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CustomFit Workplace blog

The CustomFit Workplace blog is part of the Open, Flexible Work blog. It is a place where workers, managers, educators and Human Resources professionals can share their insights and questions. The views expressed in this blogs aren't necessarily representative of the initiative or of policy positions. Interested in blogging? drop us a line

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The Duchess Throws Up

In a snarky article, the newspaper of record confirms what we already know: Kate Middleton is pregnant. She’s so nauseated that she’s in the hospital on an intravenous drip.

Eldercare, Childcare, and Everything In Between:’s Thank You to Caregivers

Late night calls are the worst. Mine came all the way from Shanghai, China, where my parents live part of the year. My dad’s voice was faint, halting. He told me quickly that my mom had fallen and broken her leg and he was with her in the hospital right now. She would need surgery. Could I leave Los Angeles and go to Shanghai within the week?

My parents, both retired, were in basic good health but before leaving for Shanghai, my mom had had persistent nerve pain in her left hip and also back pain. She was also slightly overweight, and learned in the course of trying to find a treatment for the back pain that one of her legs was slightly shorter than the other. Her tumble in the living room of the Shanghai apartment fractured her femur near her hip.

I thought about the impossibility of jumping on a plane in the middle of the fall school semester, and how my in-laws, usually so helpful, were also away. My spouse and child would have to rearrange their lives for a month. If I were a single parent, I’m not sure what I would’ve done.

A Tale of Two Babies

The Dismal Reality of Today

New parents—let’s call them Julie and Brad—just had their first baby, a little girl they named Samantha. Julie was only able to take 6 weeks off from her job before her disability insurance and accumulated vacation pay ran out. A few months before their baby’s birth, they started researching day care facilities and were shocked to discover that it would cost more than $1,000 a month for full-time infant care. This was more than half of Julie’s take-home pay, but they needed her income, so quitting her job wasn’t an option.

Scott was only able to take a week off from his job to be with Julie and Samantha, but he knew he was fortunate—most of his friends were under so much pressure from their managers to get back to work that they only took one or two days off when their babies were born. He even had one friend, a lawyer, who had been told by his supervisor that if he took more than three days to be with his wife and newborn son, he would be perceived as not dedicated to the firm and would never be promoted to a partner position.

Your Guide to Avoiding Election Day Snafus

IT’S HERE! Election Day is today (November 6th!) and it’s time to get out there and vote! It can be enough of a challenge just getting to the polls today, but it’s so important. Make sure that you have everything you need this election day to make your voting experience go smoothly.

Find out:

  • What’s on your ballot
  • How to find your polling location
  • How to do election day voter registration
  • Tips on breastfeeding at the polls
  • Election day activities for kids

…and more, in this handy guide to avoiding election day snafus:

Check your ballot: Plug in your address and you can preview your ballot before you get to the polls. Click here to check it out:

Check your registration: Visit to find out if you’re registered to vote.

The 34th Anniversary of The Pregnancy Discrimination Act: It’s Time To Make Good On The Law’s Promise of Equal Opportunity

Thirty-four years ago this week, Congress enacted the Pregnancy Discrimination Act  (PDA) to remedy a long history of discrimination against pregnant workers and promote equal opportunity.  The PDA opened workplace doors, making clear that employers could not fire, fail to hire or otherwise penalize pregnant women just for being pregnant.  The law also requires employers to treat pregnant workers as well as other employees “similar in their ability or inability to work.”

Dying Childless at Thirty? Won’t Help

Co-written with Katherine Ullman.

Joan once wrote that the way for women to gain equality was to die childless at thirty, based on data that young women without kids earn almost as much as men. Turns out even that won’t guarantee equality.

new report released last week by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) finds that the average female college graduate working full-time makes nearly $8,000 less than her male counterpart–only one year after graduation.

Changes We Need in the Workplace… what you can do!

(this post was originally published in my blog, LadydeeLG, on July 18, 2012.)

Yesterday I commented on Ms. Mayer’s thoughts and focused on what her non-existent maternity leave could say to employers and employees about the expectations and needs of working mothers (and parents) or what employers could demand from employees as a result. Today, I want to focus on how this could be positive: Marissa Mayer as CEO of Yahoo! gives her a tremendous voice. She has power.  While her initial comment about “working through her maternity leave” has been heavily scrutinized and criticized, another side to Marissa Mayer’s impending parenthood is that she has the possibility to become a voice and an advocate for changes in the workplace.

