In brief Featured

10:06am EDT July 22, 2002

The big guys did their part. As temperatures soared and air-conditioning use increased earlier this summer, an already strained electric system brought Columbus-based AEP to its knees, begging for help from its customers.

Several local businesses answered AEP's call for voluntary conservation to prevent the need for mandatory brownouts or blackouts. Among them were Nationwide Insurance Enterprise and Banc One Corp.

Nationwide cut its power usage by about 15 percent by using emergency generators in data and training centers; turning off escalators and lights in general office areas such as hallways and restrooms; closing its exercise facility; turning off inside parking garage exhaust fans and outside parking garage lights as well as the pumps that run the landscaping stream outside; and asking employees to conserve where possible, according to Larry Michael, director of property management.

"During the night we ran the air conditioning and chilled the building down so that in the morning when people came in it was uncomfortably cool," Michael says. "But we were able to throttle the air conditioning down during the day when the demand was high."

John Russell, chief communication officer at Banc One Corp., says his company shifted 4 megawatts of power, enough to equal 1,000 home air conditioners, according to AEP, by using generators, turning down its air conditioner, and turning off office equipment that was not in use. The company also has a lighting system that automatically shuts off when someone leaves a room.

AEP reduced its own load on the electric system by about half and used a fuel oil generator.

"It freed up enough energy that was comparable to, say, the central air-conditioning needs of about 1,500 homes," says Tom Holliday, AEP's Ohio corporate communications manager.

Now that's practicing what you preach.

The wrath of some workers scorned

Give it to 'em straight.

How employees are treated when they are fired or laid off can play a role in whether they sue their former employers, according to a recent study.

Researchers from Ohio State and Duke universities, who surveyed 996 recently dismissed workers, found two basic motives for filing suit: economic and psychological.

Revenge came into play, although displaced workers were more likely to report filing suit if the job loss created financial problems or the expectation of a large award.

Of those who felt treated with "very much" dignity and respect at the time of dismissal, only 0.4 percent reported filing claims against the former boss. Of those who said they had "not at all" received respectful and dignified treatment, 14.9 percent reported filing claims.

In addition, of those who said they received an explanation of the dismissal, only 1.7 percent reported filing suit. Of those who said they received no explanation, 20.3 percent said they filed.

"Many wrongful-termination suits could be avoided if companies only used effective human-relations practices when they dismiss workers," according to researcher Jerald Greenberg, professor of management and human resources at Ohio State's Fisher College of Business.

Greenberg advises employers to ease the transition by giving several weeks' warning of termination, providing help in finding a new job, continuing benefits such as health coverage, and giving severance pay to lessen financial hardship. He estimates that companies could save at least $13,200 per termination by being honest with employees who are being fired.