EEOC to host meeting about social media on March 12, 2014 – this should be lively!

March 11, 2014 at 7:52 pm | Posted in EEOC, Employee, Employer, Employment Law, Facebook, New employment laws/amendments, Social Media/Social Networking | Leave a comment
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PRESS RELEASE DIRECTLY FROM THE EEOC’S WEBSITE

3-5-14

Next EEOC Commission Meeting on March 12

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will hold a meeting on Wed., March 12, at 9:30 a.m. (Eastern Time), at agency headquarters, 131 M Street, N.E., Washington, D.C. 20507. In accordance with the Sunshine Act, the open session of the meeting will be open to public observation of the Commission’s deliberations.

The Commission will hear from invited panelists on how the use of social media in the workplace is impacting the enforcement of equal employment opportunity laws. Participants will address a range of issues, including recruitment and hiring, harassment, and records retention and discovery. The Commission is scheduled to hear from the following confirmed panelists during the meeting (in order of appearance):

  • Carol Miaskoff, Acting Associate Legal Counsel, EEOC, Office of Legal Counsel
  • Rita Kittle, Senior Trial Attorney, EEOC Denver Field Office (via video teleconference)
  • Lynne Bernabei, Partner, Bernabei & Wachtel PLLC
  • Renee Jackson, Associate, Nixon Peabody LLP
  • Jonathan Segal, Partner, Duane Morris LLP; Managing Principal, Duane Morris Institute, testifying on behalf of the Society for Human Resource Management

Seating is limited, and the EEOC encourages visitors to arrive 30 minutes before the meeting in order to be processed through security and escorted to the meeting room. Visitors should bring a government-issued photo identification card to facilitate entry into the building.

The Commission meeting agenda is subject to revision. Additional information about the meeting, when available, will be posted at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/index.cfm.

As part of the EEOC’s commitment to cut costs whenever possible, every effort is being made to utilize local resources and technology to facilitate testimony. The agency will continue to fulfill its mission to stop and remedy employment discrimination by balancing the need to provide service to the public with fiscal responsibility.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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NLRB strikes down yet another Social Media Policy, this time it is Georgia-Pacific’s policy that must be revised

January 24, 2014 at 8:14 pm | Posted in Employee, Employer, Employment Law, Facebook, Legal, Social Media/Social Networking, union | Leave a comment
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The NLRB has reached a settlement with Georgia Pacific regarding the Company’s Social Media Policy.  Georgia Pacific’s Social Media Policy had prohibited employees from sharing “personal information” such as wages/compensation, hours, and other “terms and conditions of employment.”  Georgia Pacific must now post a notice, approved by the Regional Director of the NLRB, telling the Company’s employees about their rights to:

1.  Form, joint or assist a union;

2.  Choose a representative to bargain with Georgia Pacific on the employee’s behalf;

3.  Act together with other employees for the employees’ benefit and protection;

4.  Choose not to engage in any of these protected activities.

Take a look at the notice that must be posted:  http://www.local1097.org/index_htm_files/NLRB.pdf

Georgia Pacific must also post information that it will NOT issue policies that interfere with the employees’ right to share information relating to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment with other employees, including on social media sites.

Social Media issues continue to be a hot topic, evolving it seems on a weekly basis.  Take out your policy, review the policy, and examine how far your policy goes in limiting the information employees can share.

The above is not legal advice nor is this posting the creation of an attorney client relationship between the Sensenig Law Firm and the reader.

Manatee County Teacher who posted unflattering comments about a student on Facebook is not disciplined by the Florida Department of Education

August 11, 2012 at 1:39 am | Posted in Employee, Employer, Employment Law, Facebook, Legal, Social Media/Social Networking, union | Leave a comment

The Florida Department of Education has declined to apply discipline to Lauren Orban, the Manatee County Music Teacher who made snarky comments on her personal Facebook page regarding a student in her class.  The Manatee County Superintendent, Tim McGonegal, had previously asserted that teachers were governed 24/7 by the amorphous  Teacher Code of Conduct such that Ms. Orban’s conduct could be sanctionable.  This author respectfully disagrees that someone’s status as a teacher means they can’t ever be frustrated with a student, or that they can never think an unflattering thought about a student.  Ms. Orban made a poor judgment call in sharing work related comments with social network “friends”, not all of whom were necessarily inclined to keep her comments confidential.  While the First Amendment does not usually apply to your employer’s premises, this writer would argue it does apply to a personal web page created during personal time and accessed and used during non-work hours.

