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September 28, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Social Media in the Workplace?

Filed under: Communication,Compliance,General HR Buzz6:00 am

The following article was researched and written by HRN’s own Charisse Rockett and distributed as our September HR white paper. Welcome Charisse to the HRN team. To receive content as helpful and informative as this each month sign up to receive our free HR Legal Update and White Paper by visiting

Are you a social butterfly?  If so, then you are probably an avid reader, poster or blogger of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or other social media websites.  You probably “like,” and “accept” multiple times a day!

Social media has become the norm for many individuals, businesses and organizations.  It has become an acceptable and effective way to communicate with others who share similar interests and goals.  According to a Nielsen* report, “State of the Media:  The Social Media Report Q3 2011,” Americans spend a considerable amount of their time on social networks.  The report cites 22.5 percent of online time is spent on social networks and blog sites, while 9.8 percent is spent playing online games and 7.6 percent using email.

No doubt, social networks make a person feel connected.  They feel in-touch with the world around them, whether it is with friends and family, or a colleague with a professional connection.  The more time spent and the more comfortable people become with their social networks, the more information they share.  Sometimes too much information!

And, this is where employers should exercise caution.  In an effort for a diverse workforce, some companies have turned to social media websites to screen applicants.  Is this a wise decision?  Yes and no.  Yes, because what people post on their social network is usually a good indicator of their behavior, and behavior is a component which may be deemed a good indicator of future performance.  And, no, because viewing an applicant’s profile can cause the employer to learn more information about the applicant than can legally be considered when making a hiring decision, thus creating a potential bias factor knowingly or unknowingly.  Following are a few things to avoid if viewing an applicant’s blog for hiring purposes:

Personal Information – marital status, age, ethnicity, picture of self

Adverse Action – the result of a decision not to hire because of information gleaned that could identify the applicant as belonging to a protected class

Subconscious Bias – habits/hobbies/lifestyle queues that may not be in agreement with the hiring manager’s personal beliefs, therefore clouding his/her judgment

Genetic Information – knowledge of a family illness that could be hereditary, i.e. cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.

If an employer does decide to utilize this ever evolving tool, it would be best for Human Resources to have the responsibility for researching candidates rather than a hiring manager.  HR would be in a much better position to look only for information that would be potentially damaging from an employment standpoint rather than a discriminatory bias.  Employers will need to weigh the risk and decide for themselves whether social media will be used in their hiring decisions.

What about social media policies?  Again, employers have to decide how much, if any, social networking they will allow on work time.  Policies may have to be more relaxed when social networking is an integral part of an employee’s job.  Even the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has stated that employers may not take adverse action against employees who openly discuss the terms and conditions of their employment, because this constitutes a concerted activity.    It is important to remember that employees are protected by numerous laws when blogging about their workplace, so drawing a definite line as to right or wrong may not be advisable.  It would be wise to train managers to keep Human Resources apprised of any blog for which they have concerns and let HR consult with counsel if necessary.

While we cannot completely avoid the risk, we can certainly learn to manage it and make determinations that are best for our workforce and internal operations.  Whether you “like” it or not, social media is here to stay!

*Nielsen is a well-known source for television ratings and media research.


September 26, 2012

FCRA: All’s Fair, IF You Use the New Forms

Filed under: Compliance,Hiring & Jobs — Tags: 2:08 pm

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) has undergone a change in its enforcement agency.  Previously the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was responsible for the oversight of the FCRA, but that responsibility has shifted to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has only been active for about a year.  The shift began gradually but now the CFPB oversees many of the federal regulation’s rules.

The change in enforcement agencies has prompted the update of several required disclosures under the FCRA.  The changes will impact any employer using consumer reports or investigative consumer reports prepared by a consumer reporting agency to check credit or an applicant’s background.  Employers will need to comply and begin using the new forms by January 1, 2013.

