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May 29, 2014

BYOD and Distracted Driving – Making the Connection

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Safety2:13 pm

Some workplaces have begun encouraging employees to BYOD, “Bring Your Own Device” to work.  The use of smartphones and tablets are common and necessary in most businesses to enhance accessibility and communication.   BYOD, the practice of employees using their own mobile electronic devices for both personal and business purposes, has become more accepted as the workforce evolves into a more technologically advanced age.  With this new practice comes new risk.

One such area for BYOD workplaces, is making the connection of acceptable use of such mobile devices and driving safely.  The fact cannot be overlooked that distracted driving is at epidemic levels, much of it due to the use of electronic devices while driving.  Implementing a BYOD/distracted driving policy should reflect in part, that regardless of ownership of the device, employee or employer, certain restrictions shall apply such as:

  • Prohibiting the use of a hand-held device while operating a motor vehicle, to include answering and making phone calls; reading and responding to email; sending or receiving texts;
  • Requiring employees to drive to a safe place to park the motor vehicle to use a cell phone or other mobile device;
  • Changing voicemail greetings to inform callers that the phone will not be answered nor will messages/calls be returned while the employee is driving. 

It is noteworthy, that just because an employee is using their personal device, an employer can still be liable for an employee’s distracted driving that has fatal consequences.

Having a policy is a great start, but it needs to be enforceable.  The policy should be clearly stated so that it is not difficult for the average employee to follow, nor should an employee be punished for not answering the boss’s call immediately while driving!


Sources:   DiBianca, Molly.  “The Role of a Distracted-Driving Policy in a BYOD Workplace.”  Available here.


November 13, 2013

When Workplace Bullying Crosses the Line

Filed under: Safety — Tags: 8:18 am

Unfortunately, some people never really grow up!  They are still child-like in their social behaviors which can wreak havoc on a workplace.  How far should such behavior be allowed to progress, before it crosses the line from irritating and frustrating to illegal behavior?  Here are some questions for employers to think about:

  • Who is the target?  Many times a workplace bully will target the weak or those they perceive to be weak.  This could include older employees, individuals with disabilities, and possibly the pregnant employee.  What do these individuals have in common?  They are protected categories of employment and targeting them is illegal discrimination.
  • What makes them different?  Bullies also target individuals that are different from them.  Again, they could be crossing a line into illegal discrimination if they are targeting individuals of the same race, color, sex, religion, or national origin.
  • Why, now, are they suddenly a target?  If an employee recently filed a worker’s compensation claim, was gone on military or FMLA leave, or turned any age 40 or over, and suddenly becomes the bully’s target, this could qualify as illegal discrimination or retaliation in the eyes of the law. 

Other areas for employers to consider when dealing with bullying behavior in the workplace is that some states have anti-stalking laws, with a few including cyberstalking.  However, workplace bullying is not illegal in any state.  Some states have unsuccessfully tried to pass such laws and others are pending, but not hopeful.  This means that a heavy responsibility falls on the shoulders of employers to step up and ensure their employment policies against workplace bullying are comprehensive and that they have a very clear reporting process in place for those directly affected by it.

Does your employment policy handbook need a review?  HRN can help!


Source:  Ballman, Donna.  “5 Ways Your Workplace Bully May Be Breaking the Law.”  Available here.


October 3, 2012

Flu Season: How to Stay Healthy

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Safety,Wellness6:00 am

It’s that time of year again!  Flu season!  In the close quarters of most offices, anytime someone coughs, sneezes, or blows their nose everyone cringes!  How can we protect ourselves and our co-workers from getting sick?  The website encourages annual flu vaccines and touts this as being the best way to protect yourself from the flu.  Flu vaccines are recommended for most individuals, ages six months and older.

Here are some other ways to avoid getting the flu and passing it to others:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Practice good health habits (get adequate sleep, exercise, eat healthy, and drink plenty of fluids).
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • If you have the flu, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever has returned to normal without the use of fever-reducing medications.

This is a good time to review your Attendance Policy to make sure that you have guidelines in place so your employees know when to go home if they feel ill to prevent an outbreak in your workplace.  You may wish to seek medical advice, and legal advice, too, when making such changes to your policy.

For more information click here.


August 9, 2011

Preventing Workplace Theft

Filed under: Privacy,Safety1:46 pm

Since the onset of the current recession, police departments all over the United States are reporting increased instances of theft, burglary, and robbery. According to the Police Executive Research Forum, 44 percent of police departments have reported such increases.

If you are at all like me or most people if they would admit it, you leave personal belongings out in the open at least occasionally. Have you walked away from your work computer for any length of time without locking it? Are you certain your office building secure from outside visitors? This gives criminals easy access to walk in to your office, and walk out with a variety of stolen goods.

