Managing Employees in a Digital World

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ShaynaBalchFisher&PhillipsBy Shayna Balch
Partner, Fisher & Phillips, LLC

Like the standard cup of morning coffee, just about everyone in the workforce is now a frequent user of social media sites, including personal blogs, Facebook and Twitter. As we’ve seen a number of times, online activity by employees can be very problematic. However, with some proper planning and an in-depth understanding of current social media laws, employers can stay one step ahead when trying to navigate the treacherous digital landscape.

1. Look at the complete picture
There are many problems that can arise from employee activity online, including using the Internet to publicly criticize the company or disclose confidential information. The key to curbing this behavior is to look at how the content is affecting you, your business and your customers and then take the necessary and legal steps to prevent it from going any further.

2. Have a social media policy
Having a policy is a critical step to enable you to act upon improper online activity by employees. Without a written policy in place, it will be harder to justify actions taken against employees who are involved in inappropriate, but legal, behavior online, especially where the activity is done during off work-hours.

3. Details matter most
Define the company’s expectations regarding social media very clearly in company’s handbook and provide a non-exclusive list of the types of social media websites that should be considered. You should also include some specific rules that pertain to trademarks, the condoning/promotion of illegal activity and the rules surrounding the use of social media while on work time or company equipment.

4. Know the law
The National Labor Relations Board has taken the position that some uses of social media are protected concerted activity, and that employer policies may violate employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act — even when the employees are non-unionized. Employee use of social media to organize, discuss workplace terms and conditions, discuss pay/benefits, for “whistleblowing,” etc. may be protected. For example, an employee posting online that she is forced to work unpaid overtime or requesting that other employees work together to solve an HR problem, may all be activity that is protected. So, beware of overbroad policies.

5. Investigate and document everything
Ask yourself the following questions before taking action based on social media postings. What are the facts? Is the content protected? Is action legally required? If the employee has violated the law or disclosed information that could subject the company to liability, it might be time to call your attorney.

If the employee has not broken the law, but violated company policy, it is always important to handle the situation with the highest level of professionalism. It is also important to impose any discipline in a consistent and non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory manner.

Shayna Balch is a partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP in Phoenix. She represents employers in employment and labor litigation matters before federal and state courts, as well as before administrative agencies. She can be reached at sbalch@laborlawyers.com.

5 Tips for Preventing Slips, Trips and Falls in Your Arizona Workplace

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Numerous workplace accidents in Arizona are the result of slips, trips and falls. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 15% of all work-related fatalities across the U.S. are caused by slips, trips and falls, and falls are to blame for 17% of all debilitating occupational injuries. Oftentimes, however, these types of accidents may be prevented with a little care and caution. Using the tips may help you avoid suffering injuries that will keep you out of work.

What causes slips, trips and falls in the workplace?

Slips, trips and falls involving workers may be caused by any number of factors. Some of the most common of these include the following:

  • Uneven floor surfaces
  • Wet or slick floors
  • Damaged or worn flooring
  • Walkway obstructions
  • Changes in levels
  • Poor lighting

Additionally, cluttered work areas may also contribute to these types of accidents. As a result of slips, trips and falls, you may suffer sprains and strains, broken bones, head trauma and numerous other potentially serious injuries.

Wear appropriate footwear

Some flooring surfaces may be slick on their own, while others may become incredibly slippery when they are wet or there is dry product on them. It may seem that your primary concerns when choosing your footwear should be comfort, support and fashion. However, you should also consider your shoes’ soles and traction. Wearing shoes that are slip-resistant may help you avoid losing your footing on slick or slippery flooring.

Cover or guard all floor openings

In some work environments, there may be stairway floor openings, pits, trapdoors, chutes, hatchways and other openings. Ensuring that all stairway floor and other openings are guarded by railings on all exposed sides may help prevent you or other workers from falling into them. Additionally, you should use guards on all chute and hatchway openings, and cover any pit or trapdoor openings if they are not in use. When pits and trapdoors are being used, it is important that their openings are attended by a worker at all times in order to warn others of the danger.

Turn the lights on

It goes without saying that if you cannot see where you are going or what you are doing, you may be more likely to slip on something, trip over something or fall down. Therefore, you should use a light source that provides adequate light for you to perform your tasks whenever you are able. If you are working in a dark or dimly lit space, using a flashlight may help you shed some light on the area and avoid some work-related accidents.

