can someone review a new policy that my bosses sent out, and I am not sure it is totally legal. it also seems confusing.
5.8 INTERNET USE AND USE OF SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES AND OTHER SOCIALINTERACTION MEDIAInternet access to global electronic information resources and to social networking media hasrevolutionized information sharing. These networking capabilities are changing the way we workand engage with each other both inside and outside of work at NBFARS. With this new societal“free flow” of information sharing come legitimate business concerns to ensure that socialnetworking is used in a way that does not violate patient confidentiality, our reputation andbusiness interests, or interfere with the work of others. Due to the ease of posting informationand images through social networking media, and its potential to interfere with our otherresponsibilities, this policy is established, among other things, to help ensure responsible andappropriate use of social networking media.This policy has also been implemented to prevent distractions that could jeopardize the safety ofNBFARS personnel and the public; to maintain appropriate protections of privacy for the citizenswe serve; to maintain the good reputation of NBFARS and to ensure that the Company and itspersonnel are presented to the public in a positive light. The intent of this policy is to help avoidclaims against the Company or its personnel for things like: invasion of privacy, breach ofconfidentiality, defamation, and slander from Company staff members and the public at large.This policy is also intended to help provide guidelines for maintaining a respectable and ethicalwork environment as well as to ensure the proper use of all electronic equipment consistent withour mission.The NBFARS is legally required under the Health Information Portability and Accountability Actof 1996 (“HIPAA”) and other laws to ensure that any protected health information (“PHI”) that wecreate, receive, use, or store is not improperly used or disclosed through any means, includingelectronic means. NBFARS also has an interest in protecting confidential and proprietaryinformation about the organization, as well as the reputation of NBFARS.Another purpose of this policy is to prevent the improper use or disclosure of PHI and otherconfidential and proprietary information through electronic means – while staff members are bothon and off-duty. NBFARS has a legitimate business interest in monitoring all electronic activity,regardless of where or when it occurs, when that activity could violate patient privacy orotherwise adversely affect our patients, our reputation, and the reputation of others. This policyis designed to balance our volunteer and paid staff members’ desires to engage in socialnetworking and information sharing, with NBFARS’s need to protect patient privacy and theconfidentiality of its proprietary information and reputation.The NBFARS regards XXXXX XXXXX blogs and other forms of online discourse as a primaryform of communication among individuals and the Company recognizes and respects that it is avaluable method of communication in today’s society. When the Company wishes tocommunicate publicly as a company—whether to our patients or to the general public—it haswell established means to do so. Only those officially designated by NBFARS Executive Boardhave the authorization to speak on behalf of the Company.Page 15 of 47Scope:This policy covers the use of any equipment that is owned, leased, controlled by, or used for thebenefit of NBFARS that can be used for electronic communication and NBFARS staff membersthat have access to such equipment. This policy also applies to all staff members who engagein electronic information sharing – including use of social networking media -- both on and offduty, whether using Company or personal equipment.Specifically, this policy applies to all NBFARS staff that have or utilize electronic devices at anylocation, including while on station or on the premises, while in Company vehicles, or whenusing these devices in your spare (non-working) time to refer to NBFARS or the work that you door have done for the Company in any form or fashion.For purposes of this policy, “internet use” includes access to the World Wide Web trough webbrowsers, phone applications or any means, including access to social networking sites, such asTwitter, Vine, Instagram or Facebook.Rationale:The primary role of NBFARS and its personnel is to protect the public. New technologies allowfor rapid capture of patient information and other information that can be transmitted instantly toother locations. We must be constantly aware that any information or images we transmit couldimpact the company, our personnel, and the patients and citizens we serve in a negative mannerand perhaps violate their privacy or damage their reputation.Our patients and the citizens at large place great trust in us to respect them, their privacy, andtheir property. Those citizens we serve as patients place even great trust in us to serve as their“caregivers” and “personal health care advocates” and we must be ever mindful of this criticalresponsibility of protecting patient information we receive as a result of the patient trust that weearn.It is important to note that staff members do not have an unfettered right to say what they wantto say, even when off duty, if what is said can potentially harm the company’s reputation, bedisruptive to its operation or morale or violates privacy and other laws. Staff members will beheld accountable for improper statements or postings that violate the guidelines established bythis policy and our codes of conduct. Violation of this policy may result in corrective action,including in serious situations, suspension or termination of employment where appropriate andnecessary.Procedure:General Rules Regarding Company-Owned Electronic Equipment1. All electronic data created, transmitted, received or recorded using NBFARS