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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Why Deloitte & Touche made Diversity Inc’s Top 50 list.

03/04/2009
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Deloitte and Touche has a CEO in Barry Salzberg that values and models diversity internally and externally (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3294.cfm). He chairs and manages an internal diversity council (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3294.cfm). He is connected with the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and other diversity oriented nonprofits (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3294.cfm). He supports diversity in his executives by tying compensation to the promotion of diversity (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3294.cfm). He is quoted here:

“Building and sustaining an inclusive culture has been critical to Deloitte’s growth and will play an important role in our continued success. Clients expect it, new recruits want it and our people demand it. Most importantly, our culture of inclusion has a direct impact on the organization’s ability to set the standard of excellence in the marketplace.” (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3294.cfm)

They hire a diverse worker body, and support diverse employee resource groups, such as LGBT groups and employees with disabilities (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3294.cfm). “Thirty-two percent of its work force and 41 percent of its new hires were Black, Asian, Latino or Native American” (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3294.cfm)

This company respects its employees. They promote a work/life balance, have strong metrics to support productivity and goals, and provides support (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3294.cfm).

They have a mentoring program in which 75% of managers participate (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3294.cfm).

They also have a Chief Diversity Officer, Allen Thomas, who is quoted here:

Diversity and inclusion is tightly woven into Deloitte’s fabric. We’ve accomplished this by setting a clear and decisive tone at the top and demonstrating leadership’s unwavering commitment to fostering an inclusive culture that provides opportunities for all of our professionals to succeed. In addition, our active support of Deloitte’s Business Resource Groups and their members across the country is a daily display of our commitment to the diversity of our people. (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3294.cfm)

DiversityInc devises it’s top 50 most diverse companies “by metrics obtained in a detailed survey of more than 200 questions” (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3273.cfm).

Any company with over 1,000 U.S. employees can request and recieve the free survey (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3273.cfm).

Some more details on the methodology of choosing the top 50:

four areas the survey measures: CEO Commitment, Human Capital, Corporate and Organizational Communications, and Supplier Diversity. Companies are assessed within the context of their industries, geography and employee skill sets. Any company that does not offer domestic-partner health benefits is automatically excluded from the Top 50 and the 11 specialty lists (http://www.diversityinc.com/public/3273.cfm).

I think that Deloitte and Touche is regarded as a top company in terms of diversity because the structure of the leadership (e.g. a Chief Diversity Officer) as well as a CEO who supports and models diversity encourage that behavior. If the leadership provides the path, the carrot, and the stick, intrinsic valence of the idea in employees is probably not far behind, especially if it helps people, helps the company, and helps the world.

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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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Pew Internet: Twitter and status updating

02/26/2009
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Collecting great articles for my COMM 563 paper on Twitter‘s effects on Collective Intelligence.

As of December 2008, 11% of online American adults said they used a service like Twitter or another service that allowed them to share updates about themselves or to see the updates of others.

Twitter and similar services have been most avidly embraced by young adults. Nearly one in five (19%) online adults ages 18 and 24 have ever used Twitter and its ilk, as have 20% of online adults 25 to 34. Use of these services drops off steadily after age 35 with 10% of 35 to 44 year olds and 5% of 45 to 54 year olds using Twitter. The decline is even more stark among older internet users; 4% of 55-64 year olds and 2% of those 65 and older use Twitter.

via Pew Internet: Twitter and status updating.

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Mozilla demos impressive Firefox 3.1 features at SCALE – Ars Technica

02/24/2009
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In our models of Digital Media Convergence, the technological layer is an essential one. When basic everyday technology tools like Firefox allow for greater and easier publishing and sharing of rich media, they power the bottom-up media, the participative culture, and the empowerment of rich media publishing. I’ll say it again: I am NBC.

The HTML 5 video element will also arrive in Firefox 3.1. This will allow video content to be embedded directly in Web pages, controlled with JavaScript, and manipulated through the DOM. It’s a major step forward for rich media content on the Web. Firefox 3.1 will ship with built-in support for the Ogg Vorbis and Theora formats—open audio and video codecs that are believed to be unencumbered by patents. The actual codec implementations are integrated directly into the browser itself, so content in those formats will be playable without requiring any external components or plugins.

via Mozilla demos impressive Firefox 3.1 features at SCALE – Ars Technica.

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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.

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...
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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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Show notes from COMM 563

02/18/2009
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In last night’s COMM 563 class I mentioned some technologies that interested some of my classmates enough to send me private queries about them. As a result, I’m going to do a little rundown of some of the things I mentioned, and some resources for those of you who are interested.

Gartner Group‘s technology versatilist:

“If the last decade represented the era of specialists, this decade will mark the era of the versatilist,” said Ms Morello. “Versalitists are people whose numerous roles, assignments and experiences are enabling them to synthesize knowledge and context to fuel business value. Versatilists are applying their depth of skills and experiences to a rich scope of situations and challenges and implementing their cross-organisational insight to flesh out teams and fill competency gaps.”

source: http://www.gartner.com/press_releases/asset_139314_11.html

RSS Feeds overview:

Google Reader

Using Google’s special operators: http://www.google.com/help/features.html

Using advanced Search features in Google: http://www.google.com/support/websearch/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=136861

Twitter:

Incidentally, you can find me on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/lemasney but a much better way to follow me is via Friendfeed, which shows my twitter activity, and a whole lot more. http://friendfeed.com/lemasney

David Pogue: http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/01/15/twittering-tips-for-beginners/

I hope you all enjoy!

John.

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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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