July 27, 2014

Thwart cyber security threats through employee training

Cyber security and data integrity are growing problems for organizations of all sizes - spurring a huge demand for cyber insurance to minimize any losses associated with data breaches. While much attention is focused on thwarting damage by malicious hackers and cyber criminals, the point of greatest vulnerability is often overlooked: your own employees. Any good security plan focuses on plugging internal leaks by training employees in keeping computers, devices and networks safe. And one common threat continues to be vulnerability to phishing scams - which can open access to your entire organization.

The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) recently released its Phishing Trends Report for Q1 2014. Some key findings:

  • The number of phishing sites leaped by 10.7 percent over the fourth quarter of 2013.
  • The number of brands targeted by phishers was up, from 525 targeted in the fourth quarter of 2013 to 557 in the first quarter of 2014.
  • The number of phishing attacks observed in Q1 was 125,215. That is the second-highest number of sites detected in a first quarter, eclipsed only by the 164,032 seen in the first quarter of 2012.
  • Payment Services continued to be the most- targeted industry sector.
  • 32.7 percent of personal computers around the world were infected with malware, aware, or spyware.

In light of this report, we are updated our prior post on Spear Phishing

Phishing is a type of email fraud in which the sender impersonates a trusted source to try to gain access to passwords, credit card numbers, and other sensitive information. The victim is at risk of theft, identity theft, or contacting malicious computer viruses. Fraudulent e-mail is frequently disguised as a message from a bank or a trusted merchant. Scam e-mails often contain a link to a site that either requires the person to enter sensitive data or instructs the user to download a special program. These fake e-mails often look and sound very authentic - even experienced users can be fooled. (It should be noted that phishing can happen by phone, too - every year, the IRS warns about phony calls from scammers posing as tax collectors) While consumer education has alerted many to the scams and most people know better than to give out sensitive information without vetting the source, millions of people are victims each year.

Spear Phishing
Scammers continue to up the ante. More recently, these fraudulent e-mail scams have gotten more sophisticated, targeting specific organizations in a practice called spear phishing, which is a more targeted approach. In these attacks, the phony e-mails masquerade as communication from within the organization - such as from the HR or IT department or from a specific manager. One pernicious example came in a report of spear phishing emails that targeted CEOS through emails disguised as court subpoenas.

Keep informed, educate your employees
Employers need to stay alert about new phishing scams and need to educate their workers about scams to protect the organization from vulnerabilities - it only takes one chink in the armor to launch an internal attack. Two good sources are the FBI e-scams and warnings update and the Anti Phishing Work Group, an organization which stays on top of the latest scams and is a good source of consumer information and education about phishing scams. In how to avoid phishing scams they offer consumer pointers, among them:

  • Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information
  • Don't use the links in an email, instant message, or chat to get to any web page if you suspect the message might not be authentic - call the company on the telephone, or log onto the website directly by typing in the Web adress in your browser
  • Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information - you should only communicate information such as credit card numbers or account information via a secure website or the telephone
  • Always ensure that you're using a secure website when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via your Web browser
  • Consider installing a Web browser tool bar to help protect you from known fraudulent websites.
  • Regularly log into your online accounts (to ensure that there has been not fraudulent activity)
  • Ensure that your browser is up to date and security patches applied
  • Always report "phishing" or “spoofed” e-mails to the following groups:
    * forward the email to reportphishing@antiphishing.org
    * forward the email to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov

Make a policy that you will never ask for confidential employee information (passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers) via e-mail and publicize the policy widely. Use newsletters, company meetings, and bulletins to publicize security tips and to teach your employees that whether at work or at home, they should never share confidential information via e-mail. Here are a few consumer quizzes you can use to test their - and your - knowledge:

Phish Bowl: Fraudulent email examples
Catch a phish - take the quiz
On Guard Phishing Quiz (flash, sound)
Can you spot the phishing?
Anti-Phishing Phil

July 26, 2014

Lighter side: Corporate jargon watch

There are two items on corporate-speak that came to our attention this week and we think both are worthy of note. The first is an article by Josh Kovensky on The Most Absurd Job Titles in America. Hint: "Digital Prophet" isn't even the worst one.