equipment is atall times the property of NBFARS and may be considered to be part of the official records ofNBFARS.2. NBFARS equipment, services, and technology remain at all times the property of NBFARSeven if being used for personal use.Page 16 of 473. NBFARS equipment is any device that is owned, leased, controlled, or used for the benefit ofNBFARS. This includes, but is not limited to: XXXXX XXXXX fax machines, cell phones,cameras, USB drives, and other devices that are capable of creating, capturing, storing,and/or transmitting electronic information.4. NBFARS cannot guarantee the confidentiality of information stored on any NBFARSequipment, except that it will take all steps necessary to secure the privacy of all PHI inaccordance with all applicable laws. Information stored on NBFARS equipment may besubject to disclosure to law enforcement or other third parties.5. For legitimate business purposes, authorized individuals within NBFARS may monitor activityon NBFARS equipment, systems and network at any time. This includes the right to monitorinternet activity, incoming and outgoing electronic mail messages, and incoming andoutgoing text messages as permitted by law.Internet Activity on Company Equipment1. All internet use on NBFARS equipment is generally restricted to business purposes only.Non-business use, such as net surfing for personal enjoyment, social networking orentertainment, personal email or other non-business purposes, is prohibited, unlessauthorized by a supervisor.2. All internet use must comport with NBFARS’s policies and procedures, and staff membersmay not use or disclose PHI on the internet unless the use or disclosure is authorized byNBFARS and would not violate HIPAA or other applicable federal and state laws. Forexample, transmitting demographic information about a patient to a patient’s health plan forpurposes of billing may be a permissible use.3. The following types of internet activities are prohibited while using Company equipment andcan result in corrective action:a. Sending or in any way transmitting or distributing patient information without the expresspermission of the Company, consistent with our HIPAA and patient privacy protectionpolicies;b. Viewing and accessing sexually explicit or offensive materials, or which may be offensive,hostile or harassing with respect to anyone’s race, color, national origin, ancestry,religion, sex, age, disability, political belief, military service, or any other legally protectedclass;c. Non-business use (such as net surfing for personal enjoyment, social networking orentertainment, or other non-business purposes), unless authorized by NBFARS;d. Downloading or copying information (e.g., sounds, images, documents, etc.) or programsin violation of copyright and software licensing laws;e. Using the internet for unauthorized access to other computer systems;f. Using the internet to distribute or receive destructive programs (i.e., viruses and/or selfreplicatingcode), etc;Page 17 of 47g. Use of the internet for personal commercial or profit-generating activities or for personaladvertisements, solicitations, promotions, or any other similar purposes;h. Downloading programs and other executable files or copying, pirating or downloading anysoftware or electronic files without prior permission from appropriate management;i. Sending or posting discriminatory, harassing, or threatening messages or images;j. Sending or posting any information pertaining to NBFARS, its personnel and/or itspatients, including information about any Company matters without authorization;k. Engaging in unauthorized transactions that may incur a cost to NBFARS or initiateunwanted internet services and transmissions;l. Sending or posting chain letters, solicitations, or advertisements not related to NBFARSpurposes or activities;m. Using the Company internet and electronic communications system for political orpersonal causes, religious activities, or any sort of gambling or illegal conduct;n. Jeopardizing the security of the Company electronic communications system;o. Sending or posting messages that disparage another organization’s products or services,including other ambulance companies, or that defame or slander other individuals.Personal Internet Use: On and Off-Duty1. Staff members must recognize that personal internet use and social networking while off dutyand/or while using personal devices can have an equally harmful effect on patients, otherstaff members and the organization, as when using company equipment while on duty. Thismeans that you will be accountable for statements that you make or post – even using yourpersonal devices -- if the statements could negatively impact our patients, your co-workers,the Company, or the agencies we work with.2. To the extent permitted by law, NBFARS may monitor and investigate personal internetconduct, on and off-duty, and take corrective action against staff members for violations ofour policies and/or conduct that does not comport with NBFARS’s mission, vision, orstandards of conduct.3. Personal internet use should never interfere with patient care or work duties. Socialnetworking, blogging, and other similar internet posting activities using your personal devicesare permitted only when use of the device in no way interferes with patient care or thecompletion of work duties.4. Before posting any information that in any way relates to NBFARS, our patients, patient careactivities, or other staff members or agencies we work with, you should discuss the contentwith the HIPAA Compliance Officer (The Administrator) prior to posting the information. Staffmembers should consult with the HIPAA Compliance Officer whenever there is a questionregarding the appropriateness of an internet posting, and shall adhere to the advice given bythe HIPAA Compliance Officer.Page 18 of 475. All authorized internet postings that reference NBFARS should disclose the staff member’sposition at NBFARS and should portray the organization in an accurate and favorable