CREDENTIAL CHECK CORPORATION®
|Welcome to the March 2008 edition of the Credential Check Examiner! This month we look into the unconsidered aspects of cancer in the workplace, preventable pitfalls in telecommuting, and investigating anonymous complaints.|
As always, please feel free to reply with your comments and suggestions!
|The Unconsidered Aspects of Cancer in the Workplace|
|Over two years ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published information for employees and employers dealing with cancer in the workplace. Despite this publication, many employers continue to have questions regarding the best ways to handle employees dealing with cancer. It is estimated that forty percent of working-age adults have had some form of cancer, so the issue is prevalent enough that all employers with more than fifteen employees should be well versed in dealing with cancer in the workplace.|
Briefly, it should be noted that the Americans with Disabilities Act ( ADA) prohibits discrimination against employees with certain long-term or permanent disabilities. The EEOC enforces the ADA regulations, but not all cancer patients are disabled according to the ADA. Cancer can become a disability when the disease, or the disease’s side effects, lead to substantial limitations of major life activities such as bathing, sleeping, or reproducing. Cancer may also be considered a disability when the patient’s employer perceives his cancer as significantly affecting his major life activities. It is important to understand the conditions associated with cancer that qualify for protections under the ADA because medical breakthroughs allow for the treatment of many cancers without ever triggering ADA protections.
When an employee is also a cancer patient, many employers must also manage the effects of the illness with the patient’s co-workers. Some businesses have difficulty balancing the patient’s reasonable accommodation, the patient’s privacy, and co-worker complaints of unfairness. An example of this with a real company is when one patient employee needed accommodations in the form of rest breaks and shorter work days. The patient’s employer had done an exceptional job of maintaining the privacy of the patient, but several of his co-workers were complaining that he was receiving special treatment. In order to correct this situation and prevent future situations, the company researched and selected a source to provide assistance in training the business's employees, focusing on rules and policies dealing with Equal Employment Opportunities and the ADA. After the employees received this training they were better able to understand and tolerate situations that were previously perceived as unfair. Educating your employees on these regulations and policies may help alleviate tension between co-workers if you are in a similar situation.
|Exploration of Preventable Pitfalls in Telecommuting|
|Telecommuting, e-work, and working at home (WAH) are among some of the common terms that describe a work arrangement in which employees are given flexibility regarding their working location and hours. |
Several studies suggest that there are benefits for companies that allow this option including reduction in overhead and travel time, increased productivity, and even environmental and health benefits. While some data documents the success of these programs there are negative effects that must be considered prior to implementation.
Companies that allow employees to telecommute do have to consider the increased risk of confidential data loss as well as the increased cost of technology they must provide. In order to mitigate their risk, employers must be prepared and willing to spend the money to make certain that employees have the proper technology and equipment such as laptops, personal data assistants (PDA), and security networks. An employer must also consider the possible liability or worker compensation issues that may arise from an employee working at home.
In addition, many managers who are accustomed to observing and interacting with employees regularly may have difficulty learning alternative methods of interaction when they lose control over their physical environment. Training on how to effectively and efficiently work in this realm is vital as management and employees may primarily be communicating via email or instant messages.
To ensure greater success, companies should also explore new approaches to evaluating, informing, and organizing their employees based on the results they produce. To ensure a successful implementation of a telecommuting program, companies should be prepared to combat these pitfalls and provide the necessary support their employees need.
|Ethics and Compliance Programs Now Required for Government Contractors |
|Most companies currently have a formal code of ethics and related internal controls. However, companies that have contracts with the federal government should review their current policies to ensure compliance with new mandates.|
On November 23, 2007 the Federal Acquisition Regulation (“FAR”) was published after approval by several governmental agencies. The FAR, which is available at (Vol. 72, No. 225 / Friday, November 23, 2007 / Rules and Regulations), requires federal governmental contractors to meet specific ethics and compliance standards. The new FAR requirements, which went into effect on December 24, 2007, generally apply to all companies with a government contract valued at $5,000,000 or more which will take more than 120 days to complete. There are, however, a few exceptions that can be extended for small businesses, contracts for commercially available goods, or contracts performed outside the U.S. In general, the rules require non-exempt contractors to institute, train, and audit their written code of business ethics.
