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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Broadcast Networks Battling Uphill for Profit and Audience – NYTimes.com

02/28/2009
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This is posted to illustrate the tension in digital media convergence between the current, the past and the future media. When the old model begins to collapse, how do the longstanding media react? If they don’t alter their methods and change to meet new needs, they falter, crumble, and disappear.

Ratings over all for broadcast networks continue to decline, making it harder for them to justify their high prices for advertising. Cable channels are spending more on original shows, which bring in new viewers and dampen their appetites for buying repeats of broadcast shows.

For the networks, the crisis is twofold: cultural and financial. For viewers, the result is more low-cost reality shows, prime-time talk and news programs and sports from the institutions that once made “Hill Street Blues,” “All in the Family” and “Cheers.”

via Broadcast Networks Battling Uphill for Profit and Audience – NYTimes.com.

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Is the Internet Warping Our Brains? | LiveScience

02/25/2009
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In our ongoing discussion about the ways in which the internet, technology and Google is changing the ways in which we think, I thought this article might be a good one to bring to light.

The Internet is no doubt changing modern society. It has profoundly altered how we gather information, consume news, carry out war, and create and foster social bonds. But is it altering our brains? A growing number of scientists think so, and studies are providing data to show it.

What remains to be seen is whether the changes are good or bad, and whether the brain is, as one neuroscientist believes, undergoing unprecedented evolution.

Texting and instant messaging, social networking sites and the Internet in general can certainly be said to distract people from other tasks. But what researchers are worrying more about are the plastic brains of teens and young adults who are now growing up with all this, the “digital natives” as they’re being called.

via Is the Internet Warping Our Brains? | LiveScience.

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Case One Response (COMM 564 Ebo)

02/23/2009
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CASE STUDY NUMBER ONE

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.

Of course, immediately, I need to know some more clarifying information.

How do I know that I am being fired for what I’ll call obesity? What in my job requires that I must be of ‘normal’ weight? What is normal weight? Are we using a formula? Am I a dancer? Am I a model? Am I an athlete who needs to be in top physical shape to stay focused? Am I a trash person, who must be able to hang on to the back of a truck without fear of a quick turn? Is it part of a contract? Has anything actually been said to indicate that obesity was in fact the reason? The company is held, generally speaking, to a standard that prevents discrimination according to weight, which in this case might be coded as a disability.
I don’t think the case would stand very long in court or even be considered unless there is some factor which is not revealed in the case study, such as one of the scenarios I mentioned above, e.g. dancing, modeling, or some other work activity that requires the worker’s body to be of a certain fitness in order to do the work well. In this case, special care would have to be taken in the work agreement to measure what an ideal body was proportionally, in weight, and in tone, so that an objective analysis of the worker’s body could be shown to be outside of the margins of allowance. Otherwise, the scenario is akin to prejudice, in that bodily fitness has no impact of knowledge work, but may indeed be seen as having an impact on kinetic work.

I’d also add that I do not see it as very fair nor reasonable, even given a contract, that there not be an opportunity to make things right in the eyes of the contract. How many pounds out of the allowance are we? 20 pounds? 10? 10 pounds could be reasonably lost with a fitness and caloric regimen in 5 to 10 weeks. Can the work be held for that long? Is there some other task that the obese employee could do in the meantime?

John LeMasney

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Does Social Media Make Us Better People?

02/22/2009
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Here’s something very close to my argument, but more about interpersonal communication effects. Perhaps I should broaden (or tighten) my thesis.

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Rather, I’m talking about the cameraphone user who automatically uploads her photos to Flickr or Twitpic, who with the tap of a screen can post a video to YouTube or stream a scene live on Qik. I’m talking about the immediacy and accessibility of Twitter messages that make private conversations public; tools that open up the very real possibility that every action you take, whether in a public space or in seemingly private emails and text messages, is being logged and possibly shared with thousands of people.How does this change the way we act? Might it actually make us…nicer to one another?

via Does Social Media Make Us Better People?.

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Reading Review and Journal (for February 24th)

02/22/2009

1. Topic for your final Paper

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How Google is making us brilliant; how Google, Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other tools like these will allow us all to achieve higher collective intelligence on several layers and at several axes.

2. Thesis for your final paper. It is the central idea you would like to present in your final paper. The more specific the better. Please make sure to demonstrate how your thesis is related to the Internet and digital media convergence concepts, theories, or models we have covered in our class.

