Archive for the 'Employment Policies' Category

Zo’s EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK PART IV: ANTI-HARASSMENT POLICY

This is going to be another lawyerly section of the Zo employee handbook.  Why, you ask, is this part lawyerly? Is there a law that requires you to have an anti-harassment policy? Well, sort of.  What the heck does “sort of” mean, Zo? It means that there is no statute that specifically requires you to have an anti-harassment policy, but the U.S. Supreme Court says that if you want to take advantage of a certain defense to a sexual harassment charge, you have to have a policy. And when the Supreme Court says we think it is a good idea that you have a policy. . . well, we lawyers tend to agree. One more thing to keep in mind, look at the title.  I like something like “Policy Against Harassment” not “Harassment Policy”.  The former makes if clear you won’t condone harassment, the latter makes it sound like you allow harassment as long as you do it by the rules.  Oh and it is an anti “harassment” policy, not an anti “sexual harassment” policy.  I just think it is a good idea to make sure employee’s know you won’t tolerate any harassment based on any protected category, not just sex or gender.  So, here we go:

POLICY AGAINST HARASSMENT

It is our policy here at Zo’s to provide a work environment free from harassment. Zo’s will not tolerate any conduct that violates this policy, and will promptly investigate and resolve all alleged complaints and take appropriate disciplinary action against employees who violate this policy.

Zo’s will not tolerate harassment of any employee by any other employee, supervisor, vendor or customer. Harassment for any discriminatory reason, such as sex, race, color, national origin, disability, age, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, or any other protected category, violates Zo’s policy.

Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or any other conduct of a sexual nature when:  (1) submission to the conduct is made, either implicitly or explicitly, a condition of employment; (2) submission to or rejection of the conduct is used as the basis for an employment decision affecting the harassed employee; or (3) the harassment has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the employee’s work performance or creating an environment that is intimidating, hostile or offensive to the employee.

You must exercise your own good judgment to avoid any conduct that may be perceived by others as harassment. See Rule 1 in this Handbook.  The following conduct is a partial list of these behaviors:

–                    Unwanted sexual advances

–                    Offering employment benefits in exchange for sexual favors

–                    Making or threatening reprisals after a negative response to sexual advances

–                    Visual conduct: leering, making sexual gestures, displaying of sexually suggestive objects or                                          pictures, cartoons or posters

–                    Verbal conduct: making or using derogatory comments, epithets, slurs and jokes.

–                    Verbal sexual advances or propositions

–                    Verbal abuse of a sexual nature, graphic verbal commentaries about an individual’s body, sexually                           degrading words used to describe an individual, suggestive or obscene letters, notes or invitations.

–                    Physical conduct: touching, assaulting, impeding or blocking movements.

If you believe that you have been subjected to conduct that violates this policy, you must report it immediately to your supervisor, to HR or straight to Zo. Any complaint of alleged harassment will be carefully investigated.  Should there be any violation of this policy, appropriate actions will be taken to correct the matter.. Do not allow an inappropriate situation to continue by not reporting it, regardless of who is creating that situation. No employee in this organization is exempt from this policy. In response to every complaint, Zo’s will take prompt and necessary steps to investigate the matter and will protect your confidentiality as much as is possible, recognizing the need to thoroughly investigate all complaints. Zo’s will take corrective and preventative actions where necessary. Zo’s will not retaliate against any employee who in good faith brings a complaint to the attention of Zo’s or participates in an investigation regarding a complaint. Any employee who violates this policy is subject to discipline, up to and including termination

Now that is a long one, and no doubt a lawyer wrote it, but hey . . . I am a lawyer after all; you can’t shake it all out of me.  You need this one in your handbook, and if you don’t have a handbook you need this one posted on a bulletin board or handed out to employees.

Zo’s EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK PART III. EEO POLICY.

