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Two Supreme Court Business Cases Affected by Scalia’s Absence

With the surprising and sudden death over the weekend of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, what happens to cases the court had decided, but not yet announced? The answer is this: Anything the court had decided with a 5–4 vote is now considered void and must be reconsidered. And if the court can’t now get past a 4–4 split on any of these, the case’s lower court ruling stands.

While no one knows what votes have taken place behind the court’s closed doors, there are several business-related cases that were believed to be close enough calls that they may be left up in the air by Scalia’s death. These two are viewed as the most highly charged pending cases.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

It seems likely that Scalia’s death means that public unions have dodged an extremely damaging ruling. The court has been considering overturning its earlier Abood v. Detroit Board of Education ruling, which held that unions can charge fees of non-union members if the union is representing them in salary and benefit negotiations.

Non-union members claimed that these fees forced them to support union positions in favor of political candidates (mostly Democrats) of whom they didn’t personally approve. The unions claimed that political actions were not paid for with these fees.

The court appeared ready to rule against the unions, thanks to Scalia’s reliably conservative vote. If their internal vote was 5–4, the unions just got lucky.

Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo

In this class-action case, employees of Tyson Foods had sued their employer for not paying them for the time it took them to dress and undress in the required safety gear. They sought damages based on the average time it took, since different employees wore different gear.

A lower court awarded the employees about six million dollars, but Tyson contended that that the average time was meaningless and that their changing times were different enough that they shouldn’t be able to sue together in a class action suit. The plaintiffs disagreed, saying their experience of not being paid for changing time was essentially the same and that how long dressing and undressing took them all wasn’t all that different in any event.

Since the Supreme Court’s been seen lately as being anti-class-action suits, this could well be another unannounced decision tossed aside now, with the employees chances of prevailing having improved without the pro-business Justice Scalia.

Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement reporter for TINYpulse. When she's not busy digging into and covering the latest workplace trends, she's wrangling with her three (yes, three) cats and rooting for the Seahawks.

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Yahoo Begins Layoffs Amid Confusion

After years of declining profits and multiple CEOs unable to turn the company around, Silicon Valley giant Yahoo began laying of 15% of its workforce this week. The process seems to be especially chaotic, according to Kara Swisher, writing for re/code. At the heart of the story is what appears to be a serious breakdown between CEO Marissa Mayer and Yahoo’s board of directors.

Yahoo is looking to reduce its workforce by 1,500 people, and the cuts are concentrated in the company’s media and sales departments. Yahoo’s search team is being spared since apparently Mayer sees it as a remaining area of opportunity for Yahoo.

After reportedly maintaining her own “invest/maintain/kill” list to help pinpoint who would stay and who would go, Mayer is finalizing the layoffs in consultation with McKinsey & Co., Goldman Sachs, and Qatalyst Partners. These firms are also helping Mayer think through a range of challenges, including how to separate Yahoo from its stake in China’s Alibaba Group.

11 years ago, Yahoo co-founder made a $1 billion bet on Chinese businessman Jack Ma, who went on to build the now massive Alibaba Group. Yahoo sold half its stake in Alibaba four years ago over Yang’s objections, shares that would now be worth about $32 billion dollars. Fortunately, Yahoo held on to a similar number of shares, and it’s the value of those shares that’s allowed the once-powerful internet giant to survive. Yahoo’s now planning to keep its stake in Alibaba and sell off its internet core.

During an earnings call last week, the board reportedly stated their interest in selling off the internet business at the same time Mayer was saying she still hoped to fix it. People have also accused the CEO of making a sale more difficult by ignoring phone calls from serious potential buyers.

Whatever is going between Mayer and her board, the investment community is perplexed, and at least 15% of Yahoo’s workforce has no choice but to move on.

Sabrina Son

Sabrina is the editor in chief for TINYpulse news. She's dipped her toes into various works of writing — from retail copywriter to magazine editor. Her work's been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg BNA, and Tech.co.

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New Study Shows Women in Management Results in Higher Profits

The New York Times reports on a just-released study by the non-profit Peterson Institute for International Economics which shows that companies that want higher profits would be well served by getting more women into management. Nearly 22,000 publicly traded companies from 91 countries were surveyed in the study.

The study found no conclusive evidence, though, that a higher number of female CEOs or board members affect a company’s bottom line.

On the other hand, what the study did reveal was that having women in other top-management positions was definitively correlated with increased profits. According to Marcus Noland, the institute’s director of studies, “An increase in the share of women from zero to 30% would be associated with a 15% rise in profitability.”

