Tag: hr policy

Do Businesses Really Value Families?

I find myself usually marching in the same direction as Rex W. Huppke, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, who tackles workplace issues of the day.  Mr. Huppke’s latest submission printed in Section 2 this past Monday, May 7th, 2012, titled, “No Question New Parents Should Get Paid Leave”, is not an exception.  With a bit of his typical cynicism, Huppke contrasts our commonly held value of family being a keystone of a stable and successful civilization with the fact that America is virtually alone in its aversion to paid work leave for new mothers.

It is striking that some organizations out there have funded research at Rutgers University to collect even more overwhelming evidence of the benefits of giving new parents paid time off.  Their recent research concluded that paid parental leave makes for healthier babies, more workers returning to the job after maternity leave, and stronger families.  I guess that the research sponsors felt a need to hit some people over the head with these moot observations.  What caught me off guard is the relative lack of company backing of paid family leave programs.

Mr. Huppke references Bureau of Labor statistics showing that only 11% of private-sector workers and only 17% of public-sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer.  What does this say about American business leaders?  Simple, we are hypocrites.  Huppke points out, “we all seem to agree on the importance of families, yet America – unlike more than 170 other countries – doesn’t guarantee paid work leave for new mothers.”

It’s a better business decision to give new parents access to paid leave.  Fact.  Businesses increase the probability of retaining good employees, building loyalty and avoiding the costs of replacement and training.  It also helps those who are most affected by the lack of paid leave; low income parents who have no choice but to continue working in those brief, but vitally important initial weeks of a newborns development to support themselves.

If we business (HRInsights included) owners and leaders value “family” as much as we say we do, then maybe we should have a paid leave policy that reflects it.

Four Reasons Why Employers Should Not Ask for Facebook Passwords

Late last month several US Senators asked Attorney General Eric Holder and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate the legality of employers asking potential employees for their Facebook passwords as a condition of employment.  Soon laws will be in place to clear up the confusion.  However, regardless of the outcome, here are four reasons why employers should just avoid asking an employee for their Facebook password in the first place.  These excerpts were taken from an opinion piece appearing in the 4/8/12 edition of the Chicago Tribune by Jeff Nowak, Partner and Co-Chair of Franczek Radelet’s Labor and Employment Practices Group.

  1. It could expose the employer to discrimination claims.  A fundamental best practice for employers when soliciting information about job candidates is to make certain that any inquiries are “job-related”.  When employers access a candidate’s social media account, they likely are exposed to information that is not job-related and not to be considered in an employment decision.
  2. Employers can also be exposed to privacy claims.  Mr. Nowak points out that social media is the new “water cooler of the workplace”, where employees gather to share personal commentary and complaints.  New legislative issues aside, employers accessing social media could be violating existing anti-eavesdropping and privacy laws depending on the state.
  3. Most employers are not prepared to handle private information.  If an employer misses signals in social media accounts that an employee may engage in conduct harmful of others, will the employer face liability for negligent hiring practices?  Also, once an employer has an employee’s password they are responsible to protect it.
  4. Employer = Big Brother.  Legal issues aside, think of the messages an employer sends to prospective employees by asking for access.  First, it suggests that you lag in your understanding and acceptance of social media, and, second, it says immediately upfront that trust is an issue.

Mr. Nowak summarizes, “Requiring Facebook passwords is not good business.”  It is highly unlikely to bring meaningful benefits.  And, people can erase their media posts in seconds, so why go to the trouble?  HRInsights agrees.

Why Employers Need a Social Media Policy

Internal company policies are designed to articulate rules where laws either do not exist or where laws are not specific enough.  Sexual harassment is a prime example of where laws lack specificity. To avoid litigation, an employer must “take reasonable care” to:  1) prevent sexual harassment, and 2) promptly correct sexual harassment that has occurred.  To “take reasonable care” is not specifically defined, but there are deliberate steps that employers can take to easily satisfy this requirement.  One of those is to have a policy communicated clearly to employees.

What about social media?  The legal system is still behind and very slow in catching up to address employee versus employer rights when it comes to Facebook, in particular.   A teacher’s aide in Michigan, who had posted a picture last year of a co-worker’s pants down around her ankles, has been suspended because she refused to give her Facebook password to her employer.  A teacher in Illinois was fired from her job for posting a comment on her Facebook page stating that she felt like she was teaching “the next generation of criminals”.  Where does the right to privacy and free speech begin and end?

