« March 2010 | Main | May 2010 »

April 30, 2010

May Wellness Resources: Mental Health, Occupational Safety, and more

May is Mental Health Month, with a theme of "Live Your Life Well" - a national public education campaign dedicated to helping people better cope with stress and enhancing their well-being. Part of this campaign is the Live Your Life Well website that offers 10 research-based tools and ways to apply them in everyday life. From relaxation techniques to journaling exercises to simple ways to get better sleep and improve eating habits, the materials offer a wide range of resources to build resiliency and well-being - some good resources for your wellness programs. These resources are all made available by Mental Health America, formerly known as the National Mental Health Association.

May 2-8 is North American Occupational Safety and Health (NAOSH) Week 2010, sponsored by the American Society of Safety Engineers. Mission 2010 is safe workplaces, the importance of which has been tragically highlighted this year with the loss of 29 workers in the West Virginia Massey mine disaster, 7 workers Tesoro refinery explosion in Washington, 6 workers killed at the Kleen Energy Plant in Connecticut, and 11 workers missing and presumed dead from Transocean's oil rig explosion off the coast of Louisiana. Learn more about NAOSH Week and activities to support safety in the workplace, in schools, and in the community.

Other Health & Wellness observances in May

April 25, 2010

News briefs: sexting with the Supremes; domestic violence; DOL focus, and more

Digital privacy - Christopher McKinney of HR Lawyer's Blog gives us the background documents for the employee digital privacy case that is before the Supreme Court. The case centers on sexting by employees on digital devices supplied by the employer. It involves a police chief who read several SWAT team members' text messages without their consent because he wanted to see if what he deemed as excessive use of their pagers resulted from personal or work-related activities. The ScotusBlog offers a recap of the oral arguments that were presented. The Supremes seemed a bit stymied by some of the technology issues. According to Rob Salkowitz: "It wasn’t pretty. This band of geriatric jurists may know its habeas from its corpus, but they are non compos mentis when it comes to the fundamentals of modern communication." Hopefully, they will be quick studies - the case is expected to be decided this session. See also City of Ontario v. Quon at the SCOTUS Wiki.

Domestic violence - Kim Wells alerts us to a June PBS documentary Telling Amy's Story that puts a spotlight on domestic violence. It tracks the events leading up to a domestic violence homicide in central Pennsylvania. Parents, co-workers, law enforcement officers, and court personnel share their perspectives on what happened to Amy in the weeks, months, and years leading up to her death. Learn more and see a trailer here. Wells notes that Amy was a Verizon Wireless employee, and Verizon Wireless is a sponsor of this documentary. (See Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence)

Department of Labor - HR Lori has the lowdown on the new DOL guidelines on unpaid internships. And in another DOL initiative, employers can expect a heightened focus on employee misclassification, with a push on both the federal and state levels. Risk & Insurance reports that the Obama administration recently earmarked an additional $25 million in the DOL's proposed FY 2011 budget for a misclassification initiative. The plan calls for hiring 100 additional enforcement personnel to address the problem and to provide grants to aid states in addressing the problem. Prior studies have indicated that more than 3 million employees may be misclassified. A 9-state study by the DOL found as many as 30% of audited employers misclassified at least some employees.

Gender & leadership - Katie Kuehner-Hebert of Human Resource Executive reports on a new study on gender and leadership. OnPoint Consulting released the results of a two-year study of the "influence skills" of 223 leaders in organizations across the country, to examine the extent to which there are gender differences. Jennifer Forgie, a managing partner at OnPoint: "The conventional thinking was that female leaders tend to have more of a focus on relationships and have a more participatory style, whereas men tend to focus more on results, and the tasks at hand," Forgie says. "Some of our findings were consistent with conventional thinking about male and female leaders, and some were somewhat surprising."

10 ways to trigger a lawsuit - At HR Daily Advisor, Attorney Barbara Meister Cummins offers her picks for the 10 most lawsuit-attracting lines she hears from managers, part 1 and part 2.

New HR 'zine - Check out IFRACTAL Buzz Worthy - brought to you by the same organization that brings you the KnowHR Blog.

