microphoneWith spring nearly upon us (one can only hope, right?), there are a number of upcoming programs that I’ll be attending or speaking at.

Some are free while others are related to the sponsoring entity.  I hope you can attend one and please feel free to come up to me to chat while we’re there.

  • First up, on March 17th, our firm is putting on our Labor & Employment Spring Seminar focusing on public sector topics.

    Among the topics being explored: Crisis Management; Security in Schools and Workplaces; Title IX Compliance; Trending Topics in Public Sector Negotiations; and, Off-Duty Misconduct.

    Registration is now open and is on first-come, first-served basis.  We expect this to sell out, so please be sure to register today here.

  • On March 23, 2016, my colleague Jarad Lucan and I will be speaking at the CBIA 2016 Human Resources Conference.

    Our topic is one that certainly hot: Namely, Why the NLRB May be Your Biggest Headache in 2016 — Particularly If You Don’t Have a Union.

    Registration is now open for this program as well.

  • And then on May 2, 2016, I will be making a return engagement to the Tri-State SHRM Bi-Annual Conference.

    The event, which is taking place in Rhode Island this year, features a number of tracks. I’ll be kicking things off on Day 1 with a program on Document Retention and Documentation Issues. My colleague Ashley Marshall will be joining me for this interactive and informative presentation.

    Registration is also open for this program now too.

I look forward to seeing you at one of these upcoming programs.

shrmprogramI’m pleased to announce an upcoming program that my firm, Shipman & Goodwin and the Connecticut State Council of SHRM are producing next month and that I’ve been planning for several months.

The program, entitled “Data Privacy & Human Resources” will be a unique endeavor for us.  First, we are planning on doing it in both our Hartford & Stamford offices at the same time.  Speakers will be in both locations (though obviously not the SAME speakers, for those grammar buffs).

On top of that, we will be broadcasting it live via a webinar.

What could go wrong?

Hopefully, nothing, because really, it should be very informative.  It’s scheduled for the morning of December 11, 2015.

The first hour will focus on the key things employers need to know about the revisions to the state’s new data privacy law. The second hour will talk about the very latest in human resources including the current status of the proposed overtime regulations and the state’s new social media privacy law.

It’s going to be fast-paced and informative. But space is definitely limited and within the first 48 hours of our e-mail alert, we’re already halfway to our in-person room capacity.

If you’re interested in attending, check out this link and register online. The cost is just $35, but this includes breakfast and the materials. (If you’re watching via webinar, breakfast is on your own — naturally.)

And if you’d like to see the flyer, you can download it here.

Real hackers are more fearsome than this one.

Okay, okay.  I realize the headline is a bit misleading.  But it isn’t every day that you hear about a data breach at Home Depot in which 56 MILLION credit cards may have been hacked. To put that into perspective, that’s 16 million MORE than the infamous Target breach!

But this is an employment law blog, not a shopping one. So, why does this matter to human resources professionals and companies? Because if hackers can access credit card information, they are going to try to hack into your work files.

It isn’t a matter of “if”. It’s a matter of when they will attempt to do so.

Don’t take my word for it. This comes from the head of the military’s cybersecurity division.  Admiral Mike Rogers has been preaching for months of the need for companies to take data privacy and cybersecurity seriously.  A recent news post reported on the importance Rogers has placed on this area for private businesses.

Corporations must successfully deal with cybersecurity threats, because such threats can have direct impacts on business and reputation, Rogers told the business audience.“You have to consider [cybersecurity threats] every bit as foundational as we do in our ability to maneuver forces as a military construct,” he said.

I have little doubt you’ll hear a lot more about this at an upcoming Data Privacy and Cybersecurity Summit that I’ve been helping to put together here at Shipman & Goodwin, in conduction with CT SHRM.

It’s scheduled to be held on October 16, 2014 from 8a to 2p at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell, CT.