All government contractors must possess a compliant business ethics program within 30 days of successfully winning a government contract. The business ethics program must:
• be in written form;Within 90 days being awarded a government contract, contractors must establish:
• be provided to every employee working on the government project; and
• contain provisions that promote compliance with the code.
• a program to create awareness of the business ethics program;So, what should your next steps be? First you should determine whether this new rule obligates your organization to develop a code of business and control system. If you need to develop a code of business ethics and internal controls system begin to develop a plan by:
• an internal control system that will:
• encourage timely discovery of improper conduct in connection with government contracts;
• ensure corrective measures are promptly instituted and carried out when improper conduct is discovered;
• provide for periodic review of the business ethics program;
• establish a mechanism for employees to report concerns about government contracts;
• provide for audits of the reporting mechanism; and
• display posters about the program.
1. Reviewing all current policies and procedures such as existing codes of conduct, finance and policies, or Human Resources protocols. This should be done at minimum on an annual basis;In many respects, these rules parallel the requirements in the Federal Sentencing Guidelines and Sarbanes Oxley legislation. These requirements may initially seem troublesome but they provide great value to an organization by promoting an ethical culture and act as a deterrent for employees to commit fraudulent activity.
2. Create a policy that establishes your code of business ethics;
3. Identify the key personnel within your organization that will routinely review the policies;
4. Establish an on-going training program for the business ethics code.
5. Implement a whistleblower/ethics hotline solution as your reporting system for employees to report concerns of workplace misconduct; and
6. Develop a communications plan for notifying employees of the new programs.
|Quote of the Month |
"You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today." top
- Abraham Lincoln
|Investigating Anonymous Complaints|
|The 2006 ACFE Report to the Nation on Occupational Fraud and Abuse reports that the majority (nearly 60%) of fraudulent activity is discovered through tips or by accident (not through internal controls or audits), and that 18% of the time, those tips were from anonymous sources. Recent statistics show that 40% of all reports of workplace misconduct, fraudulent and otherwise, are submitted anonymously.|
One common concern expressed by organizations of all types is, “How can I investigate the matter if the reporting party is anonymous?
The answer is simple, and somewhat a variation of the common adage, “don’t shoot the messenger”. Investigate the issue being reported, not the reporter. Follow your investigative protocols by identifying factual information, interviewing employees, vendors, or others who may have knowledge of the issue being reported, and observe – objectively – the area of business where the incident occurred. Gather as many facts as you can before making any determination.
One of the most beneficial tools available when investigating an anonymous complaint is the ability to communicate with the reporter. This may not always be possible, depending on how you receive the information. If your current employee reporting system is based on voice mail, email, or “open door”, you cannot assure anonymity to any one, and may or may not have the ability for ongoing communications. However, if you are using a sophisticated reporting tool you not only extend the offer of complete anonymity to the reporting party, but you also have the ability to interactively and anonymously communicate with that person through the system’s message boards. Your investigation is now enhanced by your ability to ask the reporter for additional details, evidence, or clarification . . . while still respecting his or her desire to remain anonymous.
You also have the option of providing your specific contact information within the body of a message, and can extend the invitation to the reporting party to communicate more directly with you when they are comfortable doing so. Based on the reporter’s comfort level, they may accept your offer for direct conversation, or they may only communicate via the anonymous message boards . . . in either case, you are communicating!
If you make no effort to investigate a reported concern simply because the reporter is anonymous, you rob yourself of the opportunity to solve an issue at perhaps its earliest occurrence. Additionally, you will have failed in your obligation under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines by “failing to take reasonable steps to prevent or detect criminal conduct.” §8.B.2.1.(b)(6)
The decision to remain anonymous by a reporting party is primarily based on fear – fear of retaliation from supervisors or managers or from fellow employees. This fear can be alleviated through respectful communications and developing a trusted relationship, which may then lead to a face-to-face meeting. The end result will be an improved investigation and an improved relationship with your employees. Don’t let anonymity be an artificial roadblock to your investigations. If someone cries out “Fire!” your natural reaction is to first see if there is a fire, not to find out who cried out. Investigate the issue using all the tools available to you, and make your reasonable conclusions based on the information you have gathered.
|Contact Information |
|If you are interested in obtaining additional information about these articles or the services offered by Credential Check Corporation, please contact one of the following individuals:|
Thank you! We'll see you next month!