light.6. Staff members may not use their NBFARS issued email address for identification orcorrespondence purposes when engaging in personal internet activities. Staff members arealso forbidden from having external email accounts that use the company name or referencethe company, unless authorized by the Executive Board.7. All internet postings about NBFARS, its staff members, partners, customers, or otherbusiness affiliates must be professional and respectful.8. All personal internet postings shall contain clear disclaimers that the views expressed arethat of the individual and should never give the appearance that they are the views ofNBFARS.9. The following types of internet activities are prohibited at all times (both on duty and off duty)and may result in corrective action:a. Posting, sharing, or otherwise disseminating any PHI relating to NBFARS patients withoutexpress management permission;b. Posting, referencing, sharing or otherwise disseminating information that could potentiallyidentify a patient, including: photos, videos or other images of a scene or patient; adescription of patient injuries, or; other scene activities that could be identified with aspecific scene;c. Referencing, or in any way identifying or posting visual images of NBFARS facilities andequipment, its partners, customers, or other business affiliates without the expressconsent of NBFARS;d. Posting, sharing or otherwise disseminating NBFARS logos, visual images of Companyequipment, facilities, or personnel without express consent from NBFARS; ande. Posting, sharing, or otherwise disseminating messages or any material (such as videos)that could potentially damage NBFARS’s image or reputation.Social Media and Networking GuidelinesSocial media is defined as “information that is disseminated through social interaction using theInternet and other web-based technologies.” As previously described, NBFARS has the right toprotect its interests and the interests of its staff, our patients we serve, and the other agencieswe work with. This means that the Company may monitor or check internet activity and socialnetworking profiles, particularly when credible concerns are brought to our attention by others.The Company will only search or access social networking profiles and similar sites when it hasa legitimate business related need to do so. NBFARS will apply this policy in a fair and nondiscriminatorymanner, consistent with all applicable fair employment laws, and may apply ourcorrective action policy should it be determined that a staff member’s internet conduct – eitheron duty or off duty - is inconsistent with this policy and our codes of conduct.The same basic policies and standards of conduct rules apply to NBFARS personnel engagingin communication through blogs and social networking sites as in other areas of their on- andoff-duty conduct:Page 19 of 47 You should always consider the confidential nature of our work in any interaction orcommunication you have others, particularly the importance of maintaining the privacy,respect and dignity of the patients we serve. We should never describe any patientencounters in a way that could identify or potentially be used to identify a patient. Anycomments made about your work as a care provider or staff member of NBFARS shouldreflect favorably on the work that we do, our organization, and our profession. You should be aware that others, including supervisors, peers and other employees, may beactively reading what is published online. In choosing words and content, it is a wise practiceto consider that your supervisor or your family members may read anything you post, so youshould exercise sound judgment and common sense before posting anything. Using a Web blog or status statement to criticize, “bash” or embarrass NBFARS, ourstakeholders, our mutual aid and other agency responders, or co-workers or supervisors isinconsistent with NBFARS's Mission, Vision and Standards of Conduct.To assist our staff in understanding the Company’s position and approach with respect tointernet use and social networking, both on and off duty, the following are some specificsuggestions that can help ensure compliance with our policies and codes of conduct:1. Don’t Post Inappropriate Pictures or Images. It may go without saying, but employers orpatients do not want to see pictures of you chugging a bottle of beer or dressed in sexuallyexplicit clothing. Beyond the pictures you would not want your parents or family membersto see, seemingly innocent pictures of your personal life may not help to support the“persona” or image you want to present in your professional life. Certainly you should notpost pictures of patients, accident scenes or any other Company equipment, documents,or personnel without the permission of the Company. This includes images taken aroundthe station of equipment and other associates during downtime while on duty.2. Don’t Complain About Your Job, Supervisors, or Co-Workers in a Public Forum. Anynegative comments about the Company or about any Company personnel (even if notspecifically named) should generally not be posted. These comments reflect poorly onyou, the organization, and the persons that you criticize. Examples of inappropriatepostings may range from a comment about the competency of your supervisor, to a statusupdate about how your co-worker always shows up late. While we may complain aboutwork and co-workers to a friend or family member now and then, doing so in a publicforum where it can be easily found by others is not appropriate. Negative and derogatorycomments can also lead to claims of defamation and slander.3. Don’t Post Inappropriate “Statuses”. You should avoid any status updates that discusspatient care situations, the Company or other Company personnel, or that may implicateunprofessional conduct. You should avoid statuses like "I plan to call in sick tomorrow so Ican go to the beach on Wednesday,” or “I’m tired of transporting all these old people fromnursing homes,” or "Sarah