The cost is just $75, which includes continental breakfast, coffee, buffet lunch, and the materials.  Full details as well as registration can be found here.

Speakers include myself, Shipman & Goodwin attorneys Scott Cowperthwait, Cathy Intravia and William Roberts as well as industry experts from Adnet Technologies, the Connecticut Attorney General’s office, ESPN, the FBI, FINEX North America, General Electric Company, JPD Forensic Accounting, Quinnipiac University, United Therapeutics Corporation, and United Technologies Corporation (UTC).

Hope to see you there. Register soon as spots have been filling up over the last week.

First off, I should let you know that I am a poor substitute for Harrison Ford.

But, don’t let that dissuade you from saving October 16th as the date for a terrific conference that I’m helping to plan.  The title is “Raiders of the Data Ark” and the subject is “2014 Data Privacy & Cyber Security Summit: Practical Tips and Legal Risks for Connecticut Companies”.

It will be held at the Crowne Plaza in Cromwell from 8a-2p and will include breakfast, lunch, and several hours of notable speakers.

The conference, which is being run by both Shipman & Goodwin (my firm) and the Connecticut chapter of SHRM, is designed for operations personnel, in-house counsel, human resources personnel, general managers, finance managers and anyone else interested in solution-oriented approaches to the topic.

Registration will be up soon, so for now, just save the date and watch this space for more information!

Last Thursday, I had the opportunity to speak at the Tri-State SHRM Conference held at Foxwoods Resort Casino.  The session was led by Marc Kroll of Comp360 and I thank him publicly for both the invitation and the coordination. But a post about the great work that HR consultants like Marc do is a topic for another post.

If there was a phrase that I’m sure HR personnel never thought they’d hear discussed at a Human Resources conference it would’ve been “data privacy”.  After all, shouldn’t that be something for a Information Technology summit?

But in presenting the topic: “Pirates of the Data Stream: HR’s Role In Securing Corporate Information” to a full room,  it confirmed what I had been seeing anecdotally — that HR personnel have an increasing role in making sure company data remains private.  I was approached aftewards by several people who appreciated the focus on the topic.

There were several suggestions we talked about in detail at the conference.  I’ll highlight just a few things we discussed:

  • Have a policy. Yes, it’s a cliche. But you still need one.  And make sure it’s workable.   Your policy is no good if no one follows it.
  • Train and educate your workforce (with particular emphasis on your senior executives) on the need to take reasonable steps to protect confidential company data.  This can’t just be for new employees, but needs to be an ongoing effort.
  • Audit yourself to determine where your data leakage is coming from. And don’t just focus on the electronic data; your personnel files in paper format still need to be secured as well.  Consider hiring a third-party to help find the holes in your data storage.
  • Use agreements with restrictive covenants that prohibit employee use of confidential data not only when the employee is working for you, but also when the employee leaves.

And lest you think that this is mere scaremongering, the headlines from this morning illustrate that this issue is continuing to move to the mainstream: Target’s CEO stepped down because of a massive data breach last fall.

Human Resources has a significant role to play in preserving company and employee data.  It’s time to begin the discussion at your company if you haven’t already.   If you need assistance in that endeavor, consult your lawyer or your favorite HR consultant.

It’s been a while since I had a First Day of Work experience.

So, of course, as an employment lawyer, I had on my lawyer’s hat as I went through the process myself yesterday.

How much paperwork is done on the first day?

No doubt the first day is filled with excitement (and a bit of nervousness).  People are introducing themselves left and right.  (Was that Mary? Or Marilyn? Or Jane?)   And you’re just trying to remember where the coffee room is (Down the Hall, make a left, then a right — or is that the bathroom?).But there was one thing I had forgotten about The First Day of Work: the number of forms that need to be filled out.

The insurance forms.  The I-9 employment authorization forms.  The policy acknowledgment forms.

All required or (mostly) necessary under the law.