In the intro to his offering of 15 job titles, Kovensky says:

"In a bid to achieve maximal hipness and happiness, companies, particularly in the tech world, have collectively begun to create bizarre new positions or to attach peculiar names to the same old corporate paper-pushing nine-to-fives. A lot of these jobs have a bizarrely spiritual flavor—“evangelists” and “prophets”—while others try and infuse excitement where there is none—“Jedis” and “heroes.” Much of this might be a way of skirting around the grim reality that life in a cubicle is neither exciting nor godly, or that work on the retail line often lacks excitement and moral stakes."

The next item is a musical entry. "Weird Al" Yankovic's new album features Mission Statement -- an anthem for our times that shows Al is quite conversant in the latest corporate lingo.

July 17, 2014

The Case for Charging Smoking Employees Higher Insurance Premiums

A report in the Wall Street Journal reminds us that America's smokers are still 40 million strong, despite a dramatic drop from half a century ago. And the report notes that there are still "pockets of growth and opportunity that are generating great interest in the tobacco industry." In addition to stepping up marketing for some of the more popular options like menthol cigarettes, smoking rates also vary regionally. "Kentucky, a major tobacco producer, had the highest smoking rate in the country last year at 30.2%, followed by West Virginia and Mississippi, according to a Gallup poll. Utah had the lowest rate, at 12.2%, followed by California and Minnesota."

Employment law attorney F. Kytle Frye III of Fisher & Phillips LLP Contact examines the issue of linking insurance premiums to smoking in a recent Labor Letter at JDSupra Business Advisor. He lists a shocking litany of business losses related to smoking.

".. A study of 20,000 employees revealed that smokers had more hospital visits per 1,000 (124 vs. 76), had a longer average length of stay in the hospital (6.5 vs. 5 days) and made six more visits to healthcare facilities per year than non-smokers.

Another recent study found that smokers missed an average of 6.16 days of work per year as opposed to the 3.86 days missed by non-smokers, and that a smoker taking four 10-minute smoke breaks actually worked one month less over the course of a year than a non-smoking employee. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that each smoking employee costs a company an additional $3,391 per year – including $1,760 in lost productivity and $1,623 in excess medical expenses. So, smoking employees seem to be an excellent target to help an employer manage its costs, and not just the cost of providing healthcare."

He notes that some employers are charging smokers higher insurance premiums while others refuse to hire smokers entirely. He examines several of the issues related to raising premiums for smokers, such as HIPAA and ADA concerns: is nicotine an addiction? Can smoking be be deemed a disability?

If you are considering a premium differential, Frye offers a checklist of 6 steps and considerations that employers should process before such any implementation. One important consideration is your state laws about smoking. While roughly half of all states have comprehensive smoke free laws, many others afford smokers various degrees of protection.

July 16, 2014

The problem(s) with meetings

When business meeting really click, they can be a thing of beauty, but all too often, they are the bane of corporate existence. - the communication tool we all love to hate. Bad meetings can be very costly - use this simple meeting ticker for a rough cost - or get the Cost of Meeting App (COMA). It can help to analyze common reasons why meetings fail and study experts for tips for more effective meetings.

We think we have found the ultimate cure for the bad or wasteful meeting.

The following infographic offers some ugly truths about meetings -- and of course, we had to follow it with the video clip, Conference Call in Real life (which, if you haven't seen it, well you simply must.)


July 13, 2014

FMLA Update - Recent issues & case law

Here's a roundup of experts in employment law weighing in on key FMLA issues and case law over the first half of the year.

