Volume I  Number 2   Spring 2020



by Denitsa Tsekova, Yahoo News

With lockdowns lifted and employers reopening businesses, many Americans who are the most vulnerable to developing a serious case from the coronavirus may not be able to afford to stay away from work. Most won’t earn extra for that risk, either.


Almost 1 in 4 workers, or 38 million Americans, are at higher risk of severe cases from COVID-19 due to underlying conditions or age, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that focuses on national health issues.


This could also lead to indirect exposure for an additional 12 million at-risk adults who are not workers themselves, but live with at least one full-time worker.


“It’s a big number,” said Gary Claxton, senior vice president of Kaiser Family Foundation “Safety is going to be an issue as they commute to work, as they are in workplaces where there's other people, and even more, if they're in a job where they're facing the public.”


Workers at high risk are considered those who have diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, body mass index (BMI) above 40, moderate to severe asthma, functional limitation due to cancer as well as workers 65 and older, according to the report.


‘Meaningful part of their family's income’

Many of those workers at high risk tend to have lower-paying jobs that account for the majority of their family’s income. At-risk workers between the ages of 18 and 64 earn $48,400 on average, which is less than those who are not at risk who bring in an average of $51,900, the report found.


“What they are earning from their jobs is a meaningful part of their family's income,” Claxton said. “It wouldn't be easy for those families if those people stay home safe and couldn't return to their jobs.”


The earnings of at-risk workers under 65 account for more than half of their family’s income, which makes the choice of whether to return to work more difficult, according to Claxton.


‘An imminent danger of returning to work’

Workers at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 may be accommodated in some cases, but many would generally have to return to work or otherwise lose their unemployment benefits.


“If returning to work or commuting to work could endanger them, then they may be protected under the disability laws,” said Daniel Feinstein, a labor and employment lawyer at Davis & Gilbert LLP. “If an employer lets them go for not returning to work, they could have legal exposure.”

Guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) says employers must find ways to mitigate the risk for people with underlying conditions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


The Occupational Safety and Health Act, or OSH Act, allows workers to refuse work if there’s an imminent danger or your employer is not taking responsible steps to ensure a safe working environment.


“Generally speaking, if the employer requires you to return to work, you must return to work,” Feinstein said, “unless you could show that there's an imminent danger of returning to work.”


Hazard pay is ‘nowhere near the extent of risk’

Many of those vulnerable workers remained on the job through the peak of the pandemics, but they rarely received additional pay for the high level of risk they faced.


Fewer than 1 in 3 of the workers who worked outside their homes during the pandemic received extra hazard pay, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute. At the same time, more than half of workers who are currently employed outside of their homes are concerned about bringing coronavirus home, the report found.


“There are people receiving hazard pay, but it’s nowhere near the extent of risk,” said Lawrence Mishel, a fellow at the Economic Policy Institute. “The gaps are even larger for people who have less bargaining power in the labor market which tend to be lower- and middle-wage workers and workers of color — black and Hispanic.”


Seven in 10 black workers who work outside of their home are fearful, but only 4 of 10 have received some form of hazard pay to work during those riskier times.


“It’s those who have the least power in the labor market that face the most risk,” Mishel said, “and aren’t necessarily getting hazard pay.”

Denitsa Tsekovais a personal finance reporter covering debt management, student loans and job trends. Previously, she interned for Bloomberg News reporting on agriculture, commodities, and companies, and has worked and trained in newsrooms across the U.S., U.K., Belgium, and Russia.

Adriana Girdler: Productively Returning Back to Work



by Danielle Oliver

Like every employee around the world, college students and recent graduates are facing extreme career repercussions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. During a time when they are supposed to be preparing to enter their professional career, they are finding fewer opportunities for advancement. With internships, jobs, classes, and career fairs all cancelled or altered, the pandemic is forcing students to reevaluate their career plans. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that 22% of surveyed employers revoked summer internship offers, and 4.4% are revoking full-time positions for recent graduates.


Although college campuses and the workforce both look different right now, college students and recent graduates can still make the most out of this unprecedented summer. Given the circumstances, it is the perfect opportunity to build relationships, sharpen skills, and continue advancing careers. Here are some tips for optimizing a socially distant summer:


Connect, connect, connect!

Regardless of the circumstances, this is always the best tip for building a successful career. Connections will remain important throughout every stage of your career, and can play an especially important role when entering the workforce. A great place to start is by reaching out to your school’s career center. From there, you can find alumni and professors within your field. Reach out, and begin to develop relationships with those who may have a similar career interest.


You can also begin contacting companies and recruiters. Even if they cannot offer you a position right now, start talking to them about the industry and their company. The goal of these connections does not have to be to get a job immediately, but it is important to build and maintain these professional relationships. You never know when they may present an opportunity down the road!                                        (more)




from the Managing Editor

Happy Summer ...

