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By Bill Turner, LPC
Publishing experts tell us that, in retail loss prevention, cyber security and data protection are hot topics that we should cover regularly. Our experience tells a slightly different story. Historically, articles on these subjects have not typically “rung the bell” with our readers. Okay, you say, “Not a huge topic of interest for me.” But wait. You need to read this article.
Now it’s Facebook at the center of a huge and disturbing data-breach crisis. What happened, and what are the ramifications?
It all began when it came to light recently that Cambridge Analytica, a political data firm hired by President Trump’s 2016 election campaign, had gained access to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users. The firm claims to offer tools to identify personalities of Americans and influence their behavior. Its clients have ranged from Mastercard to the New York Yankees to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
According to the New York Times, the data collected from Facebook included details on users’ identities, friend networks, and “likes.” Facebook has said that “no passwords” or sensitive information was taken.
Facebook is insisting that the Cambridge incident was not a data breach because the platform routinely allows researchers to access user data for academic purposes. Facebook users consent to this when they open an account. Instead, Facebook maintains that Cambridge crossed the line and broke the rules when they provided the information to a political consulting firm.
Cambridge Analytica originally denied that they had obtained or used Facebook data but changed their story a couple of weeks ago. They now claim they deleted the information two years ago when they realized they were in violation of Facebook’s rules. Facebook also said it had demanded and received certification that the data had been destroyed.
But now Facebook says it recently received reports that not all the data was deleted. The Federal Trade Commission is investigating whether Facebook violated a 2011 consent agreement to keep users’ data private. Some members of Congress have asked for a hearing on Facebook’s ties to Cambridge Analytica, and a British Parliament committee has asked Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to appear before them over the incident.
Rumors are circulating that hundreds of thousands of Facebook users are deleting their accounts, although Mark Zuckerberg says he has not seen a “meaningful number” of accounts being closed. To make matters worse, it has been revealed that a watchdog group warned Facebook in 2011 that relying on developers to follow information rules in some cases was not enough.
Regular readers of the LPM Insider know that we talk a lot about crisis management and crisis communication basics. Some of those fundamentals include:
- Have the most senior executive possible act as the company spokesperson—and quickly.
- Immediately respond to major issues with candor and openness.
- Show concern and empathy.
- Closely monitor the developing situation on all forms of communication: social media, television, and radio—and know what’s being said.
So how has Facebook handled this crisis, and how effective has their initial response been? Facebook has tried to stay out in front of the story and has issued multiple press releases in anticipation of increasingly negative news stories. Yet, initially, Mark Zuckerberg was completely silent. He even failed to show up at a highly publicized question-and-answer session for Facebook employees concerning the incident. Even Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s highly visible COO, remained silent. Their silence was a very serious strategic mistake.
Zuckerberg finally took to social media the following Wednesday to update the Cambridge Analytica situation from the company’s perspective and say he was “really sorry” for the “major breach of trust.” Was it too little, too late?
Facebook and Zuckerberg missed a golden opportunity to immediately connect with its employees and users in a forthright and candid manner. That practice is a crisis management 101 basic. It’s amazing how many of the country’s most powerful and successful companies still miss those basics. Don’t let your organization be one of them.
By Loss Prevention Media Staff
Rob Shields, a long-tenured and highly respected member of the loss prevention community, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on Wednesday, May 16. A friend and mentor to many across the industry, Rob had a passion for helping others within the community and across the industry through various charitable efforts to include local food pantries, various church-related functions, and the Loss Prevention Benevolent Fund, where he served as treasurer since the inception of the charitable organization directly benefiting those who have served the loss prevention industry. Rob is survived by his wife, Joanne, and daughters, Cassidy and Madison.
Serving as director of global loss prevention field operations, Rob spent more than twenty-one years with Staples. He joined the Staples team in April of 1997 after spending ten years with CVS Pharmacy, taking on positions with additional responsibility throughout his tenure with the company. His passion for serving both his company and his team and his support for the entire loss prevention community will be warmly remembered by those that knew him.
“Rob was one of the most generous human beings I’ve ever met,” recalled one colleague. “He was more than just a mentor—he was a close friend to so many that worked with him and for him over the years. He was always there for support and guidance and had a deep passion for the loss prevention industry and those who served alongside him. He will be deeply missed.”
By Garett Seivold
The daily work of retailers typically seems a world apart from the goings-on in the entertainment industry or government, but #MeToo movement reverberations are being felt well beyond Hollywood and Washington, DC.
As victims find their voices across industries, behavior that may have remained buried in the past is now more likely to be the subject of complaints and forced into the light.
Are companies ready? Not according to their lawyers.
In a February 2018 poll, 46 percent of outside counsel surveyed said employers aren’t taking workplace sexual harassment training, prevention, and response “seriously enough.” “The #MeToo movement is an important wake-up call to corporate America,” said Stephen Hirschfeld, CEO and founder of the Employment Law Alliance, which conducted the survey of 382 attorneys. “Company directors and executives need to understand that this isn’t a fad.”
