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Friday, January 29, 2010

Social Media and Self Preservation

The choice is yours: ride the train or be squarely positioned on the tracks as it comes barreling by. That's how I feel about social media. Social networking is ubiquitous. It enables us to be "uber" connected with others in a way that transcends any other form of media.

You can't see me blushing, but the truth is that I just created my Facebook profile a month ago. One of my initial observations was the role that social media plays in employment - both from a "push" and a "pull" perspective. Companies use social media as marketing and branding tools. Individuals use social media as networking and job search tools. Employers use social media as a recruitment tool.

So I told myself what I told my daughter when we bought her a cell phone and signed up for unlimited text messaging: "Don't send anything in a text message that you would be embarrassed to let me read." My general guidelines for using social media aren't that much different: whatever we write should be at best, thought provoking but not provocative; and at worst, ordinary and innocuous.

The way we present ourselves on a social networking site is, in effect, our "brand." If I look at someone's profile, I get a virtual video of who they are, simply by looking at pictures, comments, personal information, writing style, and how they spend their time. That's when I became aware of simulation games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars. I haven't played them, but I can't begin to count the number of white mystery eggs that my Facebook "friends" have discovered on their farms. Some of my friends are animal lovers, too - like my friend Susan, who extricated a purple sea horse from a tangled mess of kelp. I'm flummoxed by how much time people appear to spend playing these games. And while Tony Soprano may give you props for earning amethyst cuff links in Mafia Wars, I'm underwhelmed. As for me, I've achieved gold medal status playing ping pong on the Wii. Don't misunderstand me. I'm proud of this (largely because it's my primary form of exercise). But you'll never see it on my Facebook wall.

To my point: be cautious about what you reveal to your friends (and the friends of your friends). It's easier to avoid the pitfalls of "TMI" with business-oriented networking sites like LinkedIn. But if you're using a site like Facebook, muster up a little restraint. I leave you with my own tips for protecting "brand you":

1. Learn how to use the privacy settings for your profile. The privacy settings in Facebook allow you to control who can see your profile, who can post to your wall, and who can see your search results in Facebook and on search engines. You also have the ability to block specific people from interacting with you on Facebook.

2. Give serious consideration to what type of information and how much detail you're willing to share. Do you want to share your political views? I'm not suggesting you shouldn't - just that you should carefully consider every piece of personal information that will become public.

3. What about that photo of you from spring break in Cancun? You get the picture. Don't post any photos that even hint at being inappropriate.

4. Avoid using Facebook while you're on the clock at work! I'm often amazed at notifications of friends' activities during times when they are clearly at work - and it's not even lunchtime.

5. Avoid mixing friends and business associates. Decide how you want to use the site - as a means of connecting with family and friends, or connecting with business associates.

I don't doubt that employers and recruiters use social networking sites to vet potential employees. Your profile may only be visible to friends and friends of friends, but people are pretty resourceful.

There's a lot to learn - check out the Holy Grail of Facebook Privacy.

In the meantime, I'm keeping a low "profile" and staying out of FarmVille. That is, until a friend notifies me that it's time to harvest a real money tree.

Authored by Sandy Turba

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Navigating an OFCCP Audit

In my previous blogs, I've discussed wage and hour requirements and the elements of a compliant AAP. But what should you do if you've received the dubious honor of being selected by the OFCCP for an audit? Read on.

Under the OFCCP's new Active Case Management system for conducting non-construction compliance evaluations, all compliance reviews now begin with a standard desk audit.

If you receive notice of a desk audit, you will need to send a copy of your AAP (both the plan for females and minorities and the plan for veterans and individuals with disabilities) for the current plan year, as well as the items on the listing attached to the letter (11 total). This includes activity data for the first six months of the current plan year if you receive the audit letter in the second half of your plan year. The AAP and supplemental data to be sent is based on the address where the audit letter is sent; that location is the "establishment" that is being audited.

The itemized listing of data/information to be sent also includes:

  • compensation data for all employees included in the AAP,
  • copies of any bargaining unit contracts; and
  • copies of the last three years of EEO-1 filings

You will have 30 days from the receipt of the letter to provide the current AAP and the additional information requested. Once the response package is received at the OFCCP office that issued the audit letter, they will check to see if all required items are included and will analyze the information provided to determine if there are indicators of "systemic discrimination" (i.e., a potential affected class of 10 or more applicants/workers). If there are no indicators and your AAP is compliant with the regulations, you will receive a closure letter. If there are indicators, a full desk audit will be conducted. This will entail further requests for information and possibly an on-site review. If there is an on-site review, it will likely include a review of I-9 records, interviews of employees and managers, and a review of employment records.

Based on our experience over the past 12 years in support of numerous clients through the audit process, we leave you with the following tips to help you navigate the process:

  • Verify that the data you submit is accurate and complete and in full response to the request. It is very difficult to explain away errors in the data submitted.
  • Respond in a timely manner to all items listed in the audit letter, as well as additional requests for information, to the extent that they are reasonable requests. If you need more time to respond accurately and completely, ask for it.
  • Be ready to explain the non-discriminatory reasons for negative results in the analysis.
  • Get your I-9's in order.
  • Document your efforts in outreach to veterans and individuals with disabilities.
  • Check your workplace and applicant process for accessibility; and your documentation of postings of job openings to state agencies.
  • Ensure that you have met your EEO-1 and VETS 100/100A filing requirements.
  • Make sure your applicant flow data meets the standards expected by the OFCCP (see the previous blog for details).
  • Review your employee files to confirm that they do not contain information that should be in separate confidential files (e.g., medical information, internal investigation reports).
  • Prepare a list of accomplishments and good faith efforts for the previous and current plan years.

The audit will either be closed out with a closure letter indicating that no violations were found or that only technical violations were found that are easily remedied. If discriminatory practices are found, a conciliation agreement and possible monetary settlement will result.

Here's the good news: once an audit is closed out, you cannot be audited again at that location for two years.

Authored by Dave Waldorf

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