According to a report by Glee star Heather Morris, Jennifer Lopez once refused to hire a group of dancers based solely on their astrological sign. Is this legal? And, if true, could this type of hiring decision present risk to J. Lo as an employer? Listen as Paul sits down with CEDR Senior Solution Center Advisor Tiana Starke to hash out “What the Hell Just Happened?!” to the pop star’s Virgo dancers, as well as what other employers can learn from this unusual HR situation.
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Voiceover: You’re about to listen to another episode of What The Hell Just Happened?! Join Paul Edwards and his guests as they discuss and sometimes even solve some interesting HR problems.
Paul: And… I’m gonna go off the rails sometimes and talk about whatever I want!
Tiana: Hi, Paul.
Paul: Hi Tiana! What are you going to surprise me with today?
Tiana: Oh, some hot celebrity gossip.
Paul: Ooh, I like.
Tiana: Are you ready for it?
Paul: I am.
Tiana: Okay. You’ve probably seen this in the news, Paul. I don’t know if you have. Maybe you have, J. Lo. Jennifer Lopez…
Paul: Yep, know who she is.
Tiana: Okay, you know who J. Lo is. So rumor has it she…
Paul: Doesn’t she sing or something?
Tiana: Yeah, Paul. She’s like a major singer.
Paul: She does like, she dances on stage and stuff?
Tiana: She dances. She had, like, the most epic halftime show ever.
Paul: Oh! That’s right.
Tiana: That J. Lo.
Paul: That J. Lo, got it.
Tiana: So that J. Lo, which…
Paul: She’s actually a good actress.
Tiana: She is a good actress. Yeah.
Paul: Unpopular opinion…
Paul: I don’t love her singing.
Paul: That’s how I… Yeah. I’m just going to get that out there.
Tiana: Well, you and my dad have that in common. He’s not a J. Lo fan.
Tiana: Yeah, I am. Jenny from the Block. Are you kidding me? It’s a classic.
Paul: I mean, it is. But, you know, you play anything a thousand times an hour, and people will start tapping their toe to it. Did I just say… “tapping my toe to it”? It’s like my grandfather just took over. [Laughs]
Tiana: Let the record show that Paul has been tapping his toe to J. Lo. [Laughs]
Paul: That’s not true.
Paul: Wait. I’m thinking… I have a lot going on now that we started talking about J. Lo and my…and how I feel about music.
Tiana: I promise this is going to be an HR-related topic. [Laughs]
Paul: It is going to be an HR-related topic?
Tiana: Yeah, it is.
Paul: You know, I’m just saying, J. Lo… I could do without J. Lo., Melissa Etheridge…
Tiana: Mm hmm.
Paul: I recognize they’re talented. Who’s the other one? She’s really got an amazing voice. It’s a one word… What’s… she’s one word…
Paul: No, I love Jewel.
Background voice: Adele?
Paul: Adele! Yeah.
Tiana: Adele? Not a huge fan?
Paul: Oh, yeah. I could do without…. Well, I mean, J. Lo doesn’t fall into this, but for Melissa Etheridge and Adele, I get it. You’re depressed, and you’ve had a breakup.
Tiana: Right. They’re singing from their souls.
Paul: They are… every single word of every single song they ever wrote.
Tiana: So, speaking of which, J. Lo is making decisions from the soul.
Paul: Oh! Nice. What is she?
Tiana: Well, something that we found out on a national platform this week. Okay, so, just to set the stage, this was revealed in a podcast between Heather Morris… Do you watch Glee? Have you ever watched Glee, Paul?
Paul: Okay. I admit it. I saw Glee.
Tiana: You saw Glee?
Paul: But I would never listen to a podcast about Glee.
Tiana: Okay. Well, one of the people from Glee…
Paul: Tiana, you… okay. I just found something about Tiana. Okay. Go ahead. I’m sorry. [Laughs]
Tiana: [Laughs] The true motive of this podcast is I’m just, like, trying to find out every cranny of, like, Paul’s pop-culture knowledge.
Paul: Uh huh.