Obama Administration Announces Proposed Rule Extending FMLA Leave Rights for Same-Sex Couples
Jeff Nowak of FMLA Insights offers a good overview and analysis:
"The Department of Labor announced today [June 20] a proposed rule that would allow an employee to take FMLA leave to care for a same-sex spouse, regardless of whether the employee lives in a state that recognizes their marital status. As expected, the DOL has adopted a “state of celebration” rule, in which a spousal status for purposes of FMLA is determined not on the state in which the employee currently resides (as currently stated in the FMLA regulations), but based on the law of the state where the employee was married. For example, if the employee was married in New York, but now resides with his same-sex spouse in Indiana, the employee will enjoy FMLA rights to care for his spouse as if he had resided in New York."

Additional coverage:
DOL Issues Notice of Proposed FMLA Rule that Offers Equal Leave Rights to Same-Sex Spouses
Marilyn Clark and Jessie E.R. Mischke in JDSupra Business Advisor

Department of Labor (DOL) Proposes New Meaning for “Spouse” for FMLA Purposes
Amy D. Cubbage in The National Law Review

News & Resources
Understanding FMLA Basics

6 Steps You Should Take to Prepare for DOL On-site Visits

ABA's Summary of 2013 FMLA Cases a Critical Resource for Employers, Attorneys

EEOC Commissioner Gives Insight into Handling Employee Leaves of Absence After FMLA is Exhausted

FMLA: Violating work restrictions, ignoring attendance policy cost employer a win

FMLA FAQ: Am I Required to Pay My Employee for Holidays Occurring During FMLA Leave?

Firing an employee just before they’re FMLA-eligible

What happened in Vegas: an FMLA case

Failure to Notify of a Return date

No return date, no problem: Seventh Circuit reverses FMLA summary judgment for employer
"On June 24, 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that an employee did not forfeit her right to leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to care for her seriously ill adult daughter by failing to provide her employer with an anticipated date of return."

Did a Court Just Allow an Employee FMLA Leave to Care for Her Grandchild?

The importance of communication during FMLA leave

FMLA Leave Requests: Do Employees Need to Specify the Expected Duration of Leave?

FMLA Leave – Follow Up on Expected Return to Work

Adult Child Care & The FMLA
FMLA: caring for an adult child
"Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reminded us that the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") provides eligible employees with time off in order to care for adult children who are incapable of self-care. Gienapp v. Harbor Crest and Myra Chattic, No. 14-1053, June 24, 2014.
Her employer argued that the daughter did not qualify as a "daughter" under the regulations because she was married and because Gienapp was no longer "standing in loco parentis." The Court rejected this argument and found that the definition of "daughter" in the regulations was met because she was over 18 years of age and incapable of self-care because of a physical disability."

DOL Guidance: Clarification of the definition of “son or daughter” under Section 101(12) of the Family and Medical Leave Act as it applies to an individual 18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability.

Real-World Examples: FMLA with Children 18 and Above

The 5 Hurdles—FMLA Leave for Children 18 and Older

ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

July 11, 2014

Let's Make Our Day Harder!

Dr. Mike Evans issues a wellness challenge in another compelling video: Let's Make Our Day Harder. You should watch this video and share it with your employees - he makes very important points about health in a persuasive way.

This importance of his message takes on even more significance with the release another study offering yet more evidence that prolonged sitting is bad for you. Cardiologists at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center examined data from from 2,223 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They looked at the association between fitness levels, daily exercise and sedentary behavior, and found, among other things, that the negative effect of six hours of sedentary time on fitness levels was similar in magnitude to the benefit of one hour of exercise .. except the magnitude is in a bad way, not a good way. That means the negative effects of sitting around all day can cancel out the benefits of exercise. Prior studies show similar results: too much sitting is bad even if you get regular exercise.