The updates were revisions reflecting the change in the enforcement agency name and similar references from the FTC to the CFPB.  Notices impacted are the Summary of Consumer Rights (Appendix K), Notice of Furnisher Responsibilities (Appendix M) and Notice of User Responsibility (Appendix N).  These model notices for the updated disclosures are available by clicking here.

So . . . play fair and update your notices!


September 24, 2012

Minimum Wage Increase??

The United States House of Representatives has passed a measure prohibiting the federal government from issuing any new significant workplace regulations until the unemployment rate drops below six percent. The measure is unlikely to pass in the Senate. A bill has been introduced in the Senate seeking to increase the minimum wage to $9.80 per hour in three steps over the next two years. This bill is not expected to pass either the Senate or the House. Finally, a national retailer has agreed to pay over $2 million to settle an EEOC discrimination lawsuit. The case involved two plaintiffs–an employee who received numerous “sexting” cell phone text messages from a manager, and her supervisor who was fired after reporting the manager’s misconduct. The EEOC called it one of the largest settlements ever in an individual case (as opposed to a class action). I bet the involved perpetrator-manager did not text out that bit of news.

Be in the Know!

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September 21, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Investigation Confidentiality Instructions Questioned

Filed under: EEO,Employment Law,Legal Issues — Tags: , , , 6:00 am

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have issued separate statements calling into question the legality of blanket employer instructions given to employees to keep workplace investigations confidential. The NLRB recently decided that an employer’s complaint policy that required an employee not to talk with co-workers about his/her workplace complaints during an investigation violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) rule allowing employees to discuss workplace conditions with each other. This ruling applies in both union and non-union settings.

The NLRB said that rather than using a general blanket rule, an employer should only give such a confidentiality instruction in specific and individual cases where there is an established need to protect witnesses, avoid spoliation of evidence or fabrication of testimony or to prevent a cover-up. Employers probably should document specific findings of these possible problems before giving any confidentiality instructions and may want to update their policies to explain when such confidentiality instructions will be given. The EEOC’s critique of confidentiality instructions came in the form of a recent letter from a field office sent to an employer asserting that its confidentiality policy violated employee rights.

One of the issues the EEOC seemed concerned about was that the employer’s confidentiality policy was so broad it might be interpreted by employees as preventing them from going to the EEOC with complaints. Unlike the NLRB ruling, the EEOC letter does not have the force of agency law yet. Certainly, an employer should make sure that management and/or HR are not breaching the confidentiality of an employee’s complaint. However, the NLRB ruling alone should give employers pause before issuing confidentiality instructions to individual employees themselves. Various commentators are opining that it still may be safe to ask employees not to discuss the actual investigative interviews, given that this instruction still allows employees to discuss the underlying conduct with co-workers. This is probably one of those situations where the company’s employment lawyer should be consulted before a confidentiality instruction is given. It also is likely we may get further clarifications from the NLRB and/or the EEOC on this particular issue.


September 19, 2012

What Keeps You Hanging Around?

Do you feel pretty sure about what makes people want to work at your organization?  Feeling pretty comfortable that you are a great place to work? The American Psychological Association recently released the  “Workforce Retention Survey” as a part of its Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program.  It contains some interesting findings about why American workers choose to stay with an employer.

There were some notable differences in opinion between genders and between age groups.  In particular:

  • More women than men said both work-life fit (72% vs. 62%) and enjoying the work (72% vs. 63%) were reasons they stay with their current employer.
  • Women were more likely to say they stay with their current employers because of their co-workers than men (55% vs. 48%).
  • Just about half of women surveyed (46%) say their boss is a reason they stay on the job, while about one-third of men (34%) report they stay with their current employer because of their manager.
  • Fifty-seven percent of women said they stay with their employer for the money as compared to 62 percent of men.
  • Of those surveyed age 55 and older, enjoying the work (80%), work-life fit (76%), benefits (66%), feeling connected to the organization (63%) and having an opportunity to make a difference (57%) were cited as the top reasons for staying with their current employer.
  • On the other hand, those surveyed age 18 to 34 were least likely to say that enjoying their work (58%), work-life fit (61%), and benefits (54%) kept them with their current employer.  They did say that co-workers (57%) and managers (46%) were reasons to stay.

