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August 31, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Drafting a Social Networking Policy (part 1 of 2)

Below is the first of a 2-part installment on this popular and trending topic. I can”t claim credit for writing this informative post however. It is written by HRN”s own Content Manager, Joyce Campbell. To receive more current and easy-to-read HR topical content directly from HRN at no cost, simply register to receive our monthly HR whitepaper and/or HR Legal Update e-newsletter by going to:

The last ten years has seen a revolution in how people communicate with each other. Social networking, which includes use of Internet forums, blogs, wikis, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, Flickr, and the list goes on and on, has changed the world. As with most social transformations, this one affects the workplace as well.

If you haven’t already created a social computing policy and guidelines for your workplace, you probably should. No policy is a risky policy. While workplace policy needs differ widely depending upon the nature and philosophy of the organization, nearly everybody needs a policy. The trick is trying to decide what will work for you, specifically.

The following are a few key points to consider in drafting your policy. Given how rapidly things are changing in this area, you’ll likely need to review and update your policy regularly. It will definitely be a work in progress.

Developing Social Networking Policies and Guidelines

1. One size definitely does not fit all – Don’t expect to adopt another organization’s policy. At the very least you’ll need to customize sample policies (including the HRN written policy included as a template in HR Suite) to fit your industry, how technology is used in your workplace, your employees, and overall organizational need.

2. There are varying degrees of tolerance among organizations – High tech organizations may be very liberal regarding employee social computing and see business opportunities in letting employees network at work. Some older brick and mortar companies may have little use for and only see problems arising from employee social networking. Where does your organization fit along this continuum?

3. What kind of social networking does your organization seek to regulate?
a) When?
i. Social networking during work
ii. Social networking after work
iii. Both

b) What?
i. What types of communications do you intend to address?
ii. Does it depend on whether the activities are at work or home?

4. What types of communication may be useful to your organization? 

5. What types of communication could present problems to you?

6. Which groups in your organization should be allowed to use company equipment and work time for social networking? – All employees? None? Some?

7. Should you consider blocking, filtering, or monitoring certain sites at work? If so, for what groups of employees?

8. What are the legal concerns and potential negative aspects for employers?
a) Companies may be liable for defamatory, harassing, or discriminatory communications by their employees.
b) Organizations should understand that employees have certain privacy rights and, in some states, laws protect employees who engage in lawful activities outside of work.
c) Although this area of law is evolving, there are protections for employees engaging in political activities so an employee blog regarding politics, working conditions, or employee rights is probably protected.
d) Federal labor law provides that employees have the right to discuss wages and terms and conditions of employment.
e) Employers must be careful not to violate the federal Stored Communications Act. It prohibits a 3rd party from accessing electronic communications (e.g., email or social network sites) without proper authorization. There’s nothing wrong if an employer reads an employee’s posts on a public site…there’s no expectation of privacy. However, if that employer gains access to a password protected site by illicit means or by coercing another employee to offer up the password, that’s another problem.
f) Many employers review applicants’ social sites to learn more about the candidates. However, an employer who learns about an applicant’s or employee’s disability, sexual identity, race, etc., and fails to hire the applicant or promote the employee could face discrimination allegations.
g) A Federal Trade Commission guideline (Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising) provides that employees who use social media to make statements about an employer’s products could create liability (even unintended) if a consumer later claims that he was misled or purchased a defective or dangerous product. Companies could be liable for any false or unsubstantiated claims by employees or even for an employee’s failure to disclose his relationship with the company.
h) Inappropriate communication can damage company reputation.
i) Problems may arise by intentional or accidental employee action.
j) It can waste an awful lot of time and decrease productivity. (Some characterize this as “social notworking” vs. “social networking”).


August 27, 2012

Labor Rights Week – Celebrating America’s Workforce

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

As Labor Day approaches, it only seems fitting to have a “Labor Rights Week” leading up to it.  This week, August 27-31, is a week-long observance designed by the Department of Labor (DOL) to honor the contributions of all workers.  Making America’s workplaces safe and fair for everyone is the hallmark of Labor Rights Week.   In her Labor Rights Week video, Secretary Solis affirms the importance of safety and fairness. “We’re committed to ensuring that workers are safe on the job — and paid what they’re owed by law. This means no one can be paid less than $7.25 an hour. It means overtime must be paid for each hour above 40 hours a week. And it means that employers must provide a safe workplace for everyone,” Solis says. “If you’re working in this country, you’re guaranteed these rights. You’re an important part of our labor force.”

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), principally concerned with protecting workers from hazards on the job, and the Wage and Hour Division, focused on enforcing the minimum wage laws, overtime pay, child labor and the rights of migrant workers, are participating in Labor Rights Week events throughout the nation. The events, amplifying this year’s theme of “Promoting Labor Rights Is Everyone’s Responsibility,” include joining with the consulates of Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and others in activities and events throughout the week.

