Social Media and Your Business

June 22nd, 2012

If you have a job and want to keep it, there are few things you should know about social media use. If you’re running a business and want to continue doing so, these guidelines also apply to you, and you may even want to share them with your employees.

The Medical Director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media sums up wise social media policy in six words: Don’t lie, don’t pry. Don’t steal, don’t reveal. Don’t cheat. Can’t delete. This is most concise answer we’ve seen to the hundreds of social media questions we hear every day.

Social Media: A Helpful Tool, but Also a Potential Source of Trouble

If you’re an employee of any company, anywhere, keep your job in mind as you roam around on the internet. Before you post anything, even the most harmless images and comments, imagine how you’d feel if these comments crossed your boss’s desk. This happens far more often than you may realize. Your own boss may be curiously Googling your name right now. And every day, employees are fired from their jobs as a result of internet activity they assumed their employers would never see.

There’s no such thing as a “secret” blog. And anonymity will protect you perfectly until the day it doesn’t. Think about this before you disparage your boss or coworkers, and be cautious about praising or positively reviewing the products of your company’s competitors.

Social Media for Employers and Business Owners

If you’re a business owner, social media can get you into hot water for a different set of reasons. So to avoid this possibility, keep these simple tips in mind:

1. Be truthful. Don’t lie or make exaggerated or questionable claims on your website. If you make a negative remark about a competitor, be sure you can verify this remark or your intentions may backfire and your reputation may suffer.

2. Don’t pry. Never ask a candidate or existing employee for password access to any personal accounts. In fact, don’t include personal social media profiles in any aspect of your candidate screening process. Not only can this expose you to accusations of discrimination, it can also alienate talented candidates and drive them away.

3. Don’t steal. In other words, credit your sources. Don’t use images or quotes taken from any source without permission. If you can’t ask permission, repost the information only with a clear credit and a backlink to the original site. And be prepared to take the content down if the original creator requests. Just because you found something on the internet doesn’t mean it’s available. If you’d like to post high quality articles, blog content, or photos, hire writers and artists and pay them fairly. 

4. Don’t take risks with privileged information. This means don’t maintain databases with customer or employee addresses, phone contacts or credit card numbers unless you have strong security measures in place.

For more advice on developing a company social media policy, contact The Palmer Group, your Des Moines, IA staffing solution experts.

Your Business and EPL Insurance

June 15th, 2012

EPL, or Employment Practices Liability insurance, is a type of insurance policy designed to protect organizations in the event of lawsuits filed by current and former employees. Lawsuits targeting discrimination, harassment, unfair working conditions or workplace hostility may all be covered by a standard EPL insurance policy, and this protection can shield employers from significant financial damage caused by these kinds of allegations.

Employment disputes cover almost three quarters of all lawsuits today, and the overall number of discrimination claims filed by employees appears to be on the rise. Standard, comprehensive EPL policies can protect employers from fees, damages and court costs associated with discrimination charges as well as allegations of wrongful termination, sexual harassment, assault and battery, and wrongful employment decisions.

But are EPL insurance policies a wise move for every company? Since policy premiums don’t typically represent a financial burden for large and well established firms, these firms almost always stand to benefit from this layer of protection. But if EPL premiums represent a significant investment for your firm, take the following considerations into account as you begin researching EPL policy providers.

EPL Insurance: Consider before you Sign

1. First, you should already be taking every precaution against potential employee lawsuits. Lower your legal exposure by instituting a zero tolerance policy regarding acts of harassment and discrimination. Build your workplace culture on a foundation of civility and respect. Regular performance appraisals, highly qualified HR staff, and a clear, updated employee handbook can also help.

2. Assess your current level of risk by completing a comprehensive review. The size of your firm and your turnover rates may be the most telling factors as you weigh the likely hood of an employee lawsuit. Large firms have more limited control over employee interactions, and high turnover suggests deeply rooted cultural problems. Be sure to consider your history of workplace claims and compare this rate to industry standards.

3. Accept the cold truth. Many employers pass on EPL insurance because they simply can’t comprehend an act of discrimination, battery, or wrongful termination in their small, close-knit firms. But an accusation of wrongdoing can be filed by any employee at any time, and about 60 percent of EPL cases tend to rule in favor of employees.

Ultimately, your decision to invest in EPL insurance should come from a careful comparison of risk against premium costs. For additional guidance on these and other key HR issues, contact the Des Moines, IA staffing professionals at The Palmer Group.