Personally, I remember when there were BBSs (Bulletin Board Systems), think back before Windows, AOL, and even CompuServe. Here is a good one, I remember when I had a 9600 baud modem, and my green screen computer. Those days are long gone, now most people have smart-phones, you may even be reading this on one, now to think about it, I remember owning a bag-phone, then a brick-phone that could store 9 numbers!!! That was the height of technology then, now my smart-phone can store over 300 numbers, and can surf the net, and has specialized apps for all these social networking sites such as Twitter, Face book, LinkedIn, and the such.

If you have no idea what I am talking about, ask a teen-ager, they know them well, and so does many of your employees! These multitude of sites have a great networking asset side, but also sometimes has an addiction, if not a possible breach of confidentiality associated with them. Take for example, Company A is doing some work for a federal agency, and someone takes out a smart-phone or when they get home tweets about what work they did at the job-site, that could be considered a breach of security. As another example is Company B. An employee overhears a rumor about a relationship in the office, and posts it on their face book account, which not only will they see it, but every person that they are friends with will also see it and so on and so on, which could cause strife in the office, if not a toxic workplace.

Many employers are now going with Social Networking Policies aimed directly at slowing, if not ceasing this activity. When a person makes a statement on these sites, and in their profile it says that they work for ABC Company, those statements could be miss-construed as a company authorized statement if not properly worded. What one person reads as a jovial post, another may perceive as a factual statement.

Perception is the word of this post, perception which is what a person thinks a statement means, can be positive, but could also be negative, if not destructive for business. Can an employer ban a person from being a member of these sites? No. Can an employer have a policy in place whereas employees that post about work quantify the post with a single line saying that they are not representing the company? Yes.

I am sure that everyone has seen the commercials on television (those are the things you fast forward through using your DVR, or Ti-Vo) about the young lady that is constantly asked What are you going to post next?, culminating at the end of the commercial where a person playing the part of a predator asks for that young lady post something really personal. There are true dangers when posting private information on the internet, as there are lots of people that can read it, save it, if not warp it into something truly destructive.

Is this supposed to be a terrifying post, no. This post is just to shock you as the business owner/manager to what may be out there. A correctly, and legally written social networking policy is something that may be daunting to business owners/managers. This is why People Wise is here, to assist, we have members on staff that can assist your company become more productive by releasing your worries about HR issues such as this. Contact us, and we can assist.

Oh, and by the way, The statements in this post where the word “I” have been used do not reflect the standing of People Wise in any way, and must be considered an editorial by the author of the post.

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Who Owns What?

July 23, 2010

This is a touchy subject, but an important one. This is not a full list, as it could be a 5000 word posting, but there can be confusion at times, as to who really owns what in a business. Here are some limited examples:

An employee is utilizing work e-mail on a work owned computer to send and receive personal e-mails. This is an example of business owned property. When an employee utilizes the work e-mail address(s) to do anything outside of his/her actual position (i.e. political information, religious information, etc.) that e-mail is actually the property of the company, and therefore can be construed as company property. Anything stated in that e-mail as well as any content to and from that e-mail account is defined as company property.

An employee utilizes a work owned computer or even a personal computer attached to the companys internet connection is the companys property. There is a new side to this, and that is the utilization of a USB Modem (These can be purchased from a myriad of different providers), but the employee that utilizes their own personal lap-top or net-book on the company internet services, the content itself is the property of the company, not the employee.

An employee utilizes a work issued, or paid for cell-phone (The company name is the main payable on the phone), and uses it for non-work phone calls. The company itself has the authority to review calls made on that cell phone, as well as any charges that may be present on the bill. For instance:

Employee A Uses their company-owned cell phone to call friends after hours and talk beyond the minute limit, therefore incurring excess charges (these can range from over the limit minute usage, or even roaming minutes).

Employee B Uses their company paid for cell phone to download ringers or they decide to text a message to one of the pay per text services (i.e. KGB), and incurs excess charges.

In both of these circumstances, the company has the right to review and ask the employee to pay for the charges, start a disciplinary action, or even just confiscate the company-owned phone.

Here are a couple of other touchy situations that come up with the question of Who owns what?

Employee C has a locker on the job-site, with a lock on it. There is a question of some sort of illegal or other justifiable issue that comes up (drugs, theft, material of a questionable nature like pornographic material), the employer has every right to cut the lock or ask the employee to take the lock off to search the locker. As the locker itself is company property, to where the belongings are employee owned. In the event of a questionable illegal material, a law enforcement individual may need to be present.

