative energy from us that we could be using to think about the next opportunity.

Did you make a misstep during the interview or feel like you didn't successfully convey the things you feel make you stand out? By all means, learn from the experience and keep practicing. But remember, focus on practicing for the next opportunity, not dwelling on the past one.

Routines and rituals

Set a time-frame for job search efforts each day. If possible, try sticking to the same time-frame every day. For example, you are actively working on your job search from 9:00 to 12:00 each day. When you have a start and a finish, you'd be amazed how efficient you are.

The ideal work/rest ratio is 90 to 120 minutes to power away on something and then take a short break. Why? When we restore ourselves with either a drink of water, healthy snack, a quick walk, or some deep breathing, we recharge and are able to improve our focus and clarity for our next time chunk.

I'm a big fan of time-chunks, because when we spend entire days on the same task, our productivity slowly diminishes over time, making us less efficient. We also become tired, unfocused and are often listless by the end of the day. Which brings me to...

The power of exercise, networking, and socializing

A job search can seem like a marathon, so let's take that analogy and extend it to the physical realm. If you're not taking care of yourself, you will burn out on all levels. Not just physically, but mentally as well. Exercise is great for getting and staying fit, but the effects of a workout also supercharge our brains and make us feel more energetic and happier. Endorphins are a good thing. If gyms are not high on your priority list, try other forms of movement like martial arts, yoga, or dance. Or just take a walk.

Often, we can isolate ourselves when looking for a job. We feel like we need to be searching constantly, which can sometimes mean being surgically attached to our computers and smart phones. Remember how each day you set a time frame on your job search efforts? That means that you have time to get out, network, and socialize. Maybe this means having a cup of coffee with someone in a field you're interested in, taking a class, or volunteering. Yes, you could potentially meet someone who might be able to help with your job efforts, but on a deeper level you will be recharging yourself, which ultimately means more energy for your mind, body--and job search.      

13 College Majors In Which The Pay Goes Nowhere

You should totally follow your dreams, but...

Graduation day

By Jacquelyn Smith

When deciding on a college major, students are encouraged to think about a few things: what they love to do; what they want to do; what jobs they imagine themselves in; and what the earning and growth potential is like for those careers.

For instance, they would probably want to know ahead of time that human services majors see their annual pay increase by only about $7,500, or 22%, over the first 10 years of their careers, compared with the average American worker, whose salary grows by about $25,000, or 60%, in that time.

That's according to Payscale, the creator of the world's largest compensation database with more than 40 million salary profiles. It recently looked at the difference between starting (less than five years of experience) and mid-career (10 or more years of experience) pay by college major, and it determined the 13 majors with the smallest salary growth.

"We're not trying to discourage students from pursuing these majors - we're simply offering information so that students can make informed choices and get the most out of their degree, whatever major they choose," says Kayla Hill, a research analyst at Payscale.

Among the majors, child development has the lowest starting salary ($32,200) and mid-career pay ($36,400) while showing the least amount of growth in the first 10 years ($4,200, or 13%).

"Human support service majors tend to be paid less across the board," Hill says. "Child development workers in particular may see less growth over time because it is a field that tends to be undervalued by society. Additionally, childcare workers may not have the same opportunities for advancement as more technical jobs, where learning new skills can lead to a pay bump or promotion."

Human services majors had the second-lowest salary growth between starting and mid-career, while early childhood and elementary education had the third-smallest.

"People in support service jobs tend to find a high level of meaning from their jobs despite the lower pay," Hill says. "For many of these workers, the satisfaction and fulfillment they receive from helping others outweighs the lack of pay growth."

13. Theology


Common job: Chaplain 
Starting median pay: $36,800
Mid-career median pay: $51,600

Difference: $14,800 / 40%

12. Social Work


Common jobs: Mental health therapist; social worker; nonprofit program manager 
Starting median pay: $32,800
Mid-career median pay: $46,600

Difference: $13,800 / 42%

Read more "13 College Majors In Which The Pay Goes Nowhere"

Where To Intern In 2015: Vault's Top 50

Consultants rank high in annual survey

Portrait of young man in office next to wall presentation

If you are in college (or have a child who is), it's time to start the search for a summer 2015 internship. While some people might think seven months is a bit too far in advance to start searching, they would be wrong. Competition to get an internship in your desired industry, much less company, is aggressive.

