roadIf you had a million dollars (or more) to investigate your culture, what would you find out? (Music fans may appreciate the classic “If I Had a Million Dollars” song from the Barenaked Ladies. You’re welcome.)

Well, Uber engaged a lawfirm, Covington & Burling, and the former Attorney General Eric Holder to do just that — interviews with over 200 people, reviews of over 3 million documents — and discovered a lot.  It isn’t pretty.

Thankfully, the firm released its recommendations for all the world to see. In doing so, the report actually can serve as a bit of a road map of what to do at your company if you have some similar issues.  All for free.

You can and should review the report here.  There are some specifics that won’t be helpful — like allocating the responsibilities of the CEO.  But there are many others which show what the best practices are at companies in 2017.  Here are a few to get you started:

  • Use Performance Reviews to Hold Senior Leaders Accountable.  This recommendation is straightforward, but suggests that companies should have metrics that are tied to “improving diversity, responsiveness to employee complaints, employee satisfaction, and compliance.”  If you don’t hold senior leaders accountable, things will fall through the cracks.
  • Increase the Profile of [] Head of Diversity and the Efforts of His Organization.   This recommendation suggests something that may come as a surprise to some companies but reflects a growing shift in corporate culture, that is, that an “empowered senior leader who is responsible for diversity and inclusion is key to the integrity of” a company’s efforts.  Note the dual emphasis. As the report later explains, “It is equally important that the role address both diversity and inclusion. Diversity is generally viewed as focusing on the presence of diverse employees based on religion, race, age, sexual orientation, gender, and culture. Inclusion, on the other hand, focuses not just on the presence of diverse employees, but on the inclusion and engagement of such employees in all aspects of an organization’s operations.”
  • Human Resources Record-Keeping.  With the buzz about data, this recommendation reflections the growing wisdom that a company should have “appropriate tools, including complaint tracking software, to keep better track of complaints, personnel records and employee data.”  More than that, a company should “emphasize the importance of record-keeping to all Human Resources staff, and impose consequences for failure to adhere to record-keeping requirements.”  In other words, no longer should HR be viewed as secondary to a company’s mission. It’s front and center.
  • Training, Training, and Training.  I’m cheating a bit on this one because the report actually breaks down training at various levels, but the need for training is emphasized for senior leaders, HR staff, and managers.  And more than that, the company should also “require employees who routinely interview candidates…to undergo training on interviewing skills, conducting inclusive interviews and unconscious bias.”

There’s much more to the report, including additional suggestions specifically on diversity and inclusion efforts.   It’s a helpful roadmap for all companies.

 

As I’ve highlighted before, I’m fortunate to serve as a delegate to the American Bar Association House of Delegates, which meets twice a year.

I was less fortunate that the Midyear Meeting this year was in Chicago, which was even colder and snowier than Connecticut.

At Monday’s House meeting, there were several resolutions passed. The most interesting for employers, was the clunky-named “Model Principles of the ABA Model Business and Supplier Policies on Labor Trafficking & Child Labor”.

In doing so, the ABA urged business to adopt and implement their own business and supplier policies that are consistent with the principles.

Among the model principles:

Principle 1—The Business will Prohibit Labor Trafficking and Child Labor in its Operations.

Principle 2—The Business will Conduct a Risk Assessment of the Risk of Labor Trafficking and Child Labor and Continually Monitor Implementation of this Policy.

Principle 3—The Business should: (i) Train Relevant Employees, (ii) Engage in Continuous Improvement, and (iii) Maintain Effective Communications Mechanisms with its Suppliers. 

Principle 4—The Business will Devise a Remediation Policy and Plan that Addresses Remediation for Labor Trafficking or Child Labor in its Operations.

Now, I am under no illusion that this topic may seem dated to some.  But it actually is designed to tackle a current and significant issue.

Indeed, recent statistics show that there are nearly 21 million men, women & children who are subject to forced labor world-wide.  And child labor stands at nearly 168 million.  With globalization on the rise, these model principles can be used for businesses to help curb the use of children in making products, for example.