The Men of HR - The men of HR are semi-baring it all in a keepsake calendar to raise money for Haiti Relief and the Orchid Cancer Appeal (fighting male testicular cancer). Check out the promo video or order a calendar.

Short Takes

April 18, 2010

The fun theory: Motivating behavior change

How do you successfully motivate your employees to change behavior? The folks at Volkswagon think that infusing some fun is one of the best and easiest ways to change people’s behavior for the better, whether it be for personal goals, for the environment, or any other matter that would constitute change for the better. They conducted "the Piano Stairs" experiment to test this theory. Would making the stairs fun motivate a behavior change? You can see the results in this short video clip:

Spurred on by their successful experiments, they sponsored a competition challenging readers to submit their own thoughts, ideas, and inventions to demonstrate the effectiveness of the fun theory. Winning entries and submissions can be found at www.thefuntheory.com - check them out - they are fun, and might get your creative juices flowing for your next employee communications campaign.

April 16, 2010

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act & the workplace

Now that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is law, how are employers reacting? When it comes to offering workers healthcare benefits, will droves of employers be running for the exits? The answer is no, according to a recent health care benefits survey of about 3,700 employers by Crain Communications, publisher of both Workforce Management and Business Insurance. The survey found that 52.5% strongly disagreed with the statement that it would be better for their organizations to stop offering health care benefits and pay a fine under the new law, and another 15.3% somewhat disagreed. Only 14.1% felt strongly that it would be better for their organizations to drop benefits. The larger the employer, the greater the percentage that disagreed with the idea that it would be better to drop benefits. Many of those surveyed said that health care benefits are critical to employee recruiting and retention (65.7% strongly agreed; 25.6% somewhat agreed).

However, when asked whether they understand the impact of the law on benefits, only 17.7% strongly agreed that they understand, while 38% responded disagreed somewhat or strongly that they understand the impact. \

Focus on prevention and wellness
We'll all be learning more about the law and its implications for employers. In addition to the way that it will effect benefit offerings, the law will also have many implications for prevention and wellness, both on and off the job. The law calls for substantial annual allocations for prevention and public health awareness campaigns - some of which may assist in changing behaviors, much the way that the past anti-littering and no-smoking public awareness initiatives changed behaviors over time. In addition to the general public awareness campaigns, there are numerous programs that will be targeted specifically to the workplace and to workplace wellness initiatives.

At the NIOSH Science Blog, Director of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health John Howard summarizes many of the prevention provisions in new law. He cites the following specific employer-based initiatives:

  • Provide employers with technical assistance, consultation, tools, and other resources to evaluate employer-based wellness programs including evaluating such programs as they relate to changes in employees' health status, absenteeism, productivity, medical costs, and the rate of workplace injury.
  • Build evaluation capacity among workplace staff by training employers on how to evaluate employer-based wellness programs utilizing mechanisms such as web portals, call centers, etc.
  • Within two years, conduct a national worksite health policies and programs survey to assess employer-based health policies and programs followed by a report to Congress with recommendations for the implementation of effective employer-based health policies and programs.

In a reply to questions and comments that follow his blog posting, Howard notes that the NIOSH role in such programs is still unclear. He is asked if the new provisions will include any change in the current system that separates medical care for people injured on the job vs off the job. He notes that he is unaware of any efforts to unite the non-occupational and occupational healthcare systems, citing the obstacle that workers' compensation insurance is regulated by the 50 states.

April 8, 2010

Resources for working parents: Teen bullying

Teen bullying has been much in the news lately, particularly in the light of a few heartbreaking teen suicides that were related to bullying. School-age bullying is certainly a concern raised by a lot of parents that we speak to. No doubt it is a concern shared by many of your employees, just one of the many worrisome distractions that is on the minds of working parents in the course of the workday. Bullying is nothing new - we probably all remember bullies from our childhood. But from yesteryear to today, the world has changed. Most families have two working parents today, so kids are often spending longer days with their peer group and less time under parental supervision. Plus, new technologies offer new challenges for keeping kids safe.

