The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that when an employee was sending e-mail from a private, Web-based account, even though the account was accessed from a company computer, the e-mails were protected. By allowing occasional personal use, the company’s computer policy could lead an employee to assume a certain level of privacy. The fact that the e-mails were sent over a password-protected Web site was also significant, ruled the court.
More than 10 million mobile phones and two million laptops are lost each year in the United States. TigerTag and BoomerangIt are lost-and-found networks that use the Internet to reunite lost items and owners. LeadsOnline works with law enforcement and businesses such as pawn shops to identify lost and stolen goods by their serial numbers.
A new European study (.pdf) attempts to assess the economic impact of counterfeiting and piracy on creative industries, but a recent GAO study (.pdf) concludes that quantifying the economic effects is difficult, if not impossible.
Lost laptops can cost companies about $640,000, according to an Aberdeen Group study. Best practices include using endpoint security solutions and implementing formal end-user training and awareness programs.
A federal appeals court has ruled that a school district did not violate the law when it failed to mention that a school teacher had sexually harassed his students. The district was not liable for the actions of that teacher, who went on to harass students at another school.
A bill (H.R. 4992) introduced by Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) is designed to protect individual first responders from litigation costs arising from unintended consequences. Under the bill, the employers of first responders would be required to pay for any liability, including litigation costs related to claims of liability, that first responders incur in the course of their official duties. Exceptions would be made in the case of intentional wrongdoing or activities undertaken in bad faith.
A bill (H.R. 4908) introduced by Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) would provide grants that colleges and universities could use to improve fire-safety programs. The grants, which could be for amounts up to $250,000, would be awarded to fund programs to increase fire safety awareness among college and university students, including those living in off-campus housing. The grants would fund a program for up to two years and would have to be matched by an investment of at least 25 percent of the total grant amount.
A bill (H.B. 4658) pending in the Illinois legislature would prohibit companies from conducting credit checks on prospective employees. Under the bill, it would be illegal for companies to use credit checks to make decisions on hiring, recruiting, discharge, or compensation. Exceptions would be made for financial institutions, public safety agencies, or any other government agencies that require credit checks as a matter of law.
A new Utah law (formerly H.B. 206) would restrict how employers could request personal information from prospective employees. Under the law, employers may not request an applicant’s Social Security number, date of birth, or driver’s license number until after the applicant has been offered a job. The information may also be requested after the applicant has agreed to a criminal background check, credit check, or driving record check.
A federal appeals court has ruled that an employee, Dennis Ford, may not sue his employer for racial discrimination because the discrimination was not severe enough and Ford failed to pursue his complaint adequately. Ford claimed that one of his coworkers called him a “black African American,” and “black man,” on a regular basis. However, Ford reported the incident only once and during the complaint was more concerned about other issues, such as an impending raise. In addition, the name-calling stopped after the offending employee was reprimanded. (Ford v. Minteq Shapes and Services, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, No. 09-2140, 2009)
A high-school student who was taken out of her honors courses after she complained about a teacher on her Facebook page may pursue a lawsuit against her school. A federal court has ruled that the student’s post, which deemed an instructor “the worst teacher I ever met” contained no threats of violence and was protected under the First Amendment (.pdf). (Evans v. Bayer, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, No. 08-cv-61925, 2010)