Tiana: Okay. Okay. So, Heather Morris from Glee, she’s on a podcast with some other dude. Justin something. I don’t know who he is, personally. Heather Morris is also a dancer, so I should just preface it with this.
Tiana: So she’s, like, connected to the dancing community. She reveals on the podcast that through hearsay – and she admits that this is hearsay. She didn’t see it happen directly.
Paul: Ooh, so we’re spreading rumors. I like it.
Tiana: So, this is already a rumor.
Tiana: And I should also preface, this has not been verified or refuted by J. Lo.
Tiana: But this is just what the news is.
Tiana: Heather Morris says that other dancers in the community have this story going around that apparently at an audition, J. Lo dismissed dancers actually on the basis of them being Virgos.
Tiana: So, she basically says, like, “Can I have a show of hands of how many people here are Virgos?” You know, and then hands go up. And she whispers to her assistant and then those people are dismissed. And was like, “Thank you for coming.”
Paul: Oh, my gosh.
Tiana: Yeah. So, I had a great laugh about this. Both as an HR person, you know, just… Anytime there’s a basis for somebody being dismissed, you know that we’re going to nerd out about it.
Paul: So Jennifer Lopez, the employer, just like… everybody who’s a did you say a Scorpio or a…?
Tiana: A Virgo.
Paul: Oh, a Virgo. Yeah. Because if it had been Scorpio, she probably would have got slapped for doing it. [Tiana laughs] But anyway, that’s….
Tiana: What’s your sign, Paul?
Paul: I might have been born right smack dab in the middle of November.
Tiana: Ah. Oh. So, some Scorpio coming out? [Laughs]
Paul: I’d be plotting her death if I got dismissed for my Zodiac sign.
Tiana: Well, I had a good laugh because I’m actually a Virgo. I don’t take offense to this at all.
Paul: You’re so sweet, though. How could she dismiss you? Okay, what’s wrong with you Tiana?
Tiana: You know.
Paul: Astrologically, what’s wrong with you? [Laughs]
Tiana: Astrologically what’s wrong with me… And I will preface this by not trying to speak for Virgos as a whole. So, if we have any listeners out there that are Virgos, please don’t be offended by this.
Tiana: What I have come to learn about my sign is that we… we are of a critical nature, Virgos. We are perfectionists; very meticulous about things.
Paul: These are good things in a Solution Center Advisor and an HR expert.
Tiana: It makes sense.
Tiana: Right, right? I have heard the downsides of Virgos. They can be a little bit trickier; more difficult to coach sometimes. Like, they might have a tendency to think that their way is the right way.
Paul: Well, I could not identify with that as a Scorpio. [Laughs]
Tiana: [Laughs] So J. Lo herself is a Leo, is what I’ve discovered.
Tiana: You know, a Leo is going to be one to not be shown up. So, when I heard this, I was like, that kind of makes sense. You know, I don’t know if she sees a stack of Virgos, and is like, ‘Maybe these people are going to be difficult to coach.’ Whatever the bias is there, she didn’t want them to be her backup dancers.
Tiana: I will share an interesting tidbit. J. Lo’s ex-husband, and now we’re going really far into the celeb gossip…
Paul: Which one?
Tiana: Marc Anthony.
Paul: Marc Anthony.
Tiana: He was a Virgo. Is that connected?
Paul: I liked Marc.
Tiana: Yeah. He’s a good singer.
Paul: Again. What boyband did he come out of?
Tiana: He wasn’t in a… Was he in a boyband?
Paul: I think he was. Was he…?
Tiana: We’re going to need a fact check later.
Paul: We’re gonna need a fact check on the boyband that Marc Anthony was in.
Tiana: [laughs] So, anyway, that’s the scoop. But I just wanted to hear your take on this, Paul.
Paul: Okay, great.
Paul: All right. I have a lot to say. First of all, pretext. Okay, so, if your reason for letting someone go is so ridiculous, so far-fetched that it is not believable, then it’s a good platform for saying that it’s a pretext for some other reason.
Tiana: Hmm. Good point.