Bullying can take many forms, both physical and verbal. It may include actual physical assault or peer pressure, ridicule, threats, or teasing. It can also occur in the form of cyberbullying, through online social networks such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter, or through text messaging and email. Statistics show that is quite prevalent and parents are often unaware of the scope, the severity, and the impact on their child. Even when aware, parents often feel ill-equipped to deal with bullying, and may be unprepared to deal with some of the newer forms of online bullying.

We've compiled some bullying resources primarily aimed at parents that may be useful tools to share with your employees.

Stop Bullying Now! from the Health Resources & Service Administration offers parental resources. Also see the Kids' and teens pages.

KidsHealth from The Nemours Center for Children's Health Media offers great information for parents, children and teens. Some specific resources that they offer around the topic of bullying include Helping kids deal with bullies; Teaching kids not to bully, and Helping kids deal with cliques, There's also a good teen guide: Dealing with bullying

Other resources:
Bullying sites by and for kids: Teens Against Bullying and Kids Against Bullying

Cyberbullying and online safety
One of the aspects of teen bulling that seems particularly frightening to many parents is cyberbullying, or online bullying. It's important for parents to understand new technologies and how their kids are using social media. But some would caution that we should not create a cyberbullying panic: new media is here to stay and the more parents can learn about it, the better they can monitor and advise their kids. Here are some resources we've found to help.

Commonsense media offers a variety of online resources for parents, including a plethora of information on social networking and virtual worlds and Internet Safety

Connect Safely - designed to give teens and parents a voice in the public discussion about youth online safety and to offer social-media safety tips for teens and parents.

Guide to Facebook Security Settings and Situations

Stop Cyberbullying - from Wired

Talking to kids and teens about social media and texting - tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics

April 3, 2010

Pending changes in background screening practices?

It is expected that later this year, the EEOC will issue tighter, "evidence-based" guidelines on background checks for new hires. In addition, the Supreme Court will be hearing an important case involving NASA's background screening practices, which could have an enormous impact on the practice going forward.

Workforce Management recently addressed the issue of EEOC's anticipated evidence-based in a special report entitled "Burden of Proof." (free registration required) We asked our partner, Backgrounds Online to comment on this issue:

According to the recent article "Burden of Proof" in Workforce Management, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recently announced plans to issue new guidelines when it comes to pre-employment screening over the next 12 to 18 months. The new guidelines will reportedly require “empirical evidence” that background checks help keep the workplace safe. Empirical evidence is defined as “originating in or based on observation or experience.”
The article focused on the seemingly lack of statistics to back up the need for and benefits of background checks. The author made a point of stating that the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), which is the background check industry’s trade group, has not conducted studies into empirical evidence. However, the author neglected to mention that there have been several studies and points that have been done. For example:
  • One report by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners found that the median loss for small firms with fewer than one hundred employees was $190,000.
  • The Society for Human Resource Management says that 70% of all job applications provide information that is not fully accurate. )
  • The average jury award for negligent hiring against a company was $870,390 in 2000, according to Barry J. Nadell, former president of InfoLink Screening Services, in Chatsworth, California.
No reputable background check company can tout that running background checks on potential employees will protect a company from every foreseeable pitfall or danger when it comes to hiring. But those few points and statistics highlighted above can’t help but show that the benefits outweigh neglecting background checks completely.
The article also cited one staffing firm as using a blanket “no felons” policy, a policy that could be considered antiquated. The EEOC currently discourages this type of policy and their guidelines are, in fact, very workable as they require an employer to consider the nature of the offense in relation to the position being sought. Some states are even following suit with that line of thinking. For example, New York recently passed a law which prohibits employers from taking adverse action against an applicant if their charge doesn’t apply to the position.
No matter the change in EEOC guidelines, we believe that they would be hard-pressed to put the “burden of proof” solely on an employer as the Workforce Management is implying. Hire a reputable background check company and good legal counsel to consult with and you should be able to avoid any issues with the EEOC and background checks.
As this issue develops, we'll continue to check in with Backgrounds Online. Meanwhile, here are some other recent articles and opinions on this issue:
eXTReMe Tracker