OK, so what is an office worker supposed to do? Well here's some good news. Breaking up the prolonged periods of sitting can help - and it doesn't have to take radical measures. Employers should be aware of these health risks and encourage office and other sedentary workers to stand up and put more movement in their days. Here are a few ideas:

  • Get up and stretch at least once an hour
  • Stand or walk during phone calls
  • Take short walks throughout the day
  • Deliver a message to nearby colleagues in person instead of via email
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Hold walking meetings
  • Park further away from the building


In A Workout at Work, artists at the Washington Post's illustrated (see above) and animated 12 exercises that you could do in or near your desk. They tried them out for a week and, as an added bonus, they invited readers to vote on how difficult, how sweaty and how humiliating each exercise would be to do at work. They range from super easy to challenging. Check them out - the animated graphics are fun but you can also download a printable poster.

Here are a few other options:
Deskercise! 33 Smart Ways to Exercise at Work

5 Minute Desk Workout

Printable 15 Minute Desk Workout

Looking for the most comprehensive and effective wellness program for your employees? ESI TotalCare Wellness pairs Behavioral Health Clinicians with certified Wellness Coaches to provide employees and their families with the help, motivation, tools and support to make changes and improve their lives. Call 800-535-4841 for more information.

July 6, 2014

Tips to Protect Workers from Heat

Independence Day marks the start of the "Dog Days of Summer," a period the Farmer's Almanac marked from early July to mid-August characterized by low rain and high heat. Heat is a serious work-related issue for many employees - as well as a health issue for their families while at home.

During the last 20 years, more than 8,000 U.S, residents have died due to heat exposure—more than from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined! Extreme heat is defined as an outdoor temperature that hovers 10 degrees or more above the average high temperature and lasts for several weeks under a "dome" of high pressure. See the National Weather Service Heat Index for a color-coded chart depicting the likelihood of heat disorders with prolonged exposure or strenuous activity.

Heat poses severe risks for many workers, such as outdoor workers, workers in confined spaces, workers who are overweight, who have heart conditions, or who are on certain medications. The risks are so high for agricultural and other outdoor workers that some states have enacted mandatory heat stress rules for outdoor workers.

An article in EHS Today on Beating the Heat suggests practical steps an employer can take:

  • Encourage workers to drink plenty of water—about a cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes, even if they are not thirsty —and avoid alcohol, coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks that dehydrate the body.
  • Help workers adjust to the heat by assigning a lighter workload and longer rest periods for the first five to seven days of intense heat. This process needs to start all over again when a worker returns from vacation or absence from the job.
  • Encourage workers to wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Workers should change their clothes if they get completely saturated.
  • Use general ventilation and spot cooling at points of high heat production. Good airflow increases evaporation and cooling of the skin.
  • Train first-aid workers to recognize and treat the signs of heat stress and be sure all workers know who has been trained to detect early signs of heat-related illness. Permit workers to interrupt their work if they become extremely uncomfortable.
  • Consider a worker's physical condition when determining fitness to work in hot environments. Obesity, lack of conditioning, pregnancy and inadequate rest can increase susceptibility to heat stress.
  • Alternate work and rest periods, with rest periods in a cooler area. Shorter, more frequent work-rest cycles are best. Schedule heavy work for cooler times of the day and use appropriate protective clothing.
  • Monitor temperatures, humidity and workers' responses to heat at least hourly.

Here are some additional resources for protecting employees from extreme heat:
OSHA's Campaign to Prevent Heat Illness in Outdoor Workers
NIOSH - Heat Stress
OSHA Quick Card on Heat Stress - PDF - in English and Spanish
OSHA Fact Sheet: Working Outdoors in Warm Climates - PDF
OSHA Technical Manual on Heat Stress
CDC: Extreme Heat
CDC Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Extreme Heat

Risks at home
The Centers for Disease Control reports that young children and the elderly are most at risk for heat because they are less likely to sense and respond to significant changes in temperature. The CDC has devised guidelines to help us protect our elderly relatives and friends as summer temperatures rise - something you may want to circulate to employees:

  • Monitor Those at High Risk: If you know someone 65 or older, be sure to call them twice a day during heat waves. Be aware that heat induced illness can cause an older person to become confused or disoriented so engage in some discussion. Don't just ask them how they feel.
  • Be Sure that High Risk Individuals Have Adequate Cooling: Many elderly citizens rely on simple electric fans for relief; but fans only move rather than cool the air. If air-conditioning equipment is beyond one's budget, contact your local senior center which may be aware of cash grants or have equipment available on loan.
  • Assist with Meal Preparation: The use of stoves or hot ovens for cooking only adds to the ambient temperature during heat waves. You can greatly assist your elderly loved one by stocking their refrigerators with salads and cold plate items which will preclude the need for heavy cooking and may prove to be more appropriate and appetizing hot weather meals.
  • Become Familiar with Weather Related Terms: For example, the heat index is a temperature in degrees Fahrenheit that tells us how hot it really feels when the humidity is factored in. Thus, the heat index is more significant than the actual air temperature when the well being of those at risk is being considered.
  • Be Ready to Activate a Plan of Action: Be aware of the symptoms of a heat emergency, including an extremely high body temperature (above 103°, orally); red, hot skin with no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache, dizziness or nausea, and confusion. Don't hesitate to get the person to a medical facility immediately.

Looking for the most comprehensive and effective wellness program for your employees? ESI TotalCare Wellness pairs Behavioral Health Clinicians with certified Wellness Coaches to provide employees and their families with the help, motivation, tools and support to make changes and improve their lives. Call 800-535-4841 for more information.

July 5, 2014

Holiday weekend humor: The Expert

OK, we've all been there ... frustrating meetings, impossible demands. A professional expert learns the importance of a "can do" attitude to solving business problems.

This compilation of Dilbert clips on "Project Failure" seems to be an appropriately related followup clip.

And if you haven't yet seen it, check out our prior related post: Conference Call in Real Life.


ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

June 29, 2014

News Roundup: Family Leave, Bonuses, Free Speech & More

What paid family leave looks like in the three states that offer it
"California, New Jersey and Rhode Island are the only states that offer paid family and medical leave to workers, a policy that is getting a high-profile boost this week from President Obama." Washington Post

An Employee Dies, and the Company Collects the Insurance
"But critics say it is immoral for companies to profit from the death of employees, while employees themselves do not directly benefit. And despite a law enacted in 2006 that sought to curb the practice — companies now are restricted to insuring only the highest-paid 35 percent of employees, who must give their consent — it remains a growing, opaque and legal source of corporate profit." New York Times

Bonuses Are Back
A new survey finds organizations' use of bonuses to attract and retain talent is at an all-time high. But compensation experts caution that bonus programs need to be well-planned and fully transparent in order to be effective. Human Resource Executive

The Talent Shortage Continues (PDF)
Manpower Group's Ninth Annual Talent Shortage Survey found 36% of emplyers globally report talent shortages in 2014, the highest percentage in seven years. Learn more about what the survey found.

‘Free Speech’ Can Be Costly in the Workplace
It’s a common misconception among employees that their First Amendment rights of free speech carry over to the private workplace. The expression of a political opinion can lead to the loss of a job. Workforce

4 elements of your social media policy that may be illegal
"A study from Proskauer, a business-focused law firm, revealed that companies routinely take action against employees for their behavior on social media platforms, even when it’s their own account used on their own devices on their own time.
Although the infractions that prompted the disciplinary action may have been consistent with the companies’ social media policies, the policies themselves could be illegal. It’s time for companies to revisit their social media policies." ragan.com

Software That Sees Employees, Not Outsiders, As The Real Threat
"A growing number of companies are under pressure to protect sensitive data — and not just from hackers lurking outside the digital walls. They're also looking to protect it from insiders — employees who may want to swipe information such as customer bank account numbers or electronic medical records." NPR

