Will Social Media Harm Your Career?

Will Social Media Harm Your Career?

Can social media harm your upward movement in your career.

Recently, many lawmakers and everyday users of social media have been disgusted by what they think are inappropriate tactics used by employers when screening job applicants. In my article titled: “Why Your Status Updates May Come Back To Haunt You,” I explore the trend of employers investigating job applicants using social media, how employers use what they find, and best practices for employers to avoid violating current laws. For individuals, I also offer tips for managing online information so that you do not raise red flags that may cost you that dream job you always wanted.

The article is published in the April 2012 edition of the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine, the official publication of the Contra Costa County Bar Association. The April 2012 magazine focuses on “Kids in the Law” and on Privacy issues. I am not only proud to be able to contribute to the magazine, but also proud to have been asked to serve a three-year term on the Board of Directors.


March Madness And Workplace Issues

March Madness And Workplace Issues

Do you have workplace issues during March Madness?

The annual march to crowning the men and women’s collegiate basketball champions officially began Sunday when the field of teams was announced. March Madness is perhaps the most watched championship series in sports where about half of the games take place during typical weekday business hours.

According to an survey, approximately 86% of respondents said they plan to spend part of their workday following the tournament, and more than 50% said they plan to devote at least one hour of their workday to the first two days of the tournament. In fact, 6% stated they plan to be absent from work on the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament. Similarly, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm, estimated 2.5 millions workers will spend an average of 90 minutes a day watching the tournament, and just in the first two days of the tournament, employers will lose approximately $175 million.

Whether or not these studies and estimates are accurate, the reality is that employees will be checking their smartphones and tablets, and perhaps using their employers’ computers and Internet access, for score updates, game highlights, and for game watching.

Some tips for employers:

  • Some employers may already block employee access to non-work related websites. If so, your employees may be relying more on their personal smartphones and tablets for their NCAA fix, so employers should remind employees about their policies regarding use of such personal devices during work time.
  • Employers may also wish to take this opportunity to reiterate the company’s computer usage policies and Internet access policies.
  • Employers may also, or in the alternative, use March Madness as a way to boost employee morale by setting up a break room or empty office with the games playing so that employees can openly watch the games during breaks and build camaraderie with other employees.
  • Employers who encourage, or allow, a March Madness pool/bracket competition should be careful to avoid violating laws against gambling and the company’s own policies on non-solicitation. While gambling laws are rarely enforced regarding these bracket pools, to decrease risk, employers who allow such pools should make it open to any employee who wishes to participate, not require a monetary buy-in, and award a non-monetary prize (gift cards are better than a monetary prize).

Some tips for employees:

  • Plan ahead. If you know you will be glued to watching a particular game, request to use a vacation day as early as possible.
  • Be truthful. Don’t call in sick if you are not really sick. Employers can discipline you for using sick days inappropriately. Whether or not your employer will enforce the sick leave policy due to March Madness is a question to which you should avoid learning the answer.
  • Stay productive at work. Turn your energy and excitement over your team into energy in your work and remain productive. Missing a deadline, or making a costly error, may get you fired.
  • Watch the trash talking. Be careful that your trash talking does not cross the line and become taunting, harassment, bullying or other conduct your employer prohibits.

The Future of the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission

The Future of the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission

The California Fair Employment and Housing Commission is being absorbed into the Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Today I was one of a small group of attorneys who participated in a conference call with Anna Caballero, California’s Secretary of State and Consumer Services, and Phyllis Cheng, Director of California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH). One of the purposes of the call was to inform stakeholders of the future of the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC) and the DFEH. In essence, as the way things are headed, soon the FEHC will no longer exist, and its role will be incorporated into a shielded division within the DFEH. The actual impact on employees and employers may be relatively minor, but this structural change is fairly significant. If you have any questions, input and/or feedback you would like me to pass along to Director Cheng, please let me know.

