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Cypen & Cypen
NEWSLETTER
for
AUGUST 25, 2011

Stephen H. Cypen, Esq., Editor

1.      CONFRONTING MEDIA MISINFORMATION ABOUT PUBLIC PENSIONS:   In the July 2011 Florida Public Pension Trustees Association Newsletter, Susan Marden, Public Relations Consultant, deals with this vexing issue. During the past year especially, media pundits have condemned public pension plans as the cause for municipal and state budget failures, predicting all sorts of calamities because of lavish benefits, unfunded liabilities, collective bargaining and most recently -- health care costs.  While it is true that governments are facing tremendous challenges; and public officials are prudent to be seen examining every aspect of spending, it is also true that many of the claims about public employee benefits have been red herrings.  So how do we turn back the tide?  When confronting negative news stories that fail to include appropriate industry expert information, do not be afraid to point out the lack of balance in reporting (in a politely-worded letter to the editor). Provide the facts you know are missing (usually actuarial studies) and ask for better coverage. Also 

  • Try to identify specifics that discourage generalities.  For example, Florida Retirement System is different and separate from local and municipal plans.  Too many people think all public employees are state employees.  
  • The importance of even the most basic communications plan cannot be overstated.  The objective is to prevent misunderstandings in the first place.  While you have no control over national news, you can have plenty of influence locally if you take the initiative: 
    • Prepare and electronically distribute an annual state-of-the-pension report or newsletter. Send it to every employee and retiree, as well as to town officials with whom you interact. Make a stack of copies and leave them in municipal headquarters. 
    • Distribute your pension board meeting minutes widely -- even if you do not think everyone will read them. It is a demonstration of transparency and good faith that pays long-term dividends. 
    • Prepare a summary of your pension board minutes in three paragraphs, and distribute it to key municipal officials. E-mail is a one-click highway, and the short narrative will invite people who are decision makers to read it. 
  • Contact FPPTA to host a Town Hall Meeting in your area to serve as an educational platform and editorial board outreach. 

Ms. Marden makes reference to an earlier paper entitled “Addressing Media Misconceptions about Public-Sector Pensions and Bankruptcy,” which we previously reviewed (see C&C Newsletter for March 24, 2011, Item 1). 

2.      WHAT IS THE AVERAGE RETIREMENT AGE?:  That question is posed in a new Issue in Brief, released by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. Since working longer is the key to a secure retirement for the vast majority of older Americans, it is useful to take a look at labor force trends for those under and over age 65 for the last century. The brief proceeds in three steps.  First it describes the long-run decline in labor force participation of men.  Second, it looks at the turnaround that began in the mid-1980s.  Next, it discusses the trends for women, which combine their increasing labor force activity, on the one hand, and incentives to retire, on the other. Finally, it concludes that labor force activity of both men and women has increased significantly over the mid-1980s, as many incentives now encourage work.  Several hurdles remain to continued increases, however, including the sluggish economic recovery, the move away from career employment, availability of Social Security at 62 and employer resistance to part-time employment.  Here are some more specific key findings: 

  • Since the mid-1990s, average retirement age has risen from 62 to 64 for men and from 60 to 62 for women.
  • The trend toward later retirement has been driven by several factors:  changing incentives in Social Security and employer pensions; better education, health coupled with less strenuous jobs; and decline in retiree health insurance.
  • More older women are working today because more of them started work younger.  
  • The factors suggest the trend toward later retirement will continue, but risks remain with a move away from career employment.  

Issue Brief #11-11 (August 2011)

3.      INTERNAL DISCIPLINARY REVIEW HEARING DID NOT SEVER CAUSAL CONNECTION BETWEEN SUPERVISOR’S RETALIATORY ANIMUS AND EMPLOYER’S DECISION TO TERMINATE EMPLOYEE: The United States Supreme Court recently addressed the circumstances under which an employer may be held liable for employment discrimination based on discriminatory animus of an employee who influenced, but did not make, the ultimate employment decision.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has now determined that the City of Philadelphia, employer at issue, had not demonstrated that its internal disciplinary review hearing severed the causal connection between a supervisor’s retaliatory animus and the employer’s ultimate employment decision to terminate the employee. The case came to trial as a Title VII claim filed by terminated police officers, who alleged that they were disciplined in retaliation for protesting discriminatory treatment afforded their African American colleagues. The jury found in favor of plaintiffs, and awarded a total of $10 Million in damages. However, the District Court applied the compensatory damages cap of Title VII to reduce the jury’s award to $300,000 per plaintiff.  Plaintiffs had failed to plead claims under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, the city had not impliedly consented to try PHRA claims and thus there were no PHRA claims to absorb excess damages above the statutory cap. The appellate court affirmed on plaintiffs’ appeal and on the City’s cross-appeal. McKenna v. City of Philadelphia, Case Nos. 09-3567 and 10-3430 (U.S. 3rd Cir., August 17, 2011). 