For more information, including the locations the special events will be held, please click here


August 24, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Background Checks and the FCRA (Part 2 of 2)

Part 2 of 2 – Part 1 published 8/17/2012


Before you reject a job application, reassign or terminate an employee, deny a promotion, or take any other adverse employment action based on information in a consumer report, you must give the applicant or employee:

  1. a notice that includes a copy of the consumer report you relied on to make your decision; and
  2. a copy of A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, which the company that gave you the report should have given to you.  This is found at:

Giving the person the notice in advance gives the person the opportunity to review the report and tell you if it is correct.


If you take an adverse action based on information in a consumer report, you must give the applicant or employee a notice of that fact – orally, in writing, or electronically. An adverse action notice tells people about their rights to see information being reported about them and to correct inaccurate information.  The notice must include:

  1. the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting company that supplied the report;
  2. a statement that the company that supplied the report did not make the decision to take the unfavorable action and can’t give specific reasons for it; and
  3. a notice of the person’s right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any information the consumer reporting company furnished, and to get an additional free report from the company if the person asks for it within 60 days.



August 22, 2012

No Butts About It – There Are Still Smokers Out There!

There has been a lot of emphasis in the news lately about the growing epidemic of obesity.  We cannot deny that Americans are getting fatter.  The fact remains however, that cigarette smoking is still the leading cause of preventable death in the US each year; accounting for 1 in 5 deaths, or approximately 443,000 lives.

The statistical information cited by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that in 2010 slightly more men (21.5%) than women (17.3%) smoked.   And (alarmingly so), 20.1 percent of adults aged 18 to 24 are reported as smokers; that is roughly 1 out of every 5 recent high school graduates and college students smoke!  Adults with a college degree are less likely to smoke as are Asians and Hispanics.  States with the greatest number of smokers are found in the Midwest and Southeast; specifically, the lowest prevalence of smoking was found in Utah (9.1%) and the highest in West Virginia (26.8%).

While employers are concerned about smokers and the impact on the organization, the choice to invest in smoking cessation strategies can vary.  The use of penalties (such as increased health insurance premiums) to smokers is rising.  In general, employers are starting to talk openly about smoking and the health risks it presents.   In a report published by entitled, “The Burden of Tobacco Use”, they have put together a list of 50 ideas for helping employees in their efforts to quit smoking:  ideas ranging from how to create a smoking cessation program within your company to implementing a non-smoking policy.  It’s a terrific resource and worth checking out.

What are you doing in your company to help people quit smoking?  Let us know . .  .

Look for the full report CDC Report at:


August 20, 2012

Healthcare Reform and the Price of Pizza

Filed under: General HR Buzz9:00 am

Regardless of our opinion regarding healthcare reform, most people agree that healthcare reform may increase our costs.  Premiums have already risen as our health insurance coverage was expanded to include coverage of dependents to age 26 and 100% coverage for preventive care services.  These two additions increased the rate of premiums for most insurance plans anywhere from 2% to 8%.

Did you know, however, that the health care reform law will increase the price of pizza?  It’s true, that is if you are ordering a Papa John’s pizza.  This announcement was made at Papa John’s shareholders’ meeting a couple of weeks ago.  According to CEO John Schnatter, “Our best estimate is that ‘Obamacare’ will cost 11 to 14 cents per pizza.”

I remember reading about the additional tax on suntan beds in the healthcare reform law, but I didn’t recall anything with reference to pizza.  Well, there is reference to pizza, although indirectly.  Many employers who previously did not have to provide healthcare coverage for part-time workers will be required to do so or be subject to penalties.  Under the law, employers will be liable for $2,000 per employee penalty if just one full-time employee (defined as any individual working at least 30 hours a week) is not offered qualified coverage, effective in 2014.  This part of the law will affect Papa John’s as they will now be required to cover part-time employees, so you can see where they are coming to this conclusion of increased costs.

Who else may be affected by this penalty?  According to a survey conducted by Mercer L.L.C., employers in the hospitality industry may be hit hardest as 46% of employers expect their health care plan costs to rise by at least 3% in 2014.

We don’t know what the future election may do to the healthcare reform law.  But we should become familiar with the health care reform law so we can plan and budget accordingly…including our company pizza parties.


August 17, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Background Checks and the FCRA (Part 1 of 2)

What does an employer needs to do if it wants to reject an applicant for employment based on credit or criminal conviction history?   The main governing federal law is the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).  Some states also have laws that govern this issue, so check for them too.  The FCRA is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).  The FTC has issued a clear guidance for employers on this point, click here.  The FTC guidance notes that employment background checks done by third parties “also are known as consumer reports.  They can include information from a variety of sources, including credit reports and criminal records.”  The FTC explains, “When you use consumer reports to make employment decisions, including hiring, retention, promotion or reassignment, you must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).”  The FTC guidance then explains the three main steps (outlined below) an employer must follow to comply with the FCRA in this process.  Because the FTC guidance on these three steps is so clear, I have included it below almost verbatim.



