Case Study: Can You Get Fired Because You Are Fat?

03/05/2009
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Picture this scenario: You’re just returning from your lunch break when your boss walks up to you and tells you to pack your belongings. You’re fired. You stammer for an explanation. Did you mishandle an important project? Were you accused of embezzling company funds?

No. It’s because you’re fat. (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/2958.cfm?sd=247)

Because weight and obesity is not a protected characteristic under Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act, a person who was fired as a result of being overweight would not likely have a defendable discrimination case.

Only in cases where you were extremely or morbidly obese would you have the opportunity to defend yourself under the protection regarding discrimination against disability, by filing a claim under the Americans with disabilities act.  Even then it would be a very difficult case to win.

There is the idea that obesity, dress, and other physical characteristics are a remaining opportunity for discrimination and prejudice, and this is exemplified by the notion that workers can share fat jokes without a raised eyebrow, but certainly not jokes about blacks or women or older people, because it would quickly bring cases of discrimination. Because people are generally believed to make choices about their physical appearance, but are born with other characteristics (age, race, etc), physical appearance seems to elude the common rules of prejudice.

Employers who look at the data may discriminate against the obese because according to some studies, obese people are more likely to submit worker’s compensation claims, and so to protect the bottom line, employers may take this currently legal action of firing or refusing to hire the obese.

Most of my ideas and support came from the source of the case: http://www.diversityinc.com/public/2958.cfm?sd=247

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Amazon.com: iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind: Gary Small, Gigi Vorgan: Books

02/16/2009
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Here’s a book that delves deeply into the topic raised in our article “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” and I’m looking forward to reading it. It appears to be a bit more grounded in academic scholarship and research than the article was, and maybe just a little more even handed. Can you tell how I felt about the article? To the point: I’m not against the idea that our minds are changing, I’m against the idea that it’s a bad thing.

DNA structure

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Their insights are extraordinary, their behaviors unusual. Their brains—shaped by the era of microprocessors, access to limitless information, and 24-hour news and communication—are remapping, retooling, and evolving. They’re not superhuman. They’re your twenty-something coworkers, your children, and your competition. Are you keeping up?

In iBrain, Dr. Gary Small, one of America’s leading neuroscientists and experts on brain function and behavior, explores how technology‘s unstoppable march forward has altered the way young minds develop, function, and interpret information. iBrain reveals a new evolution catalyzed by technological advancement and its future implications: Where do you fit in on the evolutionary chain? What are the professional, social, and political impacts of this new brain evolution? How must you adapt and at what price?

While high-tech immersion can accelerate learning and boost creativity, it also has its glitches, among them the meteoric rise in ADD diagnoses, increased social isolation, and Internet addiction. To compete and thrive in the age of brain evolution, and to avoid these potential drawbacks, we must adapt, and iBrain—with its Technology Toolkit—equips all of us with the tools and strategies needed to close the brain gap.

via Amazon.com: iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind: Gary Small, Gigi Vorgan: Books.

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Crossing a line with Live streaming?

02/14/2009
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A new father decided to stream the birth of his child on the internet, and some blogs following the story are asking if it ‘crosses a line’? I wonder, since there, again, is no editing going on in the blogosphere, whether it matters if it crosses a line. Perhaps a better question would be, how will this new found empowerment of consumer turned producer sans editor affect the ways in which we consider what is objectionable in the media. That is, when we are the media.

Leaving aside the fact that Branch ignored the advice of the attending nurse, who asked him to turn it off (many hospitals prohibit any video taping in surgery rooms for malpractice reasons), doesn’t this make you cringe just a little bit? There’s no question that everyone has the right to determine how far he or she wants to go in sharing their private lives on the internet, but I imagine a lot of people will deem live streaming a child’s birth inappropriate. Are there no private moments left anymore?
Address : http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/02/13/another-baby-birth-streamed-live-does-this-cross-a-line/
Date Visited: Fri Feb 13 2009 20:19:30 GMT-0500 (EST)

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Video: “Plane crashed a few blocks from my house. I filmed it.” – Boing Boing

02/13/2009
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In our classroom talks about producer/consumer relationships, top down/bottom up media, and unedited releases, there are lots of issues with that lack of editing. For example, here, on one of my favorite blogs, boingboing, there is was a video posted of the Buffalo plane crash to YouTube. There is something to be said for the timestamp of the upload, which is approximately the same time that the major networks broke the news, which brings into question the power of the networks to report any faster than, well, you. However, the other thing that rises very quickly to the forefront is whether an editor (a traditional editor who is afraid of lawsuits, loss of readership, etc.) would post the same video. There are some critiques of this blog for doing just that in the discussion after the video, which is no longer available, because youtube removed it.

Isn’t boingboing supposed to the directory of wonderful things? What’s so wonderful about posting videos of plane crashes? And I’m not even going into the ethics/motivation of doing this either. After all, there is nothing to be learned/understood by watching or posting this video. Just some shaky footage.

via Video: “Plane crashed a few blocks from my house. I filmed it.” – Boing Boing.

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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

02/13/2009
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Dr. Ebo asked us to give two specific examples of discriminatory practice related to the following types, using the EEOC web site as a guide.

