Friday, August 21, 2015

The Familiarity of the Workplace Scandal

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that is one of the worst places to work. Upon reading about the conditions that made the employer so horrible in the first place, many Americans found they weren't learning anything new about the retail giant. Many working American could recount their own horror stories from their current and former employers. The CEO of, Jeff Bezos seemed shocked and appalled at the negative reviews that current and former employees gave his company. The New York Times quoted his response which included “I don’t recognize this Amazon and I very much hope you don’t, either.” But how could he not? There were so many detailed, horrendous complaints. Those however don't even account for the many complaints employees choose not to disclose for fear of retaliation. Although it is true that because some people are unhappy with a company, does not mean that the company is necessarily one of the worst. The concern is what made those few complaints about which we read, sound so horrible in the first place. One woman complained about her job dedication being in question simply because she had a baby. This is both misogynistic and discriminatory. I'm sure any Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) will tell you, where one person has experienced discrimination or harassment, there most certainly will be another.

Before we paint as the devil of all employers, consider the number of large corporate organizations there are. Bank of America regularly receives awards for being one of the best places to work for women with children. Yet, many of the women terminated from employment were reportedly terminated for issues directly related to motherhood. Women found themselves terminated for tardiness, even if they were a mere 1 minute late, and absences in excess of 7 days. Bear in mind that a child who has contracted the chicken pox or the flu may be out of school for up to two weeks. Multiply that by more than one child, and you've lost your job before the first child has recovered. Yet, this is an organization that has been awarded for being the best employer for people with families.

Owens Valley Career Development Center, a tribal TANF organization prides itself on helping the Native American community become self-sufficient. They often offer "safe spaces" for employees to vent about issues that need to change to help the organization better achieve it's mission statement. "Safe spaces" are intended for employees to speak freely without fear of retaliation. However, the moment a member of tribal council is offended by an employee's honesty, they are terminated for "at-will" reasons. Over the past year there have been over 200 isolated complaints of sexual harassment, bullying, nepotism, public drunkenness, theft, and welfare fraud that resulted in whistleblowers being reprimanded or terminated. What many non-employees do not know, is that as a tribal entity, OVCDC is not bound by the labor laws that bind all other non-tribal companies. Many employees have complained that they never received their full final paychecks, have been wrongfully terminated, and have been barred from re-hire. There is no recourse for these people as tribes are sovereign nations and govern themselves. So even though you were interviewed, hired, employed, and even fired on non-tribal land, you as an American citizen are not protected by the United States labor laws. This is one of many reasons the State of California suffers such a high unemployment rate. Yet this organization is revered as one of the most successful tribal TANF organizations in the country.

This takes me back to my initial question. How could the CEO of an organization be so unaware of the atrocities taking place in their own company?


We all know there is a chain of command when filing a complaint against an employee or making suggestions regarding workplace or policy improvements. But what if the person to whom you are to direct these concerns doesn't send that information up the chain of command for their own selfish reasons? Several employees at OVCDC reported that they were reprimanded and saw stellar employees terminated for speaking out about policies and procedures in what was supposed to be a "safe space" free from retaliation. Members of tribal council reportedly did not like hearing about grievances for the first time in public. Rather than resolving the bottlenecking that prevented this information from getting to them in the first place, they allegedly chose to reprimand the whistle blower for saying anything at all. In the end, employees say that the issues where never resolved, the employees who caused the bottlenecking and caused other employees to be disgruntled in the first place remained employed, and the whistle blower are now collecting unemployment. All of this happens on a level that all but excludes the involvement of the CEO.

Bank of America employees reported that after filing complaints about harassment or bullying from their supervisors they found themselves being written up for offenses such as being late by 1 minute, being 1 account below their sales goal even though they were the top seller, and the style of their nails. By being written up, an employee may not transfer to another banking center or be promoted, no matter how petty the write up is, or willing the next supervisor is to overlook the write ups. All a supervisor need do after frivolously writing up an employee is request permission to terminate which is always granted when a write up is involved. None of this information will reach the CEO.

Bottlenecking is a result of policies designed to streamline minor issues without them having to take up the time of corporate level employees. The CEO is paid the largest salary but they don't necessarily do the most work. Lower level supervisors are to resolve ground level issues. Human Resources is designed to resolve employee issues that may result in litigation. More often times then not, the resolution is termination under the at-will law. No employee issue should ever reach the CEO with Bottleneck Polices in place. The television show Undercover Boss was a success because CEOs could talk to their ground level employees first hand and improve their company's image. This show circumvented the Bottleneck Policy that is so popular in the corporate world.

