Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Handling Employee Online Privacy

One of the big responsibilities of human resources is to make sure employees are treated fairly and their privacy is protected.  Employees expect what happens in the office to remain there, but today's technology allows people to easily spread the word out to countless people. 

It's up to HR to make sure this doesn't happen so the organization can avoid any legal problems.  But how to do this when the technology makes it so easy?  Jeffrey S. Tenenbaum and Lisa M. Hix of D.C.-based Venable LLP offered some tips on how nonprofits can better handle these sticky situations:
  • Employees are going to use their computers for personal use whether you like it or not.  It's an unavoidable fact of life, so make sure staff is educated on what they can and can't post.
  • You need a clear and reasonable policy that explains expectations on usage. It should reduce any expectation of privacy on the organization’s computers or email, phone/voicemail or Blackberry systems and the data on them.
  • Make sure the policy you create addresses permissible use while guarding against potential legal pitfalls.
  • Always be prepared.  Organize a team (consisting of legal, executive, marketing, and HR staff) before a crisis happens, not after.
  • Want to check out a potential employee's online interactions?  Get written consent from them first.
  • Screen all your candidates the same way.  Don't treat one different than the other.
  • Remember that you can only decide not to hire someone based on online interactions if it's a non-discriminatory reason.  For example, you can't just not hire a person because you found out they have different political beliefs than you.

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