Businesses that adopt a form of these policies may be able to make sure that their supply chain is free from the use of child labor through monitoring, due diligence and verification.  Notably, the policies are not designed to be used as a basis for criminal or civil liability. Rather, these best practices are designed to make it easier for companies that want to highlight this issue, to implement practices that are consistent with that desire.

If this issue touches your company, you may want to take a look at this and see if it is of use to you.  Kudos to the ABA’s Business Law Section for taking the lead on this important topic.

Have you heard of Justine Sacco?

If you’re on social media, it was hard to avoid over the weekend. She was the public relations professional who posted an offensive tweet on Friday before boarding a plane to South Africa.

Never mind that she had only 200 or so followers when she made the tweet.  By the time she got off the plane, a firestorm had erupted on Twitter that was arguably unlike anything that we’ve seen in some time.

Boing Boing has a detailed account here, but in case you missed the story, here’s the basic outline:

As she embarked upon a long flight to Africa, PR staffer Justine Sacco issued this tweet. At best a darkly ironic self-deprecation that could never fit into 140 characters, it resulted, within bare minutes, in an internet-wide scandal. Even as the plane is still in the air–Sacco presumably oblivious–there [was] a hashtag, #HasJustineLandedYet, a parody account, @LOLJustineSacco, a fake movie poster, and, God help her, a whole entire New York Times article, replete with a stunned disavowal from her corporate employers.

The meme was incredible and fueled by the fact that she was on a long flight — with no internet. By Saturday, Sacco was fired.

Continue Reading Offensive Tweets and Twitter Justice: The Tale of Justine Sacco for Employers

Interested in social media for business but wondering how to deal with a policy to manage it?

Central Connecticut State University’s Institute for Technology & Business Development is sponsoring an executive breakfast series seminar on October 3, 2013 from 7:30-9:30 a.m. on Social Media Policy.

I will be among the panel of speakers discussing the subject.  Along with me, will be:

  • Jessica Rich, Director of Operations and Employee Services at The Walker Group;
  • Suzi Craig, Director of Opportunity & Engagement at Fathom;
  • Rob McGuiness, Manager of E-Communications at Pratt & Whitney

In this presentation, we will be covering both the legal aspects of social media policy but also best practices for you and your company to follow.

The executive breakfast program is just $25 and open to the public.  My thanks to CCSU for the invite and TD Bank for its sponsorship of this event.

It will be held at the ITBD headquarters at 185 Main Street, New Britain, CT.  You can RSVP here to attend.  Hope to see you all there.

For additonal background on social media policy, see some of my recent social media policy posts here and here.

Saved By The Bell?

What a great turnout we had on Tuesday for our presentation on addressing the challenges of “going mobile” from a company’s human resources perspective.  My thanks to Kris Dunn, the moderator, who put the panel together. 

Other speakers were Madeline Laurano of the Aberdeen Group and Jessica Lee of Marriott.  If you’re not following all of them on Twitter, you’re missing out.

Mobile device use and adoption continue to grow at very high rates.  The introduction of a no-contract iPhone (just announced) will only increase the penetration rate of smart phones as well. 

One of the topics we discussed was whether a company should have a mobile device policy and what should be contained in it.  Fortunately, there are a lot of online resources to point people too.

Jon Hyman, of the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog, has recapped 10 things that your mobile device policy should consider here.  And Stephanie Thomas, of the Proactive Employer, discusses the risks of a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy here as well. 

As I said at the presentation, I’d suggest focusing on three core items when thinking about your policy (and add the usual caveat that you should seek legal advice on adopting your own policy to ensure compliance with state and applicable federal laws):

1) Does your policy address the fact that non-exempt employees need to be paid for time worked? If they are checking work e-mail for the purpose of responding and doing work (even on their own personal device), it may be considered work.  So, have clear rules for non-exempt employees about what they can and can’t do with their smartphones during non-working hours.

2) BYOD policies should be thoroughly vetted to address issues such as monitoring, security, and privacy. IBM, for example, recently required its employees to disable Siri on their iPhones.  What happens, for example, if the employer is doing a sex harassment investigation? What access will the employer have to text messages on those devices?  