Paul: And, you know, so look, from an HR point of view – downer time – I I just… especially letting go of everybody who raises their hand on the stage.
Tiana: Mm hmm.
Paul: Now, I know that it probably wouldn’t work out this way, but if everybody who raised their hand on the stage was African-American or everybody was LGBTQ or…
Tiana: Over the age of 40.
Paul: Over the age of 40 or whatever, then you need to kind of take a step back when you mass release people who you haven’t quite hired yet. And, by the way, I think this is important: they were in the interview stage for dancers.
Tiana: Completely. Yeah, yeah.
Paul: So, interview stage counts. Like, it’s not, you know, the laws that kick in to protect people kick in at that point. Now, I – it’s not a protected class. So we always look at, you know, the reason that was given, is that a protected class? So I guess in that way it’s… it’s okay but going back to be… just be… articulate the thing about pretext… pretext is someone makes the case that you use some other unrelated thing, but you had another reason for doing it.
Tiana: There is, like, another underlying agenda.
Paul: There’s another underlying… maybe some kind of protected class. Like, you know, you’re trying to figure out, “How many of you here are planning on having kids?”
Tiana: Mm hmm.
Paul: You know, just like, in the news, some kind of other pretext to figure that out.
Tiana: Yeah. That’s a really good point. Yeah. Because I think, you know, when we look at this face value, your astrological sign, it’s not a protected class. You know, just like…
Paul: It’s also not a job-related… a job-related, science-based, fact-based thing.
Tiana: Right! [laughs]
Paul: In fact, again, unpopular opinion…
Tiana: Some people might refute this… [laughs]
Paul: Some people… in this podcast! No, you know, while I got to tell you… astrology, okay. If you listened to our podcast where I have an astrophysicist on, which is one we just did recently, and so he’s not an astrologer. He’s an astronomer.
Paul: He makes the point that astrology has some difficulties based in reality because things happen light years away. That means in time and distance that many of the things that people are talking about that are aligning, they’re saying, well, I mean, when you look at the moon now, that light is not…
Tiana: Not, like, current light happening.
Paul: No! No things aren’t current that you’re basing…
Tiana: We are getting really deep here into…
Paul: Positions and things on. It’s like, what’s the position from 11 million years ago that you see now. It’s moved today. It’s not where you say it is, so… Okay.
Tiana: Oh that’s – I like that nugget.
Paul: Okay. But I’m a Scorpio and I kind of fit with the… the descriptions. So, I think it’s stupid that you would use that to get people off the stage.
Paul: I think it makes you not a good employer. So I have a history of working with artists – you know, past history before I did CEDR. Years before that. For over a decade I worked with musicians and artists. I had a live music venue. I managed bands. I can’t say I had that many dancers that I worked with, but we did have a few dancers occasionally. And, I mean, these are… these are serious endeavors. People are making their livelihoods from these things.
Paul: And I can’t imagine saying, “Hey, everybody who is a Scorpio, raise your hand. You’re fired”.
Paul: I just don’t think that that’s a very good thing. It’s kind of like autotuning. Just for one listener, an autotune is a device which takes someone’s voice who’s out of key and puts it into key.
Tiana: I could use autotune. [Laughs]
Paul: I need autotune. Yes, I do. [laughs] In fact. Well, I don’t know if I should tell the story or not. There was a very famous singer back in the day, and we were sound checking at a pretty good size venue so we had a big band coming through, and those guys had just come from Vegas and they were running this artist show and they had this artist singing. They had taped it live prior to it, hitting the autotune and being adjusted. So we listened to this very famous pop artist who back then we didn’t know autotune existed. And we never knew you could use it live.
Tiana: Oh wow.
Paul: And then and it was like, “Wow, she’s just singing out of key the whole time, counting on the autotune to put her back in.”
Tiana: How funny to hear the difference.
Paul: Okay, so, what J. Lo did is the equivalent of autotuning HR. [Laughs]
Paul: I mean, you’re just, like, taking one thing and trying… anyway.
