Archive for the ‘Employment’ Category

Oh My Blog! Intern Rebecca Takes MC Blogger To Task

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Mike & Molly

Mike & Molly

Marie Claire dating blogger Maura Kelly had a lot to say earlier this week about obese folks. Mainly that she doesn’t want to see them. Kelly stated on Monday that when she’s home alone channel surfing, she wishes to never spot the horrific image of two “fat” people getting it on, going as far as saying, “I’d be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other, because I’d be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything. To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room.”

Hey, Kelly, all that hot air in your empty stomach is rising straight to your big, fat head. Good thing your offensive comments haven’t yet made it to primetime, so I don’t have to catch a glimpse of you on my TV. In the past few days, Maura’s blog post has received an astonishing 1,800 comments from readers who call the writer a bully, evil, and bigoted. One comment even points out that if “obese person” were replaced with “black person,” Kelly would already be in line for her first unemployment check.

I’d even say that a similar blog targeting gay people would thankfully no longer be accepted by society. So why should it be okay to talk this way about obesity – another genetic condition many people simply can’t help? Marie Claire recently announced that they have no intention of firing Kelly, and even backed her up, calling her a controversial blogger. Tell me, Amy, how is this woman keeping her job?

The Confidence Game

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

In our last week as Bintel Brief gurus, we abandon any pretense that we’re giving legal advice and instead harness our inner Dear Abbys to help a letter writer with confidence issues…

Dear Bintel Brief,

When I was growing up, and throughout college, I would characterize myself as a pretty confident person. I felt excited by the world, and all the possibilities in it; almost nothing seemed impossible. But a couple of years out of school, and into the working world, my faith in my own abilities has diminished. During meetings at work, for example, I’m often silent — having convinced myself that whatever question I ask or statement I make will sound silly to my colleagues. Where I used to see possibilities, I now see limitations, and that’s holding me back. What should I do to become a confident person (and therefore, a happy person) once again?

YEARNING FOR MY OLD SELF

Dear YFMOS,

Despite the fact that neither of us Epstein sisters has ever been much for athletics, we are about to throw a few sports metaphors and a pep talk your way, so let’s get ready to rally!

Okay, the first thing we need to remind you of is that even though you’re older now, anything is still possible. Likely you’re capable of making more things happen now than when you were just a little pisher, so don’t let your puppy dog sense of self trump the adult that you’ve become. Remember, you’re living in the Land of the Second Act, which is where all the good stuff happens anyway. And if you’re a former celebrity you get at least two more acts beyond that and a trashy reality show documenting your fall and recovery. But the true reality is, the only thing that changed between the salad days when you believed you could accomplish anything and today is your perspective (and okay, maybe a pants size or two.)

Don’t misunderstand, we know that feeling like you have limitations can be crippling, but what’s actually holding you back is the feeling itself, not your abilities. So here’s where we encourage you to “get your game face on.” Confidence — and the sense of self-esteem you project to others — is what people like your co-workers will respond to. They’ll respect views and comments that are spoken with authority. You may feel like it’s not the greatest idea or the best proposal, but guess what? Simply by stating it with confidence will make it sound sexy. Self-doubt gives off a stink and everyone in the room can smell it. That’s why it’s critical to believe in yourself and if you can’t do that, then make like a porn star and fake it.

When athletes face teams with better records, they don’t just throw in the towel and ride the bench till the time runs out. They get themselves into a mind set where they believe they can win then they go out and give it their all. Those athletes, like porn stars, fake it till they make it, too. In case you were wondering, yes, there’s definitely a Tiger Woods reference in here somewhere… But the same holds true for everyone. Self-defeatism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy so just by conning yourself into the belief that you can achieve things, believing in the value of your ideas and contributions, that’s how you start to make things happen again.

Now sometimes we forget how to be our own cheerleaders, and sometimes we can’t even remember which race we want to run. We find ourselves running on the treadmill we hopped on years ago because it was there in front of us, not necessarily because it was a road we would have taken if all paths seemed open to us. Maybe the reason you’ve lost confidence is because you haven’t fully committed to the career in which you find yourself. So here’s your assignment: Go buy a journal. Start out on your first page detailing the interview Oprah will have with you when you’ve achieved your goal. Figure out what the accomplishment is that you’d be most proud to tell her about, and then write it down as if it’s already happened. Explain in detail how you got to your goal, and what you will do with your success now that you’ve achieved it. Have fun with the assignment and you will see that as you let the words flow, you will begin to refine your dream and your path to get there until it is achievable. Continue writing entries to refine the steps you will take, and write them down as you check them off until you get to your goal. One more thing: Don’t be embarrassed. Brag! This is your private space to express your dreams in a no judgment zone. Once you know what you want to do and have a roadmap of how to get there, you will find that your joy will return.

