Love Contracts: Perhaps A Lovely Idea for Any Office

If you’ve watched "The Office," you know how workplace romance can complicate things. Who amongst us hasn’t seen that same old story in our own office: a guy is engaged to a coworker, while a temp/former corporate executive dates his cube neighbor/ex-girlfriend, and then another guy is engaged to another girl, but she also makes out with the annoying guy in the office who owns a beet farm and has a cousin named Mose who runs without using his arms. It’s almost trite.

But what are the legal ramifications and what can employers do about it? Apparently, love contracts are now an option. Inside INdiana Business has the scoop:

A partner at Bose McKinney & Evans is recommending companies consider "love contracts" to protect their businesses and employees from the troubles that can come out of an office romance. Dave Swider says often employers don’t feel comfortable governing employee relationships, so these documents set the parameters for workplace romance. Employees who have or are about to enter a relationship would sign documents acknowledging it is consensual, along with ground rules for office behavior and sexual harassment policies. Swider says the contracts also protect employers by stating they will not retaliate nor discriminate if the relationship goes south.
 

And if you’re an HR specialist, or just someone who’s so attractive that you can’t keep coworkers from hitting on you, you might find useful related information in the Indiana Chamber’s Indiana Guide to Preventing Workplace Harassment, authored by attorneys at Ogletree Deakins. We also have a Harassment Kit available, as well. I guarantee you’ll love this information — but not too much or you’ll have to sign a contract.

Indy Star Blasts Washington Township Board

We brought you this gem last week. Now, the Indy Star is weighing in with some strong words against the Washington Township board that voted to give itself a 60% pay increase. The Star rightfully also points out that this is just a microcosm of the entire township government problem:

Over protests from residents and with little discussion, the Washington Township Board last week handed itself a 60 percent pay raise, effectively reversing a pay cut the board accepted last year after the township fire department was merged with the city’s.

… Eliminating township government altogether is a prominent recommendation of the Indiana Commission on Local Government Reform, whose report last year has been driving high-level discussions about municipal efficiency. One major result already is the folding of township assessors into one countywide office. A new state law accomplished that for smaller counties; and Marion County, for one, approved a referendum this month abolishing the job of township assessor.

Can township government itself, and township boards, be next? Gov. Mitch Daniels, among others, hopes so, arguing convincingly that multiple redundant layers of local government waste money and impede service. As property assessing joins police and fire protection among countywide functions, the dispensability of outmoded township governance will become more obvious.

Defenders of that 19th-century vestige maintain that it keeps public servants closer to the public. Whether that’s worth higher cost and lower efficiency is debatable in any case. In the case of the Washington Township Board, close turns out to be more like in-your-face.

Again, if the board wanted to make a case about job duties changing and whatnot as justification for a raise, I’m sure most of us would be willing to listen. Probably still wouldn’t support it, but we’d listen. Yet the unwillingness to even listen to public input or discuss the matter with the media, as displayed by reporter Norman Cox’s original blog (linked in our first post), is the most alarming aspect of this. The government is not God; it should work for us.

Big Enough to Take It Away

The National Center for Policy Analysis recently dissected a Human Events column from Terence P. Jeffrey about America’s need for smaller government. You can read the entire piece here, but here’s the NCPA’s synopsis:

Up until the 1930s, the United States maintained a small federal government that mostly focused on the limited number of things the Constitution authorized it to do.  Americans were responsible for their own food, clothing and shelter, and believed in earning wealth.  What changed?  Well, in the 1930s, we didn’t have a welfare state, says Terence Jeffrey, editor of Human Events.

According to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), in 1930:

  • The federal government spent only 3.4 percent of gross domestic product, federal tax receipts equaled 4.2 percent of GDP and there was a federal budget surplus of 0.8 percent of GDP.

  • By 1940, with the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his modern American welfare state, federal spending was 9.8 percent of GDP, federal tax receipts were 6.8 percent and the Treasury borrowed 3 percent of GDP to make up the difference.

  • The "human resources" part of the federal budget consumed 4.3 percent of GDP; in 2009, it will consume 13 percent. Continue reading

Honda, Hollywood, and Drew Carey United at Last

According to Inside INdiana Business, a Honda Civic from the new Greensburg plant will be featured as a prize on CBS’s "The Price is Right":

A Civic from Greensburg’s new Honda plant may become the "next item up for bids." Officials with the plant say an Indiana-built Honda Civic will be featured as a prize on the CBS-TV show "The Price is Right." They believe it is the first time the game show has offered a non-domestic car as a prize.

The episode of the "The Price is Right" is expected to air on December 23.

The Honda plant opened earlier this year was dedicated just in the past week.

In conjunction with that ceremony, Honda Motor Company officials announced the plant will be the only North American facility to produce a natural gas powered Civic starting next year.

Kudos to our friends at Honda. Nothing like a little Plinko to start Christmas off right.

Ball State, Obama and Football

Some family, friends and co-workers are getting sick of hearing me talk about it. Instead (or in addition to), I’ll write about it, try to come up with a way to justify it being in this space and move on — for the time being.

It is Ball State University football, the magical 11-0 season (entering Tuesday night’s regular season finale at home against Western Michigan) and where its bowl destination might be. OK, I know it’s not the Golden Domers back in their glory days, the IU hoops (see back in glory days reference, although I believe they will return to prominence in a few years under Tom Crean) or Purdue’s Rube Goldberg contest dynasty, but give us Cardinal fans a break.

