Apparently, the US Air Force would burn you for this. Photo: Shutterstock

Wednesday 28th October 2015

HR World: The Yoga 'Witch'

Workplace witchcraft, transgender healthcare and more

worldUS Air Force sacks Hindu woman for ‘witchcraft’

Practising yoga and listening to Indian music may sound like innocent enough activities. But according to one US Air Force employee, these pastimes – along with her Hindu faith – led to accusations of witchcraft and ultimately her dismissal.

According to The Hindu, dental technician Deborah Schoenfeld has taken her case to a military religious equality tribunal after being fired from Epes Dental Clinic in Meade, Maryland, last month for allegedly “using profanity” against a co-worker.

However, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF), which is representing Schoenfeld, claims that the sacking was in fact the last step in a campaign of serious religious harassment, which saw her accused of “bringing demons into the office” and being told that practising yoga was “satanic” and would “cost [her] her soul.”

According to local reports, Schoenfeld’s account of harassment by “devout Christians” at the clinic was confirmed by two former co-workers, one of whom recalled her being described as a “Hindu witch”.

In a letter to area and base commanders at Fort Meade, MRFF president Michael Weinstein said: “Ms Schoenfeld is Hindu, not Christian. That fact should have no bearing whatsoever on her ability to perform her duties as a civilian contractor with the United States Air Force… Please let MRFF know immediately what you intend to do to timely remediate this scandalous, actual ‘witch hunt’ and all of its associated transgressions of law and regulation.”

Air Force spokesman Major Joel Harper told the media in an email that the authorities were investigating the allegations, adding: “The Air Force thoroughly reviews all instances in which airmen report concerns regarding religious freedoms or accommodations.”

Nigerian CEO tweets ad inviting geniuses to apply for mystery job… in 10 words

As every hiring manager knows, any recruitment process worth its salt needs to challenge candidates to think on their feet. But it seems those applying for jobs with, the largest hotel booking platform in Nigeria, need to be better equipped in this area than most.

According to CNN, Mark Essien – the company’s 31-year-old founder and CEO, who regularly recruits on Twitter – tweeted a job ad inviting candidates to apply for the ambiguous role of “full-time genius” in no more than 10 words.

“As it turned out, even though it was just 10 words, the quality of the applications was way better than all we had to date,” said Essien.

Around 40 people replied, all of whom were then emailed a series of questions, ranging from “Which of these two is faster – Superman or The Flash?” to “If someone sells you a working algorithm to calculate if any number is a prime number, how much would you pay for it?”

At the end of the process, one person, Justin Irabor, was invited for interview and got the job: head of content marketing.

“I am of the opinion that start-up CEOs in Africa should use social media to amplify their brands and reach a wide audience. Even for start-ups for which it is not a great customer acquisition tool, it’s excellent for reaching investors and recruiting, and those are two of the most essential tasks for any CEO,” said Essien.

“Generally, I ask simple questions that require a certain way of thinking. A question like, ‘How do you create a bow that shoots arrows around corners?’ may not yield many practical answers but it helps to see how minds work when faced with challenges.”

Largest US supermarket chain gives full health benefits to transgender workers

Transgender employees of America’s largest supermarket chain are to receive full health benefits – including surgery and drug therapy to change gender – as part of the company’s employee health plan.

According to Forbes, the move makes Cincinnati-based Kroger the largest retail chain to offer trans-inclusive health coverage to its workers. From 1 January 2016 medical procedures, including those related to gender reassignment, will be covered up to a $100,000 lifetime maximum for eligible associates and their dependents.

A Kroger sign. Photo: CC

“We made this decision after consulting with our GLBT associate resource group, the Alliance of Kroger,” said spokesperson Keith Dailey. “We are excited to announce that The Kroger Co. has added transgender health benefits for eligible employees enrolled in an Anthem BCBS administered plan offered under the company-sponsored health insurance plan.”

The fifth largest private employer in the US, Kroger has around 400,000 workers on its payroll across more than 2,500 stores.

Other high-profile employers that offer at least one trans-inclusive health plan include Apple, Gap and General Motors.

But Walmart, McDonald’s and Yum! (the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) do not. Walmart is the largest private employer in the US with 1.4 million workers, while McDonald’s and Yum! employ just under 1 million workers between them.

China and the US get behind remote working

China and the US are leading the way when it comes to enabling employees to work outside the office, according to a new study.

The research, conducted by Virgin Business Media on behalf of Polycom, found that 69 per cent of employers in China allow and enable staff to work from any location on any device, closely followed by 63 per cent in the US. This compares with a global average of 43 per cent.

The US and China also top the charts when it comes to the proportion of companies that actively encourage employees to do this, with both at 48 per cent. Other above-average scorers include India at 41 per cent, France at 35 per cent and Germany at 30 per cent. The UK languishes at the bottom of the list with just 13 per cent.

As things stand currently, a greater proportion of people work remotely in Sweden than anywhere else in the world, with 51 per cent of employees doing so at least once a week. The Czech Republic comes next, with 48 per cent, followed by Slovakia and Norway, with 40 per cent. In the UK, the figure is 24 per cent while in the US it’s just 9.4 per cent.

Remote working is on the rise globally, however. The study found 90 per cent of employers in the US and 85 per cent of employers in China are providing or expanding their remote working options, followed by 77 per cent in India and 72 per cent in the UK.

In the US alone, the number of people working remotely at least once a week is expected to increase from 30 million to more than 50 million over the next five years. Globally, the study predicts that by 2022, 60 per cent of office-based employees will regularly work from home.

About the author

Rhianon Howells

The former editor of a leading trade magazine, Rhianon Howells has extensive experience of writing for both business and consumer titles, including The Guardian. In addition to writing about HR, she specialises in health, fitness, leisure and hospitality.