Employee D drives a company-owned vehicle (the company name is on the title), and is suspected of carriage of materials that are contrary to business purpose (drugs, or materials of a questionable nature, etc.) That vehicle can be searched at any time, without express notice, and anything inside that vehicle can be considered company property.

Employee E drives a company paid-for vehicle (the company provides substantial financial assistance to the vehicle, but the company name is not on the title), the belongings inside this vehicle are NOT considered property of the company, even though the vehicle is subsidized by the company (mileage reimbursement, insurance reimbursement, etc.)

Having a clear and concise policy about what is owned by the company, as well as who owns what, can be a complex situation, something that People Wise can assist you with, contact us for a free consultation!

Assessing your job descriptions and making them compliant with FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) should be done on a regular basis. This will assist a company in not only protecting themselves, but also allowing the employee to know what is expected of their position. For example:

1. Job A Has no FLSA Job Description, and hiring of an employee that you believe can do the job, can cause issues down the line when it is not clearly and legally stated that the job requires certain things, such as lifting, bending, stooping, and the percentage of the time of each of these.

2. Job B Has a FLSA Job Description that is presented to the candidate or current employee so that they know what exactly is required of them. Is this a way to get rid of an employee? No. Would this be a safety mechanism for the employer, Yes.

3. Job C Has no FLSA Job Description, and the company states that pregnant women cannot work in this position due to chemicals that may cause birth defects in unborn children.

In and amongst these three jobs there are dangers, cautions, and positives. They are:

– Dangers FLSA allows for an employer to only write a job description that informs the employee, not restrict the employee (i.e. Cannot work inside of a building, Cannot work in a certain area) Under no circumstances should an employer re-write a job description in order to cause an employee to be either re-assigned or terminated.

– Cautions Perfect example is Job C, as writing in the FLSA that there is a possible danger to Pregnant Women who work around chemicals that cause birth defects. You cannot keep a pregnant woman from working in that position, but even a waiver is loose for protection of the employer in case of litigation. One of the numerous chemicals is Ethylene Glycol Ether, checking your properly written Safety Manual and MSDS will tell you which ones are dangerous to this protected class of worker.

– Positives If the FLSA job description states clearly that there is repetitive lifting of 50 pounds of more, then an applicant that cannot do that, could be by-passed for one that can. For instance, John Doe applies and John has no ability to constantly lift 50 lbs or more, and Jane Doe applies for the same position and she can lift the weight, Jane is the obvious choice.

FLSA Job Descriptions can be confusing and if not done correctly be pages and pages long, to where if done correctly after an audit of these descriptions, simple and clean. There should be no or very little grey area in the description because that grey area is where employers get in trouble.

Call People Wise of Missouri, Inc. to complete this task, it is something that can give you as the employer a safety net, or a benchmark for issues that may arise.

This question is one that several employers ask themselves. To answer this question simply, protection. An effective, correctly written Employee Handbook can assist an employer not only protect them, but also cover themselves in the event of an Employee issue.

The Employee Handbook lists not only what an employer expects of an employee, but also what an employee expects of their employer. This relationship between employer and employee allows for the equal exchange of information, whether the company has 2 employees or 25,000 employees. Some of the many items that are in an effective handbook are:

1. Key Employment Policies

2. Federal Law Commitments

3. Definition of Employment.

4. Harassment Policies

5. Disciplinary Definitions

This Employee Handbook can be done with both At-Will employers, as well as C.B.A. (Collective Bargaining Agreement) employers. The wording within the handbook may be different with the two types, but the meat of the sandwich remains the same. Even if you have multiple locations in a city, state, or national, the verbiage or meat of the sandwich may be applicable to one place, but may need to be changed in another locality.

You do need to ask yourself as an employer, Do I have an effective Employee Handbook? If you cannot truthfully answer it with a resounding Yes, then a Handbook Legal Compliance Audit is in dire need. Writing an effective Employee Handbook in itself is not an easy task for business owners, as they have to run their businesses, not research the ins and outs of the applicable laws.

So take a moment, look around your desk, and find your Employee Handbook, and look at it and see if you are confident in it. If you are not confident, or if there is a single doubt about your Employee Handbook, it is time for an audit. These audits are simple and easy with a turn-around of about a work-week.

Call People Wise to complete this task, it is something that can give you as the employer a safety net, or a benchmark for issues that may arise.