And perhaps needless to say, that’s something we state with confidence. Go you!

Amy and Robin

Biggest Legal Stories of the Year… Beyond SO SUE ME, JACKASS!

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Well, seems our response to Worried Jewish Mother’s question has yet to be posted on the Forward’s website (and now we’re a bit worried we may have pissed off some Jews with our response…).  So in lieu of linking to our answer today, instead we’ll share Amy’s thoughts on the biggest legal stories of the annus horribilis that was 2009.

Here’s our girl on My Fox Philly (and though some might argue the point about the Madoff case, since it technically unraveled in Dec ’08, we think you’ll still have to agree that Amy’s hair looks particularly nice in this clip.):

Bad Touching

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

With Mad Men on hiatus, someone needs to bring the conversation back to inappropriate office behavior. So it falls to our intrepid general counsel in residence to discuss the downside of getting handsy with coworkers.

Fass das nicht an!

Fass das nicht an, dude!

In an interview with Rachel Zupack on Careerbuilder.com, Amy talks boundaries and what you need to know about touching coworkers so you don’t wind up getting yourself  slapped with a sexual harassment suit.

Read more here…

The No No No’s

Monday, November 16th, 2009

We (or, more specifically, Amy) made the Metro Papers again! Here’s the great piece written by Kate Arian:

The keyword in “office party” should be “office,” not “party.”The keyword in “office party” should be “office,” not “party.”

Photo: GETTY IMAGES

WHEN HO-HO-HOS BECOME NO-NO-NOS

Typically considered a lighthearted time of year, the holidays can pose difficulty for those celebrating in a workplace setting. “A new economy and changing corporate culture has left people so terrified about holding onto their jobs that they often won’t partake in any kind of holiday festivities at all,”  says Amy Epstein Feldman, co-author of “So Sue Me, Jackass!” “The unfortunate part is needlessly losing all that positive office spirit.”

But during every holiday season, many American workers are unintentionally offended by acts of religious discrimination or simple ignorance in the workplace. “It is essential to understand that not everyone is going to celebrate your holiday; there are many other traditions out there,” she cautions.

Yet while religion may be a frequent offender, Epstein Feldman believes that holiday celebrations shouldn’t become extinct. With her advice, you can rejoice this year while avoiding discomfort or, worse, a minefield of legal issues.

Holiday behavior dos and don’ts

Don’t jump to conclusions
Always wait until the other person brings up his or her holiday traditions before asking about theirs. Approaching every African to wish him or her a happy Kwanzaa will turn your simple assumption into a very offensive act of racial discrimination.

Don’t eliminate merriment entirely
Communally created holiday displays are a good way to make everyone in the office feel included and fairly represented. Ask all workers to contribute something from their traditions, rather than abolishing decoration completely.

Do always be gracious

If your office has a gift exchange, remember that it’s always better to be generic than offensive. Stick to basic items, making sure they are appropriate for whomever the recipient might be, and react politely when it’s your turn to draw a gift.

Do behave with proper conduct

This is important in all situations, whether in the office or at a holiday party. The keyword in “office party” should be “office,” not “party.” Refrain from getting drunk, even if you want to take advantage of the open bar.

Don’t promote offensive humor
Abstain from telling holiday or religious-themed jokes. Your company can take action against you even for a one-time offense.

We’re on Wallet Pop!

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Listen to our interview with Lan Nguyen on AOL’s personal finance site:

click me!

click me!

The Life Lessons Of Sleeping With an Underling

Friday, October 23rd, 2009
An interesting twist on the bunny boiling theme...

An interesting twist on the bunny boiling theme...

If you Google the words “affair with an intern” you will come up with more than 692,000 hits in a nanosecond, including the recent inclusions of David Letterman and Tennessee State Senator Paul Stanley (who may be rethinking his pro-abstinence platform right about now). So when news broke that ESPN anchor Steve Phillips had sex with a production assistant (and who had previously admitted to numerous extramarital affairs and had already faced one claim of sexual harassment in the 1990s), there was some thought that perhaps this should not come as news to anyone–particularly not to the soon-to-be-ex-Mrs. Phillips.