The federal budget: A high-stakes love story

In 2011, I taught two summer courses, directed a federal budget research organization and paid taxes.

Taxes are the dues I pay for living in a democracy. Like you, I contribute at the local, state, and federal levels.

I want us to fall a little bit in love with the federal budget and there’s no better place to begin than understanding where our federal tax dollars go. So, I’d like to tell you a story – my story – of how the federal budget – our tax dollars – affects my life.

Meet my children.

My daughter is six going on 33, a courageous, big-hearted cyclone. My son is four. In one instant, gentle and wise, and in another, some sort of combo-platter super hero. My wife Ann and I adopted our children a few years ago, though the Department of Social Services. They are the joys of our life and each other’s best friends. We think our son will be an engineer or a scientist. He uses words like stupendous and ominous. Ann and I can no longer spell in front of him. Our daughter belts out original compositions in the shower and is a fierce protector of the under-dog.

What do my kids have to do with your taxes?

What Romney Didn’t Say Most Troubling for Working Mothers

More telling than Governor Mitt Romney’s inaccurate “binders full of women” comment during the presidential debate last week, were his comments about workplace flexibility, and, the comments he didn’t make. When asked by voter Katherine Fenton how he planned to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, Romney said, “I recognized that if you’re going to have women in the workforce that sometimes you need to be more flexible. My chief of staff, for instance, had two kids that were still in school. She said, I can’t be here until 7 or 8 o’clock at night. I need to be able to get home at 5 o’clock so I can be there for making dinner for my kids and being with them when they get home from school. So we said fine. Let’s have a flexible schedule so you can have hours that work for you.”

In saying that, Romney most likely meant to portray himself as someone who understands the plight of working mothers. But instead he perpetuated an outdated attitude about the workforce, and women’s role in it.

Will Marissa Mayer’s Baby Give Birth to a Leader?

How fitting that Marissa Mayer birthed her baby on the eve of National Work and Family month.

Yet she disappoints other moms, bloggers and work-family advocates by stating she’ll work throughout her maternity leave, appearing on Fortune Magazine‘s cover in a decidedly not-pregnant glam shot and remaining silent about the feminist status her new power-mom-CEO role confers.

The Impact of Technology on Our Work and Family Lives

This blog was originally posted on October 2, 2012 on the Huffington Post


I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact of information and communication technology (ICT) on our work and family lives and continue to be fascinated by this topic. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reported this September that, “on the eve of Apple’s unveiling of the iPhone 5, 45% of American adults own smartphones.” This reflects a 10% increase from May 2011. In addition, “smartphones are particularly popular with young adults and those living in relatively higher income households; 66% of those ages 18-29 own smartphones, and 68% of those living in households earning $75,000 also own them.”

5 Steps to Building a High-Commitment Workplace

In 2004 I co-founded a digital strategy company that focuses on inbound marketing (i.e., getting clients found via the Internet). My team consists of independent contractors that work virtually throughout the US as well as in other countries. In talking with Joan Blades, I learned that we worked under a high-commitment workplace model. At the time I didn’t really know what that was. The business structure was initially created out of necessity. But indeed, that is how I have worked, in my company as well as a few prior corporate and entrepreneurial assignments. So how did I figure this out? Below are five guidelines that set me on the path, and that I still follow today.

1. Think Like an Engineer

The New Girls’ Network: “The Polite Little Girl in the Room”?

Every year The Center for WorkLife Law, which I direct, runs a leadership academy for women law firm partners. One key message we send is that sometimes what it takes to make partner is different from what it takes to rise in the partnership.

“I’ve noticed that the women work so exceptionally hard,” said a management consultant, when I asked her whether she thought women have to Prove It Again!  “It’s really hard for anyone to be biased against them because they are doing above and beyond many of their male peers.” This could be, she continued, because they sense the bias. Or it could be that “there’s something cultural about a level of accommodating men—and mostly their bosses are men—where they do whatever they say, they never push back, they don’t know how to say no. And so they become incredibly valued on the junior level.”