What Can I Do?

Every month I am asked about how to file a complaint without losing a job. The answer is, don't. When it comes to employment remember that you are free to quit at any time, though you may not be able to afford to do so. This is the attitude that you must always assume your employer will have. They don't always want to hear the truth. Sometimes they know the truth and have no intentions of making changes. They don't always care that you are being harassed, they do care if you are a litigious liability. No matter what they tell you, they want you to do the job for which you are being paid. You are not being paid to improve the company for which you work. If you want to see a change, work somewhere else, or start your own company that holds higher standards. If you make it your mission to stick to your job description, you will find longevity in your career. Very rarely is innovation adequately rewarded.

Even though you may not complain, document everything down to dates and times. You never know when you may need it.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Super Lice: How To Fight It

According to the Southern University Illinois, a species of what has been dubbed "super lice" has appeared in at least 25 states. This species of lice is resistant to over-the-counter treatment products. It has been recommended that should your child acquire lice, you should seek a prescription from your healthcare provider. The news of this new "super lice" is very disturbing. It's back to school time and the last thing you want to hear is that there is an outbreak of resistant lice. First let's dispel some of the myths about lice in general.


Having lice means you're dirty.

This isn't true at all. The cleanest, healthiest homes have become infested with lice. All that is needed is a living, human scalp to transport lice. Depending on how long the person has had lice, the nits will jump from one head to another. Think for a moment, you sit on sofas, movie theater seats, naptime at daycare, gave baby a piggyback ride. It is very easy for lice to jump from one person to another.


You have to delouse your dogs.

This is also false. Dogs and cats do not carry or transmit lice.


You have to use Rid to get rid of lice.

Not true. In fact, this is part of the reason that the "super lice" exist. Like all pests, if you use the same chemical treatment repeatedly it will become ineffective. This is either because they learn what to avoid or because they evolve and become immune to the treatment. Rid is expensive but is the most popular and recommended over-the-counter treatment for lice. But it isn't the only treatment.

Alternative treatments for lice

Tea Tree Oil

Another myth about lice is that African Americans can't catch them. This myth is rooted in some fact but is ultimately false. At the time this myth emerged, the general populous of African Americans used African hair oils and a product commonly known as hair grease. The main ingredient in these products, Tea Tree oil. The other popular ingredients are coconut and lavender oils. Tea Tree oil is a great disinfectant and it repels lice. This is why African American children rarely catch lice. Apply it directly to the scalp or add a few drops to a spray bottle of water and use daily to repel lice.

Lavender oil

It was reported less than five years ago that an entire school was so infested with lice, that it had to be shut down temporarily. They could not get a handle on the outbreak. But they learned that the "hippie" parents previously ridiculed by the PTA were the only ones not afflicted. It turned out, the parents that everyone laughed at had been treating their children's scalps with lavender oil regularly. The lice did not like the lavender oil and were moving on to the other children. The other children had used OTC treatments for lice so frequently, the lice became "super lice" and resisted the treatments.


Like tea tree oil, vinegar is a disinfectant. It kills and repels lice.

Other essential oils:

Removing Lice

The key to treating your child for lice is removing them from the scalp. The scalp is their food source. You will need a lice comb to comb out the eggs and the nits. Focus around the back of the head and near the ears, though they could be anywhere. Use a shower cap to suffocate full grown lice. This makes it easier to catch them and remove them. Add a few drops of oil to the lice comb rather than applying it to the hair. Combing out the nits is a slow and careful process. The oil soaks into the hair too quickly. Apply it to the comb instead as needed. Use any shampoo when done, but add some tea tree or lavender oil to it. The same as with OTC treatments, monitor daily and repeat the process.

Wash clothing or bedding in hot water or add bleach to kill any lice. For items that can't be washed, place in a bag and seal for 2 weeks. It will suffocate the lice, and they will have no access to food. Lysol Disinfectant Spray can be used on the mattress.

There are several websites with recipes for the home remedies for lice. Here is one of them.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Back To School Shopping On A Budget

It's that time of year again when children go back to school and stay-at-home parents can finally gets some free time. But before your children can go back to school, you need to replenish their wardrobe and purchase the list of supplies your child's school has undoubtedly sent to you by now. But what if your budget isn't flexible enough to afford what Americans spend an average of $300 per child on? Here are some money-saving tips.