The Walls Shouldn’t Have Ears: Ruling on Eavesdropping Puts Burden of Prevention on Employers
"Are your employees surreptitiously recording conversations? It's a frightening thought. But based upon a new Illinois Supreme Court ruling, they are now free to do so. To discourage this behavior, Illinois employers should consider implementing a policy prohibiting such surreptitious recordings." The National Law Review

News Briefs


ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

June 28, 2014

July Tools & Resources for Wellness

UV Safety Month
The skin is the body's largest organ. It protects against heat, sunlight, injury, and infection. Yet, some of us don't consider the necessity of protecting our skin. According to the World Health Organization, "the rise in the incidence of skin cancers over the past decades is strongly related to increasingly popular outdoor activities and recreational exposure. Overexposure to sunlight is widely accepted as the underlying cause for harmful effects on the skin, eye and immune system. Experts believe that four out of five cases of skin cancer could be prevented, as UV damage is mostly avoidable."

Get the UV Index Phone App

Check your UV Index in your area

UV Alert Map

How do I protect myself from UV rays? American Cancer Society

Protecting Your Eyes from Solar Radiation - American Optometric Association

Fireworks Safety
From June 1 to July 4 and a week or two after, the focus is on Fireworks Safety

Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month
Arthritis is a complex family of musculoskeletal disorders consisting of more than 100 different diseases or conditions that destroy joints, bones, muscles, cartilage and other connective tissues, hampering or halting physical movement. Juvenile arthritis (JA) is an umbrella term used to describe the many autoimmune and inflammatory conditions that can develop in children ages 16 and younger. Visit the Arthritis Association for an informational overview or see the newly dedicated site for valuable JA information and tips.

Eye Injury Prevention Month
Eye injuries of all types occur at a rate of more than 2,000 per day. In particular, an estimated 1,000 eye injuries occur in American workplaces alone. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that almost 70% of the eye injuries studied occur from falling or flying objects, or sparks striking the eye. The best ways to prevent injury to the eye is to always wear the appropriate eye protection. In addition to the proper safety eyewear, early detection and treatment of eye conditions and diseases are essential to maintaining good vision at every stage of life. Learn more about eye safety.

Group B Strep (GBS)
Approximately 1 in 4 pregnant women carry GBS, the leading cause of sepsis and meningitis in newborns according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. GBS can also infect babies during pregnancy and the first few months of life. Not all babies exposed to GBS become infected, but, for those who do, the results can be devastating. Fortunately there are many ways to help protect babies from Group B Strep.

National Cleft & Craniofacial Awareness & Prevention Month
Cleft and craniofacial conditions affect thousands of infants, children, teens and adults in the US each year. Some are born with congenital anomalies like cleft lip and palate, others with more complex, life-threatening craniofacial conditions. Some are burned; others are injured in accidents and animal attacks, or diagnosed with various oral/head/neck and skin diseases. Learn more about these conditions, including treatment options and support networks in your area.

July 28 - Workd Hepatitis Day
Viral hepatitis is inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. There are five different hepatitis viruses, hepatitis A, B, C, D and E. All of these viruses cause short term, or acute infection. However the hepatitis B, C and D viruses can also cause long-term infection, called chronic hepatitis, which can lead to life-threatening complications such as cirrhosis (liver scarring), liver failure, and liver cancer. Viral hepatitis kills 1.5 million people every year. Learn more.

National Blueberry Month
At about 8- calories a cup, these little berries pack a nutritional wallop. Learn more about the benefits of adding blueberries to your diet.

July is Parks & Recreation Month
Learn more about ways to enjoy outdoor activities in our nation's parks.

Click for a larger version of this Infographic or to download a PDF.

Looking for the most comprehensive and effective wellness program for your employees? ESI TotalCare Wellness pairs Behavioral Health Clinicians with certified Wellness Coaches to provide employees and their families with the help, motivation, tools and support to make changes and improve their lives. Call 800-535-4841 for more information.

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