Comcast Worker’s Story Reminds Us of Why We’re Here

You’ve heard of Reddit, right? It’s a social link sharing site with a very active user base, and it’s called the front page of the internet.

On Reddit, they do this thing called “AMA” (ask me anything) where users will post their occupation and answer any question they’re asked from other users.

Anyway, there was an AMA from a Comcast employee the other day that was called to our attention. And when Cali and I read it (reddit.. see what I did there), it just pretty much blew our minds. It was so familiar, and it’s the kind of thing that drives us to make Results-Only Work Environment the new normal.

From user dlenoxx - I work for Comcast, and it is ruining my life. AMA

When I started working for Comcast I thought it’d be the job of a life time. I love the internet, computers, and love helping people. I’d like to think I’m a really nice computer guy, but that’s not what this place wants.

HLN Featuring Mompreneurs

Today, on Making It In America, Vinnie Politan will feature Holly Reisem Hanna who is a mom entrepreneur committed to helping other women successfully start their own businesses. Her book, The Work at Home Woman is a site dedicated to mom entrepreneurs.  The show airs today at 4 p.m. Eastern.  Making it in America takes viewers into the struggles and triumphs of people trying to carve out their own path to the American Dream.   Viewers will leave armed with ideas they can use in their own lives. Making it in America inspires you to take a risk, reinvent yourself and live your own American dream life.

The Best Anti-Poverty Program? Effective Scheduling of Hourly Workers

Susan Lambert, Associate Professor at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration and the author of a much-discussed op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times, once told me that she gets a lot of grief. “You study what,” say her social work friends. “Scheduling?”

I am happy Susan’s brilliant work is getting the attention it deserves, because reshaping schedules of low-income workers is actually the single best shot we currently have at an anti-poverty program.

Susan makes bold proposals for the redesign of the Fair Labor Standards Act that deserve serious attention. But, as she acknowledges, changing the FLSA is a heavy lift. It’s too much to imagine labor wanting to re-open FLSA protections in the current political climate.

Eat, Read, Sleep

Back-to-school night: With four kids, I’ve attended a few. Last night the Principal at my children’s grade school delivered an opening message worth memorizing: Eat, read, sleep.

Families today are busy! It sounds trite, but it’s true. With 24/7 connectivity, a recession, and a global economy, most parents are working longer hours than ever. The majority of American households have two parents in the paid workforce; hence, the Principal’s heartfelt message: try to eat dinner together as a family, sans gadgets! Even if some are absent because of extra-curricular activities, sit down with those who are home, he implored. Now, I’m no Julia Child, but my gut says, “He is right, even if dinner is a store-bought roast chicken or kids claim they must complete homework at the table.”

Real Stories from Pregnant Workers: Making Their Voices Heard and Making a Difference

Natasha Jackson was working as a customer account representative at a Rent-A-Center in South Carolina when she became pregnant. For the first month her supervisor accommodated her without incident (other workers were available to move large items), but when the district manager found out what was going on, he made her use up her vacation days and then pushed her onto unpaid leave from work. The company never let her come back to her job despite repeated attempts. Natasha and her husband lost the house they were hoping to buy once she was no longer bringing in income. We heard about Natasha’s case from her lawyer—they had taken her case to arbitration, but the arbitrator found that Rent-A-Center’s actions were not discriminatory.

It Shouldn’t Be A Heavy Lift: Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Introduced in Senate

By Emily Martin, Vice President and General Counsel, and Liz Watson, Senior Advisor, National Women’s Law Center

Heather got fired from Wal-mart for carrying a water bottle.

Natasha was forced onto unpaid leave and then fired because her district manager at Rent-A-Center found out she needed help with occasional heavy lifting on the sales floor.

Sarah* lost her job at a fast food restaurant for taking bathroom and water breaks.

What do all of these women have in common? They were all pregnant.

They all needed minor adjustment to their jobs to continue safely working during pregnancy. And they all lost their jobs because of it.

Michelle Obama is Not Mom-In-Chief: Who Is?

Motherhood, apple pie and a good speech: Michelle Obama hit the bull’s eye in her Democratic Convention speech. But naming herself “mom-in-chief”–while endearing–missed the mark. Much ink has spilled already over her use of the phrase “mom-in-chief”:

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