This is the first policy, required by law, that we are going to have in the Zo’s employee handbook. Well, it is not really required by the law, you can’t discriminate, but are not technically required to have to have a policy like this, but trust me, you really want to have a policy like this to provide at least some protection if you get sued. An EEO policy is one of the first things the EEOC or the MDCR (or whatever your state agency is) is going to look at if you have a charge of discrimination filed against you. That means that this particular policy is going to read a bit more like it was written by a lawyer, although I’ll try to keep it in plain English as much as I can. So here we go:

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY

It is the policy of Zo’s that no employee or applicant for employment, will be discriminated against based upon age, race, color, creed, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, veteran status, or other protected class or characteristic established under applicable federal, state or local statute or ordinance.

Zo’s will not condone, permit or tolerate discrimination as described above.  Persons who engage in such discrimination will be subject to appropriate discipline up to and including termination of his/her employment.

If you feel you have been subjected to discrimination, or have witnessed any discrimination, please report it immediately to your supervisor, to HR or straight to Zo. Any complaint of alleged discrimination will be carefully investigated.  Should there be any violation of this policy, appropriate actions will be taken to correct the matter. Zo’s will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who in good faith lodges a complaint under this policy.

Now, that was not that painful, was it?  And not too lawyerly either, right? Here are a couple of things you need to know.

First, sexual orientation, which is included in the list of things we won’t discriminate against, is not a protected category under either Michigan(if you don’t live in Michigan and you are reading this, THANKS, and check your state’s laws. Several states do consider sexual orientation a protected category) or federal law. But at Zo’s we don’t care, we are going to include it anyway. Why? Because we think it is the right thing to do. Second, at Zo’s you can report a problem to your supervisor, or to HR or right to Zo.  You don’t need to allow people to report directly to the owner of the company, but like in a good harassment policy, you do need to give employees an alternative place to report. We will talk about that more in our next post, which will deal with . . . Anti-Harassment.

Zo’s EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK. . . . Part 2, The Rules: “Be Professional”

Last time we talked I gave you the intro page to my new “Zo’s Employee Handbook.” You might recall that I decided to write Zo’s Employee Handbook because when I was helping a client rewrite her company’s employee handbook she told me to write it like I was writing for my own company.

In part one of this little endeavor I gave you my introduction. Now I will admit, having gone back and read it again, that the page sounds more than a bit lawerly. But come on I am, after all, a lawyer. It is just not going to be possible for me to write something and not have some of what I learned in law school come to the surface, no matter how hard I try. Page 2 will be better, I promise.

Page 2 of my handbook is going to look like this:

THE RULES 

Here are the rules we expect you to live by here at Zo’s:

Rule 1.  Be professional.

Rule 2.  When doing your job or anything else at work, see Rule 1.

Yep. That’s it. Two rules that we expect you to follow whenever you are representing the company, dealing with a client or with each other or just doing your job. By “Be professional” we mean use that good judgment we know you have, always be honest, reliable and committed to doing your best. Be a team player and take personal responsibility for your actions. That is not always easy, but we know you can do it.

Here is the first thing you need to know about our rules. I borrowed them. Honesty, remember?  I wrote an article about the Tribune Company handbook way back in the Spring of 2008.  You can see the article here.  http://www.wnj.com/first_thing_we_do:_lets_kill_all_the_lawyers_spring_2008_hr_focus/.

Sam Zell and the Tribune company have a Rule 1 and a Rule 2 and they are very similar to mine.  I have changed them a bit, but the idea came from Mr. Zell.

The second thing you need to know is that these two simple rules cover everything you do at work. Thinking of starting a romantic relationship with a coworker? See Rule 1. Now think again. Thinking of harassing someone? Is that really professional? See Rule 1. Thinking of “fudging” an expense report? Yep. Rule 1 again. Want to exaggerate the performance of the company’s products in an Internet chat room? Rule 1 again.

In fact, I defy you to find a situation at work — your work or at Zo’s — that Rule 1 and Rule 2 don’t cover. You can’t, can you? Of course not.

You see, you may not need a list of 40 things you expect your employee not to do. And then again you may. But at Zo’s we are not going to have that list. We are going to expect our supervisors and employees to know what is right and what is wrong.

Now that means that we are going to have to pay a lot of attention to who we hire; and a lot of attention to training and retraining. And that is going to cost some money. But in the long run, it should be money well spent.