Laws and courts have yet to decide.  However, there is movement.  For instance the Illinois House of Representatives recently passed a bill that prohibits employers from asking employees for their social media passwords (pending in the State Senate), and other states are following the lead.  Where does that leave employers?  Make your position clear with employees by publishing and clearly communicating a Social Media Policy.  Start by having a Policy that addresses the following 4 subjects:

1.     Confidentiality

  • Employees are not Company spokespeople.
  • Company information is the Company’s property.

2.     Company References

  • Employees are allowed to speak about the Company (1st Amendment).  But, employees should inform their manager in advance.
  • Company property (IP and otherwise) is the Company’s property.

3.     Competitive Activities

  • Employees cannot compete with the company.  And, this certainly means via personal websites even if the activity is “off-hours”.

4.     Privacy Rights

  • Employees are required to respect others.
  • Even if respectful, employees are required to identify themselves.

Until our legal system delineates right from wrong, help protect your business and your employees.  HRInsights recommends that you make your Social Media Policy clear.  Like other company policies, make certain to update it to reflect changes in regulations and laws, include it in your company’s employee handbook, and communicate it regularly.


Doing One Thing at a Time

I am almost finished.  Wait!  First, I need to respond to this e-mail.

Following my recent blogs/posts about meeting inefficiency and smartphone over-use, I read a related Harvard Business Review blog posted by Tony Schwartz, President & CEO of The Energy Project, titled “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time”.  Mr. Schwartz’ point?  25% to 50% of employees report feeling burned out at work not only because of working too many hours, but also because of working too many continuous hours.  Because of all of this great new technology, our lives are interrupted frequently enough to the point that we take longer to finish anything.  Mr. Schwartz writes, “Wherever we go, our work follows us, on our digital devices, ever insistent and intrusive.  It’s like an itch we can’t resist scratching, even though scratching invariably makes it worse”.  Makes sense, and it is time to adjust.  Mr. Schwartz recommends:

For the Manager:

  1. Maintain meeting discipline
  2. Stop demanding instant responses at every moment of the day (see “Predictable Time Off” or PTO from my post  Employees Happier with Less Smartphone Activity)
  3. Encourage regular breaks

For the Individual:

  1. Do the most important daily task first
  2. Set aside time to think
  3. (Really) Disconnect on vacations (regularly)

The downside of not making adjustments is reduced productivity (up to 25% less) and increased burn out.  But this is easier said than done.  Even the HRInsights team remains glued to their smartphones, but at least now we’re cognizant of its impact on job performance, and plan on making small, baby steps going forward.

HRInsights Weekly Lightbulb 03-21

This Week’s HRI “Lightbulb”  – Office Art No-No

Question:  Why is office art usually ugly and abstract?  Fact:  Anything else would be offensive to someone for some reason one could never predict.  Take the two photos of artwork (below) I found in the lobby of an office (not to be named) that I visited yesterday.  Cute they are, but they also potentially hide an offensive sexist message according to someone I was with, which is “boys play sports, and girls have hobbies”.  Her/his first impression of the company was not positive.   Unless there is a really good reason to display art conveying any political, religious or personal belief, stick with the ugly stuff.  To date, HRInsights has not been able to prove a link between bad business skills and a bad taste in art.

What is Sexual Harassment?

We all know the term and we even hear the term thrown around facetiously from time to time.  But the entire working spectrum from owners to management to employees needs to understand what sexual harassment is and why it’s a problem. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”

This definition seems to draw a fine line that, hopefully, none of us have to worry about crossing. But, there are a few misconceptions that don’t make the matter as black and white as it may initially sound.  A few rules that we should all know about are:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be either a woman or a man.
  • The victim of sexual harassment does not have to be of the opposite sex of the harasser.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but could be anyone adversely affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome in order to constitute sexual harassment.

To prepare you and your organization proactively, make sure that you have clearly stated your policies on sexual harassment in the workplace.  Overstate it if you have to, just make sure to cover all the angles.

Don’t know if you’ve covered it all or if you need to be more specific? HRInsights can help… join our webinar to find out if you have everything in your sexual harassment policy that you need.


Social Media Policy

Even just a few years ago, many company managers rightly assumed that a Social Media Policy was all about limiting employees’ use of the internet. The priority was to prevent workers from spending company time buying on-line, conducting personal business on-line and, truth be told, watching pornography. It was all about e-mail and personal internet use. Now however, with the growing importance of the internet to a company’s marketing efforts and even now as a distribution and sales channel, it is prudent for small businesses to clearly articulate and communicate their Social Media Policy.

