More and more companies are trying to go “green” and save themselves space by transitioning to electronic paperwork and using electronic signatures. According to attorney Adriana Midence Scott of the Atlanta office of Jackson Lewis, being green in HR is not as easy as just scanning everything.
Scott says there certainly numerous advantages to being paperless, not the least of which is NO MORE MESSY SIGNATURES. But she points out there are a number of hoops that must be jumped through to make sure you are in compliance with the laws that govern electronic signatures. The two laws that are in effect to deal with electronic signatures are:
- Federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act
- State Uniform Electronic Transactions Act
To comply with these laws to things are important. First the employee must consent to the use of electronic signatures. If they don’t you have to have a paper back up. Consent is not just a matter of having the employee say “Yes.” Consent consists of:
- Informing the employee that they have the right and option to have the document on paper.
- The consent must point out what they are consenting to.
- The consent must explain the systems requirements.
- The consent must explain the security procedures.
Scott says the best way to do this is to have a form, much like the software agreements we are all use to seeing. She recommends that it is quite often easier to get permissions and consents when an employee first starts their employment with you. Longer-term employees might balk at being paperless.
Secondly, the employee has to be allowed to view the documents, which means you have to be able to provide a paper copy to the employee if they request the document in that manner. So you still have to have some paper capabilities. In addition to those two issues there are also six requirements of electronic signatures. These are, according to Scott:
- Must be unique to the person using it;
- Must be capable of verification;
- Can be used to objectively identify the person signing the electronic record;
- Was reliably created by such identified person and that cannot be readily duplicated or compromised;
- Must be under the sole control of the person using it; and
- Must be linked to the electronic record to which it relates in such a manner that if the record were changed, the electronic signature would be invalidated.
Failure to abide by these 6 can make the electronic signature invalid. So before you run off and just start willy-nilly scanning or creating forms make sure you have an understanding of what is involved. I would hate to have you go through all that work just to find that it is all invalid.
Thanks to Adriana Midence Scott for graciously allowing me to quote her material.