And yet, at the end of the day, I couldn’t help but think that many new employees without a law degree would be left with a blur if they were confronted with the standard first day of work paperwork.

What was that form I signed? What did I authorize my employer to deduct from my salary? And what a contingent beneficiary is anyways?

I’m fortunate.  My new lawfirm made the transition easy for me today and the paperwork was pretty straightforward.  But I wonder how many companies — particularly small to mid-size ones — still miss out on a chance to put the legalese of forms aside and start working on teaching the employees the OTHER things that are important about at company: The Culture. The Unwritten Rules. The People to Talk With.

After all, a happy employee means less risk down the road for a lawsuit by a disgruntled one.

Fortunately, there is a wide range of resources now designed for this process, known as “Onboarding”.  SHRM recently published a report on onboarding that is a good place to start.  The statistics are troubling for companies — half of all hourly employees leave after the first four months, and half of all senior outside hires struggle after 18 months.

Clearly, there is room for improvement, concludes the SHRM report.  Thus, the report suggests that any effective onboarding should include the four “C”s.

Compliance is the lowest level and includes teaching employees basic legal and policy-related rules and regulations. Clarification refers to ensuring that employees understand their new jobs and all related expectations. Culture is a broad category that includes providing employees with a sense of organizational norms— both formal and informal. Connection refers to the vital interpersonal relationships and information networks that new employees must establish.

What do you think? Any other resources for employers on Onboarding? Do you have a good First Day of Work story? I’d love to hear any success stories.

I’m looking forward to speaking tomorrow evening to the Staffing Management Association of Southern New England on how social media is impacting the hiring process.

You can find details of the event here. 

While I won’t give away all the secrets of my presentation here, it’s fair to say that employers shouldn’t throw out all the rules that they have followed for the hiring process just because social media is new.

For example, failing to hire an applicant because they posted a picture showing his or her participation in a gay pride parade may be viewed as discriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation (which is prohibited in Connecticut). 

So, where does that leave employers? Is it okay to “Google” an applicant to see what turns up? What are the risks of doing so? And where does the Fair Credit Reporting Act fit into all of this?

We’ll talk about all of this and more tomorrow.  But feel free to add your tips for employers when using social media in the hiring process in the comment section below.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has an article out today on their website (subscription may be required) about the effect that same-sex marriage laws and rulings are having on employers. The article compares California’s Proposition 8 initiative with Connecticut’s recent decision legalizing same-sex marriages. 

As you will see, the reporter was kind enough to talk with me about the issue. Although I discussed some of the similar themes I’ve raised before, the contrast with California is pretty striking. 

“Same-sex marriage in Connecticut is here and very likely is here to stay,” Daniel Schwartz, an attorney with Pullman and Comley in Hartford, Conn., told SHRM Online Nov. 18. …

However, Schwartz also noted that since Connecticut already had a civil union law, “this isn’t going to change that much if employers have had employees who have entered into civil unions.” From a practical point of view, employers need to give employees who have entered into civil unions the same benefits as they would to married couples, he explained.

He went on to say however, that where the differences may come is that “there are a lot of employees who did not enter into civil unions who will now get married.” He advised employers to take three steps in light of the change in the law:

• Review polices and make sure that they are non-gender or sexual orientation specific to account for same sex marriage. How do you do that? Use terms like “spouse,” instead of “husband and wife.”

• Update any anti-discrimination provisions to reflect that fact that employees who are part of a same-sex couple won’t be discriminated against.

• Look at benefits. Get a grasp on what the change will do to benefit plans. Look at how insurance companies are dealing with the new law. Make sure that summary plan descriptions and other documents (governing non-ERISA benefits) take into account same-sex marriage.

 

There’s a lot more in the article, so check it out here.

While you’re at it, be sure to check out the rest of SHRM’s website, which is in the midst of a pretty big overhaul. There are some great resources available and it’s always a pretty good source of information regarding legislative developments as well.