Secretarial Mobility

Workplace Violence

Postal Sightseeing

Deck Chair Chaos

People and Technology

Volunteer

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These articles by Peter J. Mladineo and Barbara Fox were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on September 30, 1998. All rights reserved.

E-mail Suits?

In some ways, E-mail is the domain of the semi-conscious mind. "People write in their E-mails things that they would never say out loud," says attorney Monica Hennessy. But if one employee sends a cohort a sexually explicit E-mail, for example, this could be potential grounds for a sexual harassment suit.

Hennessy advises employers that the best protection against an E-mail-generated suit is to draft an E-mail policy. Even if it is too soon to tell exactly how courts are going to treat E-mail suits, she reports, it's better to be safe than sorry. "There have only been a few cases out there that involved E-mail."

However, E-mail indiscretions could eventually be used in defamation and discrimination lawsuits. "It's not a joke if you're an employer who's sued for sexual harassment or discrimination," she says.

Hennessy, 34, was a professional modern dancer who went back to law school (Temple, Class of 1995), and is now an associate in Archer & Greiner's labor and employment law department. She is one of the instructors at a free seminar on computers and Internet law hosted by Archer & Greiner on Friday, October 2, at 8 a.m. at the Marriott. Call Margaret Morasca at 609-795-2121 for more information.

As Hennessy observes, the courts seem to be placing a burden on the employers to know what their employees are sending. Hennessy thinks employers should take note of two converging trends: While discrimination, harassment, and other similar suits are becoming more hazardous for employers, courts are inclined to disregard the employee's claim to cyberprivacy.

"Privacy concerns, although they're recognized by courts, have not been winning the battle," she reports. "But it's by no means settled. They're being recognized but they're being waived. So the real burden for employers is truly impressing upon their employees the seriousness of taking E-mail too lightly."

An E-mail policy doesn't have to be long or complex, Hennessy reports. The ideal policy is one page, which could easily be distributed and posted. "Emphasize that the computers are owned by the company, that all the information on the database is owned by the company, all of the documents that are created are owned by the company and basically, nothing is private about your computer. After that, discipline will be interposed if you violate the policy, up to and including termination."

While many large businesses are looking into buying E-mail monitoring software, Hennessy suggests a more humane approach. "Small employers definitely need to keep an ear to the ground with respect to what people are talking about. In an employment context if a funny E-mail comes around, chances are the employees are going to be talking about it."

The boss's attitude should be, `Hey, can I take a look at it too?'

The point being that avoiding a suit is the best policy. "Even if the employee isn't going to win, the employer is still going to get dragged through the mud."

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Secretarial Mobility

If you are an administrative assistant, secretary, or executive secretary who hopes to get a promotion, Mercer College's office management and technology certificate may help you. Planned for those who do not have an office management degree, it consists of seven full-day classes plus an intermediate-level software course. The full-day classes cost $90 each or $560 for seven.

To earn the certificate you must take each of the seven courses and master the intermediate level of one of the MS Office applications: Word 97, Access 97, Excel 97, or PowerPoint 97. The courses run from Wednesday, October 7, to November 18 and will be offered again in the spring.

Mercer faculty member Jeanette Purdy starts the series with "The Changing Role of Today's Professional Secretaries" on Wednesday, October 7, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. "Managing Multiple Priorities and Bosses," is the topic for management consultant Marge Smith, former executive director of the Princeton YWCA, on October 14. Prim Reeves tells how to manage records, files, and information overload on October 21 and returns for the final class on effective customer service. Purdy teaches business writing on October 28, and Robert Haltmeier introduces the "Promises & Challenges of Information Technology" on November 8. Pete Radigan tells how to "Achieve Successful Supervision and Leadership" on November 11.

Call 609-586-9446 for registration, or for more information call Yvonne Chang at 609-586-4800, extension 3278.

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Workplace Violence

Homicide is the leading cause of on-the-job death for women, say the Soroptimists, and 20 percent of these women are killed by their spouses or partners. At least 13,000 acts of violence are committed by partners against women in the workplace each year. United States firm lose about $100 million annually in lost wages, absenteeism, and loss of productivity that follows women to work.

On Monday, October 5, members of Soroptimist International of the Americas will "paper the town purple" and distribute, at workplaces, purple cards with information on preventing domestic abuse. Founded in 1921, it is an organization for business and professional women who help other women through volunteer community service (http://www.soroptimist.org). Call 609-921-9236 for information on the Princeton chapter.

