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The Modern Workplace

Posts from August 2012.
The blogosphere has been buzzing over recent actions taken by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to limit employer requests for confidentiality during workplace investigations. Confidentiality has long been viewed as a hallmark of a good investigation for important reasons, including preserving evidence, encouraging witness cooperation, and reducing retaliation risks. In light of recent NLRB and EEOC activity, however, employers will need to think more carefully about when and how to make confidentiality ...
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Oh, the joys of technology. It can keep you connected when you're feeling social or provide hours of solo entertainment when you're not. And with new apps coming out every day, it is easy to get lost in a sea of technologically-induced euphoria. But don't let your guard down too quickly, because events this week remind us that where there is technology, there likely is someone -- or something -- watching.

A St. Paul police officer and a Yahoo News reporter learned that lesson the hard way. The officer, who was caught on a bystander's cellphone kicking an arrested suspect, is facing an ...

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Theres a new and surprising issue employers should be aware of when updating their employee handbooks this year:  the scope of their at-will disclaimer. A few months ago, in American Red Cross Arizona Blood Services Region and Lois Hampton, an NLRB administrative law judge (ALJ) held that the acknowledgement form contained in an employers handbook violated the National Labor Relations Act, which applies to almost all private employers. The language in question stated:
 
I further agree that the at-will employment relationship cannot be amended, modified or altered in any way.
 
The ALJ ...
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Here at the Week in Review, we've seen our fair share of bad employee decisions and the terminations that sometimes follow them. This week, workers around the country found themselves in a whole different kind of trouble for their unwise--and illegal--use of technology. In Texas, a teacher was sentenced to five years in prison for having sexual relationships with five of her students. The relationships began via text message and culminated in a cellphone recording of one of the sexual encounters. In Minnesota, a football coach is facing felony child porn charges after the ...
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Past Weeks in Review have recounted many tales of Facebook-induced terminations. Fired for Facebook comments? Check. Fired for Facebook photos? Check. Fired for Facebook Likes? Check and check below. But fired for "friending" someone on Facebook? That is precisely what happened to a Georgia county deputy who wanted to be "Facebook friends" with an inmate. The two struck up sexually-charged conversations while she was being held in the county jail, and it appears the deputy wanted to keep contact after she was released on bond. Turns out neither the Sheriff's office nor the inmate's ...

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A recent survey conducted for CareerBuilder.com is a good reminder that our words matter. Employers and employees were asked about swearing in the workplace. 51% of workers surveyed said they swear at work, although they reported being much less likely to swear in front of superiors than in front of their co-workers.  81% of employers said that swearing brings an employees professionalism into question, 71% said that it indicates lack of control, and 68% said it indicates a lack of maturity. Overall, 64% of employers reported that they would think less of an employee who repeatedly ...
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There is a fine line between speech that is protected and speech that is not. Cross it, and you may be in trouble. Events this week demonstrate how making this distinction is getting even harder -- and riskier -- as technology evolves. In Virginia, six sheriff's office employees were fired after they liked the Facebook page of their boss's re-election opponent. The district court disagreed with the employees' contention that their "likes" were protected speech, but both the ACLU and Facebook have already filed appeals to the Fourth Circuit. Over in Kansas, a ...
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As we recently noted, Illinois just became the second state to pass a law prohibiting employers from requiring employees or applicants to disclose their social media passwords. This appears to be the latest addition to a growing body of similar legislation, rather than an isolated action. The adoption of this law in Illinois quickly followed the enactment of the first such law by Maryland. Several other states, including California, Michigan, and New Jersey, have similar bills working their way through their legislatures. Additionally, the U.S. Congress continues to consider the ...
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Do you have employment or severance agreements (or any other deferred compensation plan) that require employees to sign a release, noncompetition or nonsolicitation agreement before post-termination payments are made? If so, you may have a problem, and you may only have until the end of 2012 to avoid potentially significant tax penalties.
Many employment severance agreements (and other agreements providing deferred compensation to employees) require employees to sign a release of claims against the employer before payments are made. Sometimes there is also a requirement that ...
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The government has been working hard to protect online privacy this week. On the regulation side, yesterday the Illinois governor signed the "Facebook Law," making Illinois the second state to statutorily prohibit employers from compelling employees or applicants to disclose their social media passwords. Additionally, the FTC is working to increase online security for minors by proposing new data-protection rules.
Enforcement efforts are also being stepped up, with prosecutors around the country making examples of internet-using lawbreakers. In Texas, two ...
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