On August 1, 2012, Illinois became only the second state to specifically prohibit employers from asking for job applicants’ social media passwords, even as part of the background check. The law leaves no loopholes—even sensitive positions and government jobs that typically require extensive background investigations will not be given a pass.
So far, only Maryland has a similar law on the books, although this is a hot topic that several states—such as Washington, California and New Jersey—have been considering. The issue first gained widespread attention when a Maryland correctional officer complained to the American Civil Liberties Union about having to provide his Facebook password when returning from extended leave. He complied, but felt embarrassed and violated when the department’s investigating officer browsed his posts and photos.
While the state felt the practice overstepped boundaries and potentially violated federal law, the department contended the practice was essential to identify officers who might have otherwise undisclosed gang affiliations. In a review of more than 2,500 applications, it was determined that seven candidates were rejected based in part on their social media accounts and photos. Images of the applicants demonstrating known gang signs were one of the reasons candidates were rejected for the position.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said that individual privacy is a fundamental right, and one that needed to keep pace with advances in technology. The Illinois bill is an attempt to ensure that happens.
The question of whether the practice is legal or not has yet to be decided, and HR professionals can expect much more to come on this topic across the states. But regardless of your state’s current position on the issue, all employers should certainly be wary of viewing an applicant or employee’s social media accounts. Becoming aware of information you wouldn’t otherwise have known—particularly if it is about a protected status, such as disability or religion—could lead to a charge of discrimination.
For more information, please visit us at www.laborlawcenter.com or call (800) 745-9970
A local Chicago ordinance prohibits employment discrimination against parents. While many municipalities have such laws, employers have shown little concern for them in the past, because monetary awards under such laws were rare.
In the Chicago case, a 39-year-old working mother of two employed by a healthcare company was paid a lower (more…)
New regulations on FMLA will affect nearly every employer in Illinois.
On February 11, 2008, the U. S. Department of Labor proposed new FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) regulations. Theses regulations include many changes for employers. Until April 11, 2008, when the regulations go into effect, employers have the option to make comments on them.
To make comments, employers can click this link. Once on the site, enter the words “Family and Medical Leave Act” encased in quotes. Before adding comments, employers need to be aware that this site is public.
“Substitution of paid leave” is one of the changes in the new regulations. The law doesn’t require employers to pay workers who are on FMLA leave, but it does allow employees to take FMLA and any accrued sick leave at the same time. This substitution of paid leave includes all PTO (paid time off); including vacation time and personal leave. To take PTO, however, the worker must meet all the company’s requirements regarding leave usage.
To illustrate, consider James who has a total of 10 weeks paid time off. Two weeks are sick time, three are personal and the remaining five are vacation. Before the implementation of the new FMLA, James would only be able to use the two weeks of sick time while on FMLA leave. When the new regulations go into effect, James can utilize all 10 weeks of accrued leave.
Once his PTO is used, James will then be entitled to 2 weeks of unpaid FMLA leave. Thus, James has effectively substituted PTO for part of his FMLA leave.
Under the new FMLA regulations, the employer is permitted to require workers to use up all PTO before charging time to FMLA leave.
Another change in the new FMLA regulations changes a policy regarding employee attendance. Previously, FMLA time did not count toward a worker’s absence, which meant an employee who took 12 weeks of FMLA could still qualify for a “perfect attendance” award, often earning bonuses, too. With the new regulations, FMLA leave will be considered the same as any non-FMLA absences, so workers will no longer be eligible for perfect attendance awards.
More Illinois FMLA Changes
On February 11, 2008, the U. S. Department of Labor proposed a number of changes to the FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) regulations. Employers will have close to two months to comment on these changes. On April 11, 2008, the regulations will be in effect and in force.
The U. S. Department of Labor’s Victoria Lipnic made the following statement. “It’s time to update these regulations — to reflect court decisions, clear up ambiguities and address issues that weren’t contemplated when the regulations were first issued in 1995.”
A majority of the new regulations address the definition and medical certification of the worker’s “serious health condition”.
When a worker has a “serious medical condition”, FMLA allows him or her to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per 12 month period. In addition to using FMLA for him or herself, the leave can be taken to care for a family member with a “serious health condition.” According to FMLA, family member is defined as a parent, spouse or child.
To be eligible for FMLA leave, employers usually require that a healthcare practitioner certify the “serious medical condition.” The U. S. Department of Labor supports this practice to avoid employee’s abusing the leave.
Even when certification is provided, employers can, in some cases, request a second or third opinion. These visits must be paid for by the employer.
The new rules retain six of the definition for a “serious medical condition” and provide additional clarification of 2 terms. One of these six definitions requires that the “serious medical condition” involve greater than 3 days of incapacitation, and “two visits to a health provider”.
The term “two visits to a health provider”, however, is without a time frame. Is it two visits a week, a month, or a year?
The Tenth Circuit court ruled that the visits must occur during the incapacitation period. U. S. Department of Labor, however, will amend the rule such that the two visits are required within 30 days of the incapacity.
OSHA, the federal Occupation Safety and Health Administration, warns Illinois employers that employees can be injured by exposure to cold weather in the workplace, even at as mild a temperature of 50 degrees.
With the recent winter storms in the Midwest which knocked out power for nearly a month, Illinois employers and those across the nation need to be aware that cold weather exposure can cause cold stress, frostbite and hypothermia.
Outdoor workers are particularly susceptible to cold weather hazards, but with winter upon the country, all employees could be at some level of risk according to OSHA.
Cold stress is a condition where the body can no longer warm itself. The colder the temperature, the more the body works to create body heat. All internal organs are given priority, which means that blood is taken away from the outer limbs. In these cases, ears, the nose, feet, hands, toes and fingers are in great risk of frostbite.
