Breastfeeding and Smoking on Zoom. What Would HR Say?

by Evil HR Lady on December 3, 2020

Is it okay to breastfeed on camera on a video conference? The Society for Human Resources asked this question.

I’m glad whoever wrote that is not this woman’s HR person either. Because here is what I would do.

Ask for a picture of the baby.

Because babies are so cute and I like to see baby pictures. Even of the babies that are kind of funny looking. (Don’t lie: you’ve seen funny looking babies.)

Is it okay to breastfeed while on a video conference? I’m all about politeness and not making other people feel uncomfortable. If the mother in question stripped down completely to breastfeed, or spent long amounts of time with an exposed breast with no baby attached, then yes, it’s a problem.

But, if the woman was breastfeeding like either the stock photo I used or the one SHRM used then it is just fine. Babies get hungry. Would you like the baby to scream or would you like to have it happy and fed?

And really, I do video conferences and record YouTube videos all the time, and it’s rare that you see below my shoulders. It would be odd if the Zoom participants were seeing anything other than a bit of exposed neck. (Gasp! Clutch your pearls if you must!)

Personally, I’ve nursed two babies for a total of 36 months. I’ve breastfeed at work. (I was working from home but needed to come in and I lived an hour away and the baby was exclusively breastfed, wouldn’t take a bottle, and I had no babysitter close to the office, so into the office he came.) This is that baby:

(My job share partner made his onesie. We ran layoffs. She runs a creative business now.)

So, as long as the baby wasn’t screaming and the mother wasn’t trying to offend but rather trying to feed her baby, then it’s fine. The test is, would you be okay with her bottle feeding the baby during the meeting? If the answer is yes, then breastfeeding is okay as well.

Now, when I logged onto Twitter this morning to embedd the SHRM tweet, I swear this was the very first tweet in my feed:

Now my very first thought was “No! Gross!”

And then I thought about it and thought, “He’s in his own home. If he wants to smoke in his own home, it’s fine. Gross, but fine.” Could someone give a presentation while smoking?

Having seen every episode of The Crown where Princess Margaret smokes like a chimney while participating in all sorts of antics. And think of how much got done while smoking in Mad Men.

So, while I don’t like smoking, again, it’s his house. I can’t say it’s a big deal.

Now, someone will say, “What about Jeffrey Toobin?”

What about him? His behavior would have been inappropriate even if he turned his camera off. Breastfeeding is not sexual. Smoking is not sexual. The end.


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This is THE remote work webinar for managers. Led by remote work expert Laurel Farrer of Distributed Consulting, expert managers from GitLab, Slack, Workfrom, & Help Scout will be sharing their top tips and insight when it comes to leading a remote team. Whether your company has already gone fully remote or is just considering more flexible work options, this expert panel has got you covered. This one-hour conversation will cover how remote management differs from in the office, what you need in your remote work toolkit, and how you can create a sustainable remote work policy that’s beneficial to you, your team, and your business. And of course, there will be time for your questions at the end. Attendees will also enjoy the added benefits of a remote work checklist sent right to their inbox, as well as exclusive discounts offered by webinar co-sponsors RemoteProcess Street, and Receipt Bank.

Here are a few of the topics to be covered:

  • Remote management skills to enable autonomy
  • Effective virtual and asynchronous communication
  • Results-based goal setting, tracking, and reporting
  • Tips for workflows, operations, and productivity rituals
  • Virtual office infrastructure, including toolkits and information management

WHO: Laurel Farrer of Distribute Consulting, Darren Murph of GitLab, Helen Kupp of Slack, Darren Buckner of Workfrom, and Leah Knobler of Help Scout

WHEN: Thursday, December 10, 2020, at 12 pm EST


The Real HR Show: When All Hell Breaks Loose

by Evil HR Lady on December 1, 2020

Sometimes everything goes to Hell and you need to be prepared. Join Brenda and I as we discuss this and also talk about pie and why cats are better than dogs. (Brenda might disagree on that last statement.)