In addition to the company’s laptop that disappears, consider the loss to the company’s intellectual property – proposals, proprietary notes and reports, and other confidential information. Consider, too, your employee’s sense of safety and trust that their employer can take care of them.

Many of these thieves watch office buildings and know when the opportunity is just right. Using common sense and training your employees on what to do can go a long way in preventing these thefts.

  • Don’t let someone “tailgate” (follow behind you) to gain access to your building. Card readers are there for a reason: to prevent unauthorized people from getting in.
  • Leave your personal items (purse, keys, etc.) in a locked drawer – be sure to take the keys with you! If you don’t need something, leave it at home.
  • Use visitor badges to identify strangers that are supposed to be in your office, such as the telephone maintenance person. Anyone without a badge will stick out and raise suspicion. Keep it simple – the badges don’t have to be anything special, just something that identifies individuals as visitors.
  • If you see a stranger in your office, you don’t have to confront him or her yourself. Call the police or your security officer. If you choose to confront him or her, asking something as simple as “Can I help you?” is sometimes enough to deter the person.
  • If you are the last person to leave your office at the end of the day, check your co-workers’ computers, copiers, and critical files to be sure they are all secure.

Above all, communicate this to your employees and explain the reasons for your safety measures. If everyone is held to the same standards, this could help them recognize a shady character lurking about. For more information, and a security quiz, check out the USDA’s Office of Procurement and Property Management,


December 22, 2010

What are the 10 Most Dangerous Jobs?

Filed under: Safety3:02 pm

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the workplace has never been safer.  In 2009, 4,340 people died at work, that’s down 16.8% from 2008.   Despite some terrible mining and oil rig disasters, last year’s death rate of 3.3 deaths per 100,000 workers is the lowest ever reported.   The most dangerous job is fisherman (200 deaths per 100,000), followed by logger  (62 fatalities per 100,000), then pilots (57 per 100,000), farmers/ranchers (36 per 100,000), and then roofers, ironworkers, sanitation workers, industrial machinists, truckers/drivers,  and construction workers.

While a decline in the number of deaths is certainly a good thing, some of that is most likely due to the high unemployment rate, particularly in industries like construction, which see more workplace accidents.


March 4, 2009

Federal Court Upholds Workplace Gun Law

Filed under: Safety — Tags: , , , , 11:06 am

A federal appeals court has upheld an Oklahoma law that requires employers to allow employees to keep guns in locked vehicles, even when on employer property.

Specifically, the Oklahoma law prohibits any “person, property owner, tenant, employer or business from establishing any policy or rule that has the effect of prohibiting any person, except a convicted felon, from transporting and storing firearms in a locked vehicle on any property set aside for any vehicle.”

Several employers challenged the law when it was passed in 2004 by the Oklahoma legislature. The employers won the first round of the legal battle when an Oklahoma federal trial court judge ruled that the state law was trumped by the federal Occupational Safety Act.

The appeals court reversed, however, principally because OSHA, in 2006, declined to adopt a standard on this issue and instead decided to defer to state and local authorities. Seven other states (Minnesota, Alaska, Kentucky, Kansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Florida) have similar laws on the books.


July 29, 2008

Suicide Tied to Work Injury Ruled Compensable

Filed under: Safety — Tags: , 7:59 am

A suicide sufficiently connected to an industrial injury is compensable under Nevada’s workers’ compensation system, the state’s highest court has ruled.

State law barring family members from collecting workers’ comp benefits if a worker’s death resulted from a “willful intention to injure himself” does not apply when a “sufficient chain of causation is established,” the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in Sharon Vredenburg v. Sedgwick CMA and Flamingo Hilton-Laughlin.

To establish such a chain, claimants must demonstrate that the employee suffered an industrial injury that in turn caused a psychological injury severe enough to override rational judgment. Claimants must then establish that the psychological injury caused the employee to commit suicide, the court said.

The decision stems from a back injury that Danny Vredenburg, a bartender, suffered from slipping on a flight of stairs, causing disc derangement in several locations along his spine, court records show. Despite surgery and the use of pain medications and anti-inflammatory agents, he continued to experience pain.

A doctor diagnosed Vredenburg as psychologically destabilized because of his chronic pain and recommended that he claim permanent disability status. When Vredenburg killed himself, a second doctor opined that Vredenburg did so because of the unrelenting pain, and his spouse then filed for death benefits.

But the insurance administrator for Vredenburg’s employer ruled that the doctor’s opinion lacked a medical rationale linking the suicide to his industrial injury and denied the claim.

A workers’ comp appeals officer agreed, and a district court denied the claimant’s petition for judicial review. But the Nevada Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for proceedings consistent with its opinion.

Source: Roberto Ceniceros of Business Insurance.