Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Brillant: An Employee’s Tale

Most supervisors have dealt with an employee who believes his work performance is better than what it actually is. It’s a minority of employees who believe they are less than a “four-star” performer. But an employee who is so convinced of his personal value that he sues his employer for $75 million is a rarity, indeed. Yet, rare or not, that is precisely the case in Berry v. Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, LLP.

According to Berry, he had a “distinguished” and “remarkable” career in the technology sector. Having “conquer[ed] Silicon Valley,” he decided to turn his talents to the legal profession, abandoning his technology endeavors to attend the prestigous University of Pennsylvania Law School. Upon graduation, he accepted a position with an equally prestigous law firm, Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman. Ready to conquer the world of private practice, according to Berry, he “immediately began doing superlative work,” and “repeatedly found ways to improve the efficiency of work, or even the outcome of cases.” Unfortunately, though, he feels his genius went unappreciated.

Berry claims that he was terminated after he sent an email to the firm’s partners requesting additional work. In the email, Berry stated that it had “become clear that I have as much experience and ability as an associate many years my senior, as much skill writing, and a superior legal mind to most I have met.” Interestingly, prior to sending the email, Berry had been expressly warned not to “be so arrogant.” Apparently, he did not heed that advice.

Upon termination, Berry was presented with an “unconscionable” Separation Agreement, which he signed only under “economic duress.” Under the agreement, Berry received two months’ salary in exchange for a complete waiver of claims. Notwithstanding having executed the waiver and release, Berry sued filed suit, alleging 14 causes of action.

The lesson for employers? Beware the employee who is, perhaps, a bit to aware of his own “superlative” work.

Top 100 Employment Law Blogs

For the third year in a row, I’m thrilled to submit to our readers what I consider to be the best of the best when it comes to employment law blogs.  Since this is the third year I’ve published this list, and practice does make perfect, I’ve imposed a few more rules this time around.  The “rules” and more details about those on this year’s list are found below but, first, . . . drumroll, please. . . the winners . . .

 