The fact that a 22-year-old aggrandized the affair with a married father of four into a life long love affair worthy of a letter to the wife explaining why “we” don’t want to hide this anymore, makes the whole thing more salacious (and pathetic, given that the 22 year old’s 15 minutes of fame have mostly been spent on media discussions of how chubby and unattractive she is.)

While the 22-year-old’s fake facebook friending of Phillip’s teenager is a twist which Glenn Close could only dream of back in the day when, if you wanted to go full on crazy, you had to boil the rabbit yourself, the real lesson here ISN’T that you should stop sleeping with P.A.’s and interns (since, as the pro-abstinence former Senator from Tennessee would tell you, that’s not so easy to follow.) The real lesson is one that is simpler: if you are going to screw bat-shit crazy 22-year-olds, DON’T DO IT WITH THOSE IN YOUR OFFICE since that elevates the whole mess from “big problem in my marriage” to “the biggest mistake I ever made.”

Perhaps after Steve Phillip’s last run-in with the sexual harassment officer didn’t end in death or dismemberment, he forgot how horrible an allegation like that can be to a career. But if you’re the average Joe Workerbee, the first office affair that ends badly will likely be the last in the dead-end now known as your former career.

Here’s the thing that most people forget when they sling around the words “sexual harassment”: sex with a coworker is NOT illegal—not even if a subordinate sleeps with a supervisor. It may be against company policy (more on that later), but it’s not illegal.

There are two types of sexual harassment: hostile work environment sexual harassment where the workplace is so permeated with sexual jokes, gestures, innuendos, etc. that it becomes a hostile and abusive work environment (even if there is no propositioning of any one individual) and quid pro quo sexual harassment where a supervisor premises job action on whether or not the target of his or her affection engages in a romantic relationship.

There are, in fact, many defenses to a claim of illegal quid pro quo sexual harassment, the most important being that it’s not harassment if it’s not unwelcome. (This poor deluded 22-year-old was so off her rocker it’s not a stretch to say that she actually WANTED to have sex with him.) Without the element that the romantic interest is unwelcome, it is virtually impossible to prove this claim. And a crazy-ass letter to a wife explaining why the intern should get to take her deserved place as the next Mrs. Phillips will likely end the discussion of whether or not she actually wanted “it.”

But here’s where your job ends if your affair ends badly: once an affair (not a sexually harassing affair, just your garden variety sex with a 22-year-old production assistant kind of affair) ends—and let’s face it, when she packs on 20 pounds and turns into the shrew who reminds you of your first wife, it will end—if you are the supervisor who gives her performance evaluations, your choice is either to give her the highest rankings of any underling who’s ever seen the inside of your offices, or else you risk the one claim she hasn’t forgone by sending you texts telling you she wants to get into your pants: RETALIATION.

That is, not only is it illegal to premise job action like a promotion or a demotion on acquiescence to sexual relations, it is also illegal to premise job action AFTER THE FACT on that basis. And retaliation is a claim that can be caused by either the actions of the supervisor-turned-former-lover OR by the company who looks into the matter and determines that they have a hound dog on one side and a bucket of crazy on the other and that they should fire both. Yes, Virginia, this is why most companies have a policy prohibiting romantic relationships.

Right now, Steve Phillips is sitting home wondering how he lost his marriage and his job over what amounted to probably no more than 30 minutes of pleasure in total, and this 22-year-old is STILL RIGHT THIS MINUTE at the same job she’s held all along in the offices of ESPN. Why? Because if she loses her job over this, there will be retaliation claims to follow.

While one has to wonder how many people are sitting at her lunch table at ESPN headquarters pretending they don’t want to find out more about Phillip’s birthmarks or pretending they don’t fear that the P.A. will be writing letters to THEIR wives spilling all of their own dastardly deeds, she does still get to come to work, a privilege that Steve Phillips lost when the whole thing imploded.

On Shitting Where You Eat…

Monday, October 5th, 2009
Seriously Courtney Love, no one wants to see that...

Seriously Courtney Love, no one wants to see that...

Yeah, I’ve done it. And fess up, if you haven’t actually had a relationship with a co-worker, at the very least you’ve probably pictured one of your colleagues in the nude at some point. Unless you work in a freak show, that is… then again, if you do work in a freak show, maybe that’s your thing.