This month typically consists of vacations or spending time with family and friends, but the world looks a little different right now. As we continue battling the COVID-19 pandemic, employees have especially faced challenges, uncertainties, and anxiety about the changing workplace. Some employees are now returning to work, while others are continuing to work remotely. There are still a great number of layoffs and unemployment. Meanwhile, employees still face the typical challenges of simply being an employee. That is why we bring you this edition of Employee’s Life, with content focused on the real issues employees are currently facing.

We created this space as a resource for you. We compiled some of the most relevant information available to help you navigate this difficult time. From sources across the country, as well as the Pennington HR Institute’s own contributions, we have a variety of content relevant to everyone.

As the world adjusts to this constant change, we hope you find our July issue helpful and insightful. As always, we aim to create a happier workforce through empowerment and education. These are more necessary than ever, which is why we bring you this edition of Employee’s Life. Enjoy!

Danielle Oliver

Managing Editor


by Kyra Sutton, Ph.D.

The summer of 2020 is unprecedented. Many young adults are entering a workforce where unemployment is the highest it’s been since the Great Depression. Further, a recent Glassdoor study found that openings for new college graduates have dropped 68% compared to this time last year. 


In the meantime, the focus of most recent grads is seeking employment as soon as possible. The challenge is that some companies have rescinded their offers, and approximately 18 million people are unemployed, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data.   


Ultimately, recent graduates are in a time when demand for work still exceeds the supply of jobs. As a result, you may be faced with an important career choice: should you accept a role you don’t want?


In the past, I have accepted roles that were not my first choice. As it turned out, it was a meaningful experience. 


For any job that was not my first choice, I accepted the role for one or more of the following reasons:


1. You like the organization.  Suppose you really want to work for TikTok, which ranked number 5 in Glassdoor’s study of highly desirable workplaces. However, as you are applying you notice they don’t have any openings that are aligned with your skills and experience.  Should you still apply for a job?   If you like the organization, you understand how much time you must have in the role before you can transfer and if it pays enough to cover your bills, go for it!


2. You need experience. During the time you were in college, some people were focused on graduating out as soon as possible to avoid taking on debt.  It’s a reasonable choice. However, while you’re saving money on the back-end, this decision probably limited the time you worked in fulltime jobs like an internship or co-op related to your major. Now you’re ready to graduate, but you are having a hard time finding a job because you don’t have work experience. Even if it’s you’re your first choice, take the job.  Use the time in your new role to build your resume.


3.  You don’t know what you want to do.  Not knowing what you want to do is one of the most stressful parts of beginning your career.  That said, through the process of elimination, you can start to figure out what you dislike in a job fairly quickly.  It will be helpful to keep an inventory of job-related tasks you like compared to those unfulfilling tasks. And yes, even in a job that isn’t your first choice, there may still be some aspects of the job that help you identify what you enjoy doing at work.


4. It gives you a career experience identified in your plan. Suppose you want a role that enables you to develop your leadership skills. As you apply for jobs, the only positions you see are team leadership roles. Take the opportunity and run! One of the mistakes I made early in my career was focusing too much on the job title. I have since learned that it's better to identify the experiences (or tasks) that you enjoy doing or want to learn how to do – and look for jobs aligned with those experiences.


5.  You gain non-monetary financial advantages. Even now, in the middle of a global pandemic, organizations are prioritizing employee  development. As reported in a recent study by LinkedIn Learning, more than 70% of CEOs are now championing the importance of learning during this volatile time. As a result, if joining the organization will result in you gaining access to training, you should join the organization.


6. New Professional Relationships. One of the most important lessons young adults should remember is, managing your career includes building relationships. Therefore, if you’re not excited about the role, but it enables you to build relationships – especially with leaders, it’s worth taking the job. Also, look out for jobs that will allow you to work with global teams.


Finally, when you accept a role, even if you dislike it, you still have a few responsibilities to uphold, including:


  • Show up on time and do your work. Even if you hate the job, the organization ultimately gave you the choice to accept the job or not.  Remember, the work you do reflects your brand. Also, your next employer will want to know what you accomplished in your previous role.

  • Figure out if there is something new you can learn.  Even if the learning is small, it still counts. You may be able to learn a new system, process, technical skills, etc.  Whatever it is, try to learn something during the time you are there.

  • Give proper notice when you leave. Give 2 weeks’ notice or whatever is customary at the organization before you leave, just don't "walk out".

  • Customers count. If you are in a customer-facing role, do what you can to help customers. Sometimes employees are impatient with customers or they ignore customers, simply because they don't like the role. But it's unfair to the customer. Therefore, make it a priority to do right by the customer for however long you are in the role.

  • Teach something new. One of my favorite ways to past time in a job I dislike, is by teaching a coworker a new skill. All candidates bring unique skills sets to the job. It’s exciting to share your skills with coworkers, because it helps build your credibility as an expert in a specific area(s). Teaching new skills enables you to add value to the workplace, despite having less experience than your coworkers.

Kyra Leigh Sutton, Ph.D., is a faculty member at Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations in New Brunswick, N.J., where she teaches HR courses. Her research interests include the attraction, development, and retention of early-career employees.

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© 2019 by The Pennington HR Institute

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