Group 1

1. Alaska Employment Law

2. Arkansas Employment Law

3. Connecticut Employment Law Blog

4. Daily Developments in EEO Law

5. Defending the Digital Workplace

6. Delaware Employment Law Blog

7. HR Lawyer’s Blog

8. Lawffice Space

9. New Jersey Employment Law

10. New York Public Personnel Law

11. Ohio Employer’s Law Blog

12. San Antonio Employment Law Blog

13. Strategic HR Lawyer

14. That’s What She Said

15. The Laconic Law Blog

16. Thoughts from a Management Lawyer (CA)

17. What’s New in Employment Law

18. Wisconsin Employment & Labor Law Blog

Group 2

19. Adjunct Law Prof.

20. Alabama Employment Law Report

21. All About Information

22. Atlanta Employment Lawyer Blog

23. California Wage Law

24. California Workforce Resource Blog

25. Canadian Privacy Law Blog (CA)

26. Charles A. Krugel

27. Colorado Employment Law Blog

28. Employment Law Matters

29. Employment Lawyer Blog

30. Fair Competition Law Blog

31. Florida Employment & Immigration Law Blog

32. Iowa Employment Law Blog

33. Juz the Fax

34. Legal Developments in Non-Compete Agreements

35. Maryland Employment Law Developments

36. New York Labor and Employment Law Report

37. Overtime Advisor

38. Pennsylvania Labor & Employment Law Blog

39. Smooth Transitions

40. Social Networking Law Blog

41. Tennessee Employment Lawyer Blog

42. Texas Employment Law Update

43. Texas Non-Compete Law Blog

44. Virginia Non-Compete Law Blog

45. Wage Law

46. Wait a Second! (2d Cir. Civil Rights)

47. Work Matters

48. World of Work

Group 3

49. Alabama HR Law

50. California Employment Law Report

51. Digital Workplace Blog

52. Doorey’s Workplace Law Blog (CA)

53. Drew Capuder’s Employment Law Blog

54. EBG Trade Secrets & Noncompete Blog

55. Employee Benefits Legal Blog

56. Employer Law Report

57. Employers Law Blog

58. Employment Essentials

59. Employment Law Bits

60. Employment Law Watch

61. Executive Counsel Blog

62. Fair Labor Standards Act Law

63. Federal Sector FMLA Blog

64. Florida Employment Law Blog

65. FMLA Law Blog

66. George’s Employment Blawg

67. Gruntled Employees

68. Healthcare Employment Counsel

69. Human Rights in the Workplace (CA)

70. Jottings By An Employment Lawyer

71. Labor & Employment Law Blog

72. Labor & Employment Law Blog

73. Labor Relations Counsel

74. LawMemo Employment Law

75. Manpower Employment Law Blog

76. Massachusetts Non-Compete Law Blog

77. Michigan Employment Law Connection

78. Minnesota Employment Law Blog

79. Nevada Employment Law Blog

80. New York Employment Lawyer Blog

81. OFCCP Blog Spot

82. Overtime Law Blog

83. Overtime Lawyer Blog

84. Prima Facie Law Blog

85. Privacy & Information Security Law Blog

86. Privacy Law Blog

87. Public Sector Law Blog

88. The FMLA Blog

89. The Proactive Employer

90. Trade Secret / Noncompete Blog

91. Trading Secrets

92. Transgender Workplace Diversity

93. Wage & Hour Coun
sel

94. Wage & Hour Defense Blog

95. Wage & Hour Development & Highlights

96. Wage & Hour Law Update

97. Washington DC Employment Law Update

98. Workplace Privacy Counsel

99. Workplace Prof Blog

100. Wyatt Employment Law Report

Up & Coming

101. Delaware Noncompete Law Blog

102. FLSA Cases

103. Hawaii Labor Law

104. Iowa Employer Law Blog

105. The Word on Employment Law Blog

*    *    *   *

Update (Dec. 20, 2010, 12:50 p.m.)

Thanks to the readers who noted some of the excellent blogs (current and up-and-coming), that I failed to include.  Be sure to add these to your feed reader, as well:

FMLA Insights, by Francezek Radelet

Labor Relations Today, by Seth Borden, @LRToday

The BELG Blog, by Hirsch Roberts Weinstein, LLP

Additions to the “Up & Coming” Group:

Castronovo & McKinney, LLC, Tom McKinney

Colorado Employer’s Law Blog, Jennifer Gokenbach at Ogeltree Deakins

Employment and Labor Insider, Robin Shea, Constangy Brooks & Smith

*    *    *   *

The “Rules”

First, employee- and employer- side blogs were eligible, as they have been in the past.  And you’ll notice that some excellent employee–side blogs have made it into the list. 

Second, I did include Canadian blogs but made the standard a bit higher for our blogging brothers and sisters to the North so as to keep the list as U.S. focused as possible.

Third, and this was the hardest, I only included blogs that have posted in the last two months. There were some blogs that I really wanted to include that had not posted since the summer.  So, to be fair, I excluded them from the list–this year only, of course–they’re eligible now to be included next year. 

And, fourth, I only included blogs written by lawyers, legal professionals, or from a legal perspective.  Non-lawyer consultants account for less than 10 of the blogs on this year’s list and each of those write consistently on legal issues. 

The Importance of Sharing (i.e., What the “Groups” Mean)

This year, I also decided to take a stand on something that drives me slightly buggy–blogs without blogrolls.  I’ll be honest, I think it’s a little selfish.  Ok, so there, I said it.  I think it’s selfish for a blogger to ignore the community that is the blogosphere by not recognizing his or her fellow bloggers via a blogroll.  I do realize that the decision often belongs to the firm and not the individual blogger–some firms are reoffenders in this department–and so I don’t want to place all the blamed with just the blogger.  Which is why I didn’t make having a blogroll a criteria for inclusion.  Well, that, and I wouldn’t have even close to 100 blogs!

So, what you’ll see below is the list of the top 100 (plus a few), separated into 3 groups.  The first group includes blogs that have a blogroll that includes DELB.  The second group has a blogroll that, in my opinion, is missing one (namely, us!).  And the third group includes those blogs that, for whatever reason, don’t have a blogroll. 

And, one last thing.  I wanted the list to be as readable as possible but, at the same time, wanted to give readers the name of the blog author and firm and, where applicable, the author’s Twitter handle. But that was just too much information to put on a single (readable) page.  So, as a compromise, I’ve listed the name of the blogs below, which are hyperlinked to the blogs themselves.  Then, I’ve attached a spreadsheet (pdf) containing all of the data, including the blog name, author name (hyperlinked to their Twitter handle if available), and the firm name. 