 Currently there is a sale at Famous Footwear. Buy one, get one 50% off. Famous Footwear has always been my go to place for name brand athletic shoes. I found out that Foot Locker back to school sales are on leftover styles from the summer. At Famous Footwear the style are fall fashion so you won't be stuck with all white sneakers when the weather calls for all black. This saves you money by not needing to buy shoes again the coming winter. The sales reps are more helpful in finding the right fit. There's nothing worse than spending money on new shoes and having to replace them a month later. Joining their rewards program will save you an extra 15% on your bogo sale. I was able to buy $200 worth of youth sized Adidas and Converse for less than $100. When buying school shoes, don't try to get the coolest looking shoes. Go for the most versatile. All black shoes are a must. For my daughter I bought her a pair of boys Adidas in all black and a pair of girls Nike high tops in pink and gray. For the most part, her shoes will match every outfit. This saves so much more money.

Don't bother spending money on shoes at Target. They fall apart within days of purchase. The soles of the shoes are often glued on with a weak adhesive. Payless shoes are made to last longer. Not flopping shoe soles there. But the quality of the outer shoe is weak. The "leather" shoes peel, ripple, and images rub off with minimal effort. The shoe will last but will look run over in a month. There is one shoe that holds up well, Champion sneakers. I recommend purchasing them for a child that will be participating in sports.

Backpacks are another big expense. A basic Jansport backpack (the undisputed king of all school backpacks) can cost anywhere from $30 to $50 depending on the style and the store sale. I truly recommend sticking to this brand and no other. I still have mine from college and high school. They are virtually indestructible. They also come with a lifetime warranty. Every parent needs that. But don't spend extra money on the Hello Kitty and leopard print styles. One of the joys of owning a Jansport is decorating it your own way. Better to give your child the plainest version of the backpack with a pack of sharpies and a couple of rolls of decorative duct tape.

But if you miss the store sale and need one now, refer to Facebook. There are groups that are just for posting things you want to sell. People are selling the stylized versions of the backpacks for around $20. It really is a good buy new or used. Whatever you do, don't buy character backpacks. Children go through phases. Remember when Disney's Cars was all the rage? How about the remake of Cinderella? Does your child still want that gear you dropped all of that money on? Also, character backpacks are not meant to last. I bought my son, a die hard Batman fan, a Batman backpack shaped like the chest plate of the Batman costume. Halfway through the school year, the bottom had fallen out and the zipper had disappear. Not to mention it was difficult to spot my child in the sea of Batman backpacks. I handed down my old Jansport backpack and it shows no signs of wear. It does however have the Bat symbol etched onto it.

Check your community organizations for backpack giveaways. Churches, tribal organizations, boys and girls clubs all have some type of giveaway this time of year. Some school districts also have giveaways.

Despite all the hullabaloo about the non-gender specific signage in Target, it remains the best place to buy back to school clothing. Remember that with a Target gift card, debit, or credit card, you receive 5% off of your purchase. You also get a coupon in the mail for a $5 gift card if you spend $50. Target school supplies remain on sale through September, in case you need more time to figure out what you really need. How irritating is it to buy everything on the list the teacher sent home before summer only to be told the classroom provides everything? It happened to me last year.

Target is notorious for their $10 denim sales. This is the biggest reason to go. Target jeans last longer than the jeans from The Children's Place. They also have the lowest prices on the basic clothing pieces, solid tops, leggings, etc. Old Navy also has a fantastic denim sale. They last just as long as the Target brands in fact. But I chose not to purchase them simply because Target came with a 5% discount and a $5 gift card. That left enough money for some pencils and notebooks.

Don't waste money on character specific folders, notebooks, pencils etc. Your children will outgrow them, trade them, lose them and your money goes out of the window. Buy them a pack of stickers and let them go to town. Wait until school starts to buy binders and notebooks. Many classrooms provide these things.

Some other money saving tips:

  • Go to Costco with your friends and family. Divide up your shopping lists and share the bulk products. I bought bulk binders one year, my friend bought pens, another bought notebooks. For the price of the binders, I got binders, pens and paper. I saved money.
  • A way to make money is to put your warehouse store membership to work for you. Buy in bulk and sell to others at a price lower than other stores, yet higher than the unit price you paid.
  • Raid the office. You know those office supplies no one likes or uses but your boss can't send back? Ask if you can "donate" them to neighborhood kids who need school supplies.
  • Hand me downs are fantastic. Go for the denim, the sweaters and the coats.
  • Have a closet party for your kids. Bring last years school clothing and supplies and let the kids take turns taking what they need for this school year. Or, the parents can do this while the kids have a play date.