And finally, employees who say they plan to stay with their current employers for more than two years reported the biggest drivers of this longer term view were enjoying the work, having a job that fits well with other life demands and feeling connected to the organization.

What keeps you hanging around?


September 14, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Employment Law Briefs

Filed under: Employment Law,General HR Buzz6:00 am

The United States House of Representatives has passed a measure prohibiting the federal government from issuing any new significant workplace regulations until the unemployment rate drops below six percent. The measure is unlikely to pass in the Senate. A bill has been introduced in the Senate seeking to increase the minimum wage to $9.80 per hour in three steps over the next two years. This bill is not expected to pass either the Senate or the House. Finally, a national retailer has agreed to pay over $2 million to settle an EEOC discrimination lawsuit. The case involved two plaintiffs–an employee who received numerous “sexting” cell phone text messages from a manager, and her supervisor who was fired after reporting the manager’s misconduct. The EEOC called it one of the largest settlements ever in an individual case (as opposed to a class action). I bet the involved perpetrator-manager did not text out that bit of news.

Be in the Know!

To receive HR legal updates similar to this one sign up to receive the HRN’s free, bimonthly HR Legal Update e-newsletter. To register


September 13, 2012

Talking Benefits: Part 2 of 2

Filed under: General HR Buzz1:15 pm

Last week we took a look at some of the trends in employee benefits from SHRM’s 2012 Employee Benefits Surveys.  This week, I’ve taken a look at what employers are doing with employee benefits communications and surveys.  Here’s a summary of some of the trends and ideas:

  •  Have a strategy for communication that begins with the end in mind.  What behaviors do you want and how do you create a message to elicit these behaviors?  How do you ensure your message gets to the whole family and decision makers in particular?
  • Understand how employees prefer receiving information about their benefits.  Is there a preferred type of communication?  Does this preferred method vary by employee group?  For example, don’t forget to take into account generational differences.  Do younger employees prefer a different method than older employers? Remember the different learning styles too:  visual, auditory and kinesthetic/tactile and try to ensure a variety of communication methods; face-to-face, printed, online, webinars, podcasts, etc.
  • Provide employees enough time to decide on their benefits elections.  UNUM found in a recent study that allowing employees at least three weeks to review benefits options was ideal.  This timeframe gave employees the advantage of discussing options with other family members, attending informational meetings as needed, and doing additional research.
  • 4 simple things employees say they want.   According to Joann Swenson, a health engagement practice leader at Aon Hewitt, employees want the following:
  • Make sure the process easy to do.
  • Help in moving in the right direction.
  • Make the programs meaningful so they feel supported while trying to improve health.
  • Make the message personal so they know how to get the best value.
  • Conduct an employee benefits needs survey to understand what employees want.   Are employees satisfied with the benefits they currently have in place?  What other benefits would they like to see?  Make sure you include demographic identifies such as age, gender, location, and position, so you can understand what’s important to different groups of employees.  Conduct the survey at the beginning of the plan year, but after employees have had an opportunity to use their benefits, especially if some of them are new.  Share results with employees.

How do you communicate with your employees about benefits?  What are you doing in your organization to ensure employees are making good benefits decisions?  Do you conduct an employee benefits needs survey?  Let us know what you’ve learned over the years . . .


September 10, 2012

Commemorate the 11th Anniversary of 9/11

Filed under: General HR Buzz3:00 pm

September 11, 2001, is a day where we remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news of the terrorists attacks.  Tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of the terrorists attacks that took the lives of nearly 3,000 people. On the anniversary, a moment of silence at 8:46 AM (EDT) is being observed to honor those innocent victims.