Up & Coming

There are 4 blogs I that I thought worthy of mention but that have not been around long enough to make the official Top 100.  For those long-time readers of The Word on Employment Law, don’t be confused that I have that listed in this category.  Many of you may know that our beloved John Phillips, Jr., accepted an in-house counsel position earlier this year and that his former colleagues have stepped into the role of blogger at The Word.  So, although the blog itself is hardly new, without John’s voice, it is certain to be a different, albeit surely wonderful, blog.

Didn’t Make This Year’s List?

If you’re not on the list, don’t be shy–leave your blog’s info as a comment.  I’ll add it to my feed reader and hopefully add it to next year’s list. 

And One Last Thing. . .

image

If you haven’t already voted in this year’s ABA Journal’s Top 100 Blawgs, there’s still time left.  You’ll find all five of the honorees in the In Labor category, including Delaware Employment Law Blog, on the Top 100 Employment Law Blog list.

 

So be sure to jump over to the ABA Journal, register, and vote for your favorite–particularly if your favorite is us! 

Congratulations to all 100 of this year’s best employment law blogs!

Congratulations All Around

I am pleased to announce that the Editors of the ABA Journal have again selected Delaware Employment Law Blog as one of the top 100 best law blogs. imageThe recognition means a lot to us–almost as much as the recognition that our readers show us each time they read our humble blog.  Readers are being asked to vote for their favorites in any (or all) of the 12 categories–DELB is one of five blogs in the “In Labor” category. 

We are in excellent company this year, to be sure.   To vote, please visit The 2010 ABA Journal Blawg 100. You do need to register to be able to vote but registration is free. If you are already registered, all you have to do is sign in and vote. Voting ends at close of business on December 30, 2010.

Although we do greatly appreciate each and every vote, we are most appreciative for those of you who so loyally visit our blog, share your thoughts and comments, and work hard year round to improve workplaces everywhere.  Thank you for your support!

Workplace Bullies Are Just Big Babies

In a post titled, Create a Bully-Free Workplace, Nathanael Fast writes about the findings of a study he and Serena Chen conducted on workplace bullying. He reports some interesting findings from the study.  For example, he links bullying to significant costs to organizations.  Specifically, he says that bullying causes reduced creativity, low morale, and increased turnover, “all factors that weigh heavily on the bottom line.”

But what I found most interesting were his conclusions on the reasons for bullying-why bullies act like such, well, bullies. He concludes that the “simultaneous pairing of power with feelings of inadequacy” is what led bosses to become bullies.

In our studies, the power holders who felt personally incompetent became aggressive, not because they were power hungry or had domineering personalities but because they were trying to overcome ego threat. Put simply, bullying is a cheap way to nurse a wounded ego.

In other words, big babies who don’t like themselves take it out on others. 

Order Up: Now Serving One Jerk at Work, “Iron Chef” Style

Jerks at work are a problem. This proposition is not debatable. Just how pervasive the problem is may be subject to some debate. Some say that jerks are everywhere. Others say the jerk population has been reduced (or maybe just quieted) by the economy. Either way, there has been a lot of press about jerk. There’s also been an increasing acceptance of the proposition that jerks at work are bad for business.

So I was taken by surprise last night while watching The Next Iron Chef on Food Network. I’m not a major fan of Iron Chef, necessarily, but my husband, a professional chef and restaurateur, likes any show involving chefs, cooking, and competition, so we tuned in. In The Next Iron Chef, contestants battle for the title of Iron Chef. (If you’re unfamiliar with the show, it started in Japan, where it became a cult favorite. It was followed by Iron Chef America, which is filmed in the U.S. with Iron Chefs Mario Batali, Morimoto, Cat Cora, Bobby Flay, and the most recent addition, Michael Symon.)

During last night’s episode, the first in the newest competition, 10 contestants had to prepare two dishes using an “exotic” ingredient that they’d been assigned. (By “exotic,” I mean unlaid eggs, fallopian tube still intact, rooster cockscombs, and similarly appetizing fare.) Of course, this was done under outrageous time restraints in a kitchen in which they’d never worked, with equipment that seemed to fail more often than it worked, etc. Suffice it to say, the conditions were more than difficult.

When the buzzer rang and the host announced, “Knives down!” I nearly clapped I was so proud of the chefs! That pride quickly faded when the chefs were required to critique each others’ dishes.

What a terrible way to start the show. For the contestants and for viewers. We could have been riding high, celebrating their first big victory but, instead, had to watch several contests be petty and spiteful, ridiculing other chefs’ dishes without regard to professionalism or reciprocity.

