|Nov. 1, 2009 | www.fisherphillips.com|
On September 15, 2009, Facebook announced that it served 300 million users worldwide. By comparison, on October 1, 2009, the United States Census Bureau's website indicated that the population of the United States was approximately 307.5 million. According to their website, over 50% of the site's users log onto Facebook in a given day, and the fastest growing demographic is users age 35 and older. Facebook also reports that worldwide, each day, more than 6 billion minutes are spent on Facebook, 2 billion photos are uploaded to the site and there are 40 million status updates. MySpace's website reports that it has nearly 125 million active users, including 65 million users in the United States. The statistics leave little doubt that before you finish reading this article, one or more of your company's employees will have logged into Facebook, MySpace or another social networking website. Are they using social-networking sites appropriately or are they updating their status to complain about a patient or post pictures of a patient's x-ray?
With the advent of the H1N1 flu, businesses are preparing for the worst, and hospitals are not exempt from this preparation. While other employers will practice "social distancing," or keeping away from other people's germs, hospitals will be treating the worst H1N1 cases, exposing employees to the virus. Hospitals must have a continuity plan in place so that the facility can operate as normal. Pandemics can create staff shortages due to absences of sick employees and employees taking time off to care for sick family members. Suppliers may be short staffed too, and deliveries of products may be interrupted. While many hospitals already have protocols in place for when a disaster or pandemic strikes, many healthcare entities are simply not ready.
Using scare tactics to drum up fear has long been used by unions to generate unhappy employees, and to provide a good environment for unionization. Some unions are now using the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, to create controversy, rather than unifying and assisting hospitals and other industry employers in preparing for a possible pandemic. Finding a topic to exploit with workers is nothing new, and using a topic that scares many and can create a panic is just icing on the cake.
A federal appeals court recently ruled that United Healthcare Workers – West, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), violated federal law by telling housekeepers and linen aides at a San Francisco hospital to refuse to perform overtime work without giving the hospital ten-days prior notice. SEIU, United Healthcare Workers – West vs. NLRB.