Guidelines for Social Media
As the popularity of social networking continues to grow, employers should consider adopting policies that educate employees on the employer’s expectations and their legal obligations. While social media provides companies with marketing, recruiting and other business opportunities, many employers also experience problems when employees go online. Problems range from decreased productivity and workplace distractions to disclosure of confidential information, invasion of privacy and harassment. It is important to determine if social media is interfering with business operations and productivity..
Employers can and should provide employees with guidelines on their use of social media. What those policies cover will differ from workplace to workplace, and may depend on whether the employer itself relies upon social media for business purposes. Social media is here to stay, so it seems prudent to adopt policies stating your expectations.
FMLA and the Military
For many organizations subject to FMLA (i.e., having 50 or more employees), the military sections of their FMLA policy should be updated to reflect modifications to the law established by the Obama administration which modified the law to expand military-leave benefits. Previously, military leave for a “qualifying exigency” was limited to members of the National Guard and Reserve. That right now extends to members of any branch of the armed forces.
Include genetic information on your list of protected classes. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009. GINA prohibits discrimination based on employees’ and applicants’ genetic information, and that of their family members as well. Genetic information includes the results of genetic tests, along with information about family medical histories. As a result of this law, you should make sure genetic information is on the list of protected characteristics in your nondiscrimination and anti-harassment policies.
GINA’s Safe Harbor – Under GINA’s implementing regulations, employers that request medical information from an employee should warn the employee and relevant healthcare provider(s) not to provide “genetic information” in response to the employers’ requests. If an employer provides sufficient warning, its receipt of genetic information in response to the request will be deemed inadvertent and, therefore, not a violation of GINA. GINA also excuses as inadvertent the receipt of genetic information in response to medical information requests that are not likely to result in the employer obtaining genetic information.
More Information The EEOC has a very helpful Q&A on GINA on their website at http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/regulations/gina_qanda_smallbus.cfm .