Workplace Equality for Women (panel discussion re-cap)

Recently, I participated in a panel on the NEW Workplace Equality for Women, hosted by Kenetia Lee. Due to technical difficulties, some of the audio is not the best, but if you can make your way through some of the crackle and pop, I believe this conversation will be very helpful to you.

During the conversation, we shared about workplace quality and some of the issues and statistics surrounding the topic. But I challenge you as you listen to this, NOT TO BE A STATISTIC and so what you need to get what you want in the workplace. Remember CAREER doesn’t mean staying with one employer for 30 years. It means that you have progressive achievement in your field of pursuit. Women do not have to buy into the statistics or become one. We have everything at our reach just like anyone else.

In my own career, I have had to work very hard but learned early that success is personal and the best person to define what success looks like for me. No statistic, no company, no glass ceiling, and no “male competition” would be the measurement for my success.

Here is a look at the panel discussion, Enjoy! At the end of the day, ladies we must remember Wonder Woman is a fictional character! We can have it all, but we CANNOT do it all – - at least not effectively!

Hair today, Gone Tomorrow…was it worth it Rhonda Lee?

There’s a ton of buzz surrounding Rhonda Lee, the KTBS Meteorologist “fired over defending her hair”…but IS that the real reason she was fired?  If you haven’t read the story,  you can read it her on Yahoo.

Personally, I think she looks fantastic with her hair and find it becoming on her.  Apparently, the station didn’t have a problem with her hair either.  The station had a problem with her responding to the viewer -or viewers repeatedly.  As a certified HR Professional (and a black woman)….I understand the position of the station. Rhonda knows her public persona is subject to all kinds of comments. She had a choice to engage or not engage with the viewer who posted about her hair. Really, who cares that a viewer doesn’t like her short hair?

According to the story on Yahoo, even though Rhonda states she was not at the meeting where the social media policy was discussed, I’m sure she was aware of the “unofficial social media policy” as the story states she was “warned about this repeatedly”.  Which indicates there was previous conversations (plural) about Rhonda’s “social media practices”.

According to the story on Yahoo, “Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued,” KTBS-TV executives said in a statement posted on Facebook on Tuesday, after Lee appeared on CNN. “Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure.” 

If that is true, then I stand with the station on the termination.  Okay so this is probably NOT the response that many of you were expecting from me,…BUT…as a 20 year human resources professional (and an black woman)…let me say this.   Rhonda is a high compensated employee HIRED TO BE A PUBLIC PERSONA for the station.  Every time she opens her mouth publicly,  it is essentially a “response from the employer”  With that being said…she did not have to respond.  Again, I say, WHO CARES THAT A VIEWER DOESN’T LIKE HER HAIR?  It’s not a secret that there are double standards in every class of people…black/white, men/women, young/old, rich/poor…as in this case, I totally believe that Rhonda Lee has a right to be who she chooses to be. But I also know the station was paying her boo-coos of money to be who they needed her to be.

Sometimes we forget that social media and our expressions on social media are not a “free” as we’d like them to be.  There have been so many cases in the media about employees being terminated over Facebook and other social media outlets.  Sometimes we have to learn to hold our peace.  I believe this was one of those times.

The issue I have with this whole story is “the station” didn’t have a problem with Rhonda Lee’s hair and she could have (and should have) IGNORED the Facebook post and this whole nightmare would have been avoided.   Personally and professionally, I didn’t find anything “wrong” with her response,

“Hello Emmitt—I am the “black lady” to which you are referring. My name is Rhonda Lee. Nice to meet you,” she wrote on October 6, in the comments. “I am sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer.” 

“I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair,” Lee, 37, continued. “For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that . Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.” 

“Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that,” she concluded. “Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.”

However, I am not her employer and since another employee of KTBS (Rhonda’s Employer) was also fired for defending himself online (see Chris Redford’s Story here), this appears to just be the policy of the station and not racial motivated -but a practice of KTBS.   Sometimes we have to dig a little to find the truth. Many times those of us in the HR Profession are accused of siding with the employer (we don’t we are just tasked with enforcing the policies and procedures set by the organization), as I’m sure I will be due to my stance on this but this termination appears to be justified.  Again…her employer CLAIMS Rhonda was terminated for “repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued!”  If Rhonda was terminated on this for her first offense, I would be outraged but repeatedly and multiple stands out to me.  Let’s remove the profession for a moment and look at this from another point of view, how many times will you tell your child repeatedly not to do something before you punish them for it?  Rhonda is not a child, but I think you get my point!