Here is a summary of the information discussed during the conference call (I thank Director Cheng for providing me this summary and for allowing me to share it):

Governor’s 2012/13 Proposed Budget:

  • The State of California continues to face a $9.2 billion structural deficit.
  • The Governor’s proposed budget plan includes important reforms. It improves government efficiency and pays down debt. It reorganizes state government to make it more efficient and saves tax dollars by consolidating or eliminating functions.
  • The Governor proposes to eliminate the [FEHC]. The Budget includes a decrease of $579,000 ($459,000 General Fund) and 2.5 positions as a result of the elimination of the stand-alone [FEHC] that handles adjudication of employment and housing discrimination cases. Adjudication of employment and housing discrimination cases would be handled by a separate and distinct division of the [DFEH] effectively eliminating the stand-alone [FEHC] and consolidating workload. The DFEH would receive 1.5 positions from the FEHC consolidation as well as the portion of the Attorney General’s cost for defending writ actions. The Department would absorb the rest of the [FEHC’s] functions. The savings to the State would be: $391,000 in 2012/13; and $784,000 in 2013/14 and ongoing.
  • A trailer bill from the Department of Finance with specific language to carry out the Governor’s plan is forthcoming.

Possible Implementation Plan for the Governor’s Proposal:

  • Adjudicatory Function: The [DFEH] currently operates a “separate and distinct division” in its Mediation Division that is behind a firewall and shielded from the rest of the DFEH. To employment the Governor’s proposal, the DFEH would put the [FEHC’s] adjudicatory function behind the confidential firewall of this Division and would rename it the “Hearing and Mediation Division.”
  • Regulatory Function: Under its existing authority, the [DFEH] could establish a permanent DFEH Advisory Committee that would be codified in its procedural regulations. The proposed Advisory Committee would consist of a balanced group of plaintiff and defense attorneys with expertise in fair employment and housing law, along with representatives from the EEOC and HUD, to advise the DFEH on promulgation of regulations that interpret the FEHA, Unruh Civil Rights Act, Disabled Persons Act and Ralph Civil Rights Act.

Workplace Romances

Workplace Romances

What are your policies around workplace romances?

Valentine’s Day is a week away. Unfortunately, for employers and employees, workplace romances don’t always lead to chocolate dipped strawberries and champagne. Even when a workplace romance is consensual, employers and employees need to be careful in handling such relationships. Of course, when sexual harassment or other prohibited conduct occurs, employers in particular must act swiftly and appropriately.

In my article titled “Sex, Love and Payroll: Employers Face Tricky Issues With Workplace Romances,” I offer some food for thought and some practical steps employers and employees can take to deal with workplace romances. The article is published in the February 2012 edition of the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine, the official publication of the Contra Costa County Bar Association. I am not only proud to be able to contribute to the magazine, but also proud to have been asked to serve a three-year term on the Board of Directors.

DLSE Provides Updated FAQs on Wage Theft Prevention Act

DLSE Provides Updated FAQs on Wage Theft Prevention Act

New employees must receive employment and wage information as per the Wage Theft Prevention Act.

As I have discussed with many companies, the new Wage Theft Prevention Act went into effect on January 1, 2012 in California. Part of this law requires employers to provide to all new non-exempt employees (with some exceptions) certain information about their employment. The main provisions of the Act deal with new hires starting in 2012. However, the notice requirements are ongoing. In other words, for current/continuing employees (hired in 2010, for example), when any of the required information changes (for example, an employee gets a raise), the employer has seven (7) calendar days to notify the employee of the change. So, you will have to provide the required information to current/continuing employees when changes of any of the required information are made.

In late-December 2011, the California Department of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) published a sample form that can be used to comply with the new law. It might be easier for employers to use the DLSE’s Form, however the form includes some ambiguities and raises some questions.

To help employers, the DLSE issued FAQs regarding the new law and the DLSE’s Form. The FAQs themselves have been a source of frustration, and already have been revised a couple times – most recently on January 23, 2012. In this most recent update, the DLSE added several new FAQs and revised its answers to two of the original FAQs. The most recent update states that it would be a “best practice” for employers to provide the required information to current employees, even thought the law only requires the information be provided to new hires and to current employees only if there is a change in the required information. As this is a new law in California, employers should continue to monitor my updates, and check with the DLSE for more guidance.

The DLSE Form (available in English and five other languages) and the DLSE FAQs can be found here.