Next time we will talk about EEO policies.

How to Write an Employee Handbook . . . The Great American Novel, or Just a Short Story?

It’s funny how things seem to go in cycles. For example, as the first half of this year came to a close I found that I was spending a lot of time reviewing employee handbooks. Now that could be because a lot of clients have let their handbooks sit. After all, times have been tight and employee handbooks are not exactly a priority in hard economic times. Or it could be because things are picking up in the merger-and-acquisition area and new companies mean new employee handbooks. Or it could just be that it is time for a new handbook for some of my clients. Kind of like spring cleaning — HR Policy cleaning.

One of the advantages of reviewing and helping to revise or rewrite a lot of handbooks all at once is that I get the opportunity to compare them. Almost side by side. You probably are not surprised to learn that there are as many different kinds of employee handbooks as there are different kinds of employers. Some run 70 or 80 pages and have a rule for everything. And then there are the bare-bones handbooks that only have what the law requires . . . well, a bit more than that, but not much.

So what is the right way to go, you ask? There is no right way and no wrong way. There are some policies that you have to have, either because some specific law requires you to have them or because it is just a good idea under the law. But the simple fact is that there is no law that requires you to have an employee handbook at all.

Why then, you ask, am I writing this post?

Two reasons: One, while the law may not require an employee handbook I think every employer should have one; even small employers. It is just a good idea and might even help you if you get into legal trouble. And the second reason? Because I had a client say something intriguing while I was talking to her about revising her company’s handbook. She said, “Write it like it was the handbook for your company.” My company? I never actually thought about writing a handbook that way. Until now.

Over the next couple of posts I am going to do just that: Write an employee handbook like I was doing it for my company. We will call the company “Zo’s” because that is what people at good old WNJ call me. So now that we have created Zo’s, let’s write a handbook. And here we go:

 

ZO’S EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK

HELLO 

This employee handbook was provided to you to say hello and help answer some simple questions you might have about your employment with Zo’s. It is not supposed to cover every question you might have or every situation you might encounter at work. That’s not possible. And even if we tried to do that, the thing would be hundreds of pages long. And let’s face it, you are not going to read a handbook that long.

So we are going to try to keep it simple, and we want to start by telling you one thing this handbook is not. It is not a contract of employment. Your employment with Zo’s is at-will. That means you can leave whenever you want and for whatever reason you want. Of course, it also means that we can ask you to leave whenever we want for whatever reason we want.

Some of the provisions in this handbook are required to comply with the law.  You will be able to tell which ones because they will sound a lot more lawyerly.  Others are just things we want you to know. Please take a second to read this handbook. It won’t take you long. And welcome to Zo’s.

And that would be page one of my handbook. Why an introduction, you might ask?  True, you don’t need one, you can dive right in to the substance. But an intro gives you a chance to sort of set the stage, give a tone to the company culture.  It may be light, like mine, or more formal if that is your corporate culture.  Another thing it does is give us a chance, right up front to introduce the at-will concept.  To tell people, in a way we hope is not threatening, that we can fire them whenever we want. Over the next couple of weeks, we will talk about what I would put in the rest of “my” handbook.

IF YOU WANT YOUR EMPLOYEES TO ARBITRATE, BE SURE TO TELL THEM

I’m not sure how many of you have arbitration agreements tucked away in your employee handbooks anymore, but if you do you might want to take a look at an opinion from the 6th Circuit issued Tuesday.

In Hergenreder v. Bickford Senior Living Group, LLC, which was decided on August 30, 2011, the 6th Circuit found that a reference to an arbitration requirement contained in an employee handbook did not bind an employee who sued Bickford for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The court stated: “Because there is no indication that Hergenreder was notified of the existence of the arbitration agreement, much less that she manifested an intent to agree to its terms” Ms. Hergenreder could not be held to its terms and she was allowed to sue in federal court rather than arbitrate.