One thing we have to learn in this world, is we don’t HAVE to defend a lie, ALWAYS prove to be right, or ALWAYS make a point. That is where Rhonda Lee made her error.  Yes she has a right to defend her appearance, but why?  She choose to embrace who she was on the inside as she claimed in her response, of being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave her contribution to society and that should have been enough.  Personally, I think Rhonda could have made a stronger statement by not even giving thought to the Facebook post.  After all, it was just his opinion, it wasn’t worth her job!

She’s an employee of the company and she didn’t have to be “in the meeting” to hear the unofficial social media policy” I’m sure she heard about it and I’m sure that she knew about about Chris Redford being terminated for defending himself online as well.  As an employee who is a public figure, (the news for Pete’s sake) Rhonda should have known it wasn’t worth it. She went to battle but lost the war!

Rhonda Lee is an intelligent, educated black woman who knows that her VERY public position means everyone wont like her…her hair…her smile…her voice…her skin color… and to that..she should have said.. SO WHAT and kept it moving. In this day and age, people have to remember….the employer is paying you to be who they need to you be during the hours of “9-5″.

Keeping Your Job Search Confidential

We have all been there. Looking for an new job while we already have one and worrying if our current employer will find out.  Several states in the U.S. have different employment laws that allow employers to fire at will.  Therefore, protecting yourself from giving your current employer a reason to let you go early is very important.  One of those reasons might be if you are seeking employment with another company and your boss catches wind of this.  There are several ways this can happen and I will touch up on the two most common ones below.

1)  Using Online Job Boards:  While searching for jobs online, you might come across a job board that posts advertisements for available openings.  These postings allow a job seeker to apply directly to the listing from a PC or laptop computer.  If you are doing this at work, more than likely you are being watched or your computer activity is being monitored.  NEVER look for a new job while you are at work if you are concerned about continuing to get paychecks until that time comes.  You might be surprised when your boss calls you to the office and asks why you have been using the computer equipment to search for a new job when you should have been working.

2) Posting Your Resume Online:  This is one of the easiest ways to expose yourself and eliminate the possibility of a confidential job search. You are searching for a job online and decide to upload your resume to a website that promises to match you with employers in your area. This can go wrong one of two ways.

- The website is a scam and takes your personal contact information to use for illegal purposes such as identity theft.

- Your current employer utilizes the website to “search resumes” in their database and stumbles across yours.

Both of these are something you don’t want to happen if you are trying to keep your new job search a secret.  Sometimes utilizing the help of a confidential resume service can give you the protection you need since they will make sure your information is kept secure from public misuse. Also, this may be very beneficial if you are in a government role and need to protect highly sensitive or classified information from being posted online.

Check with your local state laws and your company’s policies before attempting any job search and without knowing your rights. There are ways to keep your information confidential and achieve a successful transition without being terminated early.

CAREER Magazine Welcomes Devora L. Lindeman, Esq.

We are pleased to welcome Devora L. Lindeman, Esq.  to the CAREER Magazine Team!

Devora L. Lindeman, Esq. had a number of careers, herself, before attending law school and choosing a career working with businesses as a management-side employment attorney.  As a partner with the law firm of Greenwald Doherty LLP, she and her colleagues work collaboratively with their business clients to help them understand and comply with the complex array of laws that apply in the U.S. if your business has employees.  She regularly deals with such issues as harassment, discrimination, accommodating pregnant and disabled employees or accommodating employees’ religious beliefs and practices, providing employee leave time, and employee wage and hour issues.  She reviews and drafts employee handbooks and contracts such as non-compete agreements and severance agreements.  She also represents employers before state and federal courts and agencies (such as the EEOC, DOL and NLRB).  She’s a regular contributor to a number of websites providing employment law information for employers, and is a sought-after speaker for employer and industry organizations.  She is admitted to practice law in NY and NJ, and was graduated with highest honors from Rutgers School of Law—Newark.

You can view Devora’s new column HR/Employment Law News You Can Use  in the July/August 2012 issue of CAREER Magazine!

Welcome Devora, we’ve been waiting for you!


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