Google provides an interface to a growing collection of collective knowledge, which with proper training, can be tapped efficiently to help solve any problem that has been previously solved and shared. Twitter allows you to ask the world a question, and get 1,000 answers in an instant. Facebook allows for us all to interconnect on a visual verbal basis, actively or passively, allowing for a more comprehensive look at each other’s (constructed) profiles and provides a way to grasp deeper socio-emotional connections with others. Blogs allow us to quickly produce our own pieces of collective intelligence, feeding Google all the while, providing new fodder for Facebook and Twitter, and generally increasing the amount of known published knowledge with each post.

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3. Two articles (academic or professional) that you would like to use in your paper.

Ivana Marenzi, Elena Demidova, & Wolfgang Nejdl. (2008, June 30). DSpace at Open Universiteit Nederland: LearnWeb 2.0. Integrating Social Software for Lifelong Learning. DSpace at Open Universiteit Nederland: LearnWeb 2.0. Integrating Social Software for Lifelong Learning. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://dspace.learningnetworks.org/handle/1820/1260?mode=full&submit_simple=Show+full+item+record.

L. Johnson, A. Levine, & R. Smith. (n.d.). 2009 Horizon Report. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://wp.nmc.org/horizon2009/.

Readwriteweb, S. P. (2009, January 30). How to Friend Mom, Dad, and the Boss on Facebook…Safely. The New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://www.nytimes.com/external/readwriteweb/2009/01/30/30readwriteweb-how_to_friend_mom_dad_and_the.html?em.

Stone, B., & Stelter, B. (2009, February 19). Facebook Withdraws Changes in Data Use. The New York Times. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/19/technology/internet/19facebook.html?_r=1&em.

4. Brief summary of the two articles.

LearnWeb 2.0. Integrating Social Software for Lifelong Learning provides a theoretical framework that focuses on the sublime ability for social networks and technology services to enhance learning. This article brings to light some of the ways in which social networks can be particularly utilized in supporting and enhancing teaching and learning. This is in stark contrast to the idea promoted in “Is Google Making us Stupid?”

The 2009 Horizon Report is a yearly prediction of the ways in which current and emerging technologies will affect teaching, learning, and society in general. It is a strikingly accurate and thoroughly enjoyable read for a technologist who has faith in the ways in which technology can help us change for the better.

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The two New York Times articles focus on Facebook. One describes best practices for information sharing for the new user, how to avoid the pitfalls of sharing the wrong information or sharing it in the wrong way. The other article speaks about the recent flap in which Facebook changed its terms of service (TOS) to indicate that the content that users add to the system belonged solely to the company forever. A blog post on The Consumerist brought the change light and public scrutiny, and Facebook quickly reverted to its previous TOS language. This speaks to the concepts of collective intelligence, bottom up media vs. top down media, information ownership, and others that help define Digital media convergence.

5. Brief discussion about how the two articles are related to your thesis.

The LearnWeb 2.0 article shows a framework that could potentially exemplify my thesis that learning is enhanced and magnified with the proper application of Social networking tools.

The 2009 Horizon Report defines a long list of technologies and the ways in which they will theoretically affect learning spaces, learners, teaching, distance learning, mobile learners, portable media in learning, and other aspects of gathering and gaining intelligence.

An example of a social network diagram.
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The two New York Times articles on Facebook will help to bring to light issues regarding the broad increase in information sharing and the relevant importance of guiding new users to use the systems properly. It also helps to show the blurry line that exists between producer, consumer, content owner, intellectual property owner, and privacy in the shared online space.

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New nerd merit badge: Inbox Zero – Boing Boing

02/20/2009

I found this interesting tidbit on BoingBoing today, which speaks to the idea that we are beginning to associate achievement with getting through the data overload, becoming data overload overlords, so to speak. I am officially reminding you that my blogs are all Creative Commons Share Alike Attribution licensed, and that phrase is mine. 😉

A while ago, I wrote about the launch of Nerd Merit Badges, to be worn by people who want to show off their geeky achievements. The first one was for folks who have contributed to an Open Source software project.

The new one, just announced, is for those dedicated souls who have strived to experience — if only for a moment — the Zen-like, fulfilling emptiness of Inbox Zero (in other words, cleaning out your email inbox). It’s a beaut! New nerd merit badge: Inbox Zero

Nerd Merit Badge: Inbox 0

via New nerd merit badge: Inbox Zero – Boing Boing.

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