USCIS Reaches 2014 H-1B Cap

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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has reached the statutory H-1B cap of 65,000 for fiscal year 2014.

The cap was reached within the first week of the filing period. USCIS has received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of individuals exempt from the cap under the advanced degree exemption. The H-1B program is used by organizations to employ foreign workers in occupations requiring specialized expertise such as science, engineering, and computer programming.
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The Smart Guide to Managing Smartphones in the Workplace

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Smartphones and mobile devices have become critical business communication tools in the workplace, making it essential for organizations to establish policies. This guide summarizes important things to consider in managing legal risks of smartphone use outside of work, providing smartphones to employees, creating smartphone policies, and allowing smartphone use at work.

Smartphone Use Outside of Work & FLSA Compliance

Increasingly, non-exempt/hourly employees may use smartphones and mobile devices after hours for work, which creates challenges for complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In fact, a 2013 employment lawsuit involving policemen in Chicago seeking overtime pay for "off-duty" time using their Blackberrys clearly illustrates this risk.
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Internet and Email Use in the Workplace

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Internet and email use has unquestionably become a necessary part of conducting business for the vast majority of organizations and their employees. According to the bi-annual ERC Policies & Benefits Survey, the percent of organizations with employees accessing the internet has remained fairly constant since 2008, at about 96% of non-union employees. The largest variation in this accessibility is found, unsurprisingly, among non-union maintenance and production workers, where access may vary according to specific job duties or departments at about 30% of organizations.

With such a large proportion of the workforce accessing the internet at their place of work, a heated debate over the pros and cons of internet and email use for personal purposes while at work has naturally evolved. Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on or what fits best into your organizational culture, clear policies around internet and email use are key- so let’s take a look at what organizations are doing in Northeast Ohio and across the country to effectively manage this 21st century workplace challenge.
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The Growing Problem of Work Stress & How to Address It

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It's not uncommon to encounter employees who are concerned about work stress these days. Work stress is compounding across the workforce. What's to blame? Research shows that most of the time it's the workplace itself. How can employers solve it? Changing the workplace.

Work Stress: A Growing Problem

Three 2013 national surveys show that work stress is a growing problem. A survey by Harris Interactive shows that 10% more workers are stressed in 2013 when compared to 2012, and that about 8 in 10 workers (of 1,019 surveyed) report being stressed by something at work. Only 17% of workers say that nothing stresses them out about their jobs.
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Women & Leadership: How to Develop More Female Leaders

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Women & Leadership: How to Develop More Female Leaders

Not only have gender-related leadership conversations emerged lately in the media, the attraction, retention, and development of talented women has become an important issue for many employers in recent years. Organizations are increasingly recognizing the need to develop and support more female leaders in their workplace.

"We seem to be getting more and more requests lately for training and coaching programs that address the specific needs of women in the workplace," says Chris Kutsko, Director of Learning & Development at ERC. She explains, "Subjects like Assertiveness, Personal Branding, Empowerment, and Leadership for Women are topics that are getting more attention. In addition, C-Level executives are making a more conscious effort to equip their female leaders with the tools, training, and support to help them achieve higher levels within the organization."

Developing more female leaders sometimes raises challenges and questions for organizations, in terms of how they can support, train, and develop them, as their needs are often different from male leaders. Here are some suggestions.
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Evolving Gender Roles in the Family and the Workplace

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In the media

So far, in 2013, the media has placed a great deal of attention on the evolving roles of women in the workplace largely thanks to Marissa Mayer - first for her noteworthy rise to CEO of Yahoo and then for her controversial decision to eliminate telecommuting and work-from-home arrangements at the struggling tech giant.

These high profile cases act as a catalyst to push a healthy, or sometimes less healthy, or even sensationalized dialogue regarding 21st century gender roles both in the home and in the workplace. While Mayer’s high profile case study in a “C-level” position at a global corporation is unquestionably a key piece towards achieving a better understanding of these issues, she is only part of the larger story about gender roles that will continue to unfold for years to come.
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Workplace Flexibility Trends

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At the Executive HR Women's Network event on March 20th, 2013, Staffing Solutions Enterprises and ERC teamed up to provide participants with information from the Alfred P. Sloan and NorthCoast 99 programs.


SueAnn Naso, President of Staffing Solutions (establishing company of the Women's Network), presented data from the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility. Having been a winner of the prestigious national award in 2012, SueAnn explained some of the WorkFlex options Staffing Solutions offers its employees.
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FMLA & Facebook: 6 New Lessons for Employers

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FMLA & Facebook: 6 New Lessons for Employers

Increasingly, Facebook and other social media postings are entering the courtroom as employers use them as evidence for taking adverse action against employees. Here are two cases regarding Facebook and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which serve as models for employers on this issue and offer six (6) important lessons.

Case Law Overview

Case #1

In Lineberry v. Detroit Medical Center, a federal district court ruled that an employer is entitled to fire an employee if they have an "honest belief" that he or she is abusing FMLA leave.

