Category Archives: Employee Relations

Employment Investigations: To Google or Not?

The title of this blog post was the topic of an interesting seminar I recently attended.  The presenter was a Director level investigator at the Pinkerton, one of the world’s security companies.  He talked from the point-of-view of how his team uses the internet to do it’s research on cases their clients give them.  There was some discussion of Google, but it was much more broader focus.  Typical cases he works on are workers’ comp fraud or investigating some off duty employee activity that affects the company.

Some interesting info mentioned:

  • According to some study, 75% of all internet usage is for Social Networking Sites (SNS)
  • Facebook (FB) is the #1 used SNS, Youtube #2 and Wikipedia is a distant #3
  • When they research people and they begin to research that person’s friends on FB, they determine who to look at by the number of friends and number of times that person’s FB account has been accessed (it was mentioned that FB only allows 1,000 friends, and FB will suspend accounts when getting close…didn’t know that!)
  • Heavy use of Google’s Advanced Operators when researching

There was a portion of the presentation showing how these advanced operators can be used to perform searches. There was also about a dozen or so websites mentioned they use to perform some searches of people such as yauba.com, zigs.com and spokeo.com.

There was also mention of info NOT to put on one’s own Social Media Site such as:

  • Birthdate and Place of Birth or Mother’s maiden name (typical info used by banks, etc. to verify account).
  • Vacation Plans before you leave (don’t advertise to burglars that no one will be home at your house for a while)
  • Home Address (not even city and state, easy to verify a person by this info)
  • Confessionals (the presenter mentioned people like to “brag” about their dirty deeds and or want to confess their sins and cited several examples of people mentioning robbing someone or a bank)
  • Variants of their own passwords as “hints”
  • Risky behaviors (if you participate in such activities as sky diving, hang gliding, parachuting, race car driving, etc.)  Insurance companies are now hiring people to research their policy holders.  If you put on your insurance application you don’t do these activities and they find out you do by your posting on FB or other SNS, they have been known to cancel insurances

As a HR professional, I asked about the privacy issue and since he was an investigator and not a lawyer, he didn’t answer professionally.  But personally, he felt companies need to protect their brand and if the information is out in public, it is searchable.  Of course, the “gray(er) area” is when companies actually USE that info for employment decisions.

Workplace Diversity – Transgenders

The word “Diversity” has been frequently used in the 21st century and is popularly defined as the inclusion of variety of people from different cultures and races.  In business, this is especially used as a tactic in which the company can better serve a heterogeneous customer base.  In HR, the intent of many diversity programs is to build a culture of understanding within the employees there are in a company, no matter what their background is.  Within this culture of understanding, we learn of the wonderful things about each other from traditions to celebrations, food, etc.

Although when we think of “diversity” we normally think of the different cultures and races.  Perhaps not thought of much is the GLBT (or sometimes referred to as LGBT) community.  GLBT is the acronym which stands for Gay, Lesbians, Bisexual and Transgender.  I attended a luncheon sponsored by the SW Washington HR Management Association in which the Reid Vanderburgh was the speaker.   He speech gave me a much broader understanding of the challenges a person has when they are struggling with their own identity, the transgenders.  The gay & lesbian and bisexual are very much different than transgenders because it deals with relationships with others.   Transgenders deal with one’s own relationship with oneself.  But transgenders are lump in together with gay, lesbians and bisexuals for convenience in understanding…

A term I was not familiar with was introduces, this term was cisgender.  Wikipedia describes cisgender as “”someone who is comfortable in the gender they were assigned at birth”, and is the antonym of transgender.   Therefore, people can be either cisgender or transgender.   I have previous thought that transgender meant just having a sex change operation.  But I have learned that changing one’s sex is the culmination or the result of one coming to grips with their inner self.  There is a whole process one must go through before this sex change operation and while in that process, people can be considered being transgender (sometimes people are confused with cross dressers, but I understand cross dressers are more comfortable about their gender, rather they have a fetish of looking or dressing like the other gender).

With this understanding, the point I took from the speaker was that transgender need an ally to help them.  Once the transgender person makes the self-realization that they were mind and thoughts are of the opposite gender that their body is, it is a painful decision they make.  Basically, to continue living without the pain there are faced with 2 choices of either completing a gender change or unfortunately, to end their life.  As HR professionals, being an ally means to divorce one’s own opinion about transgenders, and applying the same methods we would use for any other culture or race.  It always starts with communication with the transgender so that there is a basic understanding of performance standards are still need to be met, but also need to understand what if anything the company can do to assist.  There needs to be a timeline discussed, efforts to remove barriers (i.e. changing gender on forms and systems), educating the workforce.   Transgender people go through a very private experience, similar to anyone with cancer or loss of a loved one,  but this private experience has a very public face and understanding is crucial.

I enjoy these luncheons where I learn so much.   Looking forward to any comments you may have!