When she was hired, Ms. Hergenreder was asked to sign a bunch of documents, including an acknowledgment that she had read and understood the employee handbook.  According to the court:  “The Handbook is divided into sixteen different sections, covering a wide variety of topics relevant to Hergenreder’s employment.  It begins by stating in Section I that “[i]t will acquaint you with the policies and procedures that apply to your employment,” but also that “[t]his handbook is intended as a summary only and is not a contract between Bickford Cottage and its employees.  A full copy of Bickford Cottage’s Personnel Policies is located in the Director’s office and may be viewed by any employee.”  Both parties to the suit agreed that the Handbook was not a contract of employment.

“What the parties did not agree on, however, is the significance of one sentence within Section XII, which is entitled “Employee Actions,” and which provides, in full, as follows:  “Dispute Resolution Process:  Please refer to the Eby Companies Dispute Resolution Procedure (DRP) for details.”

Bickford argued that this sentence in the handbook, which referred to a policy that was not in the handbook, compelled Ms. Hergenreder to arbitrate any employment dispute she had with Bickford, including herADAclaim.

The court agreed with Hergenreder and basically held that an agreement to arbitrate was not formed because there was neither an offer to enter into an arbitration agreement nor an acceptance of that offer.  The language in the handbook and the handbook acknowledgment simply did not, according to the court, amount to a valid contract to arbitrate.

So, what is the moral of this story?  If you want your employees to be required to arbitrate disputes, don’t bury that requirement in your employee handbook.  Instead, have a separate agreement to arbitrate and make sure the employee signs that agreement.

You can find the 6th Circuit’s full opinion at http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/11a0247p-06.pdf

 

Party Time – Is the Holiday Office Party Really Dead?

…or is it just so darn boring it seems that way?

I keep reading articles that say the time-worn tradition of the office holiday party, is dead. Dead, you say? Yes, dead. One article I read (really a very good one in Business Week—you can see it at http://www.businessweek.com/lifestyle/content/nov2010/bw20101117_106457.htm ) is even entitled “The End of the Office Holiday Party.”  As proof positive that the traditional office party is dead, the author, Joel Stein, reports that the Queen of England has decided to cancel “Buckingham Palace’s biannual Christmas party.”  Mr. Stein then cites a bunch of statistics from a bunch of studies showing how companies from BNA to, well, the Queen of England, are either not having a party at all or are cutting way back on how much they spend. 

Here is what is weird though. Mr. Stein then goes on to describe many companies that are having what you can conservatively describe as all-out bashes. One Internet company, he reports, is renting a football stadium, hiring bands and flying in celebrity endorsers of its service. Another company (a personal injury law firm, according to the article) is reported to have hired Sting to play its company holiday party. I have said it before and I’ll say it again, I might be on the wrong side of the v.

So is the office party dead or not? I don’t know. I DO know our office is having one, and Sting will not be performing, but it would be nice. Here is what I do know: I’m an employment lawyer, and while my job may not be to kill the office holiday party, it is my job to make it so darn boring that it seems like it is dead (just in case you didn’t get it, that was a joke).  With that in mind, here are some things to consider when setting up your holiday party. And instead of giving you my own thoughts on the matter I am going to borrow some thoughts from our esteemed associate Greg Kilby.  Greg wrote an article on this topic last year. If you want to read the full article you can find it athttp://www.wnj.com/office_holiday_parties–a_legal_minefield-12-4-2009_labor_law/. In short, here is what Greg suggested: 

  • Hire professional bartenders: Even if you have an open bar, it is better to have someone such as a bartender dispensing the alcoholic drinks. Instruct bartenders on when to limit alcoholic service. That way, gatekeepers limit the access to the alcohol and can prevent inebriated people from further imbibing.
  • Serve food: Make sure there are plenty of things to eat so that people are not drinking on empty stomachs; avoid having too many salty foods since these encourage people to drink more.
  • Have plenty of soft drinks: Provide sodas, sparkling juices, bottled water and lots of other appealing “soft” drink options.
  • Hand out drink tickets: Give all attendees a limited number of tickets for the open bar; once the tickets are gone, they can purchase their own drinks (reducing your liability) or drink the plentiful soft options.
  • Skip the alcohol altogether: Have an earlier holiday gathering, such as a lunch banquet, and do not serve alcohol.
  • Offer shuttles or taxis: Distribute free taxi passes, making it easy for employees to get to and from the party without driving. This way, employee can ride home that evening and back to work the next day in a cab.
  • Remind everyone of the policies: Before the party, circulate a memo reminding people of your sexual harassment policies; let them know that the policies apply to events outside of the 9-5 environment. Remind supervisors of the rules and what to do if they witness or hear of potential harassment.
  • Have a dress code: Suggest a dress code for the party that keeps things professional. Avoiding provocative dress can alleviate some forms of harassment.
  • Host a family event: Instead of limiting attendees to employees, invite their spouses or families. Consider inviting clients or business partners. The presence of other people may help keep the event appropriate.
  • Avoid certain traditions: While mistletoe may be your favorite decoration of the season, it really doesn’t belong in the office. Avoid anything that could contribute to an environment of harassment.