A little bit over a year ago, Sara Christensen’s business, Kickass Masterminds, went up in smoke. Not literal fire, but in the fire of an angry virtual mob–a mob that forced her to go into hiding (she’s still not comfortable sharing her location), threatened her life and attacked her clients. The death threats were so credible that the FBI began investigating.


Because she made a social media mistake. Granted, it was a big mistake. While Christensen maintains she only meant to give future job seekers guidance, what the rest of the world saw was an attack on a young job applicant, Emily Clow.

To keep reading, click here: A Social Media Gaffe Destroyed Her Business. Learn From Her Mistake


Entrepreneur and management revolutionary Tony Hsieh passed away on Friday, November 27, 2020, after injuries sustained in a house fire

Hsieh was, famously, the former CEO of Zappos, a company that revolutionized shoe shopping and how customer service worked. He also pioneered a management concept called holacracy. While Zappos quietly backed away from holacracy, it left a lasting impact on business–and probably affected how you run your business (even if you’ve never heard the term before).

Under Hsieh’s leadership, Zappos switched to this bottom-up, individual-focused management style. Holacracy does away with strict hierarchies and titles and, instead, relies on a community-style leadership.

To keep reading, click here: Tony Hsieh, Former Zappos CEO and Holacracy Pioneer Dies at 46


I love my job. Sure, I hate billing and doing the paperwork, but otherwise, there’s nothing I like more than helping people with their careers, their businesses, and their employees. It turns out I’m not alone.

I asked the HR people on my Facebook Group, Evil HR Lady, what made them grateful to be in HR, and I got some amazing answers. Here are a few of my favorites:

Kristine Thornton
[I am] truly thankful for the people I have met in my career journey and the experiences I have had. I am thankful that my bosses and the employees trust me to do the job I was hired to do and confide in me as they seek guidance in every situation.

Tracey Richardson McDaniel
HR can be a pretty thankless role so those times where you see all the work positively impact an EE’s life makes it so worthwhile. Like the EE blossom in a different role you advocated for or when an EE realizes how a health plan helps them. Those moments of seeing your real impact in an EE’s life make me thankful to be in HR.

Aimee Augustine Lokitz
I’m on the recruiting side of HR. I have always said making job offers is the part of the job that never gets old. I’m thankful for the opportunity to deliver the news that can sometimes change the trajectory of someone’s career.

Kimberly Downing Farish
I have worked in HR in home care for 12 years now. I never get bored. My passion is taking care of our employees who take care of our seniors. They work hard and is a job not everyone can do. They deserve a positive and supportive HR department.

Marie Lobbezoo
I am thankful to work in HR, because I can make a small difference in people’s lives. So many times I have had someone in my office, upset or even crying, and I was able to give them some kind of hope. Or, at the very least, help them to see things in a different light, and give them some sort of guidance on what they can do to help themselves.

Beth Grierson
I work for a non-profit. I truly admire and respect my colleagues. This year more than ever, I’m grateful to have a job where I can support these wonderful people and the work they do in the world.

If you want to read the rest of the comments, click here.

I’m grateful to all you fabulous HR people for really caring about people. And I’m thankful to every one of you who takes time to read my blog. Happy Thanksgiving!


Easy Ways to Thank Employees in a Hard Year

by Evil HR Lady on November 23, 2020

This has been a terrible year. Unfortunately, as a business, we’re just scraping by — and that’s despite the Paycheck Protection Program loan from the Small Business Administration. There’s no money for a lavish holiday party, year-end bonuses or even anything more than a $5 gift. What can we do to show our employees how much we appreciate their hard work at year-end?

To read my answer, click here: Easy Ways to Thank Employees in a Hard Year

Leave your own suggestions in the comments!


We all agree that whether we work at home or in an office, we need roads. There are many other government services that we need (although many of us will debate what those are, so we’ll stick to roads here). But, when you have your employees work from home, what happens?

Well, they drive less. Yay! They spend less money on clothes. Yay! They spend less money on restaurant meals! Yay! You spend less money on office space. Yay! It sounds like a winning situation–for everyone but the government (fewer gas taxes), clothing stores (fewer business-appropriate outfits), and restaurants (fewer customers).