HRInsights would ask you to consider the following 4 subjects when developing your small business Social Media Policy. For those old enough just take out the word “social”, and you might see a rough version of the company’s former Media Policy.

1. Confidentiality:

  • No employee or other compensated representative of the company is able to speak on behalf of the company to any outside individual or organization, whether they be a partner, supplier, competitor, customer, or member of the press without his/her manager’s permission. If you are approached, please refer the inquiring party to the General Manager or other person who has been designated to handle outside inquiries.
  • No employee or other compensated representative of the company can share or otherwise publish confidential and/or proprietary information about the company. This includes but is not limited to information about employees, existing products, new products, services, trademarks, strategies, financial information, and any information that has not been publicly shared by the company.

2. Company References:

  • Inform your manager if you intend to develop a site or a blog where you mention and/or provide opinions and perspectives about the company, its employees, partners, competitors, customers, or current or future products.
  • Company logos, artwork and trademarks are not allowed to be used in employee personal communication in the internet, blogs, or in other social media unless otherwise approved in writing by your immediate supervisor.

3. Competitive activities:

  • Employees or compensated representatives of the company are prohibited from selling, distributing and/or promoting the sale of products and/or services that compete directly with the company’s products and service.

4. Privacy Rights:

  • Employee communications over the internet, in blogs and other social media must show respect to the company, its products and services, other employees, suppliers, customers, distributors. Wrongful statements or misrepresentations of any above-mentioned constituent which is not viewed favorably by management can result in disciplinary actions up to and including termination.
  • Employee communications over the internet, in blogs and other social media must identify the author as an employee of the company and must contain an appropriate disclaimer that his/her views are personal and not intended to represent those of the company and its employees.
  • Out of respect for privacy, it is always good practice to get written permission from those parties and/or individuals who are mentioned in communications published over the internet.

HRInsights Weekly Lightbulb 11/17

This Week’s HRI “Lightbulb”  – Employee Happiness: Thanksgiving

Fact: Thanksgiving is the busiest travel holiday.   Makes sense when you think about how everybody needs to cram the travel itineraries of the crazy sister-in-law (with a Kardashian-fixation), the somewhat snobbish aunt and uncle, and the kleptomaniac cousin (who definitely has your iTouch!) into one short 4-day period.  For those owners of small businesses not dependent on holiday sales, think about making the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a half-day for your employees!   Or, if you are a scrooge, have employees contribute an extra hour per week for four weeks to make up the difference.  Needless to say, a small gesture of flexibility on your part goes a long way to building employee satisfaction . . . and loyalty.

Politics, Sexual Harassment & a $100,000 Reminder to Business Owners

Regardless of who said this, who said that, the truth, the history and the outcome of the Herman Cain scandal in the daily news!  Politics again brings up the very serious topic of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Does your company have a well-communicated process to handle sexual harassment complaints?  If not, your business is potentially facing a costly liability.  Take the case of …

Sheriff v. Midwest Health Partners, P.C., 8th Circuit Court No. 09-3367, August 30, 2010

An employer’s failure to keep a female employee apprised of its response to her complaints of sexual harassment, and its further failure to follow through on remedial actions could lead a reasonable jury to find that the employer did not take the complaints seriously. Such failures form the basis of a recent decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in which the Court denied an employer’s post-trial motion regarding a $100,000 jury verdict.

A Sexual Harassment  Policy should be stated clearly in company’s Employee Handbook.  And, there should be a signed document from each employee acknowledging that they have read AND understood the policy.  No excuses!

In the workplace, sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual or sex-based conduct – such as unwanted touching, pressure for dates, or offensive remarks – that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment and interfere with the victim’s ability to perform her job.  Sexual harassment can also include conditioning an employment or educational opportunity on the victim’s submission to requests for sexual favors.”

Provide a work environment that fosters teamwork and where everyone can reach their full potential, and also be prepared to protect that environment!

HRInsights Weekly Lightbulb 11/4

This Week’s HRI “Lightbulb”  – Tattoos in the Workplace

I hear a bunch about tattoos in the workplace; are they appropriate?  If you think they aren’t, I can guarantee that you will not find the best people for those open positions.  I do not have a tattoo, thank you.  However, there is a new social code of conduct out there folks!  And, I think it is refreshing to focus on someone’s true capabilities, which we all know are more than skin deep.