 

Happy Holidays.

EEOC ISSUES GINA FINAL REGULATIONS

I know all of you have been dying to see the final regulations issued by the EEOC under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).  Well, wait no more.  On November 9, 2010, the EEOC issued those final regulations. The first thing the final regulations provide is specific definitions for many of the terms that the law itself simply defines by making reference to other laws (for example, Title VII).  The regs then go on to tell you what you can’t do.  For example, you can’t “limit, segregate or classify” employees because of genetic information.  As an example, the regs say “an employer could not reassign someone whom it learned had a family medical history of heart disease from a job it believed would be too stressful. . .”  In addition, the regs prohibit discrimination or retaliation based on genetic information.  No surprise there.

So, what is new?  Well, the regs do help clarify what is meant by “requesting” genetic information.  For example the regs say “Request includes conducting an Internet search on an individual in a way that is likely to result in a covered entity obtaining genetic information; actively listening to a third-party conversation of searching an individual’s personal effects for the purpose of obtaining genetic information; and making requests for information about an individual’s current health status in a way that is likely to result in a covered entity obtaining genetic information.”  Ok?  So you can’t do an internet search looking for genetic information.  But what if you are a Facebook friend of one of your employees and you just happen to see some genetic information (i.e., “took mom to the Dr. today. Her Parkinson’s is acting up.”).  Have you violated the statute?  The regs say no.  In fact, they provide a specific exception for overhearing a conversation, expressing sympathy to a co-worker, and finding information “inadvertently”:

. . . from a social media platform which he or she was given permission to access by the creator of the profile at issue (e.g., a supervisor and employee are connected on a social networking site and the employee provides family medical history on his page).

But don’t forget, this exception only applies if you have permission to access the profile by the creator of the profile.  In other words, Not “friends” not allowed.

The regs also provide a so called “safe harbor” for employers who “inadvertently” receive genetic information in the course of seeking other permissible medical information.  Like say on your FMLA medical certification form.  To take advantage of the safe harbor, the employer must include language in the request for medical information.  The regs give the following sample language:

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) prohibits employers and other entities covered by GINA Title II from requesting or requiring genetic information of an individual or family member of the individual, except as specifically allowed by this law. To comply with this law, we are asking that you not provide any genetic information when responding to this request for medical information. ‘Genetic information’ as defined by GINA, includes an individual’s family medical history, the results of an individual’s or family member’s genetic tests, the fact that an individual or an individual’s family member sought or received genetic services, and genetic information of a fetus carried by an individual or an individual’s family member or an embryo lawfully held by an individual or family member receiving assistive reproductive services.

Oh, one last thing.  An employer who offers  health or genetic services as part of a wellness program is allowed to receive genetic information as part of the program as long as participation in the program is knowing and voluntary.  Voluntary means that when an employer offers incentives for participation in the program, the incentives must be paid even if the employee decides not to answer any question requesting genetic information.

From a practical perspective, at the very least you will want to update your FMLA, workers’ comp, and ADA forms (and any other form seeking medical information about an employee like disability leave forms) to include the safe harbor language.  You might also want to take a look at your wellness plan to make sure that it complies with the new final regulations.

IS YOUR DRUG TESTING POLICY GOING UP IN SMOKE?

