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The Modern Workplace

Technology, Law, and the Workplace: Week in Review (The "Texters" Edition)
Photo by Joseph Holmes (via Bits)
As always, the world of technology never seems to slow down.  This Week in Review includes articles about a Presidential Town Hall on Twitter, hackers galore, and the online fallout of the Casey Anthony trial.  Among all the news of the week, I was captivated by the New York Times coverage of Joseph Holmes's online series of photographs entitled "Texters."  The series depicts individuals around New York City peering down at their smartphones, completely absorbed in the world of technology and often oblivious of their surroundings.

Besides providing an interesting commentary on modern life, this series has interesting employment law implications.  In this day and age, it is rare for an employer not to provide or allow smartphone use for work purposes.  Unfortunately, many employees use this technology while driving, walking, or in countless other dangerous or inappropriate situations.  In the event of an accident caused by an employee's use of smartphone technology, employees and third parties could (and often do) seek some form of compensation from the employer, including workers' compensation and tort claims.

Given this potential liability, employers are well advised to maintain policies about appropriate and safe use of smartphone technology.  However, the "Texters" series also demonstrates the fundamental shift in attitudes and social norms about use of technology on the go.  Employers that wish to counter these norms should educate and train employees about the employer's expectations.

Technology in the Workplace
Technology and the Law More Generally
  • Amid Stacks of Paper, 'E-Court' Is Finally in Session (NY Times)
  • To Slow Piracy, Internet Providers Ready Penalties (NY Times)
  • No Friend of Mine: Court Denies Facebook Discovery (Delaware Employment Law Blog)
  • Should the Government Need a Search Warrant to Track Your Car With GPS? (Time)
  • N.Y. Juror Fined for Texting From Deliberations (Going Paperless)
  • U.K. Juror Sentenced to Jail for Facebook Contact (Going Paperless)
Technology in the News
  • Mayo Clinic launches social network (Tech{dot}MN)
  • Investment Values Twitter at $8 Billion (Deal Book)
  • President Obama @ Twitter Town Hall (White House Blog, The Caucus)
  • Facebook Offers Video Chat in Arrangement With Skype (NY Times)
  • Texters, the Photo Series (Bits)
  • New Glasses Give The Blind Bionic Eyes (Fast Company)
  • Watching a Trial on TV, Discussing It on Twitter (NY Times)
  • British Tabloid Hacked Missing Girl's Voice Mail, Lawyer Says (NY Times)
  • Hackers Commandeer a Fox News Twitter Account (NY Times)
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The information contained in this post is provided to alert you to legal developments and should not be considered legal advice. It is not intended to and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Specific questions about how this information affects your particular situation should be addressed to one of the individuals listed. No representations or warranties are made with respect to this information, including, without limitation, as to its completeness, timeliness, or accuracy, and Lathrop GPM shall not be liable for any decision made in connection with the information. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

Technology, Law, and the Workplace: Week in Review
The worlds of technology and labor and employment law are always on a collision course, but this last week these areas seemed to intersect even more than usual. (Maybe I just have David Foley's "Worlds Colliding" post on the brain.) This week witnessed a host of news about technology-related employment and labor litigation, including settlement of the NLRB's threatened complaint against Thomson for the news organization's social media policy. Stories about the theft of customer payment information from Sony have also dominated the technology news, coming in the wake of the recent Apple location data scandal and Epsilon security breach.

The flurry of news relating to data security reminds me of a recent conversation with a colleague at the ABA National Symposium on Technology in Labor & Employment Law. The lawyer felt that the rhetoric about electronic information security is such that employers and other custodians might get the message that the law somehow demands perfection in their electronic storage system. He felt that this standard is misleading, insofar as the law only requires reasonable measures to protect information. He gave the example of the theft or other loss of a briefcase by an attorney on a crowded bus. In his view, the loss of the briefcase would only be actionable if the lawyer had not taken reasonable measures to protect the information.

There are many important distinctions that apply to the briefcase analogy. For example, the volume and ease of transmittal of electronic information could be interpreted to create correspondingly higher standards of reasonableness for electronic storage of confidential information. However, there is still an important lesson to be learned from this analogy: as the worlds of technology and employment and labor law interact on an ever-increasing basis, the law of the briefcase will evolve to account for the new electronic realities of the workplace. Who knows: maybe someday the concepts of social media or cloud computing may be as common and settled as the briefcase is today!

Technology in the Workplace
Technology and the Law More Generally
Technology in the News
  • Turning to Social Networks for News (NY Times)
  • A New Kissing Device Lets You Make Out Over The Internet (Fast Company)
  • Military Blogging Goes Mainstream (NY Times)
  • Trying to Stir Up a Popular Protest in China, From a Bedroom in Manhattan (NY Times)
  • Hackers Claim to Have PlayStation Users Card Data (Bits)
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The information contained in this post is provided to alert you to legal developments and should not be considered legal advice. It is not intended to and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Specific questions about how this information affects your particular situation should be addressed to one of the individuals listed. No representations or warranties are made with respect to this information, including, without limitation, as to its completeness, timeliness, or accuracy, and Lathrop GPM shall not be liable for any decision made in connection with the information. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

Technology, Law, and the Workplace: Week in Review
This week's round-up seems to focus on the small world of the tech industry.
Facebook is in the news for privacy concerns, and is said to be hiring former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Google is introducing a new social tool, +1, just on the heels of its settlement of a privacy charge brought by the FTC. And, finally, the Wisconsin Labor & Employment Law Blog reports on the small world of skilled technology employees: the FTC has filed high-profile antitrust complaints against companies like Lucasfilm and Adobe Systems for allegedly anti-competitive employment practices.

It's a small world after all!

Technology in the Workplace
Technology and the Law More Generally
Technology in the News
  • Cellphone Radiation May Alter Your Brain. Let's Talk. (NY Times)
  • Smartphone Market Expected to Soar in 2011 (Bits)
  • Crowdsourcing a Better World (Opinionator)
  • Two Twitter Founders Trade Places (Bits)
  • Online Mapping Shows Potential to Transform Relief Efforts (NY Times)
  • Ethical Quandary for Social Sites (NY Times)
  • Paul Baran, Internet Pioneer, Dies at 84 (NY Times)
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The information contained in this post is provided to alert you to legal developments and should not be considered legal advice. It is not intended to and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Specific questions about how this information affects your particular situation should be addressed to one of the individuals listed. No representations or warranties are made with respect to this information, including, without limitation, as to its completeness, timeliness, or accuracy, and Lathrop GPM shall not be liable for any decision made in connection with the information. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.

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