Tag: social media

UPDATE 2014: New and/or Changes to Illinois Labor Laws

Below are highlights of certain federal law developments occurring in Illinois that will affect employers in 2014.  Please make certain that you are in compliance.

  • Workplace Violence Prevention: Effective January 1, 2014, employers with five or more employees will be permitted to take proactive steps to protect employees from workplace violence, harassment, and stalking. Employers will be able to apply for an order of protection against disgruntled workers who have made a documented threat against the business or another employee. Employers are required to provide an affidavit that there is a credible threat of violence against the workplace or an employee to apply for an order of protection.
  • Protection of Social Media Accounts: Effective January 1, 2014, an amendment to the Illinois’ Right to Privacy Act in the Workplace Act will go into effect. Since January 1, 2013, the Act has prohibited employers from requesting or requiring that employees or applicants provide passwords or related social media account information, or provide access to their profile on a social networking website. The amendment limits the scope of the Act’s prohibition on requesting or requiring access to social media accounts. Following the amendment, employers will be permitted to access professional accounts where the employer has a “duty to screen employees or applicants prior to hiring or retain employee communications as required under Illinois insurance laws or federal law or by a self-regulatory organization” as defined by the Securities Exchange Act. A “professional account” is defined by the Act as an account, service, or profile used or accessed by a current or prospective employee for business purposes of the employer. Employers will still be prohibited from requesting or requiring access to personal accounts unrelated to any business purpose of the employer.
  • Legalization of Medical Marijuana: Effective January 1, 2014, registered users suffering from a “debilitating medical condition” will be allowed to purchase medical marijuana from state-licensed dispensaries. Employers may not penalize employees for their status as patients who are qualified and registered to purchase medical marijuana, unless failing to do so would cause the employer to lose monetary funding under federal law. However, employers retain the right to restrict or prohibit the use of marijuana in the workplace and may implement and enforce a drug-free workplace policy, provided the policy is enforced in a non-discriminatory manner. Employers also may adopt reasonable policies regarding the consumption, storage, or timekeeping requirements regarding the use of medical marijuana.
  • Prevailing Wage Records Requirements: Effective January 1, 2014, contractors and subcontractors performing work on public works projects are required to keep payroll records, either electronically or on paper, of all workers employed on the project for at least five years (increased from three years) after the last payment on the contract.
  • Concealed Weapons Law Developments Following last summer’s adoption of the Illinois Fire Concealed Carry Act, employers seeking to prohibit individuals from bringing concealed weapons onto their private property are required to post a sign to that effect at building entrances. The Illinois State Police recently released proposed rules regarding the sign, which consists of a white background and a depiction of a handgun in black ink with a circle (of four inches in diameter) around the handgun depiction with a diagonal slash across the firearm in red ink. No text or other marking is contained in the sign, except the reference to the Illinois code section 430 ILCS 66/1. The sign must be posted clearly and conspicuously at the entrance to the property. A template of the approved sign is available here: https://ccl4illinois.com/ccw/Public/Signage.aspx
  • Same-Sex Marriage Recognized: Effective June 1, 2014, same-sex marriage will be recognized in Illinois. Same-sex and different-sex couples will be entitled to the same benefits, protections and responsibilities of civil marriage.

The HR Experts for Small Business

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.


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.

Dilbert’s Perspective On Background Checks

If you read the Sunday “Funny Pages” (what they used to be called), then you may have seen this Dilbert comic strip and its expected comment on workplace issues.  This week the topic is background checks of interview candidates.

Message for Job Applicants:  Assume that your interviewer knows more about you than you think.  People may be lulled into the belief that their social networks are “closed”; that privacy controls keep out unwanted eyes.  Forget about it!  Seasoned HR execs consider it a small challenge and have never failed to “hack-in”.  And remember, any information floating in the social “web-o-sphere” can legally be used in making hiring decisions.

Message for Employers:  Every applicant has a personal life; a person’s positive attitude and desire to succeed should not be devalued.   Before social media, the approach at work was “what employees do at home is their business.”  Despite the social media window into the souls of potential employees and the subtle desire to find faults, try to stick to this principle.  Look deep enough, and you will always find something (Steve Jobs did some funky things).   We all know bosses and colleagues who have had some pretty “exciting” lives outside of work.   But that is just it; it was “outside of work”.

Message for Both:  Attitude is hard to fake.  Candidates should rely on their experience, personality and genuine interest in the position to convey their real attitude.  Interviewers should stick to tried and true questions and techniques that draw out the truth and real aspirations of job applicants.  Everyone has a personal life, even the staff at HRInsights (as evidenced by this article… people still read the “Funnies”???)

Social Media: Love It or Leave It, It is here to stay

I recently posted about making investments in Social Media to grow your business. Frank McCabe is Vice President of Marketing & Communications at The Beacon Group – a Massachusetts-based construction, logistics and facility services firm

Facebook?  Twitter?  No thanks!

Admittedly that was my attitude about social media two years ago.  Despite the buzz and excitement surrounding these “new” means of communicating with friends, colleagues (and, frankly, anyone interested in you and your opinions)…I wanted no part of it.

Why would people want to post their daily happenings?

What would possess anyone to share their personal viewpoints for the world to see?

Who has the time to check in with another website during their day?

Everyone does!

Two years later, I have accounts with all of the mainstream social media outlets and, quite honestly, I am late to join the game.

As a marketer of both business-to-business and business-to-consumer products and services, I have finally come to the obvious conclusion that this form of communication is a necessary tool to succeed in reaching and educating our customers, employees and prospects.

A recent seminar presented by email marketing pioneer, Constant Contact, further revealed this fact.

81% of B-to-B sellers use Linked In

60% of B-to-B sellers use Facebook

Big business, small business, for profits, non-profits and every business between is leveraging social media to their advantage and more and more data continues to surface around their successful use of these portals.  The lesson is simple: if you are not using any social media for your business and communications, it’s time to get in the game.  If you have started to use these services, keep going!  The web is abundant with free information that will provide you with endless facts and case studies for why you need to make this part of your marketing efforts and how to go about doing social media the right way.

The good news is that this technology is not that difficult to grasp.  Social media sites are designed for everyone.  From the savvy techie-geek looking to add yet another cyber-tool that will allow him to avoid actual human contact down to the retired baby boomer looking to get quick updates and photos of the grandkids.  Social media has something for everyone and every business.

Now for the bad news.  Once you leap into the waters of social media, please understand what you open yourself up to.  When you post news on Facebook or “tweet” a message on Twitter, this information is, somewhat, wide open for the world to see.  A great rule of thumb is don’t post anything that you would not want your grandmother to read.” From a business standpoint, all information you post into the social media stream should be trustworthy, ethical and polite.

If you stick to those guidelines, you will soon find your readership will increase along with your brand recognition.

Do some research and find out what type of social media makes sense for you and your business.