3) Many states have restrictions on using phones or texting while driving.  It may make sense to have your specific policy suggest that employees not use their phones with driving.

This is still a growing area of law and growing area of concern for HR departments.  As you review your technology policies (many of which haven’t been updated in over a decade), consider adding provisions that address the issues above.

Last week, I had the great fortune of being interviewed by the Lexblog Network — which help provide support to this blog.  The interview focused on best practices for employers in engaging in social media.

A few tidbits: We did this interview via Skype. If that’s not cool enough, I did so using my iPad on a wireless connection.  That’s it. No fancy microphones. No expensive cameras.  Truly amazing.

If you’re an employer, though, just think about how your employees could use the same technology — both in positive and negative ways.  As I’ve said before on this blog, the days of employers relying on firewalls to keep data from walking out the door are quickly disappearing with the widespread use of smartphones and tablets.

With Passover and Easter coming up this week, it seems timely to revisit the laws regarding religious discrimination and accommodation.

Fortunately for you (and me), the Employment & Labor Insider just posted a terrific piece on the subject.  Among the issues that the post flagsis the common situation of an employer who tries to decide what is and is not a proper religious belief.  

In fact, when considering a request for a religious accommodation, the employer should make only two judgments: (1) is the belief "religious" in nature, and (2) does it appear to be sincerely held? The employer should not be assessing whether the religious belief is "valid."

Put another way, it is not necessary to get into theological debates when asked for a religious accommodation. This is the case even if the employee’s belief seems "ridiculous" to the employer

Other issues that may come up are how to verify the need for a religious accommodation, "preaching" to co-workers or subordinates, and banning all talk of religion in the workplace.

Back in 2008, I highlighted a then-new publication by the EEOC about religious discrimination in the workplace. It’s still worth a read today because of its "best practices" section.  Among the suggestions:

Among the suggestions:

  • Employers should have a well-publicized and consistently applied anti-harassment policy that: (1) covers religious harassment; (2) clearly explains what is prohibited; (3) describes procedures for bringing harassment to management’s attention; and, (4) contains an assurance that complainants will be protected against retaliation. The procedures should include a complaint mechanism that includes multiple avenues for complaint; prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations; and prompt and appropriate corrective action.
  • Employers should allow religious expression among employees to the same extent that they allow other types of personal expression that are not harassing or disruptive.
  • Once an employer is on notice that an employee objects to religious conduct that is directed at him or her, the employer should take steps to end the conduct because even conduct that the employer does not regard as abusive can become sufficiently severe or pervasive to affect the conditions of employment if allowed to persist in the face of the employee’s objection.

For all those who celebrate, have a very Happy Easter and a Happy Passover (Chag Sameach).

The "egg" picture is in honor of both holidays which place special significance on it.

 

The EEOC issued new technical guidance for employers this week to provide them with some direction on how to deal with workers with caregicourtesy morgue fileving responsibilities.  

The document, "Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities," is available online here supplements previous guidance entitled "Unlawful Disparate Treatment of Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities".

As stated by the EEOC:

The best practices document provides recommendations for workplace policies aimed at removing barriers to equal employment opportunity for workers with caregiving responsibilities. Examples include personal or sick leave policies that allow employees to use leave to care for ill family members, flexible work arrangements, part-time opportunities with proportional compensation and benefits, and equal-opportunity policies that address unlawful discrimination against caregivers.

The examples that the EEOC provides are not earth-shattering. Indeed, most employers are likely following many of these practices. Nevertheless, the document should give employers some additional assurance that they will have the backing of the government in implementing certain programs.  

Among the best practice examples given:

  • Be aware of, and train managers about, the legal obligations that may impact decisions about treatment of workers with caregiving responsibilities.
  • Develop, disseminate, and enforce a strong EEO policy.
  • Ensure that managers at all levels are aware of, and comply with, the organization’s work-life policies.
  • Respond to complaints of caregiver discrimination efficiently and effectively.
  • Protect against retaliation.

Several other blogs have provided some additional thoughts on the subject this week including the Delaware Employment Law Blog and the Ohio Employer’s Law Blog.  

For employers, add this to the seemingly never-ending list of areas for human resources to keep a close eye on.  