Even if the Cardinals go 13-0 (a conference championship game in Detroit awaits if, and only if, a Tuesday win is recorded), the BSU faithful are looking at a return to Detroit the day after Christmas (bowl games are supposed to be a reward, aren’t they), Toronto (nothing against the Canadians, but I’m not anticipating sunny weather up north on the third day of 2009) or Mobile (better, but no New Orleans, Phoenix or south Florida).

Ball State won’t be going to one of the grander destinations because that appears reserved for Utah or Boise State, which also fall in the non-Big Boy category of college football and its allotment of "only one of you gets to come to our season-ending party."

What’s the solution? Don’t know. What’s next? Hope for three more wins, 14-0, more publicity for the university and increased alumni donations (now there’s a business angle).

Or how about this justification: president-elect Barack Obama stirred the pot the night before the election by championing a college football playoff and repeating the wish in his recent "60 Minutes" interview. If the future world leader can take time to examine the college football postseason structure, why can’t I?

Go Cardinals!

Drama in Washington Township

So local TV reporter Norman Cox wanted to ask some questions about a pay raise the Washington Township Board members gave themselves (in a 4-3 vote) last night. Well, that didn’t go so well as the whole transparency thing kind of went down the ol’ commode:

Last night the township board’s Democratic majority rammed through a 60% pay raise for board members. They did so without speaking one word at the public meeting to justify it. They then refused to answer questions from the media or the public after the meeting.

I won’t post any more because you should really read Cox’s entire blog post if you want to start your weekend with a little disbelief. Oh, and you can watch an entertaining video as well.

Pay raise? Sure, we’ve earned it — just don’t ask us about it.

Economy Swats Away Gary Hoops Team’s Season

Dear Economy, this is Indiana — do NOT mess with our basketball.

You know times are tough when a sports team has to cancel its season because of the economy. The Gary Steelheads of the International Basketball League won’t be playing this year due to the impact of the region’s – and the nation’s — financial trials. The team plays in the 8,000-seat Gary Genesis Center, where average attendance was about 1,500 last season. The Times of Northwest Indiana has the story:

That’s fair to say," said attorney Jewell Harris Jr., the Steelheads’ chief operations officer. "We don’t want to field a minor league team in this economic climate. It’s just not feasible.

"People are concerned about paying their bills every month and not buying a season-ticket package or a sponsorship of the team. And with the way minor league basketball is structured, it’s not difficult for us to sit out a season and come back. We wouldn’t lose anything by doing that."

The eight-year-old Gary franchise, plagued by financial woes since its inception, originally competed in the CBA and then the ill-fated USBL before signing on with the IBL last season.

Hopefully the Steelheads can rebound after this year to provide on-court entertainment for the good people of northwest Indiana.

Hat tip to Inside INdiana Business.

The Obama Administration and Health Care

Stuart M. Butler of the Heritage Foundation recently scribed a piece called "Think Small," outlining what President Obama must do regarding health care strategy. He stresses the following key points, but I recommend reading the column in full:

1. Make a strong commitment to bipartisanship (don’t be like Bill Clinton).

2. Rather than finding new money to spend during these tough economic times, he should find ways to more efficiently spend the money we are already allocating toward this.

3. Allow the states flexibility to redesign existing health care programs and use the money more efficiently to reach the goal of maximizing affordable coverage.

4. Remember that Americans are very conservative about their health care. Those with coverage are extremely nervous about changing what they already have.

“Best Places to Work” Deadline Approaching

Time is running out for companies to apply for the annual competition naming the “Best Places to Work in Indiana.” Registrations will be accepted until Friday, December 5, for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce program honoring the top companies in the state as determined through employer reports and comprehensive employee surveys.

The 2009 winners will be selected from two categories: small to medium-sized companies of between 25 and 249 employees, and large-sized companies consisting of 250 or more employees. (Out-of-state parent companies are eligible to participate if at least 25 full-time employees are in Indiana.)

The Best Companies Group, which has overseen similar programs in other states, is responsible for the selection process. The basis for this initiative is Fortune magazine’s noted “100 Best Companies to Work for in America.”

All participating companies will receive an in-depth evaluation identifying strengths and weaknesses according to their employees.

Solve the Nation’s Health Care Challenge — Win $10 Million

Think you know the solution for our country’s serious health care system challenges? If so, you could win $10 million. Indianapolis-based WellPoint, the WellPoint Foundation and the X PRIZE Foundation teamed to develop a $10 million or more competition to generate new ways to address these challenges.

The competition was announced last month, and rules, guidelines and exact prize money will be announced in early 2009. WellPoint has agreed to test the viability of selected solutions in its markets.

WellPoint, Inc. (NYSE: WLP), the nation’s largest health insurance company in terms of medical membership; the WellPoint Foundation, one of the largest corporate foundations in the United States; and the X PRIZE Foundation, the nation’s pre-eminent philanthropic organization focused on innovation through competition, today announced a landmark collaboration to develop a $10 million or more competition designed to generate new ways to address the nation’s serious health care system challenges.

"WellPoint and its Foundation recognize the challenges facing our health care system are substantial, which is why it’s critical for health benefits companies, health care providers, government leaders, and consumers to work together to identify real-world solutions that will create the most benefit for all Americans," said Angela F. Braly, president and CEO of WellPoint and member of the WellPoint Foundation board of directors.

To learn more about the competition, see what key opinion leaders are saying about it, and to participate in the development of the prize, please visit www.xprize.org/wellpoint.