is watching the gold medal hockey game online at her desk".Statuses that imply you or others are unreliable, dishonest, deceitful, or unprofessionalmay jeopardize your employment or membership status.4. Be Particular About Your Friends and Associations. You can't control what your friendspost to your profile (although you can remove it once you see it), nor what they post toPage 20 of 47their own profiles or to those of mutual friends. For example, pictures your friend hastagged you in where he is falling down drunk, and you look intoxicated as well; reflectpoorly on you, even if the picture of you is completely innocent. Take a look at everythingconnected to your profile, and keep an eye out for anything you wouldn't want to showyour parents or others.5. Check Your Privacy and Security Settings and Know Their Rules. Privacy and securitysettings on social networking sites can be confusing and hard to deal with. It is nowpossible to customize lists of friends and decide what each list can and cannot see.However, many people do not fully understand these settings, or don't bother to checkwho has access to what. If you are going to use Facebook professionally, and even if youaren't, make sure you take the time to go through your privacy options. At the very least,your profile should be set so that people who are not your friend cannot see any of yourpictures or information. You should also become familiar with all privacy settings as wellas the “terms and use” and “privacy policies” of the social networking application that youare using.6. Consider Establishing a “Professional” Profile Page. The best advice is to lock down yourpersonal profile so that only friends you approve can see anything on that profile. Anotherpractical suggestion is to consider creating a second, public profile purely for professionaluse. This profile functions like an online resume, and should only contain information you'dbe comfortable telling your employer face to face. Having a social networking profile is agood thing — it presents you as technologically and professionally savvy. Just make sureyour profile is helping to present your best side — not the side that got drunk at yourfriend’s party last week.7. Don’t Use Social Networking While Engaged in Work Activities or Patient Care. Access tosocial networking sites on your personal device should only occur in absolute down timeas you would use a personal cell phone when on duty. It is inappropriate to post statusesor to view social networking profiles while with a patient or engaged in a Company workactivity. For example, an improper activity would be a status posting made from the backof an ambulance with a patient onboard such as: “Bored, Transporting Another OldPerson from the Nursing Home to ABC Hospital.” This would be unacceptable bothbecause of the context (where and when it was made) and the content (disrespectfulcomment about a patient). This could result in corrective action up to and includingsuspension or termination from employment or membership where appropriate.8. Don’t Misrepresent Yourself or Others. You should be careful that what you post aboutyour training and education is accurate and consistent with information you have given tothe company. The Company has the right to check out your credentials and otherstatements you may make on employment applications and other forms, from a variety ofsources, including your social networking profile. For example, if you call in sick and laterthat day you post a status that says “Off to the beach for the day” and the Company ismade aware of it, you can expect the Company to investigate this further and initiatecorrective action where appropriate consistent with our policies. Or if you claim on yourjob application that you have a college degree but your online profile states that you didnot yet obtain a degree and are still going to school, your employer may question theaccuracy of the information you supplied them.Page 21 of 479. Be Who You Are. Some bloggers work anonymously, using pseudonyms or false screennames. NBFARS discourages that in blogs, wikis or other forms of online participation thatrelate to NBFARS, our business or issues with which the Company is engaged. Webelieve in transparency and honesty. If you are blogging about your work for NBFARS, weencourage you to use your real name, be clear who you are, and identify that you work forNBFARS. Nothing gains you more notice in the online social media environment thanhonesty—or dishonesty. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, bethe first to point it out. But also be smart about protecting yourself and your privacy. Whatyou publish will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully and also bejudicious in disclosing personal details.10. Be Thoughtful About How You Present Yourself. The lines between public and private,personal and professional are blurred in online social networks. If you identifying yourselfas a staff member of NBFARS within a social network, you may be connected to yourcolleagues, managers and even NBFARS patients and our business associates. Youshould ensure that content associated with you is consistent with your work at NBFARS.11. Speak in the First Person. Use your own voice and bring your own personality to theforefront. Don’t hide behind a “third person”. You may want to say what is on your mind,but do so in a courteous and respectful manner. It is best to thoughtfully respond to anitem posted or an issue in discussion rather than react from emotion. Consider theimplications of your statements before you send or post them.12. Use a Disclaimer. Whether you publish on a blog or some other form of social media,make it clear that what you say there is representative of your views and opinions and notnecessarily the views and opinions of NBFARS. At a minimum in your own blog, youshould include the following standard disclaimer: "The postings on this page or site are myown opinions and do not represent the opinion or position