But it got worse during the next phase, when the contestants were judged one by one by the show’s judges. The panel included two women and one man. Both women gave feedback that was insightful, intelligent, and knowledgeable. The man, on the other hand, just dished out a bunch of garbage. The jerky judge in question, Jeffrey Steingarten, was snarky, contrary, and negative to the point of disgust. It was just unbearable to watch.

I finally asked my husband, “Why do they even have this guy on the show?” To which my husband replied, “Because he’s a famous food writer?” Oh, really? Who cares?

I’ll never tune in to another program that has Mr. Steingarten as a judge. He’s apparently a world-class writer with a pedigree that outshines those of even the most prestigious and acclaimed in the industry.  But maybe he should consider sticking to what he does so well–writing–and leave the TV stuff to the pros. Every comment was more angry and hostile than the last, leaving me with a taste so bitter that it ruined the entire experience. He takes the title of food critic a bit too literally, in my opinion. 

Lighten up, Mr. Steingarten!  Celebrate food once in a while!  Didn’t you get into the food world to celebrate the magic and glory that such wondrous cookery can produce? Certainly you don’t eat for a living because you hate the sight of food!  Try to remember the beauty and majesty of it the next time you’re given such a unique opportunity to taste the creations of 10 of the country’s greatest chefs.  It can’t really be as bad as you make it–even if you did think the cockscomb (prepared by Philly hometown favorite, Jose Garces), was too rubbery.

Next time, I hope the producers can find someone to serve as judge who falls more on the sweet side, rather than the tart, as Mr. Steingarten is so apt to do.

In short, I hope Food Network wises up and tosses the jerk from their workplace. Jerks have a way for ruining one’s appetite.

Employers and Health-Care Reform

In the U.S., about half of the people who have health insurance get it through employment. (The others who have insurance get it from the government, through programs such as workers’ compensation, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration). The reliance health insurance costsin the U.S. on employment-related health insurance is very different from what happens in other industrialized countries, according to this interesting article by Princeton economics professor Uwe Reinhardt.

Most people don’t know that the dominance of employment-based health care insurance was not planned; instead, according to Professor Reinhardt, it was the result of efforts to evade World War II wage controls. Members of the armed services weren’t paid much, so Congress decided that civilian pay should also be kept low. A gaping loophole in the wage control legislation was the failure to include employer-paid fringe benefits in wages, and Congress also allowed companies to deduct the cost of their contributions to health insurance premiums from their taxes. Employment-based health insurance took off. Things have changed since then, and one writer recently argued that employer-based health care is dying.

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Where Have Our Manners Gone? Is Workplace Civility a Thing of the Past?

There have been recently been several displays of incivility in the workplace worth a moment of reflection. Three incidents in particular come to mind.

The Conduct

First, there was the outburst by S.C. GOP Rep. Joe Wilson during President Obama’s congressional address last week. On Good Morning America the next day, George Stephanolopous was asked whether he had ever witnessed similar conduct. Stephanolopous immediately responded that no, he had not.

Then, during the women’s finals at the U.S. Open, tennis great Serena Williams threw her racket and, in the same match, cursed and pointed at the line official who penalized Williams for a foot fault. Williams’ opponent, Kim Clijsters, was awarded an extra point when Williams walked away only to turn around and come back at the official, finger pointing and profanities flying. In a press conference, she was positively unapologetic, even trying to justify her behavior, responding to a reporter’s inquiry by saying that everybody treats line people that way. little pig feels bad

Then there was Kanye West’s “performance” at the MTV Video Music Awards when he bombarded 19-year-old Taylor Swift, snatching the microphone out of her hand during an ill-fated acceptance speech. The look on Swift’s face was heart wrenching. She looked like a child who couldn’t process how terrible people could be.

The Apologies

Each of the three offenders issued an apology. Wilson called his apology into the White House the day after his disrespectful display. Williams, after booed off the court and being smacked with a $10,000 fine, has apologized several times via the press. And West was first redeemed by Beyoncé, who won for best video of the year but kindly turned over her time at the microphone to the slighted Swift, giving Swift the chance to finish her acceptance speech. Then West made an appearance Monday night on the premier episode of the new Jay Leno Show. Before performing with Jay-Z and Rihanna, West sat down with Leno and seemed deeply troubled by his behavior.