Good housekeeping

Regardless of the environment that you are working in, clutter can cause more than just headaches when you are looking for something. If there is debris, tools or other objects around your feet or work space, you may slip on them or trip over them. Keeping your work area clean and free of obstructions may help you stay on your feet and prevent you from suffering potentially debilitating injuries on the job.

Avoid distractions

At home, in your car and at work, you, like others, are likely dialed in to your mobile and other devices. While this may be a part of your job or your normal routine, it can create issues in the workplace if you are not watching where you are going. If you are looking down at your phone, you may not see co-workers, spills, equipment or other hazards that could cause you to slip, trip or fall. Thus, when moving about your work environment, it is advisable for you to take your time and avoid behaviors that may distract you, such as text messaging or checking your social media.

New DOL Rule Requires Employers to Act

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By Bobbie Fox
Associate General Counsel
CopperPoint Insurance Companies

No doubt you have heard about the Department of Labor’s Final Rule effective Dec. 1, 2016 raising the compensation required to qualify for a “white collar” exemption (executive, administrative, and professional) from $23,660 per year to $47,476 per year. What does that mean? It means that if you have an employee that you consider to be exempt from overtime under a white collar exemption, and he or she makes less than $47,476 per year, you need to act in order to keep the exempt status. Continue reading

Workforce Development to Play Integral Role in the Future of Arizona Construction

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Bo CalbertBy Bo Calbert 
President
McCarthy Building Companies
Southwest Division

Nationally, 86 percent of construction firms reported having a difficult time finding qualified workers to fill vacant positions, according to a recent Association of General Contractors (AGC) survey. This survey follows an AGC report earlier this year that predicts a shortage of 2.5 million construction workers. The lack of workers is having a negative impact on the industry and impeding the economic recovery, particularly in Arizona.

“This problem is even more staggering in states like Arizona where construction is a major economic engine and fuels numerous other industries,” said Justin Kelton, executive vice Continue reading

Teens shine at ‘Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Stars’

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It’s been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

At the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix (BGCMP), there are 13 extraordinary teens who certainly have set the pace for their bright futures, and the organization is celebrating their courage, determination and achievements.

These Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix teens are competing for 'Youth of the Year' award.

These Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix teens are competing for ‘Youth of the Year’ award.

On Saturday, March 19 at 5 p.m., BGCMP plays host to the “Today’s Kids, Tomorrow’s Stars” gala presented by Universal Technical Institute Inc., where these teens will share their inspirational stories with more than 1,000 guests at the Arizona Biltmore.

From community service to exemplary grades to thriving despite adversity, these teens were selected out of hundreds of Club teens throughout the metro greater Phoenix area to vie for the title of “Youth of the Year.” For the past several months, the group participated in a development program to learn about team building, communication, leadership and presentation skills.

In addition to crowning the 2016 “Youth of the Year,” attendees will dine on the Biltmore’s finest cuisine and have the opportunity to enjoy a large selection of silent auction items including high-end jewelry, restaurant experiences and sports memorabilia. The program also includes a live auction of world-class vacations, hand-selected jewelry and other packages that can be found only at the event.

The festivities will include a special tribute to Champions of Giving Bob and Renee Parsons of the Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation.

All proceeds raised go directly to support the programs of 13 Clubs scattered throughout metro Phoenix and the West Valley.

Don’t miss out! Sponsorships and tables are available for purchase at bgcmpstars.org.

2016 Economic Outlook: Better than 2015, but no Boom!

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The nation and Arizona can expect continued slow, steady growth through the remainder of the year and into 2016, and the Federal Reserve Bank may hold off its planned interest hike this month because of the market’s recent volatility, according to three speakers at the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce’s annual Economic Outlook Wednesday.

David Brancaccio, Jim Huntzinger and Elliot Pollack all agree the nation and Arizona are in good shape economically.

Brancaccio, the host of National Public Radio’s Marketplace Morning Report, discussed the economy from a global perspective; Huntzinger, chief investment officer for BOK Financial, examined the economy from a national view; and Pollack, CEO of Elliot D. Pollack & Company took a look at Arizona and the Phoenix area’s economic outlook. Continue reading

Impact of DOL’s Proposed Revisions to White Collar Exemptions

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LorieBirkBy Lorie Birk
Arizona Vice President
Membership Services
Mountain States Employers Council

On July 6, 2015, the U.S. Department of Labor issued the long anticipated proposed regulations making revisions to the white collar exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). If the proposed regulations go into effect it is estimated that over 5 million workers will now be eligible for overtime because they will not meet the salary requirements of the proposed regulations. Continue reading

Launching The Black Chamber of Arizona Statewide

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Kerwin BrownBy Kerwin Brown
President & CEO
Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 data, African-Americans in Arizona owned 6,330 firms in 2002 with more than 530,000 average gross receipts and 6,530 paid employees. The information came from the most recent statistics available from the Minority Business Development Agency, Western Regional Office for the U.S. Black Chambers. Continue reading

Crowdfunding: A Reality for Arizona Business

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Rick Murray

Rick Murray

By Rick Murray
CEO, Arizona Small Business Association

Raising money to launch a business or to take one to the next level is challenging.

