The Employers' Association

The Employers’ Association (TEA) is a not-for-profit employers’ association, formed in 1939, with offices in Grand Rapids serving the West Michigan employer community. We help more than 600 member companies maximize employee productivity and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, and consulting services.

TEA is in the business of helping people. This blog is intended to address human issues, concerns and the things that impact people - be they self-perpetuated or externally imposed. Feel free to respond to the thoughts presented here, for without each other, we are nothing!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


The United States Supreme Court ruled recently that a group of individuals who felt discriminated against by Wal-Mart could not file a class action against their employer. It was determined that each member of the class had to demonstrate an adverse impact by the organization’s misapplication or violation of a stated policy. Two significant issues addressed by this ruling were:

1) A “class” of employees (female in this case) claiming to have similar skills and abilities as male employees claim they were collectively and intentionally overlooked for promotion (or as a group given less pay if promoted) cannot file a claim “for the whole” without specific data proving such a willful act or violation occurred to each individual within the group.

2) A group of individuals cannot file a class action against an employer without citing a specific policy violation in each individual case.

The ruling does not establish Wal-Mart’s innocence, nor does it say that some individuals were not wrongly treated. It does establish that an individual’s claims must result from an organization’s intentional (or unintentional) documentable actions and identifiable demonstrations of acts that are against stated policy. As an employer advocate, though the action was dismissed on a technicality I would say the court “got it more right than wrong” this time.

The Court DID NOT say an individual having documentable evidence of unfair treatment (proof that pay was different than another having the same set of skills and experience or proof that a disproportionate number of males were promoted than were females having the same set of skills or experience, etc.) could not file against an employer for discrimination. The ruling simply clarified that just because you are a member of a class (female in this case) that worked for an organization (Wal-Mart) you should not be able to join a blanket action claiming discrimination without stating the policy that was violated and demonstrating how that violation impacted your potential.

By eliminating the “class action” component of this case the Court extended the period of relief an individual whom was truly discriminated against will experience should they choose to file an individual action BUT dismissed the “me too” additions whom may not have been negatively impacted by any specific action OTHER THAN being “like” the others within the “class action." It establishes that an individual discriminated against due to the willful violation of an established policy has individual recourse BUT will employers take this ruling as an indicator that it is better to make decisions based on the situation rather than to base them on established policy? What kinds of unfair and unreasonable issues would THAT create? Whatever happened to reasonable management exercising ethical judgment in the administration of fair practices for all employees?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


People tend to see things (and other individuals) as they are. We live “in the moment” during our daily lives. We deal with issues and situations as they come up. We resolve conflicts as they occur. We form our opinions and establish our perspectives based on what we see, hear or experience. A phrase originating during my misguided youth (“What you see is what you get!”) appropriately identifies the level of introspection many use to chart their path through life.

What if, rather than seeing “what is” we were to focus more upon “what could be?” What if we stopped seeing individuals “as they are,” instead seeing them as “how they were, what has changed and who might they become?” If we assume that today’s reality is but a temporary bump in the road to an as yet undetermined future RATHER THAN a dead end or a destination – that it is but a sign or indicator of what is to become RATHER THAN a definitive predictor of the future – how much more could be accomplished in our lives?

When we focus upon fixing what we think “is” we tend to react rather than plan. We seek to make situations “go away” rather than trying to identify their root cause. We tend to worry about today more than we do tomorrow. We focus on the obvious reality of the moment rather than considering what once was and projecting that into what could be. When dealing with individuals we do the same thing – we see who a person is (often because of what they did or who chose to be with) but rarely focus on what they COULD BE. When we shut someone out because of what they have done in the past or who they seem to be in the present – removing from them an opportunity to change and grow – do they lose more (due to a loss of opportunity) or do we (because we lost the opportunity to make a difference)?

Refuse to believe that “what you see is what you get.” Today sets the stage for tomorrow – serving as a precursor of what could potentially become a reality NOT a definitive predictor of the future. Today identifies those things that have not yet been brought to fruition – the things that fade quickly into yesterday as we focus upon new tomorrows. Live in “today” only long enough to put it behind you as you move into “tomorrow.” You will be surprised how quickly “the moment” will pass as you live life seeking “what could be!”

Friday, June 3, 2011


There is a time for every season and for every season there is a time. Spring ushers hope into the world – prying life from the icy fingers of winter. Summer is a time to bask in the warmth and to grow – to reach deeply into the ground so we might be able to find nourishment in the soil as we gain strength to weather the coming times. Fall is a time of respite – of preparing for the long cold season ahead as we remember the pace left behind. Winter shrouds us under a cold, dark blanket – curtailing our growth as we seek shelter from the storms.

Harry Chapin sang a tale of life being a circle. He noted that the sun seems to chase the moon from the sky during the daytime while, at night, the sun and moon reverse their roles. We experience new beginnings each day as we chase the circle of life – with false starts and dead ends being either bumps in our road or a terrible end to our progress. We can celebrate the opportunities that lie ahead of us or we can suffer the pain that comes from holding on too tightly to what has gone. We can stand tall against the storms of life or we can hide in the shelter of another’s shadow as we seek to avoid the turmoil. Life is truly a circular reality – one in which all things are possible for they have all been seen and done. It is a reality where nothing is impossible for we will inevitably move.

Embrace opportunity this summer. Reach towards the heavens as you plant your feet firmly on the ground. Do not be deterred by temporary inconvenience nor derailed by unexpected concerns. Every day that we live and breathe is truly a uniquely circular opportunity – the chance to move forward towards new opportunity as we move from the limitations of our present reality. Take the time to prepare for a long winter of reflection after passing through the autumn of rest – knowing that time and space will return you to a season of renewal.

In Michigan – perhaps as in no other place – we can experience all the seasons at one time. Embrace the opportunity to be unique and different as you pass through your seasons for while you may experience other summers – just as you do multiple falls and winters – once passed, you will never experience another exactly like this again.