August 15, 2012

Obesity: How Does Your State Weigh In?

This week the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released revised1 data showing rates of obesity in the US by state.  Here are some of the key findings directly from the CDC brief:

  • By state, obesity prevalence ranged from 20.7% in Colorado to 34.9% in Mississippi in 2011. No state had a prevalence of obesity less than 20%. 39 states had a prevalence of 25% or more; 12 of these states had a prevalence of 30% or more: Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and West Virginia.
  • The South had the highest prevalence of obesity (29.5%), followed by the Midwest (29.0%), the Northeast (25.3%) and the West (24.3%).
  • See the map of the US with percentages by state.


  • Among non-Hispanic black and Mexican-American men, those with higher incomes are more likely to be obese than those with low income.
  • Higher income women are less likely to be obese than low-income women.
  • There is no significant relationship between obesity and education among men. Among women, however, there is a trend—those with college degrees are less likely to be obese compared with less educated women.
  • Between 1988–1994 and 2007–2008 the prevalence of obesity increased in adults at all income and education levels.


  • Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of preventable death.
  • In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.

1    Changes to the CDC’s BRFSS and to exclusion criteria result in a new baseline for estimated state adult obesity prevalence starting with the 2011 data. Because of these changes, estimates of obesity prevalence from 2011 forward cannot be compared to estimates from previous years.    Shifts in estimates from previous years may be the results of the new methods, rather than measurable changes in the percentages. The direction and magnitude of changes in each state varies. These variations may depend on the characteristics of the population


August 13, 2012

The Privilege of Voting

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

My son just turned 17.  As he is nearing age 18, we were discussing the date of the first major election he would be eligible to vote in.  We determined it to be elections in 2014.  Perhaps his excitement has to do with him accompanying me at a young age as I would go cast my vote.  Or perhaps it’s also because he loves history and government. In any case, he is looking forward to the day when he can walk in to the voter’s booth and make his selections.

This is a privilege that many of us take for granted.  With the options that exist now, such as early voting in some states, there aren’t many excuses for us not to vote.   No matter what our political belief, we should take this responsibility seriously and celebrate it as a privilege of living in the US.

If you visit’s Voting and Elections section, you will find information on how to register to vote, become a poll worker, and learn more about the election process.  Although Presidential Election day – November 6 – is a few weeks away, each state has its own voter registration and absentee ballot deadline.  Check out the 2012 election calendar to look up deadlines and early voting times in your state.



August 10, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Helicopter Parents . . . At Work!

Cut the cord already! Helicopter parents have now extended beyond the higher education sphere and have entered the professional workplace of their adult children. So the question is; does an employer have to allow the non-employee parent of an employee to attend a meeting (e.g. a disciplinary meeting) the employer wants to have with the employee? According to Michael Patrick O’Brien, Employment law attorney for the Salt Lake City based, Jones Waldo law firm, “Generally, you can say no to these helicopter parents at work and insist that you will meet with your employee alone, without parental involvement. Of course, there are some circumstances where you might want to include a parent in a meeting or discussion. For example, if the employee has been injured, the parent may help the employee understand and function at the meeting. An employer is also required to accept Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) communications/notices from a family member, such as a parent, if the employee is unable to communicate due to his/her own medical condition.”

Click here to read an interesting article from HR Hero on some of the pros/cons of helicopter parent involvement in the workplace.


August 8, 2012

Driving Employee Engagement

Last week I took a look at the findings from a MetLife Benefits Survey showing the link between employee benefits and employee engagement.  Seems to be a very important topic of late – what does it take to engage employees? And how does that engagement drive an organization’s success?   As economies move through different phases (industrial to technological, for example) and different generations move in and out of the workforce (Gen X vs. Baby Boomers, for example), what’s important to workers is bound to change.  I often wonder though if employers over-complicate the idea of employee engagement.

Yesterday I attended an interesting lunch meeting where the keynote speaker was Don MacPherson, founder and CEO of a company called modernsurvey.  modernsurvey conducts and publishes a semi-annual survey:  “Employee Engagement across the U.S. Workforce”.  The findings of the study are compelling, be sure to check it out:

One of the critical ideas that Mr. MacPherson presented was ways in which managers, on a day-to-day basis, can drive engagement in an organization.  The list includes:

  • Personal engagement;
  • Recognition and appreciation on a regular and ongoing basis;
  • Career development;
  • Belief in the future of the organization; and
  • Compensation.

His research shows that belief in the future of the organization is the most important item on that list.  Without current information about vision, strategy, goals – both long-term and short-term – employees are likely to fill in the blanks themselves.  Honest, timely information about what’s happening, and engaging employees in that discussion, is powerful.

Really, how complicated is that?

Let us know what you are doing in your organization to drive employee engagement.

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