Friday, May 1, 2015

Flashes of the Future for Employment Law and Technology

We’ve noticed that the litigation we’ve been warning (or some might say harping) about is starting to crop up in news reports and on court dockets.  In each of the matters described below, we see a cautionary tale for employers. The facts and legal issues involved are a reminder to be cautious in choosing and using technology in the workplace.
  • In Nascimento v. Anheuser Busch, three employees are suing because the beer company terminated their employment due to their offensive texts about a fellow employee.  The plaintiffs allege that Anheuser Busch violated the law and their privacy when it required them to use their personal iTunes accounts on employer-issued iPads and then terminated them for texts about which they had a reasonable expectation of privacy.  The plaintiffs also claim that their  personal iTunes accounts were not removed from the iPads when the devices were given to other employees, which exposed their credit card and other personal information.
  • In Rajaee v. Design Tech Homes, an employee’s personal device was remotely wiped after his employment ended.  The remote wipe was complete, so it  eliminated both the employer’s data and the employee’s personal data and restored the device back to its original factory settings.  Although a federal court dismissed the employee’s claims, his state court claims of negligence, conversion, and theft claims may still stand.
  • Facebook was recently sued for its use of facial recognition to make tagging friends in pictures easier.  Plaintiffs allege that by using their facial characteristics, Facebook was violating the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act of 2008 in a “brazen disregard for its users’ privacy rights.”  The issues in this case could easily extend to situations in which employers decide to use biometrics – like facial recognition, voice prints, or iris scans – for timekeeping purposes.
  • Hertz Rental Car is now defending claims of negligent supervision, negligent retention, and negligent training brought by a customer after Hertz employees posted disparaging remarks about the customer on Facebook.  The employees posted the remarks on their personal Facebook accounts during work time, on a Hertz-owned computer.  The plaintiff claims that Hertz knew the employees had done it before, but took no action.
  • The San Francisco Zoo recently came under fire when technology they implemented to keep patrons and employees safe was used to surveil employee conversations.  The union representing the zoo keepers claims the zoo’s use of the radios to monitor conversation violated state and federal laws.
Posted by Kate Bischoff