button Vol. 7
No. 4


Impact of Mobilization
line Absenteeism & The Bottom Line
line Feingold FMLA Amendment
line 50 Tips On Workplace Violence
line FLSA Update
line Briefs

Braun Consulting News
News on Personnel, Labor Relations and Benefits

See our Archive Pages for Back Issues of Braun Consulting News!

Human Resources and labor relations Briefs

Checkmark Graphic Identity Theft: Facts, Prevention, and Response

** Some Facts about Identity Theft

  • Under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, identity theft is now a felony.
  • According to the Federal Trade Commission, identity theft ranks as the nation's top consumer fraud complaint.
  • The number one underlying source of identity fraud is theft of employer records, says a report by one of the nation's three credit bureaus.

If a company is lax in the security or monitoring of personnel records it is possible for those records to wind up in the wrong hands. Misappropriated personnel records can be used to fraudulently purchase items, set up credit card accounts, or even rent apartments and the like.

Personnel records are prime targets for identity theft because those records contain employees' names, addresses, Social Security numbers, birth dates, and other personal data - all in one place.

Identity theft is one more item in the long list of reasons employers should make it a priority to keep personnel records secure, with access to them tightly restricted and monitored.

** Ways to prevent identity theft in the workplace.

Besides keeping employee personnel records physically secure here are some other ideas that might help reduce the risk of identity theft at the jobsite.

    - Password-protect access to computer files and issue employees individual passwords that are regularly changed. Make sure that employee passwords are disabled and removed immediately after an employee is terminated or transferred.

    - Shred all documents that contain personal employee information when it's time to remove those records.

    - Establish and enforce a well-publicized privacy policy. Specifically identify how personal information about applicants and employees will be handled.

    - Run a background check on anyone who will have access to personal employee data or personnel records. Treat this as a security issue.

    - Do not use Social Security Numbers as any form of identification for employees. Always use randomly assigned numbers.

    - Have a plan in place in the event that an employee is the victim of identity theft at the workplace.

** What to do if identity theft happens

If an employee informs you that they have been the victim of identity theft or fraud, here are four basic steps you can recommend that they take:

1. Call the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus, report the theft, and request that a "fraud alert" be placed on their file and that no new credit be granted without their approval.

These are the numbers they will need.

    Experian: 1-888-397-3742
    Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    Trans Union: 1-800-680-7289

2. Contact the security departments of the creditors or financial institutions that may be involved. Any accounts that have been fraudulently accessed or opened should be closed. New accounts can be opened with new passwords etc.

3. File a report with local police or the police where the identity theft took place. The report number or a copy of the report may be needed in case the bank, credit card company, or anyone else needs proof of the crime.

4. Call the ID Theft Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338) to report the theft.

If an employee is the victim of identity theft and does those four things they will have gone a long way towards resolving their problems with the least amount of hassle and inconvenience.

Consider posting this information on your company website or any areas on the jobsite where it might be appropriate.

As is true in most workplace issues, prevent the problem in the first place, and prepare to react appropriately to it if it does occur... this is a tried and true way to protect employees and create a safer workplace for everyone.

Checkmark Graphic Office Napping On The Decline

As recently as 2002 a Harvard University study showed that midday naps could sharply improve performance on mental tasks.

Despite an on going body of evidence proving that short naps during the day can increase employee productivity there has been a steady decline of the use of napping privileges over the last couple of years by businesses around the country.

In fact recently companies have actually begun clamping down on "napping."

Companies that used to permit napping are now regulating shift schedules to combat fatigue, passing out "training materials", and even providing coffee to workers as a substitute.

In a survey of 532 companies done this year by Circadian Technologies it was reported that 52 percent of firms had reprimanded or even suspended workers who were "caught" napping - sometimes even on their breaks. In 2002 the number was 14 points lower, at 38 percent. The study also points out that employers who allow shift workers to take naps on their breaks dropped to 21% this year from 44% in 2002 and 48% in 2001.

Unsanctioned napping, or "drowsiness" on the job, actually costs U.S. businesses $18 billion a year in lost productivity, according to a recent report in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. That is not because of time spent sleeping, but because of lost productivity caused by NOT sleeping enough.

In other countries an afternoon "siesta" has been the norm for generations.

Conventional wisdom has associated that shutdown with hotter climates and the heat of the day... but the overall sleep patterns and productivity rates of those cultures have not been taken into consideration by our modern work culture.