Retail companies face greater risk than most firms do. In an October 2017 study by Rand Corporation, one in five workers said they face a hostile or threatening environment at work, which can include sexual harassment and bullying. And retail workers and other workers who have to face customers endure a disproportionate share of the abuse, according to the survey.
In a highly publicized environment, as today’s world surely is, sexual harassment carries additional reputational risk for retailers. Additionally, the threat of legal action is ever present. In March, for example, a New Jersey federal judge rejected a motion by a national auto parts retailer to dismiss a worker’s sexual harassment suit. The judge ruled that the statute of limitations’ clock started to tick when the worker received a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC, and not when the violations occurred. The retail worker is alleging she was subjected to sexual harassment at three different locations as she was moved from store to store following complaints of harassment. The alleged harassment included unwanted sexual advancements and a coworker telling customers she was a prostitute.
Overall, sex discrimination, which includes allegations of sexual harassment, is the third-leading cause of discrimination claims, accounting for roughly 30 percent of claims, according to EEOC data.
Smart Investigation Practices When It Comes to Sexual Harassment in Retail
The climate surrounding sexual harassment has employers on edge, according to their lawyers. More than 70 percent of outside counsel report that their clients are worried about a “rush to judgment” when harassment complaints are made. Additionally, 51 percent of company leaders feel some measure of pressure to publicize results and disciplinary actions following a misconduct investigation, according to the survey of outside counsel.
Clearly, the stakes are high—and perhaps higher than ever given today’s environment—for getting a sexual harassment investigation right. So how can a retailer reduce the likelihood that employees will criticize the sufficiency of an investigation?
Not every employee allegation of sexual harassment or misconduct is legitimate. Some complaints are proved to be unsubstantiated and may be made in an effort to avoid disciplinary action or out of personal animus. Even when legitimate, an employee who alleges harassment may not be satisfied with the manner in which an investigation is conducted, and he or she may dispute the outcome. In short, there are plenty of reasons why an organization’s investigation process may be to be called into question—or be subject to lawsuit.
One reason investigations shouldn’t draw fire, however, is because of a lack of clarity and communication with the complainant. Anxiety typically accompanies complaints of sexual misconduct, and in the absence of communication, complainants are likely to assume the worst about an investigation—even if the security organization is following investigation best practices.
Some causes for dispute are hard to avoid, but a failure to communicate with complainants is an unforced error. From experts in security and human resource investigations, we examine four steps organizations should take to give stakeholders confidence that a company is committed to swiftly and effectively investigating allegations of sexual harassment in retail.
1. Clarify. One common source of complaints about an organization’s investigation protocol is ambiguity over whom to report sexual misconduct complaints to and who is in charge of investigating them. When complainants are confused about how things are supposed to play out, it is easy for them to think they aren’t getting a fair shake. That is one reason why it is common for settlements in legal actions to demand defendants clarify processes for handling various types of sex discrimination.
Organizations may find it advantageous to write, disseminate, and educate its stakeholders on policies and procedures covering:
- The name or title, office address, email address, and telephone number of the individual(s) responsible for taking action, including clarification of any differences in the role of individuals with responsibility to take action on complaints;
- Procedures for adequate, reliable, prompt, and impartial investigation of all complaints, including the equal opportunity for the parties to access, review, and present witnesses and other evidence;
- Reasonable time frames for the major stages of the investigation; and
- A requirement for written notification to the parties of the outcome of the investigation, hearing, and appeal.
2. Act quickly. Make sure your company’s response to a sexual harassment or misconduct complaint is timely. It helps to show the employee that you take the matter seriously and instills confidence in your investigation process, say experts. It’s also important because court cases, particularly “hostile workplace” claims, suggest that companies often face legal woes because they go “on hold” as they wait for results from an investigation. Supervisors and managers must know they need to respond fast—within 48 hours of receiving a complaint. If they don’t, a company may open itself up to charges of negligence for leaving an employee exposed to the harassment. Failing to act quickly also makes it appear that your company is trying to discourage complaints. It’s important to notify the complainant of his or her options to avoid contact with the alleged perpetrator to protect complaining parties during investigations.
3. Act consistently. Investigations against high-level managers should follow the same process as one against a store associate. If an employee complaining of sexual harassment believes they’ve seen inconsistency in enforcement in the past, they are more likely to raise complaints about the handling of their case.
4. Confirm accuracy. Complaints lodged against investigations are less likely when employees have confidence that investigators are on the same page as them regarding what they said took place. So following the taking of a complaint, investigators should get the employee to confirm the accuracy of reports. Go over the complaint with him or her and ask if the report leaves anything out. Document the employee’s agreement with the version of events as documented in the report. Remind the employee that he or she should report any further incidents and document that the employee received this reminder.
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