Tag Archives: #workplace

It's always amazing to me how many people do not take advantage of two important benefits offered at many workplaces.

One is the employer matching plan for a 401k distribution. Some companies are shying away from this form of savings but many still implement them and have replaced their pension plans with them. Briefly, participants of an employer-match program will receive a dollar for dollar match on money taken out of each of their paychecks up to a certain percentage that is then placed into a sponsored retirement plan (401k or 403b). Sometimes it is matched up to 12 or 20% of their pay. You can't beat the compound interest these plans generate.

Working in human resouorces, I found there were many employees who lamented that they could not afford to take even 2% out of their salary - they were on such strict budgets. In truth, they cannot afford to miss this opportunity to save and compound their nest egg for retirement. It is difficult for the first month or so to allocate this percentage in one's budget, but it usually is compromised swiftly, especially if a later bonus or merit raise or cost of living raise equals it and offsets the contribution.  I've written about 401ks before, but, my focus here is on tuition reimbursement from your employer.

Even in these economy-challenged times, most employers want to invest in the employees they have and increase their investment in them by increasing their skills and value to the company. Many employees do not investigate or take advantage of this generous benefit either because they 'don't have the time to continue their education' or they 'don't think their supervisor would approve it'. And again I say, they cannot afford not to participate in this truly gifting program.

Having done this myself, I can vouch that although the company does benefit from an employee learning and increasing their knowledge in the relative discipline subjects and also in other subjects that round out their learning curve and experience, the benefit for the company can terminate if the employee moves on to another company.  For the employee, the benefit is with him or her for their entire lives. Please repeat that last sentence - it is that important. Continuing education, especially if it results in a degree or certification, is equal to getting a raise at work - it puts dollars in your pocket and represents a life-long achievement.

If your company provides tuition reimbursement, and you have not pursued this avenue, make an appointment with Human Resources (HR) today and find out what you have to do to participate. Generally, I can offer some provisions although they might differ among different companies and disciplines. Investigate - but here is some legwork you can do beforehand.

1] Decide what discipline you would like to be specialized in. If you want to pursue legal, look into paralegal or business law courses. If you are in technology, perhaps you would like to take courses for the next level - routing, international analyst, technology engineer or site administration. If you work in accounting, perhaps you would have an interest in CPA or payroll administration.

2] Look into the different courses and colleges that offer these courses and what their entrance requirements may be. You should find this all online or at the library. Also, you can check on in-house courses (traditional classroom) or on-line or distancing courses that you can take at home. Find out if the school offers them.  On-line education is very popular today; some even get masters and/or doctorate degrees on them.

3] It's important to have a plan of what you want to do and a possible avenue of options. This will give you more credibility of ambition with both your supervisor and HR when you approach them that you would like to take advantage of this opportunity.

It is helpful if you list the reasons why you want the additional learning and what courses you feel would accomplish it. Do this if you want just one course or if you have a degree in mind.  Your ambitions may change midstream.

4] Approach your supervisor first. He or she has to approve your application. Appeal your case, explain your justification of how it will help both you and the company.

**Keep in mind, that companies rarely turn down requests for continuing education. This includes a one-course class or a specified degree. This is a benefit that they offer. You are responding - not asking for special favors.

5] With your supervisor in agreement, submit your approved application to HR. I always suggest making an appointment with an HR rep to do this; their job is to help you in your career development and they may have good suggestions on courses and schools. Check out your HR website; a good one will have suggestions and instructions under 'Continuing Education' or 'Tuition Reimbursement'.'

6] When your application is approved, you are either ready to sign up for the one-time course, certification, or call the college of your choice for an interview and plan your curriculum.

There are some qualifications and guidelines that your employer may require for you to be eligible for tuition reimbursement:

• You may have to be a full-time employee; (some offer to permanent part-time employees).

• have completed a year of service; and

• Be on the payroll when the course is completed. (if you are let go or outsourced by the company during that time, they usually reimburse for that semester but not if you quit or leave the company on your own).

  • Most companies will reimburse employees for all tuition expenses - most include entrance fees, books, and supplies).
  • There usually is a maximum of how many credits a year for which they will reimburse (anywhere from 3 to 6 courses a year - some companies will allow 3 courses a semester or 12 total courses for the year including summer couses). *NOTE: Credit fees are the highest costs associated with returning to school and vary according to college. This is where you are getting a big 'raise'.

I recommend no more than 3 courses a semester if you are working a full-time job. I also recommend one heavy-duty course (Statistics) and a required medium-duty course (Psychology) and an elective (something you like that is included in your requirements, ie, Art, Music, Philosophy, Poetry). It is important to keep in mind that you don't want to be overwhelmed or overworked; you have to PASS the course to be reimbursed.