Sorry, bad joke, but as you all know by now, in 2008 the people of the state of Michigan, in voter referendum, passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. See MCL 333.26421 et. seq. (Ok before you say anything about the spelling, I did not spell marijuana that way, the state did.)  The Act, among other things, provides for the use of medical marihuana under state law and “provide[s] protections for the medical use of marihuana” when recommended by a physician for “debilitating medical conditions.”  Section 4 of the Act specifically states:  “Sec. 4. (a) A qualifying patient who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business . . . for the medical use of marihuana . . . .” 

Seems pretty clear. You can’t fire someone for using medical marihuana, end of story, right? Not so fast my friends. You see, section 7 of the Act states:  ” (c) Nothing in this act shall be construed to require: . . . (2) An employer to accommodate the ingestion of marihuana in any workplace or any employee working while under the influence of marihuana.”

Are we all completely confused now?  A business can’t take disciplinary action against an employee validly using medical marihuana, but an employer does not have to allow an employee to work under the influence?  How can that be?

Well, we may just find out. A couple of weeks ago, a young man named Joseph Casias, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, filed suit against Wal-Mart alleging that he was discharged in violation of the Act and in violation of Michigan public policy. Mr. Casias alleges in his complaint that he has cancer that causes him extreme pain, that in consultation with his doctor he sought and was given a medical marihuana registry identification card and that he was in full compliance with the Act. Mr. Casias alleges that he only used marihuana once per day at home and never performed any work for Wal-Mart under the influence of marihuana. Unfortunately, Mr. Casias hurt his knee at work.  When Wal-Mart took him to the emergency room he was given a drug test. And of course, the drug test showed that Mr. Casias used marihuana. 

Now Mr. Casias alleges that he told the testing facility that he was a medical marihuana user and even showed them his card. He also alleges that he told his shift supervisor that he was a medical marihuana user and showed him the card and was told not to worry about it, he was not in trouble.  Then, Mr. Casias alleges, two weeks after the injury,  he was fired by the store manager. Mr. Casias claims he was told that Wal-Mart “does not honor” his registry identification card. In his complaint, Mr. Casias alleges that the knee injury that was the cause of the drug test was not a result of his use of marihuana and that he never worked under the influence of the drug.

I don’t know how this case will come out, and we are not likely to know for some time. There will be a trial, and then probably an appeal. But hopefully, now, finally, we will get some clarity about exactly how this law is supposed to work.

Don’t get too Mad . . . it’s only March.

I ran across an interesting post from Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., on their @Work blog. The headline of the post says:  “MARCH MADNESS REPORT:  Tourney Could Cost Employers $1.8 Billion.” You can see the whole thing here: http://challengeratworkblog.blogspot.com/2010/03/march-madness-report-tourney-could-cost.html.

Let me start out by saying this (I have to, I’m a lawyer). It is illegal to bet money in an office pool in Michigan. The Michigan Penal Code at MCL § 750.303 provides:

(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person who for hire, gain, or reward, keeps or maintains a gaming room, gaming table, game of skill or chance, or game partly of skill and partly of chance, used for gaming, or who permits a gaming room, or gaming table, or game to be kept, maintained, or played on premises occupied or controlled by the person, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00. A person who aids, assists, or abets in the keeping or maintaining of a gaming room, gaming table, or game, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment for not more than 2 years, or a fine of not more than $1,000.00.

Okay, now you know. For the next week or two employees are going to be a little less productive and it is illegal in Michigan to gamble. So a bunch of HR types might try to tell you that you really, really need an “Anti-March-Madness” policy.  Really? These wouldn’t be the same people that were telling you to hurry up and get that H1N1 policy drafted were they? I have an idea, let’s all just lighten up a little bit. First of all, according to the Freep.com.  “It is illegal in Michigan to exchange money based on an event with an undetermined outcome,” said John Sellek, the Michigan Attorney General’s communication director. “But this office has not received a complaint on what are traditionally known as March Madness activities.” See the article at http://www.freep.com/article/20100309/COL35/3090336/1025/Features07/Sports-pools-harmless-experts-say. And before you run out and cut off everyone’s access to the web, think of what that will do to morale.  I’ll bet (oops, can’t do that!) it costs a bit more in the long run. In fact, according to the same Freep.com article: 

Most companies don’t have a formal policy about office gambling, according to a January 2010 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The human resources professionals surveyed said employees were most likely to organize pools for the Super Bowl and the NCAA basketball tourney, but also used pools to bet on when a coworker was likely to give birth and the newborn’s weight and height. The pools helped boost morale, the survey found. Some 55% said office pools had a positive impact, while 41% said it had no impact.

