Sep 16, 2014
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April 2014 Archive for Labor Matters

RSS By: Dairy Today: Labor Matters, Dairy Today

Experts cover today’s key dairy labor issues and offer fool-proof techniques to optimize employee performance, sat­isfaction and longevity.

GINA Lawsuit Is a Warning to Employers

Apr 28, 2014

Think twice before asking applicants and employees about their family medical history and then basing employment decisions on that information.

Robin DSC Small

By Robin Paggi, Worklogic HR

When I conduct harassment and discrimination prevention workshops, I include the fact that it is illegal to discriminate against applicants and employees because of genetic information obtained by the employer. Invariably participants give me a puzzled look – how could an employer obtain genetic information about someone and why would they want to? A recent lawsuit answers those questions and demonstrates what can happen to an employer as a result.

Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) took effect in 2009. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the government agency that enforces GINA, genetic information includes, "Information about an individual’s genetic tests and the genetic tests of an individual’s family members, as well as information about the manifestation of a disease or disorder in an individual’s family members (i.e. family medical history)."

In other words, employers are not allowed to ask applicants and employees about their family medical history to find out what kinds of diseases or disorders they might inherit and then base employment decisions (whether to hire, promote, fire, etc.) on that information. According to the EEOC, a company called Fabricut, Inc. did just that and was sued by the agency for doing so.

In a press release dated May 7, 2013, the EEOC said that when Rhonda Jones, a temporary employee at Fabricut, applied for a permanent position there, she was sent to a medical examiner for a pre-employment drug screen and physical after being offered the job. While there, "she was required to fill out a questionnaire and disclose the existence of numerous separately listed disorders in her family medical history."

After her medical testing, the examiner decided that Jones needed to be evaluated by her personal physician to determine whether she suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). After a variety of tests, Jones’s physician said that she did not have CTS, and Jones forwarded that information to Fabricut; however, the company rescinded the job offer because the lab it used said she did have CTS.

This is what the EEOC said: "Such alleged conduct violates GINA, which makes it illegal to discriminate against employees or applicants because of genetic information, which includes family medical history; and also restricts employers from requesting, requiring or purchasing such information." So, the EEOC sued Fabricut, and the company agreed to pay $50,000.

This was the first GINA-based employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC, but based upon this statement in its May 7 press release, it won’t be its last: "One of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan is for the agency to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, which includes genetic information."

Said EEOC Regional Attorney Barbara Seely, "Although GINA has been law since 2009, many employers still do not understand that requesting family medical history, even through a contract medical examiner, violates this law."

Employers that require medical examinations would be wise to check with their medical examiners to ensure they are in compliance with this law.

Robin Paggi is the training coordinator at Worklogic HR, a human resources outsourcing company. In addition to conducting workshops on HR issues, she is a frequent presenter at conferences and a regular contributor to The Bakersfield Californian, The Kern Business Journal and Bakersfield Magazine. Contact her at

Stop Putting Out the Same Fires

Apr 24, 2014

Get to the root of recurring dairy problems, employee issues and your own management style.

Jorge Estrada

By Jorge Estrada, Zoetis PeopleFirst™ consultant

Have you ever been challenged by the same problem over and over again? Perhaps you have a somatic cell count issue that keeps popping up. You try to solve it by retraining milkers on proper parlor procedures. Maybe you even try to put an incentive in place. But six months later, the same problem happens again.

This happens because this reactive management style will only help you solve problems as they happen. As a result, you’ll always feel one step behind. Problems will continue to surface. To break the cycle of putting out fires, you need to get to the root of issues on your dairy. Taking a strategic, proactive approach can help you prevent and control these challenges.

To help you understand whether your management is more reactive than it should be, I suggest asking yourself these questions:

Who understands our company strategy?

There should be a link between a company’s goals and employee development. Part of managing people strategically is making sure leaders of the dairy have objectives and strategies, then helping employees understand how work on the dairy should align with achieving those objectives. Your workers know they need to make milk and do so efficiently. But does everyone know the goals for overall growth? Clarify these objectives.

Am I hiring the right people?

Managers need to know the culture and behaviors of the operation and recruit and hire quality employees who fit. I recommend a good onboarding program to bring employees up to speed and engage them in the operation’s environment. If you hire strong employees and get to know them, you’ll know how to best use their talents and place them in positions so they and the dairy are successful.

How are mangers learning their roles?

Leadership is defined by people who get things accomplished through others. Developing leaders is an important component of people management. People need to know themselves and how to properly manage processes before they can lead others. Leaders also need skills to manage change, which is a constant in our business.

Am I giving appropriate feedback?

Communication helps people know and understand their job. Communication can be formal and informal and has many components. One important component is feedback, which is key for strategic management. It’s not limited to, say, giving feedback to someone who handled a procedure incorrectly yesterday or who performed a task really well last month. When it comes to people development, feedback should be ongoing and forward-looking.

Do I know whether we’re reaching our goals?

Let’s say you have procedures in place to produce results. How do you measure whether you are reaching your goals? Look at the numbers. I’ve seen some operations where there are no consequences for people who fail to reach goals. The numbers, targets and goals all play an important role in measuring and moving forward.

Understand these areas at your dairy to help adopt a proactive approach. When all of these strategic elements come together, employees find clarity. Clarity is important for performing tasks efficiently and correctly. It also increases the number of employees who are committed and engaged. And the more engagement you have in the company, the higher the productivity — which directly ties to profit and overall success of the operation.

Jorge Estrada is a consultant for PeopleFirst™ from Zoetis. He works with dairy producers to meet their human resources, training, development and leadership needs. PeopleFirst is the industry’s first comprehensive human capital and business management solutions program. These services were created in direct response to challenges customers expressed with managing today’s complex agricultural businesses. For more ways to help develop your employees, contact Jorge at or visit

All trademarks are the property of Zoetis Inc., its affiliates and/or its licensors. ©2014 Zoetis Inc. All rights reserved.


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