While a Pew Research study released in 2014 showed that Americans consider women to be equally qualified for being business and political leaders, it’s obvious more needs to be done to actually make this happen.

  • Less than 5% of companies surveyed had a chief woman executive
  • 50% had no female executives at all
  • 60% of the companies had no women on their boards
  • 12% of American companies surveyed had female board members
  • 16% of their executives were female

Norway has the most diversity, with women in 40% of board seats and 20% of their executive positions. Japan was at the low end, with women only representing 2% of board members and only 3% of their executives.

One of the Peterson study’s tantalizing finds was that countries with high math scores in schools tended to produce more female business leaders. This was a far stronger profit indicator than legal quotas for female board membership such as those in Norway, Denmark, and Finland.

Surprisingly, the survey showed paternal leave contributed more to higher female leadership numbers than maternity leave, probably because it represents more sharing of child-rearing responsibilities. Overall, Noland says, “If you have a supportive set of policies, which would include paternal leave, which allows women to have children while maintaining their careers in a relatively undisruptive manner, you see more women making it to the very top.”

Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement reporter for TINYpulse. When she's not busy digging into and covering the latest workplace trends, she's wrangling with her three (yes, three) cats and rooting for the Seahawks.

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The Way Every Sci-Fi Movie War Starts. Thanks, Luxembourg.

You wouldn’t think a tiny country like Luxembourg would want to provoke the wrath of aliens by announcing plans for space mining, the reason behind so many intergalactic conflicts (see Star Wars, Total Recall, Alien, Avatar, Dune, etc.). But that’s just what they’ve done. Last week they announced the first European government initiative to begin mining minerals from asteroids.

The idea is to relieve the pressure on Earth’s resources by getting them from space instead. Luxembourg is also betting their new business will encourage the exploration of space.

Etienne Schneider, Luxembourg’s economy minister, told The Christian Science Monitor that, “Our aim is to open access to a wealth of previously unexplored mineral resources on lifeless rocks hurling through space, without damaging natural habitats.” At least not our own natural habitats.

Not everyone is pleased about Luxembourg’s announcement, and have noted it violates what’s viewed as one of the United Nations’ most significant accomplishments, the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. Vladimir Kopal, ex- Legal Subcommittee chairman of the UN’s Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space says the treaty needs to be respected since it’s already possibly prevented the complete destruction of humanity thanks to its moderating effect on space-based weaponry. Luxembourg believes their plan doesn’t violate the treaty.

The whole thing’s not as out-there as it may seem, since Luxembourg is home to SES, one of the world’s biggest communication-satellite operators. In addition, Luxembourg may have been reading the writing on the wall, since the U.S. passed the SPACE Act of 2015 that awards mineral right to whoever brings the minerals back down to earth.

There’s little question that space-business competition is taking off. Hopefully nobody out there will notice.

Sabrina Son

Sabrina is the editor in chief for TINYpulse news. She's dipped her toes into various works of writing — from retail copywriter to magazine editor. Her work's been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg BNA, and Tech.co.

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What Does Uber’s New Logo Mean?

Logo design is a fascinating aspect of corporate branding, and there’s an incredible amount of thought that goes into it. A great logo grabs your attention and burrows into your memory, lurking there ready to instantly invoke the company it represents at a glance. A logo should also suggest something about the image the company wants to project.

For example, the classic FedEx logo makes a movement-connoting arrow out of the negative space between the “E” and the “x.”

FedEx-Logo

It’s as much an art as a science, so there are lots of opinions about which ones are the most successful. There does seem to be general agreement, though, about some of them and about the best logo ever.

nike

Entrepreneur has an entertaining list of recent logos that stand out as exceptional.

Uber’s original logo was designed to appeal to customers looking to hire some luxe transportation in San Francisco.

Uber-Horizontal-Logo

They’ve obviously moved way beyond those customers and into a range of services with many more planned. The company decided to make a more elemental statement with their logo.

20160202-uber-new-logo

The square at the center of the logo is a data bit, the smallest building block of computer code. The circle is an atom. Uber has made bits — representing tech, atoms, and the physical world — the central metaphors of their new branding, as described in this video they’ve released.

While logos are frequently designed by firms that specialize in branding, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick brainstormed the new design with Uber’s design director Shalin Amin and other Uber staffers. It took three years, according to WIRED’s account of the process.