Each incident occurred in the respective person’s workplace. Yet, despite having some familiarity with their surroundings, each of the three conducted themselves in a manner far too horrible to be described as inconsiderate. The displays were inappropriate and downright mean. They were embarrassing, even shameful, really. But what do they say about our society?

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What Can Employers Learn From Michael Vick and the Eagles?

Last night, the Philadelphia Eagles announced that they had signed quarterback Michael Vick to a two-year contract. Vick, of course, is returning to football after serving time for running a dog-fighting ring. The move by the Eagles, of course, is fraught with risk. Vick’s inhumane treatment of animals has made him one of the most controversial and hated figures in all of sports. This could lead to deteriorating team morale and loss of fan support. The addition of Vick also has the potential for great reward. He is an exceptional talent and his addition to the roster could be enough bring the Super Bowl victory that the City of Philadelphia craves.eagles logo

The signing of Vick, however, stands in stark contrast to the image that Coach Andy Reed and the Eagles have always tried to portray. They have always proclaimed “character” as the most important attribute in a player. This move makes their public pronouncements seem hollow. Is “character” less important when a special talent is involved? It seems so. This move, and the earlier signing of Terrell Owens, seems to signal that the team will relax it’s rules and it’s team culture for special athletes. In the words of Bill Murray, as Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters: “Actually, it’s more of a guideline than a rule…”

The Eagles would not be the first employer to abandon its culture for short-term gain. The case law is full of situations where workplace rules were ignored because the violator had too much power or made the company too much money. Think of the top selling salesman or rainmaking partner who is allowed to sexually harass. The money rolls in, but later roll out in the form of a large judgment or settlement.

The Eagles are a good football team, with or without Vick. And, I suppose a Super Bowl win will make the fans of Philadelphia forgive the Eagle’s willingness to sacrifice its team culture for the ultimate prize. In a championship-starved city, that’s understandable. Forgive, maybe. Forget, never.

Courtesy and Respect Get Tossed to the Side by Political Staffer

Rude people–who needs ’em!?!  Not me.  My husband is a chef and restaurant-owner and regularly gets comments and complaints that, in my opinion, are totally insane.  (For example, “This venison tastes . . . . dead.”).  Some customers will overreact to the most trivial issue–I’ve had a grown man scream (and I mean scream) at me because he didn’t like his table.  I told him that I’d be glad to move his group to a different table but he continued to scream hysterically–totally undeterred.  The open demonstration of rage was shocking.  I’ll probably never forget it. 

Politico has a remarkable story of unjustifiable rage.  It’s a great story to start the week, putting things in perspective and reminding us to treat others with respect and courtesy.  The story is about a political staffer who lost control when she received an e-mail addressing her as “Liz” instead of “Elizabeth.”  Despite the offending party’s repeated apology, the offended staffer was relentless in her attack.  The exchange went on for 19 e-mails.  It’s very . . . insightful. 

When you read the story, think of how terrible the exchange must have been for the “offender” and try extra hard to be extra nice even to those who try to push you to the brink.

Other posts about jerks at work:

Jerks at Work and on the Web

Rude Employees Are Bad for Business

Women Bullies In the Workplace

New Conclusions on the Potential Costs of Workplace Bullying

Women Who Bully Women at Work

“My Boss Is Killing Me”: Why this just may be true

Jerks at Work and on the Web

Jerks at Work.  They don’t seem to be going anywhere quick.  But there does seem to be a steady stream of news and resources circulating the world wide web about the topic.  Here are a few recent items.

There is a fascinating article in American Lawyer, titled The End of Sisterhood by Vivia Chen.  Chen proposes that women lawyers are their own worst enemy.  We’ve posted about this recurring theme before.  See Women Bullies In the Workplace and Women Who Bully Women at Work

Slow Leadership points us to an insightful article on the line between bullying and intense management and concludes (rightfully so, in my opinion), that no good can come of bullying–either to the bullies themselves or to the poor souls who suffer at their hands.  For some more anti-bully posts, see New Conclusions on the Potential Costs of Workplace Bullying, “My Boss Is Killing Me”: Why this just may be true, and Top 5 Lessons to Be Learned from the Jerk at Work.

The Workplace Bullying Institute is the online home to Drs. Gary and Ruth Namie, the turn-to experts on workplace bullying.  The website has been recently revamped and lots of new features have been added.  If you don’t have it bookmarked already, now is the time.