In the case, Carol Lineberry was employed by Detroit Medical Center as a Registered Nurse. She injured herself on-the-job when moving stretchers, was treated by her physician, and was told not to return to work. As a result, Lineberry received approved FMLA leave from her employer.

While on leave, Lineberry took a vacation to Mexico. The trip was approved by her physician who stated that the vacation would not conflict with her recovery nor would be as physically demanding as performing her job duties. During her vacation, however, Lineberry posted photos on Facebook suggesting that she misrepresented her need for FMLA. Her coworkers saw these postings and complained to Lineberry's supervisor.

When questioned, Lineberry informed her supervisor that she used a wheelchair during her travel, however during a subsequent disciplinary meeting, when reminded that airports have cameras, admitted to lying about using a wheelchair. As a result, Detroit Medical Center terminated Lineberry for dishonesty and falsifying information. Lineberry sued the hospital, alleging that it interfered with her FMLA rights and retaliated against her.

The court considered Lineberry's Facebook postings and dishonesty about the use of a wheelchair as facts which led Detroit Medical Center to reasonably believe that she had misused FMLA leave.

Case #2

A similar case, Jaszczyszyn v. Advantage Health Physician Network, involved Sara Jaszczyszyn, a customer service representative employed at Advantage Health Physician Network. Sara requested and obtained the appropriate medical certification for intermittent FMLA leave as a result of a car accident.

After receiving certification, Sara was absent for a continuous and open-ended length of time. While on FMLA leave, Sara posted pictures of herself at a festival, socializing and enjoying time with friends. Her coworkers viewed these pictures and complained to their boss. Sara was eventually terminated and filed a retaliation claim against Advantage Health Physician Network.

Sara's claim was dismissed by court, primarily because the organization was able to show that it had an honest belief that she was engaging in fraud and relied on facts in its decision to terminate her. Also, the organization conducted a complete and thorough investigation of the issue and inquired about the discrepancy between her claim and Facebook photos.

Employer Takeaways

These two cases have some important implications for employers in terms of managing social media postings and FMLA leave, specifically:

  1. Social media postings may be legitimate evidence, coupled with other relevant facts and evidence from many different sources, to aid in an investigation and substantiate that an employee is abusing or misusing FMLA leave.
  2. Coworker complaints or reports about behavior on Facebook and other social media websites can be taken seriously and may prompt further investigation.
  3. Employers are permitted to properly investigate an employee's FMLA leave if they suspect that an employee is violating the terms of their leave.
  4. It's important to follow your disciplinary policy and procedure. These organizations remained compliant and consistent with their disciplinary policies and procedures, and took steps to obtain the appropriate information prior to terminating the employees.
  5. Organizations should obtain the appropriate information about an employee's medical restrictions under FMLA before taking adverse action on an employee.
  6. Employers should focus on responding to complaints about Facebook and other social media behavior, rather than routinely "spying" on employees' Facebook profiles and social media behavior.

There will undoubtedly be much more case law to glean insights from as Facebook and other social media postings make their way into the courtroom. As these cases unfold, employers should use them as models and lessons for how to manage FMLA and other employment laws.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

Additional Resources

FMLA Administration & Services: ERC's Preferred Partner, CareWorks, provides ERC members with discounts on services related to day to day management, tracking, and overall administration of FMLA. CareWorks' approach is outcome-based, streamlined, and cost-effective, and ensures that claims are handled consistently and in compliance with state and federal laws. 

Employment Law Fundamentals: This seminar is designed to provide managers and supervisors with an overview of relevant employment law considerations and to support a proactive, positive work environment. Presented in an interactive style, this seminar can be customized to specific topic areas desired by the employer.

ERC Preferred Partner CareWorks provides Absence Management and FMLA Administration. ERC Members save 5% off per EE per month fee or a $500 discount off Initial Set-up Fee

Social Media Policies Guide Employees and Protect Companies

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Your employees use social media.

It’s a safe assumption to make—almost 70% of internet users use social media. And because your workers are using social media, it’s crucial that you supply a social media policy.

Why do social media policies matter?

Social media policies establish guidelines for how your employees use social media. These policies outline what is and is not appropriate for employees to post on social media outlets, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and other related platforms.

Successful social media policies:

  • Offer guidance to employees.
  • Protect companies.
  • Are clear and straight-forward.
  • Are easy to understand easy to use.

An effective policy will inform employees of the boundaries of acceptable posting. It should encourage employees to avail themselves of social media, both independently and as an employee.
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Business Related Social Media Use on the Rise

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Despite a strong focus over the years on the types of policies and restrictions being placed on employee’s social media use in the workplace, an equally important story regarding the growing use of social media among employer’s for business related purposes  is also emerging.

This change can be seen through a simple comparison of the results of ERC’s Social Media in the Workplace surveys over time. First conducted in 2010, employers indicated that the primary obstacle preventing their organization from actively engaging in social media use was “a lack of knowledge or expertise in using [social media] tools”, Facebook was ranked fourth among the most common social networking sites used by employers for a small list of business related purposes, and responsibilities related to social media fell to HR and Recruitment type positions.
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