We’re surrounded by logos. We don’t always observe them at work, often taking them in subconsciously. But they represent a throughly modern, unique marriage of psychology, advertising, philosophy, and, of course, art.

Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement reporter for TINYpulse. When she's not busy digging into and covering the latest workplace trends, she's wrangling with her three (yes, three) cats and rooting for the Seahawks.

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How Much Will an Education Mean in Tomorrow’s Business World?

Last week, Penguin Random House, an international publishing house, ended degree requirements for job applicants. They follow other corporate powerhouses like Ernst and Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers. While Penguin and other companies frame this change as move toward inclusiveness, it nonetheless reflects a surprising trend.

A recent survey of Australian graduate students revealed that only 71.3% had found work within four months of obtaining their degrees and for less money than they were paid in the past. Data shows new Australian graduates’ median salary compared to the average salary has dropped by 10.2%.

What’s going on?

Penguin asserts it’s not so much an anti-educational move as an innovation that will provide the company better access to exceptional talent. “While graduates remain welcome to apply for jobs, not having been through higher education will no longer preclude anyone from joining. Simply, if you’re talented and you have potential, we want to hear from you.”

Meanwhile, smaller employers have expressed concern that graduates come out of school with no real skills or, worse, having learned the wrong things. While strong in academic areas, new graduates often lack critical soft skills, like being able to get along with others, being flexible, having digital skills, and being on top of time management.

Some say it’s a reaction to a common attitude of entitlement among graduates, such as Paul Fiumara, of DFK Hirn Newey in Sydney, who feels they often “have this over-inflated view of their worth.” He doesn’t blame the students, though. He points the finger at the “bloated institutions pumping them out.”

In any event, if an education’s no longer a golden ticket to a good job, it’s a major sea change. Will families and student be as willing as they have been in the past to go into debt for a degree that won’t inevitably lead to work? With education costs skyrocketing, on the other hand, the trend does offer a better chance for the less affluent to succeed on their talent.

Robby Berman

Robby Berman is a reporter, father, and musician who creates and discovers good stuff for the Internet world.

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Workplace Likes on Facebook Are Legally Protected, Says Court

According to a recent Second Circuit Court Court of Appeals ruling, Facebook Likes are federally protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA) if they’re about something that has to do with your workplace.

The case the court ruled on, Three D LLC v. NLRB, involved Jillian Sanzone and Vincent Spinella, a pair of employees at the Triple Play Sports Bar and Grille, located in Watertown, CT. When they found out that they owed more state income taxes than expected due to a filing error made by their employer — and after normal on-site complaints had been voiced — the conversation moved to Facebook, where they were joined by a former employee, Jamie LaFrance.

LaFrance posted: “Maybe someone should do the owners of Triple Play a favor and buy it from them. They can’t even do the tax paperwork correctly!!! Now I OWE money … W[*]f!!!!” She followed this up with a second update blaming the gym’s boss, “It’s all [the boss’s] fault. He didn’t do the paperwork right. I’m calling the labor board to look into it bc he still owes me about 2000 in paychecks.”

Spinella Liked this second post. The thread continued with the boss being referred to as a ”shady little man“ and with allegations that he’d deliberately pilfered money from the employees. Sanzone called their boss an ”$%!hole.” When Triple Play saw the conversation, both employees were fired.

Since the NLRA protects discussions of workplace issues from being used as cause for dismissal, the court found that, colorful as the online conversation was, it still related to a genuine problem the employees had and was thus speech protected by the statute.

There will undoubtedly be further refinements to the legal status of things that get said on the internet, but for now, it appears companies can’t fire employees just because the employees Like to complain about work.

Robby Berman

Robby Berman is a reporter, father, and musician who creates and discovers good stuff for the Internet world.

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Twitter Makes Some Radical Changes to Its Executive Team

In an after-hours flurry of weekend activity, recently reinstalled inventor of Twitter and CEO Jack Dorsey apparently showed four of his top executives to the door. Dorsey said in a tweet that the resignations were voluntary. The departing execs are:

Dorsey applauded the four in his tweet, saying they’ve done great things in the last 18 months of working together. All four execs are said to be taking some time off.

Rumors of the resignation began to percolate last week. It’s been rumored that this week Twitter will be announcing the hiring of a high-powered industry veteran to serve as its new Chief Marketing Officer. A new head of PR is also expected. There’s some turnover coming up on Twitter’s board of directors, and investors have expressed the hope that new members will increase the company’s diversity.

