Archive for March, 2010

BREAST FEEDING MOTHERS GET A BREAK

So, is everybody Health-Care-Reformed out yet? Don’t you worry, this is just the beginning. It doesn’t matter whether you are (were?) for or against the health care reform bill, it’s here. And when the President signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law last week he gave employers a lot of reasons to pay attention. Allow me to give you an example.

Contained among the 906 pages of the Act are 3 little paragraphs that are going to have an immediate impact on employers.  Section 4207 of the Act amends Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act as follows:

Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 207) is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘‘(r)(1) An employer shall provide—
‘‘(A) a reasonable break time for an employee to express
breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s
birth each time such employee has need to express the milk;
and
‘‘(B) a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from
view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public,
which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
‘‘(2) An employer shall not be required to compensate an
employee receiving reasonable break time under paragraph (1) for
any work time spent for such purpose.
‘‘(3) An employer that employs less than 50 employees shall
not be subject to the requirements of this subsection, if such requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.

 OK, now everyone get a copy of the Act and get reading.

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).