The company will reimburse employees at the conclusion of a successfully completed course; sometimes they reimburse as long as you pass the course; others have a stipulation similar to this:

• For an "A" grade, the Company will reimburse 100% of the tuition cost;

• For a "B" grade, the Company will reimburse 75% of the tuition cost;

• For a "C" grade, the Company will reimburse 50% of the tuition cost;

No reimbursements will be made for grades lower than a "C" grade and no reimbursement for Fail.

Certifications, Associates, Bachelors and Masters degree programs are part of reimbursement if they are business or job related. All courses, required and elective, which are related to an employee’s work or which lead to a business-related or job-related degree will be reimbursed. Most companies will reimburse as long as you PASS with ANY GRADE.

*Note: Many employees start with courses related to their present discipline or department they are working. Sometimes they are courses offered at a certification seminar or at a community college or even online. As the 'student' seeks additional courses, they may seek courses at a university or college. Once they matriculate, (admitted or accepted by a college or university for a defined degree course), the employer WILL accept variety of courses. The major will usually be business; and the minor may not be business-related, but part of the overall courses needed for the degree. Most companies do accept these unrelated courses as part of the degree program and reimburse for them.

Upon completion of the pre-approved course, the employee must submit a copy of the "Request for Tuition Reimbursement" form to the Human Resources Department, along with an official transcript of grades and proof of payment.   Requirements vary among companies.

I hope I have encouraged you to jump-start on your continuing education program. It is one of the best deals your company is offering you. Personally, I took advantage of this opportunity and completed two degrees in 8 years; the cost to the company was $50,000. The out-of-pocket cost to me was reimbursed upon completion. It's free education and you can't get better than that. This is an offer you simply can't refuse.   Here is a partial list of well-known entities that offer tuition reimbursement opportunities:   http://www.businessinsider.com/companies-that-will-pay-for-your-tuition-2014-6

Marie Coppola © Revised July 2016


From a U.S. perspective, sexual harassment in the workplace still exists, and it is under better control due to stricter rules and regulations put in place by companies and businesses to protect employees against this invasive behavior. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) describes sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimination that is in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court made employers more liable for sexual harassment of their employees. As a result, most companies offer sexual harassment prevention training programs and 97% have a written sexual harassment policy. The number of grievances filed with the EEOC has gradually decreased over the last decade. Approximately 15,000 sexual harassment cases are brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) each year. According to them, the number of sexual harassment complaints filed by men has more than tripled in recent years. Currently, approximately 11% of claims involve men filing against female supervisors. In the mid 2000’s, grievances dropped to under 12,000. It has been estimated that only 5 to 15% of harassed women formally report problems of harassment to their employers or employment agencies such as the EEOC.

Counselors in the workplace are often the first person an employee seeks out when someone is acting inappropriately to him or her. In a recent survey, only 29% of women who said they tried to ignore overt sexual suggestions responded that it ‘made it better’. Over 61% of the women said that what made it better and was most effective, was to tell the offender firmly and directly — to "STOP IT".

There are many offenses of sexual harassment; sexual harassment is not about sex and what bothers one person won’t necessarily bother someone else. Some think that any unwanted touch, sexual comments, or sexual attention is considered sexual harassment. Communicating and telling someone that these acts are offensive to you, may stop the action right then and there. Some people ‘test the waters’ and see how far they can go with individuals in the office.

Also, the above conduct is not sexual harassment if it is welcome or permitted. If you flirt back and indulge in exchanging off-color jokes, it is not sexual harassment if you decide a joke went ‘over the line’ and offended you. You’ve already given out liberal boundaries. It is important to communicate (either verbally, in writing, or by your own actions) to the harasser that the conduct makes you uncomfortable and that you want it to stop.

Sexual harassing behavior may be common, but it is not "normal" Here are some examples:

1] Verbal or written: Comments about yours or others’ clothing, or your personal behavior, or a person’s body; sexual or sex-based jokes; requesting sexual favors or repeatedly asking a person out; sexual innuendoes; telling rumors about a person’s personal or sexual life; threatening a person.

2] Physical: Assault; impeding or blocking movement; inappropriate touching of a person or a person’s clothing; kissing, hugging, patting, stroking.

3] Nonverbal: Looking up and down a person’s body; derogatory gestures or facial expressions of a sexual nature; or following a person.

4] Visual: Posters, drawings, pictures, screensavers or emails of a sexual nature; most companies have standards of what you can put on your walls.

If the offensive actions above are directed to you, then the following is suggested:

1] Demand that the specific behavior stop. Be direct, firm and say "NO".