The business climate lately has not been conducive to having a reputation around the office as a "napper". Snoozing in the office just "doesn't look good" to customers or co-workers, says Kevin Sheridan of HR Solutions, a Chicago management-consulting firm. With layoffs rife, "the last thing you want is to be viewed as the slacker in the nap room."

** Tips on napping at work

Though we don't want to officially sanction napping at your workplace if it is expressly "forbidden", we thought we would pass along some information we found in a recent article on Wall Street Journal Online about how some employees manage to keep their productivity up "on the sly".

One executive had fallen asleep at her desk, her face propped in her hands, when she heard her boss's voice at her side. Before she raised her head, she murmured a quick, "Amen", and then turned to greet him. He made no comment and she escaped the consequences of her "transgression".

Another person reportedly naps under her desk while holding a screwdriver. If someone discovers her, she emerges from under the desk holding the screwdriver in her hand and mutters, "That darn desk drawer went off-track again."

Others find that the toilet stall is a perfect place to nap. They just sit on the closed seat, prop their head on their hands and their elbows on their knees and - then braced in a stable triangle - doze for several minutes. Not exactly original, but it works.

Some people with closed offices have been known to work out a deal with a co-worker. They have the co-worker posted as a guard at a desk outside their office to watch for approaching managers, and then have the co-worker wake them up after 20 minutes. They find it helps to return the favor.

And finally, to escape a slow moving meeting at a hotel, one clever man ducked into an adjacent room just vacated by another group and curled up under a table skirted by a floor-length curtain. Ten minutes later he slipped back into his meeting, refreshed and rejuvenated.

Checkmark Graphic Be Careful Not To Hit The Send Button By Mistake

Here is another story to remind you to be extremely careful while using e-mail or instant messaging.

Hitting the send button by mistake, or a bit too early, can cause quite an unintended backlash.

On October 31 a memo was sent out within a company named Watson Wyatt that read: "This e-mail is to inform you that today approximately 20 Technology Solutions Practice associates primarily in the Boston and Washington delivery centers were notified that their positions are being eliminated. Those associates affected have been given advance notice that their positions are being eliminated."

The problem was that, in fact advance notice had not been given.

The person who sent the e-mail apparently intended to hit "save" to store the e-mail for later, but instead hit "send".

The person responsible immediately sent out a follow up e-mail that said: "An e-mail regarding staffing changes in the East was released in error by me prematurely, for which I sincerely apologize. We are regrettably in the final review of a staffing action in the East. This is an unfortunate situation with the early release of the e-mail announcement as we are trying to deal with this in as sensitive a way as possible, given the circumstances."

Remind yourself and your employees that we must all remain vigilant to avoid errors like this one... the conveniences of e-mail and instant messaging can have unintended consequences some times if we aren't careful.

Double check everything you send out, and make sure you are absolutely sure that you are ready to release something out "into the world" before you hit the send button. Once it's gone, you can't take it back.

Checkmark Graphic Proposed Bill Would Legitimize Foreign Workers

In July of 2003, Arizona Congressmen Jeff Flake and Jim Kolbe, and Senator John McCain introduced an immigrant worker bill sometimes known as the "Guest-Worker Bill".

This proposed bill would allow millions of foreigners, including those immigrants who are currently in the U.S. illegally, to live and work in the U.S. with temporary visas. An estimated 8 million undocumented foreign nationals currently reside and work in the United States.

If the new bill passes there would be two new visa categories for foreign workers:

1. The H-4A visa would permit foreign nationals to work in the U.S. for up to six years and would allow the worker eligibility for permanent residency status.

2. The H-4B visa would allow illegal immigrant workers to remain in the country for up to three years - after paying a $1,500 fine for having entered the U.S. illegally. The worker should not have a felony or misdemeanor conviction on their record, and if they do not then their spouses and children would also be eligible for this visa status.

3. The bill also has a provision to protect U.S. workers from having their jobs taken by foreign guest workers. This would be accomplished through the creation of a nationwide electronic job registry, in which businesses must advertise, prior to hiring H-4A or H-4B workers.

The proposed bill was allegedly introduced to improve national security - by bringing some organization to the flow of Mexican nationals wishing to work in the U.S., and to benefit the economy because of the necessity for low-skilled labor in the U.S.

Opponents are interested in stricter border controls and a decrease in the number of illegal aliens coming into the country. Opponents claim that legitimizing undocumented aliens would provide an incentive for even more foreign nationals to attempt to illegally cross the border.

Experts predict that the bill is unlikely to make it through Congress.

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