So it’s time for us to weigh in on the whole David Letterman “I’ve done terrible, terrible things” story because we have a whole section in SO SUE ME, JACKASS! on the workplace and issues concerning sexual harassment.

Here’s the legal explanation for why Letterman’s consensual affairs with his co-workers, despite the fact that they were subordinates of his, DO NOT constitute sexual harassment: It is NOT sexual harassment if it is not unwelcome.

That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.

For more, check out the chapter we have on relationships, aka, Chapter 3: BAD LOVIN’, or Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, Particularly If Your Partner’s An Asshole.

Drink Slinger, Chain Blinger

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

Pity poor, busty Melody Morales, the former Hooters waitress whose dream job — being a waitress at the Hawaiian Tropic Zone — continues to elude her. Miss Morales believes that the reason she’s been twice rejected for the position in which she’d get to serve food and drinks in a bikini(!) isn’t because she can’t fill in the costume. (Looks to me like she was inflated to fit it just perfectly.)

Doubly blessed

Doubly blessed

The reason, Morales claims, is that she–HEY, eyes back here!–failed the interview portion because she didn’t “speak white” enough to satisfy the managers.

So what did Chesty McLookatMyTits do, you ask?

Well, she filed a lawsuit against the HTZ “eatery” claiming she was discriminated against because of her Latin accent.

Her lawyer, Derek Smith, was quoted in the NY Daily News (and yes, there’s another pic of her there) as stating: “I don’t think accent should play any role in service at a restaurant where the waitresses serve drinks and meals in bikinis.” In a way, I can see the man’s point–it recalls my favorite line from Bullets Over Broadway, spoken by Dianne Wiest , “No, no, don’t speak. Don’t speak. Please don’t speak. Please don’t speak. No. No. No. Go…”

But the problem is, speaking actually is a necessity for someone discussing the day’s specials and taking orders. So for asserting that Miss Morales’s job would simply be that of bikini’ed side of beef in heels, Mr. Smith gets a big slap. That said, HTZ lawyers, in trying to discredit Miss Morales by hinting she was a hooker after her photos appeared on what they deemed “very filthy” web sites, should get kicked in their collective nads.

Whether a judge will ultimately deem this a case of a discriminatory hiring practice remains to be seen. Because unlike the case of the porky waitresses at the Borgata casino who sued for weight discrimination, claiming discrimination in the case of race or ethnicity does have merit.

Personally I hope Miss Morales gets the job. Not only is this her dream, I think she’d add some much needed spice to the otherwise vanilla Hawaiian Tropic Zone.

Interview in Metro Papers

Monday, September 14th, 2009

Check out Amy’s interview in Metro Papers!:

Learn the Lessons of Laying Down the Law

metropaper▶ Can your bad breath cause you to be fired? Actually, an employer can hire you or not, and fire you for any reason — or no reason at all — as long as it’s not a discriminatory reason.

▶ Can your boss fire you if you don’t shower? Do you really have to work on a national holiday? The stuff on your desk is yours — right? ▶ Amy Epstein Feldman debunks the legal pitfalls of your job

As Amy Epstein Feldman and her sister Robin Epstein show in their new book “So Sue Me, Jackass,” when it comes to your job, you probably have fewer rights than you think.

“People think that things that are unfair are also illegal. That’s not true,” Feldman tells us. “Under federal law, it is illegal to fire an employee based on age, race, color, nationality, marital status, disability, gender or the god you do or don’t believe in.”

Anything else (weight gain, tattoos and, in many states, your sexual orientation) and you’re not protected. Below are some more surprising facts for you.

Law and order

A few more factual and funny legal insights about your job from Feldman:

1 You have to work on a national holiday. “People think they have a God-given right to have off for, say, Thanksgiving,” says Feldman. “Not only do you have to work on a national holiday if your boss tells you to, but there is no federal requirement saying you get should get holiday pay.”

2 Your boss has the right to go through “your” desk. “You should not have an expectation of privacy. People, by law, can go through your desk as it is owned by your employer.”

3 You can get fired for just about anything. As long as it’s not a discriminatory reason, they can fire you because of  “employment at will.” Meaning they can fire you for any reason — the fact you smell bad, have bad grooming habits — anything, really. “It’s a shame,” says Feldman. “But they are within the law.”