Tiana: Totally. Trying to make it fit a mold that may not… I mean, I think we can all say, arguably, not relevant to getting the gig as a dancer. And the thing that it made me think of is just the advice that we’re giving in the Solution Center when it comes to hiring and recognizing implicit bias. I think we could call this like a form of…
Paul: Of implicit bias.
Tiana: … implicit bias towards somebody based on their astrological sign. And what happens if J. Lo only hires other Leos?
Paul: I’m going to argue that implicit… this isn’t implicit bias, Tiana. It is… it is a good way to bring it up. This is bias-bias. She has this bias. It’s not unknown. Generally…
Tiana: I guess it’s pretty explicit in this case. [Laughs]
Paul: It’s explicit bias. Not bias-bias, but explicit bias. It is. Implicit bias…Well, I think the same thing applies in either one, whether you have the explicit or implicit. Implicit implies that you might not know or realize that you are hiring people who you like as opposed to the best qualified person.
Tiana: For sure, and not being able to put your finger on it.
Paul: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s generally not intentional in well… well documented, well known.
Tiana: That’s a good clarification. Yeah. In this case, it’s very outwardly, “Who’s a Virgo? You’re out.”
Paul: Well, the problem with both implicit and explicit bias – we have a whole new thing going on here – is that you’re better off when you don’t hire exactly the same kind… types of people and surround yourself with those people. You’re better off…
Paul: …not doing that, because when you do that, you most certainly are excluding voices that may be able to counter your voice and come up with better ideas…
Tiana: Mm hmm.
Paul: … because they’re… because they’re not the same voice.
Paul: There’s a lot of benefit to diversifying, not just in a male-female balance, but socioeconomic…
Tiana: Diversity of thought.
Paul: Diversity of thought, diversity of expression. You can still maintain your culture and have arguments, I guess is the way to put that.
Paul: And so, when you’re telling, when you’re saying “What I’m trying to do is get all the people who would disagree with me or that I don’t really care for away from me,” you’re doing a disservice to yourself, the community. And I’d say she’s doing a disservice, if she did this (remember this is still an if), to her fans and especially to the people who she dismissed without giving them an opportunity to…
Tiana: I agree.
Paul: …to… to dance on the merit. Dance on the merit. You get the job on the merit. And that’s the other problem with this is you’re… you just cannot make the case that somebody’s month that they were born…
Tiana: Oh yeah. [Laughs]
Paul: Yes. You just… you just can’t make the case.
Tiana: And I would argue, as a Virgo – now I’m trying to curb my own bias here –
Paul: You go, girl!
Tiana: … but I’m just saying those Virgos would have some laser-sharp, precision dance moves going on. They want to be perfect.
Paul: Ah! You know, maybe the problem is she doesn’t want them behind her critiquing her the entire time that she’s doing her thing.
Tiana: [Laughs] Maybe so.
Paul: Now. Now we may have… Just kidding.
Tiana: Uh-oh! Now Paul’s pro ‘Get rid of the Virgos.’
Paul: Yeah, now I might get rid of the Virgos.
Tiana: If you never hear me on this podcast again… [Laughs]
Paul: Exactly. Okay. I think that that is a wrap! [Laughs]
Paul: Yeah, that was completely useless.
Paul: There was nothing in this podcast. I’m sorry that you people had to listen to this.
Tiana: There was a little bit of use there.
Paul: Actually, Tiana, I really enjoyed that.
Tiana: I enjoyed it too.
Paul: I really did.
Tiana: Thank you. Thanks for humoring me!
Paul: The takeaway is don’t autotune your HR.
Tiana: There it is.
Paul: Okay. All right.
Tiana: Thanks, Paul.
Paul: Thanks Tiana.
Voiceover: Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode of What The Hell Just Happened? Do Paul a favor: share this with your network. If you have an HR issue or a question you’d like us to discuss on this show, send it to podcast@WTHjusthappened.com. For more HR advice and insights from Paul and his team of experts, you can also join the private Facebook group, HR Base Camp, or visit HRbasecamp.com. Make sure you tune in next week. And remember: better workplaces make better lives.