Twitter has been struggling lately to maintain a sense of forward momentum. Its stocks reflect these concerns, having dropped from a high in January 2014 of $69 to $17.84 at the close last Friday. At issue is sluggish growth in the number of new users signing on to Twitter. It may be, of course, that most people who want to use Twitter are already doing so. A much-promoted rollout of a major new feature, Moments, debuted in the fall, but it’s not really clear whether that’s being viewed as a success or not.

Investors want to see the company compete more aggressively with competitors like Facebook and Snapchat.

 

Sabrina Son

Sabrina is the editor in chief for TINYpulse news. She's dipped her toes into various works of writing — from retail copywriter to magazine editor. Her work's been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg BNA, and Tech.co.

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Congress Subpoenas Martin Shkreli to Come Explain Drug Pricing

Martin Shkreli — the ex-CEO infamous for hiking the price of an existing anti-parasitic medication called Daraprim used in the treatment of AIDS from $13.50 to $750 — has just been called before Congress next week, according to BloombergBusiness. The legislators want Shkreli to talk to them them about pharmaceutical pricing.

On January 26, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is convening a hearing on “developments in the prescription drug market.” At issue is the upward repricing of decades-old pharmaceuticals by companies who purchase the rights to sell them, the way that Shkreli did with Daraprim. With the cost of developing the drugs having long ago been absorbed, and their acquisition prices generally relatively low, there seems little justification for substantially increasing their prices. Congress is getting involved because price increases have the affect of limiting access to the medications by making them less affordable to the people who need them.

The oversight panel has requested pricing documentation from a small group of companies, including Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company Shkreli ran before resigning after the outcry over Daraprim’s price hike and after unrelated securities-fraud charges were brought against him in December.

Shkreli hasn’t yet committed to making an appearance before the oversight panel, treating the summons in the same flip manner with which he responded to criticism Daraprim’s new price, and which has so infuriated his detractors. He tweeted a picture of the summons with the caption, “Found this letter. Looks important,” and coyly asked his Twitter followers if he should attend.

According to Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the Congressional panel’s top Democrat, “I have been trying for the better part of a year to get information from Martin Shkreli about his outrageous price increases, and he has obstructed our investigation at every turn. He claims publicly that he wants to explain to Congress how drug pricing works. On Tuesday, he will get his chance.”

Robby Berman

Robby Berman is a reporter, father, and musician who creates and discovers good stuff for the Internet world.

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Uber Takes to the Skies in New Airbus Partnership

Having already staked a claim on major cities in 68 countries around the world, Uber plans to take things up a notch — literally — through a just-announced partnership with Airbus: Uber customers will soon be able to hail an Airbus H125 or H130 helicopter. Airbus CEO announced the program at a Munich technology conference on Sunday, January 17. “It’s a pilot project, we’ll see where it goes — but it’s pretty exciting,” Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders told The Wall Street Journal.

The partnership is the product of an Airbus experiment called Airbus Ventures in which the aircraft manufacturer seeks to develop closer ties with leading-edge Silicon Valley companies. The company has made a $150 million commitment to this attempt to “identify and invest in the most visionary entrepreneurs in the global aerospace ecosystem,” Airbus said in a release. Airbus says they hope the Uber connection will help them establish “a new business model for helicopter operators to access a broader customer base.”

There’s no word yet on what a ride may cost, but it’s not likely to be cheap. The companies tested their arrangement in 2013 with “UberChoppers” that flew between Manhattan and the Hamptons. Airbus also offered helicopter rides in May at the Cannes Film Festival and in June at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. In those cases, the price ranged from several hundred to several thousand dollars for a ride. The partnership’s official maiden voyage will be at the upcoming Sundance Festival, where the option of going by helicopter will be available to attendees seeking to navigate festival events.

Airbus is hoping to strengthen its helicopter business, which has been weakened by the falling price of oil — the customers for Airbus’s most expensive helicopters have historically been oil and gas companies now looking to economize.

Update, January 25, 2016: Uber chopper rides at Sundance have been canceled as the result of an agreement with Summit country officials, who were responding to hundreds of complaints about helicopters landing in a rural field enjoyed by sandhill cranes, in an area near homes.  While Uber feels that air travel isn’t affect by local zoning ordinances, county official disagreed and say that the company failed to obtain the required permits for operating at the festival.

Robby Berman

Robby Berman is a reporter, father, and musician who creates and discovers good stuff for the Internet world.

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