 

Although employment laws and regulations are typically seen as telling employers what NOT to do, there are some laws and initiatives by government agencies that give employers of ideas of what TO do, whether in terms of hiring practices or other programs.

One new directive by the The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs late last month is focused on promoting the hiring of veterans and encouraging employers to develop programs for veterans.

The Good Faith Initiative for Veterans Employment, or “G-FIVE,” is designed to create incentives for contractors to make significant efforts to hire and promote veterans. G-FIVE reaffirms the OFCCP’s commitment to the Vietnam Era Veterans’ courtesy morgue file "soldier"Readjustment Assistance Act and will provide recognition to companies with “best practices.”

What are the criteria that an employer will be judged?  Some of the listed factors are:

  • Evidence of covered veterans in the contractor’s labor force.
  • Evidence of an increase in the number of covered veterans in the contractor’s labor force.
  • The number of partnerships with local veterans’ service organizations to employ or advance covered veterans.
  • Established liaison with the state workforce agency job bank or the local employment service delivery system representative to facilitate the posting of their job listings. Whether appropriate job openings were sent to the state and/or local employment service delivery system and the number of veterans hired by the contractor during the AAP year.
  • Recruitment efforts at educational institutions to reach students who are covered veterans.
  • The number of job advertisements in the local community targeting veterans; and targeted recruitment of qualified covered veterans during company career days and/or related activities in contractor communities.
  • Affirmative action steps taken to attract qualified special disabled or disabled veterans through the nearest Veterans Administration job placement program. 
  • The number of on-the-job training opportunities provided to covered veterans.

Although this program is only for federal contractors, the guidelines that it sets provide a good starting point for employers to consider. 

With veterans returning from the war each day, there are certainly many qualified soldiers looking for opportunities.  For federal contractors, the OFCCP’s directive provides a two-for-one opportunity: getting recognized as an employer with "best practices" in hiring veterans, while also employing veterans who have served this country.

One other added benefit: Contractors that receive a G-FIVE rating will be excluded from an OFCCP compliance evaluation for three (3) years following the date the recipient receives the rating, unless there are some complaints or credible reports of a violation of federal law. 

The EEOC today released a new compliance manual section on religious discrimination in the workplace.  A press release from the EEOC is available here while you can download the actual section directly here.   

What is useful about the compliance manual section, according to the EEOC, is that it "includes a comprehensive review of the relevant provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the EEOC’s policies regarding religious discrimination, harassmenprayer on the brooklyn bridge, courtesy library of congress (flickr) t and accommodation. The EEOC also issued a companion question-and-answer fact sheet and best practices booklet."

So, what sorts of issues does the compliance manual section cover?

The Section addresses what constitutes “religion” within the meaning of Title VII; disparate treatment based on religion; the requirement to reasonably accommodate religious beliefs and practices; religion-based harassment; and retaliation. The Section also provides guidance on the sometimes complex workplace issues involved in balancing employees’ rights regarding religious expression with employers’ need to maintain efficient, productive workplaces.

For employers, the most helpful section is probably the "best practices" booklet, available here. There are a number of common-sense suggestions that are posted. Nothing is ground-breaking, but it’s a good resource, particularly coming from an agency responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws.

Among the suggestions:

  • Employers should have a well-publicized and consistently applied anti-harassment policy that: (1) covers religious harassment; (2) clearly explains what is prohibited; (3) describes procedures for bringing harassment to management’s attention; and, (4) contains an assurance that complainants will be protected against retaliation. The procedures should include a complaint mechanism that includes multiple avenues for complaint; prompt, thorough, and impartial investigations; and prompt and appropriate corrective action.
  • Employers should allow religious expression among employees to the same extent that they allow other types of personal expression that are not harassing or disruptive.
  • Once an employer is on notice that an employee objects to religious conduct that is directed at him or her, the employer should take steps to end the conduct because even conduct that the employer does not regard as abusive can become sufficiently severe or pervasive to affect the conditions of employment if allowed to persist in the face of the employee’s objection.

Overall, it’s a welcome addition for employers, and for employees who want to understand their rights better.