Hypothermia is a serious drop in body temperature, and can be fatal. Cold stress is a less serious form of hypothermia. In severe cases, however, cold stress can cause permanent injury and can result in death.
Certain workers need to be aware that they may be more susceptible to these cold weather related illnesses. Older employees, employees on sedatives or tranquilizers, and those on antidepressants may be at greater risk. Medications can interfere with the body’s ability to warm itself, and as people age, their bodies become less efficient at keeping warm.
A few simple safety measures can help all employees prevent these cold weather illnesses. All employees should dress for the weather. Wet and windy conditions, even at 50 degrees can cause cold stress, so workers should dress appropriately. Layers of clothing are recommended, as is having extra clothing on hand in case something gets wet.
Workers should also take lots of breaks and go inside, or to a warm area out of the wind, wet and cold. Warm drinks like broth are recommended, as are warm meals rich in carbohydrates.
Workers should avoid alcohol and all caffeine drinks. Both diminish the body’s ability to warm up.
Cold weather can expose workers to several cold-related injuries and illnesses. The federal OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the Illinois OSHA recently issued alerts warning of the dangers of Cold Stress and Trench Foot in the workplace.
Cold stress occurs when the body is unable to warm itself. Mild cases can be usually be treated by moving the employee to a warm, dry area. Severe cases can lead to hypothermia, however, which can be fatal.
Trench Foot is similar to frostbite, but less severe and was first named in World War I. Soldiers fighting that war often stood for long periods of time in trenches that were filled with water. This exposure to the water caused the soldiers’ feet to itch, burn and blister–similar to the conditions of frostbite. Trench Foot is a sign of cold stress and can put employees at risk for injury.
Preventing Cold Stress and Trench Foot requires the employees to take certain steps.
First, all workers must dress appropriately for the weather, especially those employees who work outside. OSHA recommends dressing in at least three layers, with the outer layer made of fabric to specifically cut the effects of wind. Second, all workers should wear hats. Third, footwear should be insulated and waterproof.
Even in milder temperatures, water and wind can significantly lower the body’s temperature. Wind chill, the combination of temperature and wind speed can make the skin feel colder than what is on the thermometer. Stronger winds mean colder wind chills, and colder body temperatures.
In addition to dressing properly, employees can watch each other for symptoms of cold stress by working in pairs. At the first signs of cold stress, the worker should move out of the cold and remove any wet clothing. Dry clothing, if available, should replace the wet ones, or the worker should be wrapped in warm blankets. Give the employee warm beverages, but nothing that contains alcohol or caffeine. Both of these substances can interfere with the body’s capability of staying warm.
A deadly shooting at a suburban Illinois strip mall is just the latest in a months-long series of shootings in the workplace.
Although federal statistics for 2007 show that workplace violence is down, a number of very high-profile incidents belie that trend.
On February 2, a gunman attempted to rob a Lane Bryant women’s clothing store in Tinley Park, a middle-class suburb southwest of Chicago. The robbery apparently went wrong, and the gunman killed herded five women into the back room of the store before killing them execution-style.
The shooting occurred about 10:30 am. Police shut down the mall and searched the stores, but were not immediately able to locate the gunman.
The victims were identified as shoppers and workers aged 22 to 37.
One victim, Carrie Hudek Chiuso, 33, was a high-school social worker from Frankfort, Illinois who was shopping. Frankfort is a far-south suburb of Chicago. Students at Homewood-Flossmoor High School had counselor’s available to talk with about the death of the well-loved counselor. Ironically, this is exactly the type of team that Chiuso would have led, in the past.
The gunman apparently targeted a women’s clothing store specifically to reduce the chances that he would have to deal with male employees or customers.
Nationwide, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics, murders at work decreased from 200 per year in the early 1990s to just 94 in 2006. However, a number of recent violent incidents show that employers still need to be aware of violence in the workplace.
A 10-hour standoff on October 5, 2007 ended when a gunman in a downtown law office in Alexandria, Louisiana was shot and killed by police. The episode was one of several cases of workplace violence in past months. The 63-year-old retired city maintenance worker killed two people, including the son of one of the attorneys and a postal worker who happened to be delivering mail in the building at the time.
Alexandria mayor Jacques Roy said police got into the building after using explosives, and John Ashley, the gunman, died in a shootout. Ashley battled police attempts to rescue the law office staff. Finally two workers, both injured, managed to elude the gunman and escape, and police rescued a third. Injured were two attorneys – one of them the father of one of those murdered – and a legal secretary.
Virginia Tech was the site of the worst workplace violence incident in 2007, when a young man wounded 17 students and staff and killed 32 others before turning his gun on himself. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, says the gunman, Seung-Hut Cho showed signs of workplace violence. He was not being treated for his mental health problems, he had outbursts of rage, and had an obsession with weapons.
At an Orlando Denny’s restaurant on International Drive, a 40-year-old waitress was killed over the Labor Day weekend when her estranged husband attacked her with a knife. The assailant, chased by customers and employees, escaped by leaping a fence, leaving behind his bloody knife and one of his shoes.
Another school, Delaware State University in Dover, Delaware, was the site of a tragic event in September 2007. A gunman shot two students to death near a college dining hall. The university was locked down and all of its 1,700 students were restricted to their dormitories.
In late fall, near the University of Wisconsin Madison, a gunman attempted to get himself shot and killed by police by reporting a bogus bomb threat to a nearby hospital and firing off his weapon. An officer at the scene described the episode as “a simple case of attempted ‘suicide by cop.’”