Category Archives: Privacy

What Your Boss Could Learn by Reading the Whole Company’s Emails

Source: Frank Partnoy, The Atlantic, September 2018

Employee emails contain valuable insights into company morale—and might even serve as an early-warning system for uncovering malfeasance.

Related:
Text Analysis Systems Mine Workplace Emails to Measure Staff Sentiments
Source: Alan Rothman, LLRX, September 22, 2018

….Today the text analytics business, like the work done by KeenCorp, is thriving. It has been long-established as the processing behind email spam filters. Now it is finding other applications including monitoring corporate reputations on social media and other sites.

The finance industry is another growth sector, as investment banks and hedge funds scan a wide variety of information sources to locate “slight changes in language” that may point towards pending increases or decreases in share prices. Financial research providers are using artificial intelligence to mine “insights” from their own selections of news and analytical sources.

But is this technology effective?….

….. Now text analytics is being deployed at a new target: The composition of employees’ communications. Although it has been found that workers have no expectations of privacy in their workplaces, some companies remain reluctant to do so because of privacy concerns. Thus, companies are finding it more challenging to resist the “urge to mine employee information”, especially as text analysis systems continue to improve.

Among the evolving enterprise applications are the human resources departments in assessing overall employee morale. For example, Vibe is such an app that scans through communications on Slack, a widely used enterprise platform. Vibe’s algorithm, in real-time reporting, measures the positive and negative emotions of a work team. …..

Monitoring Employees Through GPS Technology: What Is Legal and What Are Best Practices?

Source: Elizabeth Austermuehle, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 44, No. 1, Summer 2018
(subscription required)

Employers that use GPS technology to track their employees’ locations and activity can help improve a company’s efficiency and ensure compliance with labor and safety laws, however, important legal and employee privacy issues also are implicated. Employers are encouraged to take steps to ensure that GPS monitoring activities do not violate applicable laws or employees’ trust.

How to Break an NDA, See If Your Pay Is Fair, Confront a Colleague, and More

Source: Mary Pilon, Bloomberg, May 1, 2018

Practical advice on some of the most uncomfortable—and important—things you could do for your career.

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Employee Rights
Source: NOLO, 2018

Can you be required to take a drug test? Who is entitled to earn overtime? What kinds of conduct fall under the definition of illegal discrimination and harassment — and what should you do if you are a victim? Can you take time off work to care for a new child, serve in the military, cast your ballot, or recover from a serious illness? Get detailed answers to all of your questions about workplace rights here.

Your Workplace Rights
Source: Workplace Fairness, 2018
Hiring & Classifications
Looking for a new job? Wondering if the questions you were asked at the interview were legal? This section addresses some of the most common issues you may encounter in the hiring process, and how you are classified as a worker may affect your workplace rights.

Discrimination
Are you being treated differently at work? If so, is it because of your race, sex, age, disability, national origin or religion? Wondering what other kinds of discrimination are illegal? Get the facts on workplace discrimination here.

Harassment & Other Workplace Problems
Whether you’re being pressured to have sex with your boss, forced to listen to foul language or slurs, or wondering whether the comment you made might get you in trouble, you’ll find this information on harassment and other problems you might encounter on the job to be helpful.

Unpaid Wages/Wage & Hour Problems
Not getting paid what your employer owes you? Are you forced to work overtime, but not receiving any extra pay? Get the facts on “wage and hour” laws here.

Benefits & Leaves
For most employees, your job isn’t just about the pay, but also what benefits are included. Sick leave, disability leave, family/medical leave–the different kinds of leave you may be allowed to take can be confusing. Get information about health care coverage, pensions, leave eligibility and other benefit-related information here.

Privacy & Workplace Surveillance
Is somebody watching you? It just might be your employer. Find out here what rights to privacy in the workplace you do and do not have.

Health & Safety/Workplace Injuries
Is your workplace unsafe? Are you worried about getting hurt at work? Wondering what to do about it? Have questions about the workers’ compensation system? Find the answers here.

Whistleblowing & Retaliation
Fighting back when you see your employer doing something wrong can be scary, and risky. But there are laws that can protect you in a number of situations. Learn more about how you might be protected when you blow the whistle or challenge illegal conduct.

Unions & Collective Action
Facing an organizing campaign at work (or want to get involved in one)? Already a union member but don’t understand how things work? Fired for organizing or joining a union? This section covers information about your rights to organize and be in a union, and how unions work.

Termination & Unemployment
Whether you were suddenly fired, laid off, or asked to resign, you’ll want to know what happens now that you are out of a job.