Age: An employer who chooses one employee over another equally qualified employee for a job based on their age would be in violation of discrimination laws. If an employee decided to reduce benefits to an employee based on the idea that advanced age was causing more frequent insurance claims, they would be in violation of discrimination laws. http://www.eeoc.gov/types/age.html

Disability: An employer who decided to fire a secretary who was recently diagnosed with legal blindness, but who was still able to perform basic job duties would be in violation. An employer who refused to install a ramp for an employee who became wheelchair ridden in a car accident would likely be in violation, if the install of the ramp was an affordable expense to the business and would not bring undue hardship. Disability Discrimination

Equal Compensation: Two persons doing the same job who are of equal skills, effort, and responsibility, etc. but who were given different pay or benefits would put the employer in violation. If an older construction worker and a younger construction worker both do a similar job, but the employer sees the older employee as an insurance risk for that reason alone, they can not simply reduce benefits based upon that belief. Equal Pay and Compensation Discrimination

National Origin: If an employer hires one person over another because both they and the new employee were both of German descent, the employer would be in violation. If an employer set an employee of a particular national origin to a task that they felt matched some national association with that task (a Chinese American to do an accountancy task, for example, playing on the stereotype) they would be in violation. National Origin Discrimination

Pregnancy: An employer who discovers that a suitable candidate for employment is pregnant can not dismiss her from consideration based on the fact that she’s pregnant. If an employer typically allows an employee to enjoy a benefit whle on leave, they must provide the same benefit to an employee who is away because of a pregnancy.   Pregnancy Discrimination

Race: An employer must not give preferential treatment or a difference of responsibility, etc., based on racial differences. If a boss were to choose a caucasian worker over a hispanic worker to manage a project because they believe that caucasians are more responsible than other races, they would be in violation.  Race-Based Discrimination

Religion: If a employer were to choose a Christian over an atheist for a job because they felt the job required a moral compass and the atheist would be less likely to be morally complete, they would be in violation. If a Christian employer were to only ever promote people who noticeably prayed they would be in violation. Religious Discrimination

Retaliation: An employer who demotes an employee as retaliation for reporting a discrimination violation is in violation for this alone. Threatening an employee who reports a violation of discrimination laws is also prohibited. Retaliation

Sex: An employer who insists upon sexual favors from an employee is in violation. An employer who maintains a hostile work environment due to sexual overtones in the workplace is in violation.  Sex-Based Discrimination

Sexual Harassment: A worker who is subjected to overtly sexual conversations of co-workers because of the allowances of the employer puts the employer in violation of sexual harassment rules. A co worker who commits sexual advances, asks for sexual favors, or promotes a sexually based hostile work environment for others is in violation.  Sexual Harassment

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ABC News: Obama Admits Embarrassing Day for Administration

02/04/2009

One of the great things about this administration, so far, is the transparency, willingness to admit when something’s wrong, and the effort to communicate, then move to correct. It shows an element of leadership that is often overlooked, and seldom practiced: humility. It is also a macro example of how we can act in our own lives.

“Anytime one of your nominees pulls out, that’s an issue and, you know, as I’ve said publicly, you know, ultimately, I take responsibility for the situation that we’re in,” Obama said in an interview today in the Oval Office with ABC News’ Charles Gibson, referring to Tom Daschle. “I think that all of these were honest mistakes, but ultimately, there’s no excuse for them.”

via ABC News: Obama Admits Embarrassing Day for Administration.


Journal Entry: Mediation Chapter 6

05/24/2008

This chapter focuses on the concerns in mediation practices, and specifically focuses on four concerns: Appropriateness, use of caucus, confidentiality, and ethics (p. 117).

Appropriateness refers to the ability to use mediation effectively in order to work to resolve a dispute. In some cases, such as these where disputants are being coerced to mediate, have a long standing reinforced distrust that mediation may fail to bypass, or where legal issues, abuse, or immense sums of money are involved, mediation may not be the best choice, though it may be a good starting point for beginning to encourage communication between parties on their way to other dispute resolution methodologies (pp. 117-121).

The use of caucus is a concern because it potentially works against the most effective aspects of mediation, e.g. bringing parties to the table, and engaging in face to face communication with openness and transparency (pp. 121-123).

Ethics of course is always a concern in mediation, since trust, openness, transparency, and commitment require that all parties are there in good faith, that the mediator is not leading the process, nor biased for or against any of the disputants. It is important that mediators are always asking themselves if they have lost their impartiality, and if so to remove themselves from the process or if possible, refuse their own biases and question their own assumptions (pp. 123-126).

Finally, confidentiality is a concern because without it, disputants may be reluctant to participate at all. In order to gain trust, open up, and focus on positive outcomes, it is important to be able to get all relevant information out on the table. That can only happen in some cases if that information goes no further than that room. The mediators must let everyone know up front (in the introduction) that information recorded during the mediation, (other than the agreement itself, if reached), will be destroyed and carried no further (pp. 127-129).

Domenici, K., Domenici-Littlejohn, & Littlejohn, S. W. (2001). Mediation: Empowerment in Conflict Management, Second Edition. (2nd), 198. Waveland Press.

Personal Experiential Influence:

The appropriateness of mediation in context is an interesting topic. I can think of several situations in which mediation would have been more or less appropriate in my life: Small hallway skirmishes in high school might have benefited from mediation, and small jobs in design, where I lost thousands of dollars in unpaid consultant fees, would definitely have benefited from the parties having the opportunity to voice their opinions. I’ve also encountered conflict in the car, where someone cuts me off, or fails to signal – it wouldn’t be apropos to bring that party into a mediation session, for instance. In the design case, We missed our day in court because we decided to stay out of court and use an conflict avoidance approach, but we might have agreed to mediation.