2] Don’t make excuses why you don’t want the behavior; this implies that you would would welcome it otherwise. Don’t protect the harasser or pretend nothing has happened; it has.

3] Stand by your principles and state them. Harassers are good at making excuses and wanting to talk about it. Refuse to discuss the issue with them or be manipulated into thinking you are the wrong one.

4] The focus is on the harasser’s behavior - not yours.

5] Be strong; make eye contact and stand tall. Don’t smile - this is serious; not a social visit. If the harasser tries to make physical contact with you, grasp his or her arm away and say, "NO". "DO NOT TOUCH ME".

6] Tell others about the ordeal(s). If you are silent, it not only protects the harasser, but may instill him or her to be bolder.

The conduct of the harasser must either be severe or it must be pervasive to be sexual harassment. A single incident is probably not sexual harassment unless it is severe. If you feel it is, document any harassments and keep a log of when and what happened; include dates and if there were any witnesses. Save your emails on a CD and bring it home. Also bring home any notes, mail or emails that are related even if they are anonymous.

Try to have a buddy available as a deterrent or as a witness when this person tries to approach you. Document any actions involving your harassment if the harasser is in a supervisory position and subsequently gives you a poor evaluation or demotions, and keep copies of them. Likewise, keep similar positive evaluations or performance appraisals before the alleged incidents that will show changed behavior of the perpetrator’s part.

Go ahead with formal complaints with Human Resources and EEO, if it continues. Try to have as much documented proof and/or witnesses who can verify what has happened or seek others who may have had the same problem with the harasser. Consult with a legal entity if you suspect violence or stalking. Remember to stay calm. You did nothing wrong. Staying calm is important to your cause so as not to create a hostile environment in the workplace that it becomes a problem for the department and you become the problem, too. The harasser is hoping you do that to keep the spotlight off of them. The odds are on your side to have this situation remedied.

True Case: A long-time married employee kept asking another married employee for constant coffee breaks, lunch, dinner, etc. She always turned him down. She came to Human Resources when she asked him not to keep coming to her office and he still did, still asking. He started to put his arm around her and she asked him not to. She filed a complaint. She noticed one weekend that he was driving around her neighborhood although he lived a far distance away from her. She filed a complaint with EEO and he was terminated; he lost his benefits as he was under retirement age and subsequently was divorced.

If you are being sexually harassed, do something today. You won’t lose your job. Don’t think it will go away, or worry if it is a supervisor or high level manager, that you will lose your job. You won’t. But they might.

references: Sexual Harassment Support ; and www.SexualHarassmentLawFirms.com

Marie Coppola Revised July 2014

Now that's a comforting thought. According to the daily news today, research supported by the Russell Sage (no pun intended) Foundation, the National Institute on Aging and the National Science Foundation Grant, indicates that socially, older folks, more than younger or middle-aged ones, are more apt to recognize and accept different values, acknowledge and accept uncertainties and changes in one's life and to acknowledge others' point of views.

Mind your elders! It's not as important in life to know how the SEO works or how to program the DVR or how to text someone as it is to handle 'social wisdom' - how to get along with people and handle disagreements.

Researchers found that age affects wisdom at every social class, level of education and IQ. Even though older people don't have the technological wisdom that younger ages have in computers and everyday technology, they do have the advantage of analyzing and solving social problems.

Demographic splits of groups numbering almost 300 -- ages 25 to 40, 41 to 59 and 60 plus were given hypothetical situations regarding finance, economic growth, customs, and world problems. The researchers analyzed the results, not knowing which individual or group age the responses came from. Ratings were based on social interchanges such as compromise, flexibility, seeing the other viewpoint and mediating conflict resolution.

Then over 200 of the same groups participated in a second hypothetical area and yet a third comprising scholars, psychotherapists, clergy and counseling professionals.

The results of these tests concluded that economic status, education and IQ were related to having increased wisdom, but academics were no wiser than nonacademics with similar education levels. Researchers were surprised at how much wisdom the groups showed in disputing societal problems. Richard Nisbitt, one of the researchers said, "There is a very large advantage for older people over younger people for those (issues)". Another researcher, Lynn Hasher remarked that "the study is the single best demonstration of long-held view that wisdom increases with age."

She continues, "What I think is most important...is that it shows a major benefit that accrues with aging...rather than the mostly loss-based findings reported in psychology. As such it provides a richer base of understanding of aging processes." She also cited the critical importance of workplaces providing the opportunity for older employees to continue to contribute.

Many work places do the opposite and retire aging employees and replace them with younger employees at a lower salary, compromising the experience and life situations these employees can contribute to the work force by their ongoing and diverse experiences.

Marie Coppola  June 2013

Ref: Associated Press