Internships act as a solid bridge between the academic and business worlds. Good internships connect you with great contacts, experience and a good working understanding of the industry. The best internships provide you with tangible training, relationship-building events, hands-on experience and career development seminars. recently released their list of the Top 50 Internships for 2015.

Vault surveyed 5,800 interns at 100 different internship programs for their Internship Experience survey. The survey was based on the following criteria: "quality of life, compensation and benefits, interview process, career development, and full-time employment prospects."

"Today, 40 percent of all entry-level full-time hires in the U.S. are sourced through internship programs," according to Derek Loosvelt, a senior editor at "This means that, for those looking to work for the most desired and admired employers in the country, internships are no longer a luxury but a necessity."

10 Best Overall Internships for 2015:
1. Bates White Summer Consultant Program
2. Elliot Davis ENVISION
3. Frank, Rimerman + Co. LLP's Summer Internship
4. Bain & Company Associate Consultant Intern and Summer Associate programs
5. Northwestern Mutual Internship
6. Plante Moran's Internship Experiences
7. KPCB Fellows Program
8. Evercore Advisory Summer Analyst and Summer Associate Program
9. CapTech Summer Internship Program
10. Anadarko Corporation Summer Internship Program

Vault, in addition to ranking the Best Overall Internships, also ranked internship programs in seven industries: Accounting, Consulting, Energy, Financial Services, Investment Banking, Media & Telecom, and Retail & Consumer Products.

Best Accounting Internship: Elliot Davis ENVISION
Best Consulting Internship: Bates White Summer Consultant Program
Best Energy Internship: Anadarko Petroleum Summer Internship Program
Best Financial Services Internship: Northwestern Mutual Internship
Best Investment Banking Internship: Evercore Advisory Summer Analyst and Associate Program
Best Media & Telecommunications Internship: AT&T Finance Leadership Program
Best Retail & Consumer Products Internship: Kohl's Information Technology Internship

According to Loosvelt, the company has been studying, surveying and ranking employers for quite some time. Mainly focusing on consulting, law, banking and now expanding into consumer products, tech, energy, media and entertainment. Why study the internship programs of these industries?

"Internships have been growing in importance, as nearly half of all entry-level full-time jobs at the top employers in the country are now sourced through their internship programs. So we found it important to give readers a better sense of the best internship programs out there, and to give them information about what it's like to intern at top employers as well as how to get these internships," says Loosvelt.
Loosvelt says Millennials are looking for jobs and careers that have meaning.

"Of course, prestige and salary are still important to Millennials, but I don't think they're the most important factors by far (like I think they were to, say, Generation X). I think Millennials want to make an impact. They want to feel their work is meaningful (the definition of what's meaningful varies, of course, from person to person)," says Loosvelt. Some people might want to advance the tech field in Silicon Valley, others might find their meaning in charity, while others are spreading awareness via social media or through education.

"Millennials are very focused on career advancement and training," Loosvelt says. "They're attracted to positions in which they'll be able to make difference right away-that is, being able to contribute to their firm's success without much waiting/training period. And they want to know that they'll be able to advance quickly if they succeed. They shy away from strict advancement time periods. And I believe that Millennials are also less fearful when it comes to changing careers and entrepreneurship -- starting their own ventures. This might just be because it's easier to start businesses these days; for example, brick-and-mortar stores aren't necessary to begin because, in most cases, all you need is a web domain and an idea; it doesn't take that much money to get going."

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Millennials will be the majority of the workforce in 2015. Loosvelt agrees that more companies (like the ones ranked in the study) are putting more time and resources into their programs in order to attract top talent and retain them.

There has been a major switch as companies have been putting a greater emphasis on training and development in internship programs. "This is partly, I assume, because they realize it pays to do this. If you treat your internship program like one long training period (and now sometimes students will intern two and three summers with the same firm), once your interns start full time with you, they're ready to perform real work, not to mention they're apt to stay at your firm for a lot longer period of time-that is, they'll be less apt to jump ship to another firm just for the money since they have a stronger connection (more loyalty) to you," says Loosvelt.

"Companies are increasingly offering better benefits and perks," he adds, "as they understand that Millennials are interested in flexible schedules (to raise families and/or engage in outside-of-work activities) and in having a community feeling at work, which wasn't so much the case with respect to past generations."

Follow by Email