Commemorations and Memorials are available to learn about 9/11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance; get information about memorials in New York, Washington, and Shanksville; and read about continuing security efforts and emergency planning at


September 7, 2012

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

Below is the second 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:

Part 2 of 2

9. How could social computing help your organization?
a) Professional contacts may use these methods to communicate with your employees.
b) May provide an opportunity to improve community presence or reputation.
c) Creates opportunity to get “the word out” about the company.
d) Can serve as a means to launch marketing campaigns.
e) Can put your company at a hiring advantage by using business sites as recruiting tools.
f) Provides the chance for employees to interact with those in their same fields, increasing employee knowledge, resources, and professional contacts.
g) Keeps morale high.
h) Keeps you in touch with your customers and obtains their feedback.
i) Provides information regarding products and services.
j) Is a means to respond to news stories.
k) Provides a service to customers and the public by answering questions and offering information.

A Few Items to Include / Consider for Your Policy

1. Require that all communications meet your existing policies’ standards regarding confidentiality and proprietary and sensitive information.

2. Ban the use of company logos, trademarks, etc., unless on company approved sites.

3. Remind employees that their online activities reflect on the company and that they should be respectful of coworkers, customers, vendors, and the organization’s reputation at all times.

4. Don’t infringe on copyrights, trademarks, etc.

5. Make it understood that employee violations of applicable policies and procedures may result in corrective action, up to and including termination.

6. Distinguish “at work” standards from “off hours” standards. In other words, what’s allowed at work?

Other Things to Consider

1. Ensure that your policy and or guidelines are appropriately communicated and distributed. Consider having employees acknowledge receipt (sign off) of the materials.

2. Update your policy and guidelines at least annually, with input from legal, HR, IT, and management. Keep in mind employee’s rights with reference to the National Labor Relations Board and recent case law in your specific state regarding social networking.

3. Make sure managers “buy into” and actively support your positions. Ensure that they fully understand their special roles in the company to serve as examples and to enforce company standards.

4. Train employees regarding your expectations.

Bottom Line

It’s difficult to change or control employee behavior under any circumstances. Given the widespread use of social media sites, a total prohibition against employee use (on and offsite) is unenforceable and possibly illegal. Yet employees need guidelines to follow. The goal then is to use common sense to use social networking in a manner that can help the organization and which does no harm to you, the employer. While that’s easier said than done, it’s important to be proactive and address the issue. It’s tricky to find the balance between ignoring the issue and acting as “Big Brother.”


September 6, 2012

HR Suite Update Released

HRN Performance Solutions is pleased to announce the release of it’s annual HR Suite update. As a centrally hosted online solution, the 10 new or updated HR Suite forms and 12 new or updated policy documents are immediately available to HR Suite clients via their secure and private account login.

This update is a regular service to HR Suite clients providing up to date and compliant HR documentation. Examples of what new or updated content included in this update are:

  • Employee Performance Improvement Plan
  • Return to Work Release
  • Certification of Health Care Provider for Employee’s Serious Health Condition (WH-380E
  • Certification of Health Care Provider for Family Member’s Serious Health Condition (WH-380F
  • Notice of Eligibility and Rights and Responsibilities (WH-381)
  • Certification of Qualifying Exigency For Military Family Leave (WH-384)
  • Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of Covered Servicemember — for Military Family Leave  (WH-385)
  • Employee Request for Leave of Absence
  • Application for Employment
  • Manager’s Acknowledgement of Receipt of Manual
  • Employee Handbook Receipt and Acknowledgement
  • Section 6120, Solicitation and Distribution Activities
  • HB Section 5120, Solicitation and Distribution Activities
  • Section 6030, Communication and Information Systems
  • HB Section 5030, Communication and Information Systems
  • Section 6040, Confidentiality

For more information about HR Suite and to attend a live demo  This annually renewable, content packed online HR compliance solution sells for the astonishingly low price of $595.

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