4.      FIVE THINGS MOST HIRING MANAGERS WILL NOT TELL YOU: OfficeTeam offers a glimpse into employers’ take on interview process. What is going through a hiring manager’s mind during an employment interview?  The answer may surprise even the most experienced applicants.  Following are five things most hiring managers may be thinking about the interview but will not tell you: 

  • I haven't prepared in advance.  You may have spent hours creating your resume, but there is a good chance the hiring manager does not remember exactly what is on it. Advice: Always have an extra copy of your resume handy and offer to walk the potential employer through the highlights, particularly if he seems at a loss for questions. 
  • I am wary of phonies.  Think again before you claim that your greatest weakness is that you work too hard.  Advice:  Come to the interview with several job-related anecdotes in mind that reveal the real you and speak to how your specific talents can help the business.  
  • I love to talk about my company and myself.  Interviewers are advised to let the candidate do most of the talking.  Advice: Ask the prospective employer about his professional advancement within the company, which can yield valuable information about growth potential at the firm and get the conversation going.  
  • I may intentionally make you uncomfortable.  Job seekers often rush to fill in awkward pauses between interview questions.  Advice:  Rather than rambling and potentially saying something you regret, keep your responses concise and on point.  
  • I am going to ask my assistant about you.  Six in 10 executives surveyed said they consider their assistants’ opinions important when evaluating new hires.  Advice:  If the administrative professional is not busy, make polite small talk while you wait. 

OfficeTeam specializes in temporary placement of highly skilled office and administrative support professionals.   

5.      EN GARDE?: A defense attorney from Titusville, Florida was arrested after agents said he threatened to kill his girlfriend, as he challenged her to a naked sword duel.  Terry Lee Locy faces counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and domestic violence battery.  Apparently, Locy and his live-in girlfriend were arguing about his drinking in excess.  Locy then grabbed a mirror off a door and raised it up as if he were attempting to strike her. The girlfriend then grabbed the hook that the mirror had been hanging on, and flung it toward Locy, who suffered a cut to his head.  After showering, a nude Locy handed a sheathed sword to his girlfriend, and said, “You’re going to need this.” He then retrieved a larger sword, pulled it from the sheath and threatened to kill her. Still naked, Locy left the house with the sword – hopefully running very carefully. Locy was arrested, released and ordered to undergo a mental health evaluation, according to floridatoday.com. 

6.      WELL, NOW, THEY OFTEN CALL ME SPEEDO…: UPI reports that a 61-year-old man has sued the state of New York, claiming he lost his job as a lifeguard because he refused to wear a Speedo during his annual swim test. Roy Lester had been employed as a lifeguard for four decades at Jones Beach before he was told he would have to change out of his bike shorts and into a skimpy Speedo for his annual test. After he refused to make the change, Lester was fired. In one of the best quotes in recent times, Lester said “I wore a Speedo when I was in my 20s. But come on.  There should be a law prohibiting anyone over the age of 50 from wearing a Speedo.” Lester will probably touch the wall first on this one, because State regulations require lifeguards to wear boxers, briefs or board shorts during their annual 100-yard swim test. (Trivia question: what group sang the 50’s hit “Speedo?” Bonus question: What was Speedo’s real name?) 

7.      PARAPROSDOKIAN: (A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect.):  To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target. 

8.      QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Old age means realizing you will never own all the dogs you wanted to.” Joe Gores 

9.      ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: In 1942, the birth of your editor’s assistant, in Louisville, Kentucky. 

10.    KEEP THOSE CARDS AND LETTERS COMING: Several readers regularly supply us with suggestions or tips for newsletter items. Please feel free to send us or point us to matters you think would be of interest to our readers. Subject to editorial discretion, we may print them. Rest assured that we will not publish any names as referring sources. 

11.    PLEASE SHARE OUR NEWSLETTER: Our newsletter readership is not limited to the number of people who choose to enter a free subscription. Many pension board administrators provide hard copies in their meeting agenda. Other administrators forward the newsletter electronically to trustees. In any event, please tell those you feel may be interested that they can subscribe to their own free copy of the newsletter at http://www.cypen.com/subscribe.htm. Thank you. 

 

 

Copyright, 1996-2011, all rights reserved.

Items in this Newsletter may be excerpts or summaries of original or secondary source material, and may have been reorganized for clarity and brevity. This Newsletter is general in nature and is not intended to provide specific legal or other advice.


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