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The Modern Workplace

Posts from May 2012.
Although employers rightfully appreciate the efficiency and responsiveness of employees who use cell phones (and smart phones) to get their work done, they must also be aware of the financial and safety risks created by the use of these devices while driving. Numerous media reports have trumpeted the increase of distracted driving including the use of a cell phone as a cause for automobile accidents. A recent article in the Washington Post noted multi-million dollar jury awards against employers in accidents involving death or serious injury, when the negligent driver was talking ...
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This week, technology brings trouble for employees and students, but benefits for the government and its citizens. In Massachusetts, a firefighter's emails were used against him in a sexual harassment investigation. Nearby, a Rutgers student was sentenced to 30 days in jail for using a webcam to spy on his roommate, and a Boston University student's plea for the Supreme Court to review his $675,000 fine for illegally downloading music was rejected. The government, on the other hand, is using technology to solve--rather than create--problems. Federal agencies are using apps to ...

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April 2012 was a busy month for the EEOC.  In addition to issuing new Guidance on discrimination against ex-convicts, the EEOC strengthened discrimination protections for another traditionally marginalized group - transgender individuals. In the case of Macy v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the EEOC found, for the first time, that transgender discrimination is illegal sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Gender identity and sexual orientation discrimination is already unlawful under Minnesota state law and in a number of ...
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Facebook dominated headlines once again this week, leaving little room for employment-related matters.  The cyber world was abuzz in anticipation of this morning's launch of Facebook's IPO. The final IPO was set yesterday at $38 per share, but trading opened this morning at $42 a share.  While many investors believe this is their golden ticket, others aren't so sure. With a pending privacy lawsuit and an AP poll showing that half of Americans think Facebook is a passing fad, it remains to be seen what kind of a deal Facebook investors really got today.

Technology and the ...

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On April 25, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a new Enforcement Guidance on the use of criminal history information in making hiring and other employment decisions. This Guidance furthers the EEOCs strategic focus on eradicating systemic race discrimination, as discussed in earlier blog posts (4/25/12 and 1/27/12). Because persons of color are arrested and convicted at disproportionate rates, excluding individuals from employment based on a criminal record can be unlawful race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. To ...
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Tired of hearing about privacy?  Perhaps you should avoid the news for a little while longer, then, because this week the war over online privacy heated up when Congress decided to join the fight. On Wednesday, the Password Protection Act of 2012 was introduced in the US Senate.  It seeks to prohibit employers from coercing prospective and current employees to provide access to any secured information stored online or from retaliating against employees' refusals to do so. An identical bill is being debated in the House. A California bill with the same aims unanimously passed the Assembly ...

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It has been less than 90 days since the Associated Press ran a story about employers requiring applicants and workers to provide their passwords to social media sites like Facebook, and now a new law makes this illegal. Maryland is the first state to enact a law making it unlawful for employers to ask applicants or employees to provide their log-in information.  Other states have similar bills pending.
In late April, the Social Networking Online Protection Act, or SNOPA, was introduced in Congress. If passed, this law would prohibit current and potential employers from requiring a ...
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Privacy is right on the tip of everyone's tongue again this week.  Delaware proposed its own Facebook privacy law for employers and employees that goes even further than Maryland's recent legislation and  the law currently before Congress.  The FCC released its full report on concerns with Google's gathering of data for their Street View feature on Google maps.  A court in the Eastern District of Virginia ruled that a Facebook "like" is not protected under the First Amendment.  Finally, the New York Times described how users can cover up their searching habits on the web.


Technology and the ...

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There is a chance that what your employees actually do in the day-to-day performance of their jobs isn't what's written in their job descriptions. This may not appear to be a problem if the work is getting done, but inaccurate or incomplete job descriptions can and do create problems for employers, especially if the EEOC or the Department of Labor comes calling. Employers are wise to include routine review and updating of job descriptions on their list of spring cleaning priorities. In addition to being part of a good defense against some claims of unfair or unlawful treatment, accurate ...
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