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Facebook Said…Addressing Ongoing COVID-19 Issues

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We all know that neither Google nor Facebook has a legal degree, but that doesn’t stop your employees from acting as if they do.  More than one employee pushes back on a policy saying, “I read on Facebook___” or “I Googled___ and you are doing it wrong.”  Here are some of the issues we’re hearing about lately.

“You can’t make me tell you if I’ve been exposed to COVID-19.” 

This is incorrect.  As part of your obligations to create a safe work environment under OSHA, as well as more general public health concerns, employers are allowed to continue to check and ask employees if they have been exposed to COVID-19. 

“You can’t ask me about the virus because that’s HIPAA.”

Nope.  If they are being treated as a patient, then the provider’s documentation and knowledge about their healthcare status are considered covered by HIPAA/HITECH.  This would also be true if the employee is receiving reimbursements through an FSA or insurance. Covered entities like healthcare providers and insurance companies are subject to HIPAA/HITECH. 

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However, information obtained as part of your employment, including workers’ compensation information and questions such as whether you currently have a fever, are not covered by HIPAA/HITECH as they are employment issues.

“I don’t have any symptoms so you can’t keep me out of work.” 

Not true. There are asymptomatic COVID cases and if an employee has had a direct exposure or a positive COVID test, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms they can be kept out of work for the appropriate time period.  We recently reviewed the CDC rules in a post, “Not Normal Yet – COVID Spring Break 2021.”

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“You sent me home, so you have to pay me.” 

There are some differences between how exempt (salaried) and non-exempt (hourly) employees are paid if they are sent home from work and they have no PTO available to them.  However, if PTO is available, you can require the employee to use PTO.  Depending on other paid leave available, such as leave under the FFCRA, there may be other issues as well.

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“I don’t have to tell you if I get the vaccine.” 

As an employer, you can inquire as to whether or not your employees have had the vaccine and you can request proof of vaccination, particularly for people in healthcare or forward-facing jobs in retail, or positions where they work in close proximity to others.  Many employers are developing policies where they are incentivizing vaccination for COVID-19 as well as the flu and proof would be needed before any incentive would be provided. 

“I don’t have to tell you why I’m not getting vaccinated.” 

Correct, unless the employer is mandating vaccines. If it is a permissive process where you are simply encouraging vaccines, employees don’t have to tell you why they are choosing not to get one. You should not inquire about it as you have no direct business-related purpose to request that information. If you are mandating vaccines, employees would need to apply for an exemption generally under the ADA/ADAAA or religious reasons.

“You can’t make me tell you if I travel.” 

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There continue to be travel restrictions for those persons traveling overseas by plane. You can inquire as to travel, the method of travel, and can impose return to work requirements based on the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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The Big Picture

These types of sentiments appear to go in cycles, but the answers remain fairly consistent.  In order to ensure the safety of employees, vendors, and customers, you are entitled to collect some basic information. Employers should ensure that employee health information is stored securely, but the big picture: employers can collect data necessary to ensure the safety of their workforce. 

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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