Many great ideas and businesses have failed because they are unable to stay in the game long enough to generate enough revenue to support them. Undercapitalization is the No. 1 reason businesses fail.
Banks know this. Unless there is collateral or a solid financial history, it’s not likely they will lend money. So where does that leave the small business owner “wanna-be?” Continue reading

OSHA unveils updated hot weather app

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A phone app from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns workers and others who will be outside as summer heats up of risks of heat-related illness, and provides preventive steps.

A phone app from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration warns workers and others who will be outside as summer heats up of risks of heat-related illness, and provides preventive steps.

By NIHAL KRISHAN
Cronkite News
WASHINGTON – Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials had a message Wednesday for workers and others who expect to be outside working and playing as summer heats up: Shade, water and rest for safety.

And if that’s too much to remember, OSHA has an app for that. And it’s free.

The federal agency actually has had the OSHA Heat app since 2011, but recently it unveiled an updated version of the phone app that provides users with a heat index reading for a particular location and gives precautions to help prevent heat-related illnesses. Continue reading

If You’re Driving, Don’t Touch That High-tech Console, Mobile Device

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High technology is woven inextricably into our daily lives, but at times it may pose a more dangerous risk than we can imagine. Take today’s newer model automobiles; they are packed with electronic screens for parking, using GPS, watching video, listening to satellite radio stations or talking with others – all at the touch of a driver’s fingertips. Continue reading

Remind workers of basic precautions against heat illness

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Employers supervising workers in regions that have extreme temperatures may want to adopt employee training programs that educate workers on the symptoms of heat illnesses, including heat stroke. By teaching workers about the early signs of these potentially life-threatening conditions, employers could see decreases in heat illness reports and increases in worker productivity. Continue reading

Workers Compensation and the Non-traditional Work Force

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Mark Kendall photo

By Mark Kendall
Legal Services Manager
CopperPoint Mutual
In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of employees working outside of the traditional work place – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at an established work premises. Today, millions of U.S. workers perform at least a portion of their work duties outside of the office. Continue reading

OSHA OMG: Violations and shaming employers

DeniseBlommelBy Denise M. Blommel
Employment Law Attorney

First, penalties for OSHA violations go way up on August 1, 2016.

Second, OSHA admitted on its website that its motivation is to shame employers.

As the kids say, “OMG!”

OSHA penalties have not risen since 1990.

Here’s the new penalty schedule, which Arizona’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH) must adopt:

Willful                                                    No less than $8,908 or more than $124,709.

Repeat                                                   No more than $124,709

Serious and other than serious          No more than $12,471

Failure to correct                                  No more than $12,471 per day

Posting violation                                  No more than $12,471

Not every employer has to keep an OSHA 300 log.  (See the list here to ascertain whether your business is exempt.)  If you are exempt, breathe a little easier.  If not, take a deep breath.

If your business has to keep an OSHA 300 log, you only have a few months to get ready for the 21st century version of the pillory stocks. In its record-keeping final rule, the federal government admits, “Behavioral economics tells us that making injury information publicly available will ‘nudge’ employers to focus on safety.”  Dr. David Michaels, the head of OSHA, said that dirty laundry, heretofore private, will be available to investors, job seekers, customers and the public. According to the government, OSHA logs will be the basis for “big data,” which is a cruel joke given the underfunding of this agency.

The new rules also prohibit retaliation against employees. There is no private right of action for employees so they must rely upon ADOSH and the Industrial Commission of Arizona to prosecute their claims. You still must be careful not to retaliate.

ADOSH will be adopting these new rules. They will be phased in over the next two years by the number of employees and the riskiness of industries.

Here’s what you need to do now:

  • Talk with your worker compensation carrier
  • Transition from paper to electronic media
  • Ascertain what records your business must keep
  • Ascertain what is recordable
  • Review your anti-retaliation policies
  • Do not discourage reporting

Part of being an employer in the Modern World is record-keeping. Your employee handbook probably says, “Safety First.”  Now, it is imperative.