It is significant that the Manatee County School Board does not currently have in place a social media policy.  This lack of a policy could have had an impact on the DOE’s decision not to assess discipline against Ms. Orban; without a policy in place to provide guidance to teachers, teachers are not aware of the rules that could be applied to their personal web usage – on their own personal time.

In this case, Ms. Orban was disciplined by her Principal.  The matter was thought to have been resolved at that level, but the student’s Mother was unhappy with what she perceived to be a lack of punishment for Ms. Orban.  Publicity ensued, a report was made to DOE, and the DOE  just recently refused to further sanction any of the teachers involved in making the Facebook comments.  For want of a social media, a child was embarrassed, a teacher’s reputation was harmed, and a School District was maligned.

This unfortunate situation shows the need for employers – public and private sector – to have clearly defined policies as to the employer’s guidelines – and prohibitions – when using social media.

For more information, please refer to the recent Sarasota Herald Tribune article:

http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20120808/ARTICLE/120809646

Also see ABC 7’s site for an article and an interview with me on this topic:

http://www.mysuncoast.com/content/topstories/story/What-you-can-safely-say-on-social-media/aOaZBBBvAUqDK_gmqpyS1g.cspx

 

 

Manatee County School Board in News Again For Teacher Facebook Comment Problems

July 10, 2012 at 12:22 am | Posted in Employee, Employer, Employment Law, Facebook, Social Media/Social Networking, union | Leave a comment

The last time Manatee County’s School Board was in the news it was due to a teacher’s comments on Facebook about allegedly being inebriated, including alleged profanity Facebook style.  See my prior October 2010 and January 2011 blog postings.  Challenges were filed regarding the disciplinary action attempted, and the parties agreed to settle their differences outside of the administrative process.  The Manatee County School Board said then it would attempt to draft policies about Facebook use by teachers and staff; those policies were never issued.  This author hypothesizes that it was just too difficult to come to  consensus on a policy that balanced the privacy rights of teachers with the School Board’s asserted duty to uphold their Handbook policies and the various codes and statutes that govern teacher conduct.

Manatee County is again in the news because a music teacher in Manatee County, Ms. Lauren Orban, recently made disparaging comments on her Facebook page about one of her second grade students.  The teacher’s friends on her Facebook page, including fellow teachers, joined in the conversation.  One of these Facebook friends provided copies of the conversation to the administration at Ms. Orban’s school.  At some point, the media learned of the incident and now the student’s parent is calling for Ms. Orban’s termination.   Ms. Orban has been reported to Florida’s Department of Education for additional inquiry into whether her conduct violates the very broad Teacher Code of Conduct.

Manatee County’s School Board is back to the drawing board on the need to create policies that govern Facebook and teachers.  Teachers – and other professionals – have been warned as a matter of good professional practice not to “friend” students or subordinates.  In today’s modern age, students communicate via technology – text, Facebook, or IM – rather than via older more traditional methods like phone trees and fliers.  Teachers of drama or other clubs have found Facebook to be an effective method of communicating with their students as to practices and event reminders.  When creating policies, the District may want to carve out exceptions for this type of “friending” or communication.

In an interview with ABC 7 here in Sarasota, Florida, Manatee County School District Superintendent McGonegal stated that teachers need to be aware that wherever they are, their Facebook postings could be an issue.  This statement is troubling in that I do not think the Manatee County School Board has the right to govern what teachers do or say in the privacy of their own homes behind closed doors, say at 1:30 a.m.?  Teachers, and other public employees, have due process rights in their jobs.  In the private sector here in Florida, an “at-will” employment state, as long as a termination is not based upon a discriminatory reason, an employee can be terminated for no reason at all.  Writing Facebook policies governing private sector employees is a simpler task due to this “at will” status.  Facebook policies reflecting the expansive view expressed by Superintendent McGonegal will likely be met with a challenge from the local teacher’s union as well as civil rights groups.

For more information, go to ABC 7 reporter John McQuiston’s article about the issue, along with my reported comments:

http://www.mysuncoast.com/content/topstories/story/What-you-can-safely-say-on-social-media/aOaZBBBvAUqDK_gmqpyS1g.cspx.

For more information about the series of events at issue, including the actual comments made by Ms. Orban, go to ABC 7 reporter Max Winitz’s article:

http://www.mysuncoast.com/content/topstories/story/Bradenton-teacher-in-hot-water-after-Facebook/Kw8YaII46kyi4U7bys4WAA.cspx.

I will post updates to this story as they occur.

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