The Employee Right to Disconnect

Source: Paul M. Secunda, Notre Dame Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 8, Issue 1, 2018

From the abstract:
U.S. workers are increasingly finding it difficult to escape from work. Through their smartphones, email, and social media, work tethers them to their workstations well after the work day has ended. Whether at home or in transit, employers are asking or requiring employees to complete assignments, tasks, and projects outside of working hours. This practice has a profound detrimental impact on employee privacy and autonomy, safety and health, productivity and compensation, and rest and leisure. France and Germany have responded to this emerging workplace issue by taking different legal approaches to providing their employees a right to disconnect from the workplace. Although both the French legislative and German corporate self-regulation models have their advantages, this paper puts forth a hybrid approach using existing U.S. safety and health law under OSHA to respond to this employee disconnection problem. Initially under the general duty of clause of OSHA, and then under OSHA permanent standards and variances, this article provides a uniquely American approach to establishing an employee right to disconnect from work.

Can You Fire Someone for Attending a Rally of Racists?

Source: Jon Steingart, Daily Labor Report, August 14, 2017

A campaign to publicly identify participants in white supremacist rallies has been met with calls for employers to fire the protesters. That’s the dilemma Top Dogs in Berkeley, Calif., faced after Twitter user @YesYoureRacist shared a photo it said showed one of the hot dog restaurant’s employees at a demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend. Participants carried torches and reportedly chanted “white lives matter” and “Jews will not replace us.” The next day, participants showed up carrying Nazi swastikas, Confederate battle flags, and insignia of white supremacist groups…..

Congress’ Browsing Habits

Source: Speak Together, 2017

Find out what the government is doing on your site

Get real time analytics on Congress, White House, and FCC visits to your site, while taking in part in one of the largest movements for internet privacy in the history of the Web.
Related:
How to Track What Congress Is Doing on the Internet
Source: Louise Matsakis, Motherboard, June 12, 2017

There’s now a way to track what government employees, including elected officials, are doing online during working hours. A new plugin created by a software engineer in North Carolina lets website administrators monitor when someone accesses their site from an IP address associated with the federal government. It was created in part to protest a piece of legislation the president signed earlier this year. In April, President Trump signed a measure allowing internet service providers (ISPs) to sell sensitive information about your online habits without needing your consent, rolling back Obama-era regulations intended to stop that very thing from happening…..

The Rise of Wearable and Smart Technology in the Workplace

Source: Clement L. Tsao, Kevin J. Haskins, Brian D. Hall, ABA National Symposium on Technology in Labor and Employment Law, Presented by the Technology in the Practice and Workplace Committee April 5-7, 2017

….It should not be difficult to imagine that the ability to track each employee’s precise location and physiological activity could have a chilling effect on protected concerted activity under the NLRA. Depending on the type of wearable technology involved, employers could eventually, if not already, have the equivalent of a workplace ankle bracelet, i.e., GPS monitoring device, that could be used as a tool to monitor or interfere with protected concerted activity. For workplaces where there is a certified collective bargaining representative, wearable technology, or any form of a surveillance system, should be a mandatory subject of bargaining. See Colgate-Palmolive Co., 323 NLRB 515, 515-16 (1997) (where the Board held that installation and use of surveillance cameras were mandatory subjects of bargaining). Given the likely chilling effect on protected concerted activity as well as in order to reduce the risk of unlawful surveillance, employers should establish and enforce policies for disabling wearable technology and collecting wearable data outside of working hours….

…..Wearable technology excels at providing data on health. The pedometer of yesterday has been relegated to the vintage dustbin: today’s fitness trackers, like those from Fitbit, Jawbone, Garmin, and Apple, can track not only heart rate and calories burned, but sleep patterns, walking patterns, sweat, diet, and a whole host of other health attributes when paired with mobile apps for tracking mood, fertility, and medication, to name just few. Although many of these devices are designed for the consumer market, they are becoming increasingly common in the workplace, often as part of employee wellness programs. Companies are also finding wearable devices useful for enhancing worker safety: devices for monitoring a worker’s hydration, temperature, movement, and external hazards are already available, and research is continuing into how to coordinate these tools into a “technological guardian angel” for workers. Not surprisingly, the proliferation of wearable technology in the workplace raises a number of legal issues. In particular, the intersection of wearable technology and health implicates issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”), and health privacy laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”)…..

The Challenges of a Workplace Bring Your Own Device Policy

Source: John Hawthorne, LLRX, April 28, 2017

Everything was so easy a decade back. Employees used company issued computers, spoke on company cell phones, and played by all the rules of CIOs and IT departments. They usually weren’t allowed to use their own laptops or mobile devices, which allowed the IT departments to keep everything locked down.

The more generous companies gave high-profile workers Blackberries, but even those were controlled by a very strict set of guidelines. And they were Blackberries, after all. Not the best devices for surfing the internet or watching videos.

But then the mobile revolution happened. Steve Jobs invented the iPhone, YouTube, Pandora Internet Radio and Spotify Music made significant inroads with users and suddenly people wanted to bring their own devices to work. No longer content to use archaic computers and ancient communication devices, employees wanted to do both personal and business activities on the same device.

And so many companies began implementing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, allowing workers to use whatever computer or phone they desired. These policies have, in many ways, been a great boon to productivity and have huge advantages. But there are also some significant downfalls to the rise in BYOD.

In this article, I lay out the pros and cons of BYOD, as well as try to provide a bit of objective analysis of the situation…..