So take it easy and enjoy the games. I have to run. I have a couple of brackets I need to fill out.

Time to “Friend” Your Social Networking Policy

So, when you read some of this, you are going to be confused.  Why you ask would he reference his blog, in his blog.  Because this is an article I wrote for our newsletter.  But I got a bunch of interest in it, so I thought I would post it here too.  So when you see a link to my blog in a blog post on my blog don’t fret.  The point is you need a social networking policy.  If you don’t have one, drop me a line, I can help.

Now why on earth would I be writing about social networking in the Newsletter instead of on my blog? (see, I told you you would be confused, stay with me) You all know I have a blog right? You know you can find it at http://negotiumlex.wnj.com/right? (of course you do, you are reading it) (How’s that for a shameless plug?) So why? Why not blog or tweet or post an update on Facebook about this topic? After all, that seems more appropriate, doesn’t it? Of course it does. (so I did)But here’s the deal. The people who read blogs or post on Facebook or “tweet” probably are already up to speed on this social networking stuff.  It is the rest of us, the old codgers that don’t tweet regularly who we want to talk to today. (oh boy was I wrong again, you guys are no more up to speed than us old codgers)You know who I am talking about. There is a bunch of you out there (me included, by the way) who hear “tweet” and think of a little yellow cartoon bird and a cat named Sylvester. And even more of you who are asking, “When did “friend” become a verb?” I’ll tell you what my kids tell me: “Dad, get with the times.” 

Why you ask, why do I have to get with the times? Good question. You see, if I don’t get with the times at home my kids think I’m “lame.” Let’s face it, nothing I can do to fix that so why bother. But if you don’t “get with the times” at work, it could cost you. And maybe cost you big. 

First of all, use of sites like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and others can seriously affect productivity at work. According to one survey simply surfing the Web by employees costs U.S. companies about $63 billion each year and use of social networking sites at work costs U.K. companies about $2.5 billion each year. That’s right, that’s BILLION with a big capital B. Seehttp://mashable.com/2009/10/26/social-media-productivity-cost/. And don’t think the U.S. and U.K. are alone. The Time of India calls social networking sites a plague on “India Inc.” seehttp://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/Social-networking-plagues-India-Inc/articleshow/5429382.cms; and even New Vision, which bills itself as “Uganda’s Leading Web site” says: “. . . the ‘majority’ of corporations ‘effectively lose close to 12.5% of total productivity each day since their employees keep accessing social sites.'”http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/220/705325 (by the way, I found these statistics surfing the web while at work so I had to write this post or I would be part of the problem not part of the solution) 

As if that wasn’t enough, hackers are now using social media sites as an entry into your company’s confidential information.http://www.expertclick.com/NewsReleaseWire/How_to_Hack_a_Corporate_Networkwith_Facebook,201030121.aspx

So what should you do? Have your IT department deny access to these sites to employees while at work? Maybe. That is your call and it will surely cause you some employee relations issues if you do. One thing I am sure of though is you need a social networking policy. A couple of things to keep in mind as you are doing one. You want to make sure employees know they have to protect confidential information. If employees are going to post to social networking sites from work or by identifying you (their employer) they should include a disclaimer. All posts, whether from work or home, should be respectful of coworkers and not violate your EEO or harassment policy; and finally, time on social network sites should not interfere with productivity at work. You might also want to have some rules regarding blogging, especially if employees have blogs as part of their jobs. (oh, and by the way, the FTC just recently issued some guidance on social media and product endorsements too) If you want to know more about social networking policies call me. By the way, did I mention I have a blog? (of course I did and thanks for reading it).

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