FMLA News: Overactive Nurse Done In by Facebook Posts

If you're into rhyming mnemonic devices, a relevant one for workers on leave could be: "If you're out on FMLA, better watch how much you play."

The California Chamber's HR Watchdog blog tells the tale of a nurse in Detroit who was not only quite active while on leave, but documented her hijinx on Facebook. Needless to say, her employer and coworkers were less than enthusiastic about how she was milking the company.

A Detroit nurse out on Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave for a back and leg injury was fired after Facebook posts showed her vacationing in Mexico. Her doctor certified the need for her leave due to substantial lifting and mobility restrictions. But several Facebook posts showed the nurse in Mexico riding in a boat; lying on a bed holding up two bottles of beer.

She also posted other details about her life that seemed inconsistent with her leave, including pictures of herself holding her grandchildren while standing (one in each arm), details about trips to Home Depot, “watching” the grandchildren and taking online classes.

Co-workers who were Facebook “friends” of the nurse told management. While on leave, the nurse sent an email to her boss complaining that she never received a get-well card from staff.

Her boss replied that: “the staff were waiting until you came back from your vacation in Mexico to determine the next step. Since you were well enough to travel on a 4+ hour flight, wait in customs lines, bus transport, etc., we were assuming you would be well enough to come back to work.”

The nurse responded that she used wheelchairs at the airports, but eventually conceded that this was a lie and that she had been able to stand for 30 minutes while waiting in airport lines.

She was terminated for violating a company policy on dishonesty and for misuse of FMLA leave. A federal court in Michigan upheld the termination. Lineberry v. Richards (E.D. Mi. February 5, 2013)

And the Top Manufacturing City is …

No matter the math, Indiana still generally ranks as the most manufacturing intensive state in the nation. That means we have more manufacturing jobs based on our population/workforce. Wisconsin and North Carolina are typically in the same neighborhood.

Manufacturers News Inc. changed the scope recently and put out a top 50 list of most manufacturing jobs by city. Certainly population is a bigger factor here, but there are still some interesting numbers.

The top 10 (list below), lost more than 95,000 jobs between August 2008 and the end of 2010. Big movers included Detroit (falling from 29th to 45th) and Seattle (moving up to 34th from 46th). Five from California (L.A., San Diego, San Jose, Irvine and Santa Clara) made the top 50.

Top 10 Manufacturing Cities

  1. Houston: 228,226
  2. New York: 139,127
  3. Chicago: 108,692
  4. Los Angeles: 83,719
  5. St. Louis: 83,123
  6. Dallas: 81,626
  7. Cincinnati: 81,364
  8. Indianapolis: 79,566
  9. Phoenix: 77,322
  10. San Diego: 70,709

Detroit: The Good & Possible Bad of Health Care Investments

Can medicine replace motors as the economic engine in the Detroit metropolitan area? Not so fast, says the Center for Studying Health System Change, which recognizes possibilities but warns of potential dangers in high levels of health care capital investment. The Center for Studying Health System Change reports:

Despite a weak economic outlook, Detroit area hospital systems plan to spend more than $1.3 billion in the coming years on capital improvements, leading some to hope that medical care can help revitalize the area’s economy, according to a new Community Report released today by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) and the nonpartisan, nonprofit National Institute for Health Care Reform (NIHCR).

Overlooked in the enthusiasm is the possibility that significant expansion of the community’s health care infrastructure may lead to higher health care costs if the hospital systems can’t attract new patients from outside the Detroit metropolitan area, according to the report.

“If all the spending on capital improvements leads to increased use of high-tech services or additional costs from excess capacity, the end result might be higher private health insurance premiums, which could negatively impact employers and employees,” said Paul B. Ginsburg, Ph.D., HSC president and NICHR director of research.

The challenges facing the Detroit metropolitan area’s health care system are intertwined with the challenges facing the community as a whole, including a declining and aging population; major suburban/urban differences in income, employment, health insurance coverage, and health status; and a shrinking industrial base, according to the report.

Required Reading for All Interested in Our Future

We take seriously the job of providing fairly quick, but informative reads in this space. We’re going to fall short on the first count here, replicating an education opinion column that recently appeared in the Washington Post. The quality, however, makes up for longer-than-normal length. It should be a mandatory assignment for those who think they are doing their best as part of our education system.

The authors are Joel I. Klein, Michael Lomax and Janet Murguía. Klein, who recently appeared before Indiana’s Education Roundtable, is chancellor of New York City schools. Lomax is president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund. Murguía is president and chief executive of the National Council of La Raza. 

Why great teachers matter to low-income students

In the debate over how to fix American public education, many believe that schools alone cannot overcome the impact that economic disadvantage has on a child, that life outcomes are fixed by poverty and family circumstances, and that education doesn’t work until other problems are solved.

This theory is, in some ways, comforting for educators. After all, if schools make only a marginal difference, we can stop faulting ourselves for failing to make them work well for millions of children. It follows that we can stop working to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (currently known as No Child Left Behind) and stop competing in the Obama administration’s Race to the Top initiative, which promises controversial changes.

