I’m Paula Brantner. Originally Paula was an employment lawyer.
I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was a little kid. So I became one, graduating in 1992 from UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, CA. I knew when I arrived at law school that I wanted to do something to help others. After some of my first legal internships, I quickly gravitated towards employment law. Early in my legal career, I represented workers through a nonprofit helping low-income workers, a national LGBT civil rights organization, and small employment law firms. More recently, I worked for a national association of employment lawyers and the leading union federation’s program for non-union members.
Then Paula was a nonprofit executive at Workplace Fairness.
Since 2001, I’ve been associated with the nonprofit organization Workplace Fairness. I first was the program director and became the executive director in 2008. Workplace Fairness (WF) was founded back in 1994 to educate workers about their legal rights and promote pro-worker public policy. With very limited resources and staff, WF began building the Internet’s best resource on employment law and workplace developments specifically designed for workers. I used my legal background to translate difficult employment law concepts for a lay audience who needed to understand what to do when something bad happened at work, like discrimination, harassment, wage and hour problems or a workplace injury.
Workplace Fairness is a terrific organization, and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. Today, the Workplace Fairness website at www.workplacefairness.org has over 400 pages of FAQs on employment law topics, one of the very first nonprofit blogs (Today’s Workplace), and a free e-newsletter with the latest workplace developments (Workplace Week). There’s also a listing of employment attorneys who can help our site visitors with their workplace problem. The Workplace Fairness website now gets several million visitors each year (over 4 million as of fall 2016) and was twice nominated for a Webby (2006, 2008). I continue my affiliation with the organization as a Senior Advisor. I still develop content for their website and assist lawyers and workers rights organizations with websites, website content and digital marketing strategy.
Now Paula is a “Work Whisperer” through PB Work Solutions, LLC.
I’ve talked to literally thousands of workers in person or via telephone, and millions more through the Internet throughout my career. As an employment lawyer, every day I saw workplace situations where someone needed help, but a lawyer was not necessarily the best person to provide that assistance. Chances are, you may not have a legal case, or even if you have one, you might not want to pursue it. Lawyers accept as clients only a small fraction of the people they talk to: some as low as only 3-5% of the potential clients who contact them. Because lawyers are so focused on helping their potential clients who will actually move forward with litigation, they may not have time to listen to your full story and advise you beyond limited legally-focused parameters.
I realized there had to be a better way. Over and over again, usually on a very limited basis, I advised people about fixing what they could and then moving on to something better. Through this approach, for which I coined the term “work whispering,” I could help those who needed more personalized assistance than a website could provide (even a comprehensive one like Workplace Fairness). I started PB Work Solutions, LLC, to help people in toxic workplace situations fix them. My dream is to one day see work whisperers throughout the country, as common as the clinics in your local pharmacy who help when you aren’t sure if you need a doctor or emergency room, but want a trained medical professional to help you figure out if you might have something serious.
Paula’s also a social entrepreneur, web content strategist and into techy stuff
In the process of learning about how to run a successful website and make money from doing it, I ran Workplace Fairness like a lean startup before Lean was a thing. I based my entrepreneurial strategy on my experiences at Startup Weekend, where in the course of a weekend, you build a startup company. At the 2013 Lean Impact Summit in New York City, my presentation on WF’s lean methodology won the People’s Choice Award. I was selected as a Google Fellow for the 2009 Personal Democracy Forum conference. I’m a former co-organizer and occasional speaker at NetSquared DC (Net2DC), where “social changemakers and technological forerunners come together….” I also know about SEO, content marketing, website redesigns and generating income from affiliate relationships. I’ve come a long way from law school, when the Internet barely existed….
Some other random stuff Paula knows and/or cares about
- Pandas: I volunteer for the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC as an Asia Trail Interpreter. I talk to visitors around the world about the National Zoo’s pandas, Mei Xiang, Tian Tian, Tai Shan, Bao Bao, and now Bei Bei. I’ve visited pandas around the world, including those at the two major breeding centers in China and the other U.S. zoos (Atlanta, GA; San Diego, CA; and Memphis, TN). Knowing so much useful and useless information about pandas has led to some interesting speaking opportunities: Story League DC; Nerd Nite DC; PechaKucha Silver Spring.
- Karaoke: I used to be really scared of karaoke. First, I overcame my fear of singing publicly to be ready for a Workplace Fairness karaoke fundraiser. Then I got all crazy about it, singing every year at Netroots Nation, and at home in the DC metro area at Kostume Karaoke. Formerly I was in District Karaoke, a local karaoke league, on the team “I Knew You Were Treble.”
- Camping at Assateague: As a little girl, I read the Misty of Chincoteague books. I couldn’t have imagined then that one day I would hang out on the beach with Misty’s descendants, the wild ponies of Assateague. On multiple occasions, I’ve camped on Assateague and been to the Chincoteague Pony Penning, and it’s one of my favorite places in the world to be. I’ve also watched horses destroy a tent and take over a campsite — not my favorite thing.
- Roller Derby: For a year, I was a member of the DC Rollergirls women’s flat-track roller derby league. I was Rock Clobster, #B-52 (Claw for short). It’s a really tough sport and I wasn’t very good at it, but I met some great people and learned a lot from the experience (prepared me for dealing with some bad workplace situations.)