of my employer.”13. Supervisors and Managers Have a Higher Duty. This standard disclaimer does not byitself exempt NBFARS managers and supervisors from a special responsibility whenblogging. By virtue of their position, they must consider whether personal thoughts theypublish may be misunderstood as expressing NBFARS positions. And a manager orsupervisor should assume that his or her team will read what is written. A public blog is notthe place to communicate NBFARS policies to NBFARS staff members. Also, managersand supervisors may have a duty to report internet misconduct they observe, such asharassment of one staff member by another staff member through “wall to wall” or otherpostings.14. Respect Copyright and Fair Use Laws. For NBFARS’s protection as well as your own, it iscritical that you show proper respect for the laws governing copyright and fair use ofcopyrighted material owned by others, including NBFARS’s own copyrights, its logos orimages. You should never quote more than short excerpts of someone else's work. And itis good general blogging practice to link to others' work.15. Protect Confidential and Proprietary Information. Social computing blurs many of thetraditional boundaries between internal and external communications. Be thoughtful aboutwhat you post—particularly on Facebook or other external platforms. You must make sureyou do not disclose or use NBFARS confidential or proprietary information or that of anyother person or company in any online social computing platform. For example, askPage 22 of 47permission before posting someone's picture in a social network or publishing in a blog aconversation that was meant to be private.16. Respect Your Audience and Your Coworkers. Remember that NBFARS is a respectedcommunity service organization that is always “under the microscope.” Our staff membersand our patients reflect a diverse set of customs, values and points of view. Don't be afraidto be yourself, but do so respectfully. This includes not only the obvious (no ethnic slurs,personal insults, harassing comments, obscenity, etc.) but also proper consideration ofprivacy and of topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory—such aspolitics and religion. It is fine for NBFARS staff to disagree, but please don't use yourexternal blog or other online social media to air your differences in an inappropriatemanner.17. Don't Pick Fights or Argue Back and Forth. When you see misrepresentations or incorrectstatements made about NBFARS by the media, or by other bloggers and posters, you maycertainly want to respond and correct the statement. Make sure you check with theCompany first before you post a response as the Company may already be working on aresponse. If you do respond, always do so with respect, and stick to the facts. Avoidunnecessary or unproductive arguments. Brawls may earn traffic, but nobody wins in theend. Don't try to settle scores or goad competitors or others into inflammatory debates.Here and in other areas of public discussion, always make sure that what you are sayingis factually correct.18. Be the First to Correct Your Mistakes. If you make an error in fact or misstate informationyou post, be up front about your mistake and correct it quickly. In a blog or posting, if youchoose to modify an earlier blog or post, make it clear that you have done so.19. Use Your Best Judgment and Apply “Common Sense”. Remember that there are alwaysconsequences to what you post. If you're about to post something that makes you eventhe slightest bit uncomfortable, review the suggestions above and think about why you feeluncomfortable. What your gut tells you initially is often correct. If you're still unsure, and itis related to NBFARS, you should discuss it with your supervisor. Ultimately, however,you have sole responsibility for what you post to your blog or publish in any form of onlinesocial media.20. Don't Forget Your Paid/Volunteer Job. You should make sure that your online activities donot interfere with your job or work activities at NBFARS. Always think about how others inthe workplace or the public we serve would perceive your comment before you post it. Inother words, think before you hit the “enter” key. One of the problems with “reacting” to anevent or someone else’s post is that your own reaction will likely reflect your emotions atthe time, rather than be a thoughtful response after appropriate reflection. You shouldavoid “reacting” and spend more time in thoughtful “responding” to avoid postingsomething you may regret later.21. Use Your Personal Email Address. You should use a personal email address not relatedto the organization (including but not limited to NBFARS issued addresses) as the primarymeans of identification. Just as you would not use NBFARS stationary for a letter to theeditor expressing your personal views, you should not use an e-mail address thatreferences the organization for personal views or editorial statements that can be viewedby others.Page 23 of 4722. Supervisors Should Be Cautious When “Friending” Staff Members. Members ofNBFARS's management team are discouraged from becoming "friends" of employees onsocial networking sites as this could lead to challenging employee relations issues. Also,keep in mind that if as a manager or supervisor you are a “friend” with a staff member whoreports to you, and inappropriate conduct is observed by that manager (such asharassment of another friend who is also a NBFARS staff member through wall or statuspostings), the supervisor may have an obligation to report the conduct for furtherinvestigation.By adhering to this policy and its principles, and using good old common sense and courtesy, wecan avoid the many problems that have arisen in other EMS organizations that come withunfettered and unrestricted use of the internet and social networking media.Any questions about this policy or its application should be directed to the Administrator or thePresident.
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