Deutsche Bank has a solution: More taxes for the work-at-home crowd. They propose that if your company doesn’t have office space available for employees, the company has to pay a tax to support businesses, such as restaurants, that have really taken a hit during Covid. If you provide a working space for your employees and choose to work from home, they pay the tax directly.

To keep reading, click here: Working From Home Can Save You Money. Should Your Taxes Go Up?


Social Collaboration: Benefits, Best Practices, and Tools

by Evil HR Lady on November 19, 2020

With social media, you can chat with friends, share funny memes, and tweet angry things into the internet void. Social collaboration uses the same tools (and can include the same behaviors), but the goals are different; this is the business side of social media.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at social collaboration; what it is, what the benefits are, and what best practices you can follow. We’ll also share some examples of social collaboration software. Here goes!

What is social collaboration?

Networking is the standard way business people connect. It’s a concept that has gone on for as long as people have been trading goods and services. Social collaboration is networking gone digital.

Instead of coming together in the town square or at a networking meeting, people come together online and work together. You can “meet” people on LinkedIn, Twitter, or any number of websites and create professional relationships. People can recommend others for new jobs or contract work based on these digital-only relationships.

To keep reading, click here: Social Collaboration: Benefits, Best Practices, and Tools

Why Firing the “Victim” Was the Right Thing To Do

by Evil HR Lady on November 18, 2020

Have you heard the phrase “open the kimono” in a business sense?

Yeah, me neither. But, apparently it was a thing. It shoudn’t be thing. It’s sexist, racist, and generally gross. And a redditor used it at work and all hell broke loose. Here’s the post:

Now, everyone is saying that OP is a horrible person and he got Sarah fired. They are wrong.

OP is definitely ridiculous and may be horrible, but Sarah brought this on herself. Here’s why.

Lying during an investigation is a no-no.

There was past friction between the OP and Sarah, and so when the OP brought the incident with Sarah’s scantily clad wife, they were right to follow up on it. If the same HR person who handled the “open the kimono” incident handled this, I suspect she thought the OP was exaggerating and was attempting to get back at Sarah. HR should go into every investgation neutrally, but let’s be honest–past experiences play a role.

If Sarah had responded, “yes, I’m sorry. My wife came into frame. She didn’t realize the camera was on,” that would have been the end of it. Sarah’s wife was only on camera for seconds, it had never happened before, and heaven knows things happen on Zoom.

But, instead, she responded that the OP was retaliating against her for the “open the kimono” incident where OP was forced to apologize. Her wife, Sarah says, was never inappropriately dressed on camera.

Now, at this point, the HR person absolutely steps up the investigation. This is a serious accusation. And, frankly, since OP admits to not getting along with the team, perhaps this is the the path to remove a problematic employee.

So, HR steps up the investigation. Retaliation is a serious problem, and they don’t want Sarah to be punished for reporting sexual harassment. However, in the course of their investigation, they uncovered texts that backed up OP’ story and showed Sarah’s plot to punish him.


End of job for Sarah.

Lying during an investigation is a serious thing. Framing a co-worker–even one you hate and who everyone hates–is a serious thing. No matter how righteous you may think your cause is–getting rid of a coworker who used an inappropriate phrase and doesn’t get along with anyone anyway–you can’t lie in an investigation.

If you read the OP’s post in a timeline fashion, it becomes a bit more clear as to why Sarah was fired.

  1. OP who doesn’t get along with coworkers uses the phrase “open the kimono”
  2. Sarah complains
  3. OP must apologize, per HR
  4. Later, Sarah’s wife appears in a zoom meeting for a few seconds, wearing a shirt and undies
  5. OP complains
  6. HR Investigates
  7. Sarah claims OP was retaliating for the kimono incident.
  8. HR discovered chats that indicate Sarah was framing OP
  9. Sarah is fired.
  10. Everyone hates OP.

I often tell people never lie to your lawyer, your priest, your doctor, or your therapist, but let’s add never lie to the HR person conducting an investigation. It may come back to bite you.