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Postal Sightseeing

Maybe you have peeked "backstage" at the post office to see its operation, but have you seen a really big post office? The Central New Jersey Postal Customer Council offers a bus trip to tour the Airport Mail Center at JFK International Airport on Wednesday, October 14, at 8:30 a.m., starting at the Kilmer Mail Facility. Call 800-845-2514 for $15 reservations.

JFK's mammoth 650,000 square foot facility has 110 bays, employs 2,000 people, and has 240 additional workers from the airlines, U.S. Customs, and military. It is the air and surface transportation hub for the Greater New York Metropolitan Area and serves as an international gateway and point-of-entry for customs clearance into the United States. It also takes care of the International Registered Mail and the Postal Foreign Exchange Offices.

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Deck Chair Chaos

If you are fussing with arranging furniture on the Titanic in even rows, you have yet to learn to deal with chaos. The Garden State Council of the Society of Human Resource Managers holds its annual conference on Friday and Saturday, October 2 and 3, at the Hanover Marriott in Whippany, and at the Friday networking cocktail hour, Pact Training Inc. will facilitate a session entitled "Managing Chaos: straightening the deck chairs on the Titanic." Cost: $275. Call 908-359-1184 or 609-771-2734 for information.

Robert J. Danzig, corporate vice president of Hearst Publishing, speaks on "Letting the Leader within You Lead" on Friday at 8:45 a.m. On Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Steve Adubato, TV moderator and former state legislator, discusses "Navigating Your Present and Future Course."

Robert E. Humes, vice president of human resources at American Re-Insurance, and Donald C. Doele, vice president of Goodrich & Sherwood Co., join Michele Darling, executive vice president at Prudential, on one of two dozen panels to tell "War Stories from the Trenches." Sharlene Vichness a trainer, and Wendell Laidley of New Media Learning, tell how to get cost-effective workplace education. Marsha Jones, representing a Fort Lee-based executive search firm, discusses "Recruiting for Technological Wars Ahead.

And the tragic ship theme reappears when Martha Bisacio, a senior consultant with Lee Hecht Harrison/Adecco, tells "How to Protect Yourself from Being Thrown Overboard."

Conference sponsors include the Employers Association of New Jersey, Goodrich & Sherwood, Lee Hecht Harrison/Adecco, Right Management Consultants, and the Star-Ledger.

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People and Technology

The perception is that companies have been pouring a fortune into technology, perhaps at the expense of investing in people," says Howard Deutsch, a West Orange-based consultant. His clients include a company at 300 Alexander Park, CPASNET.com, and he is speaking at the Society of Human Resources Managers' convention on October 2 and 3. For information call 908-359-1184 or 609-771-2734. Deutsch may be reached at 973-736-5556, E-mail: Howdeutsch@aol.com.

"My take is that you can't invest enough in either one, but are you getting a fair return for your investment?" says Deutsch. "No matter where companies put their money, in many cases, they are not getting the return they should." His rules:

Set clear objectives for your investment in people or technology . Are you achieving it, and if not, why not? Warm fuzzy feelings about giving out bonuses are not sufficient.

Use tools to measure performance more effectively. Deutsch has just developed a performance profiler that will do this.

Pay attention to the people/performance gap and take some action. "No matter what the job pays, there will be a significant gap between the most effective and least effective person doing that job," he says.

For instance, expert programmers will produce 5 to 10 times as much good code as the least effective programmers. Good sales people will sell easily three to five times as much as the low producers.

The leverage per person gets greater and greater as you go up the corporate ladder. "When a fish rots, it rots from the head," he says, quoting an ancient Chinese proverb. At the highest level, president and CEO, that person is either a top performer or a low performer. A low performer can drain the company, says Deutsch, referring to Bob Allen of AT&T and John Akers of IBM.

Says Deutsch: "The best technology won't buy you anything if you don't have good people to use it."

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Volunteer Development

<B>Marge Smith is restaging her workshops for volunteer development, this time at the Princeton Adult School on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. at the Princeton High School starting October 8. Last spring these topics were addressed to great success at a community conference sponsored by the Rotary Club.

Smith delivers "Maximizing the Effectiveness of Volunteers" on October 8 and "How to Run a Good Meeting" on October 15. Florence Kahn answers the question "Where's the Fun in Fundraising? Different Approaches to Effective Fundraising" on October 29. Skipping a week, Pam Hersh and Frances Ianacone talk about "Public Relations and Marketing: Don't be the Best Kept Secret in Town" on November 12.

Smith is formerly the executive director of the Princeton YWCA. Kahn is president of Women in Development in Mercer County. Hersh had been managing editor of the Princeton Packet and is now Princeton University's director of community and state affairs. Ianacone has a consulting firm, Integrity PR. The sessions cost $10, $35 for four. Call 609-683-1101.

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