Most Important Developments for 3/5

The House on Thursday passed the Equality Act, a landmark LGBTQ rights bill that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in numerous arenas, including employment, housing, education, public accommodations, credit, and jury service. “The LGBTQ community has waited long enough,” Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who introduced the bill, said on the House floor. “The time has come to extend the blessings of liberty and equality to all Americans, regardless of who they are or who they love.” The 224-206 vote was largely along party lines, with just three Republicans throwing their support behind the bill. During his campaign, President Joe Biden said passage of the Equality Act would be a priority in his first 100 days in office. Opponents say the bill would impinge on First Amendment rights, particularly free speech and religious liberty. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, warned on its website that the Equality Act would “force employers and workers to conform to new sexual norms or else lose their businesses and jobs.” NBC News

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After a rollercoaster 2020, U.S. employee engagement increased to 39% in January, up from 36% late last year. While engagement growth has been slow and steady in the past decade, the disruptions of 2020 brought never-before-seen fluctuations in workplace cultures. The percentage of engaged workers in the U.S. has generally been a steady metric since Gallup began tracking nationally representative samples of workers starting in 2000. In early March, as work and life were first disrupted due to COVID-19, the overall well-being of Americans declined sharply. Yet employee engagement remained a steady rock — up to 37% in March from 35% in 2019. Through mid-May, employee engagement increased even further to 38%. And then, after the protests and societal upheavals surrounding the George Floyd killing, engagement dropped to 31% in June, a record short-term drop. Engagement of workers dropped most significantly for managers, leaders, non-White respondents, and those with Democratic political party affiliation or independents. The drop was also sharper for people working on-site versus at home and among blue-collar or service workers. The drop was larger for men than women. Gallup

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Players from the National Football League were among the first to voice their support. Then came Stacey Abrams, the Democratic star who helped turn Georgia blue in the 2020 election. The actor Danny Glover traveled to Bessemer, Ala., for a news conference last week, where he invoked the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s pro-union leanings in urging workers at Amazon’s warehouse there to organize. Tina Fey has weighed in, and so has Senator Bernie Sanders. And on Sunday, President Biden issued a resounding declaration of solidarity with the workers now voting on whether to form a union at Amazon’s Bessemer warehouse, without mentioning the company by name. Posted to his official Twitter account, his video was one of the most forceful statements in support of unionizing by an American president in recent memory. A unionizing campaign that had deliberately stayed under the radar for months has in recent days blossomed into a star-studded showdown to influence the workers at Amazon, one of the world’s dominant companies whose power has increased exponentially during the pandemic. The New York Times

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If you’ve got a green pass on your wrist showing you’ve been vaccinated, the office is your oyster at Israeli cybersecurity company Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. You can get treatments at the hair salon on the second floor, use the on-site gym, and access game rooms with PlayStations, billiards, and ping pong tables, among other perks. If you don’t have proof of either vaccination or recent recovery from COVID-19, however, work is a little more bleak. No using the facilities. Eat only at your desk, instead of with your co-workers. By April, you will have to show a negative COVID test before being allowed into the building. “We’re not shaming anyone. We’re not pointing fingers. We are just saying, ‘This will be our policy,’” company spokesman Gil Messing said. “If you get the vaccination, you get benefits that others do not.” As the country with the highest vaccination penetration rate on the globe, Israeli businesses are the first to grapple with thorny issues about those who decide to refuse vaccines. There’s increasing talk of similar practices around the world as people in more nations get vaccinated. The questions aren’t just about who gets to travel or sit in a movie theater. Businesses are considering whether to require employees to get vaccinated to continue working. Bloomberg

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The recent allegations of sexual harassment that were made against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo by two former aides should immediately raise red flags for business leaders on how their companies should prevent, respond to, and manage this type of crisis in the workplace. Beyond the harmful headlines, charges of sexual harassment can damage employee morale, make it harder to recruit and retain workers, and lead to litigation and lawsuits. Writing in the Washington Post’s ‘The 5-Minute Fix” newsletter tonight, Peter Stevenson said Cuomo, “…first called for investigations by a lawyer or judge of his choosing, at one point claiming his comments were just jokes, or were taken out of context. But those defenses are from an out-of-date playbook. In 2021, several years after the rise of the MeToo movement and a societal reckoning about the way that men have long gotten away with treating women, the old standby tactics don’t work anymore.” HR expert Brenda Neckvatal said, “The Governor’s response to the allegations made against him reinforces the need for business leaders to check their behaviors every day.” Forbes

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The annual award, now in its 15th year, recognizes HR professionals for their outsized contributions to their organizations and communities. But, this year is surely in a league of its own!  “HR has been the rock that is getting employees through this crisis” said Darren Kimball, CFA, CEO of GetFive. GetFive

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Like what you were reading? We’ve got a lot more to share!Click here to check out other HROI articles and interviews.

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