Problem is, the theory is wrong. It’s hard to know how wrong — because we haven’t yet tried to make the changes that would tell us — but plenty of evidence demonstrates that schools can make an enormous difference despite the challenges presented by poverty and family background.

Consider the latest national math scores of fourth- and eighth-graders, which show startling differences among results for low-income African American students in different cities. In Boston, Charlotte, New York and Houston, these fourth-graders scored 20 to 30 points higher than students in the same socioeconomic group in Detroit, Milwaukee, Los Angeles and the District of Columbia. Boston fourth-graders outscored those in Detroit by 33 points. Ten points approximates one year’s worth of learning on these national tests, which means that by fourth grade, poor African American children in Detroit are already three grades behind their peers in Boston.

Not surprisingly, these differences persist (or grow) by the eighth grade, at which point low-income African American students in Detroit are scoring 36 points behind their peers in Austin.

The scores tell a similarly painful story for low-income Hispanic students in different cities. In fourth grade, there is a 29-point difference between test scores in Miami-Dade and Detroit. By eighth grade, the gap has closed slightly, with low-income Hispanic students in Houston outscoring their peers in Cleveland and Fresno, Calif., by 23 points.

These numbers represent vast differences in millions of lives. Low-income African American and Hispanic students in different cities are sufficiently similar in terms of their academic needs, but their outcomes are so dramatically different.

The main difference between these children is that they are enrolled in different school districts. And research indicates that if the data were broken out for the same students in different schools, the differences would be more dramatic — and more dramatic still if broken out for the same children in different classes.

What explains these differences? Schools and teachers. "Teacher quality is the single most important school factor in student success," the Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind recently noted. Given how much research supports this view, it is especially troubling, the commission found, that "teacher quality is inequitably distributed in schools, and the students with the greatest needs tend to have access to the least qualified and least effective teachers."

Different teachers get very different results with similar students. So as reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is considered, we should look closely at those whom we attract and retain to teach, with regard to their quality and to ensuring that they are distributed equally across our school districts. If we can do those things, we could at least make Detroit students perform like those in Boston, and make Boston students do a lot better.

A few things need to happen:

First, we must attract teachers who performed well in college. Countries that do best on international tests draw teachers from the top third of college graduates. In the United States, however, most teachers come from the bottom third. Moreover, the bottom of that group is vastly overrepresented in our highest-needs communities.

Second, we must create systems that reward excellence rather than seniority by creating sophisticated evaluation systems that include student performance and merit-based tenure and compensation. We must make it easier to remove teachers who are shown to be ineffective.

Third, we must do more to attract teachers to high-needs students, schools and subject areas, such as English language learners, special education and other areas to which it is difficult to draw talent because of opportunities in other fields.

These are common-sense and ambitious reforms. Such efforts are rewarded in the Race to the Top initiative and ought to be fully integrated into a new Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Yes, they call for a reevaluation of seniority — the staple of most collective bargaining agreements — in the context of what actually serves children. But right now, one bad teacher with seniority earns as much as two great young teachers. Who really thinks this is best for our kids?

Apologists for our educational failure say that we will never fix education in America until we eradicate poverty. They have it exactly backward: We will never eradicate poverty until we fix education. The question is whether we have the political courage to take on those who defend a status quo that serves many adults but fails many children. 

Obama Speaks in Wakarusa

President Obama is speaking in Wakarusa today, contending Indiana’s factories will be coming alive once again and touting a national investment in electric cars, among other items. The Indy Star reports on the President’s assertions:

WAKARUSA, Ind. — President Barack Obama today announced a $2.4 billion grant program to spur both a more fuel-efficient future and jobs, including here in hard-hit Elkhart County.

“If we want to reduce our dependence on oil, put Americans back to work and reassert our manufacturing sector as one of the greatest in the world, we must produce the advanced, efficient vehicles of the future,” Obama told an invitation-only crowd at a Monaco RV plant here.

This plant had sat empty until this summer, when Monaco was bought by Navistar International.

The grants Obama announced — and which must be matched by $2.4 billion in private investment — will go to 48 projects in 25 states, including Indiana. Seven of the projects have been awarded to Indiana firms, White House officials said.

The $2.4 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds — being announced by Obama in Wakarusa and by Vice President Joe Biden in Detroit — includes:

>> $1.5 billion in grants to U.S.-based manufacturers to produce batteries and their components and to expand battery recycling capability in the United States.

>> $500 million in grants to U.S.-based manufacturers to produce electric drive components for vehicles, including electric motors, power electronics, and other drive train components.

>> $400 million in grants to purchase thousands of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles – including cars, delivery vehicles and trucks — for test demonstrations in several dozen locations. Those grants also will provide education and workforce training to support the transition to advanced electric transportation systems.

A couple hundred people lined the road leading into the plant, most of them supporting Obama and calling for health care reforms but a significant number there to voice their displeasure not only with what they see as a government take-over of health care but also the president’s handling of the economy.

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!