The risk of loss due to some form of cyberattack should prompt employers to consider insuring against those losses. But, not all cyberinsurance policies are created equal. That point is made abundantly clear in the recent 6th Circuit case, American Tooling Center, Inc. v. Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America.

The plaintiff, American Tooling Center, Inc. (ATC) is a Michigan-based manufacturer that subcontracts some of its manufacturing work to a Chinese vendor. During a time period that it had business insurance coverage through Travelers, ATC received a series of emails from an impostor pretending to be its Chinese vendor. These emails advised ATC that the vendor had changed its bank accounts and that ATC should wire transfer its payments to these new accounts. After ATC had transferred approximately $834,000 to these fraudulent accounts, it learned that it had been duped. ATC then made a claim on its Travelers business insurance policy. Travelers denied the claim and litigation followed.
Continue Reading Sixth Circuit finds insurance coverage for phishing losses

In a follow up to its Whole Foods Market, Inc. decision, which found unlawful an employer policy prohibiting workplace recordings by employees without prior management approval, an NLRB panel majority in Mercedes Benz U.S. International, Inc. denied the General Counsel’s motion for summary judgment on a similar “no recording” policy. According to the majority, Mercedes was entitled to a hearing, which would provide an opportunity to present evidence regarding its business justifications for the policy, and about whether the policy was communicated or applied in a manner that clearly conveyed an intent to permit protected activity.

Member Pearce dissented, arguing that the employer’s policy which prohibited the use of cameras and video recording devices in the plant without prior authorization, was facially overbroad and did not provide any exceptions for protected concerted activity. As such, according to Member Pearce, the policy tends to impermissibly chill employee expression and therefore was unlawful regardless of the employer’s intent in adopting and implementing the policy and regardless of whether employees actually interpreted the policy as restricting their Section 7 rights.


Continue Reading NLRB panel majority upholds employer right to justify “no recording” policy; denies general counsel summary judgment motion

A recently published decision of an Ohio Court of Appeals reminds us that, particularly in this electronic age, employers need to be very careful in the handling of confidential medical information. The decision is also a reminder that sometimes the outcome of a case can depend on the precedent in a particular appellate district.

In Templeton v. Fred. W. Albrecht Grocery Co. the 9th District Court of Appeals (for Summit County, Ohio) the employee responsible for managing workers’ compensation claims for the employer inadvertently sent a psychological report regarding the plaintiff to other employees rather than to the plaintiff’s attorney as she intended. The plaintiff brought suit alleging unauthorized disclosure, negligence and invasion of privacy. In response, the employer filed a motion to dismiss the claims as a matter of law.

The trial court dismissed the unauthorized disclosure and negligence claims at the outset and then, ultimately granted summary judgment as to the invasion of privacy claim. The plaintiff then appealed.


Continue Reading Ohio Appellate Court dismisses privacy breach lawsuit against employer

2016 has arrived, marking the beginning of a year of political transition. While we cannot be certain what the upcoming Presidential election holds for 2017, we can expect to see at least seven employment law trends as we move through this year.

1. Increase in Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) initiatives and enforcement

The Department

Wait…. What?

Yes, in Shore Point Distribution Co., Inc., the NLRB’s General Counsel’s Office issued an Advice Memorandum yesterday (dated October 15, 2015) in which it stated that an employer did not violate Section 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act by failing to bargain with union before installing a GPS device on an employee’s truck.

In March 2015, the employer became concerned that one of its employees was taking more time than other drivers to complete the same routes. It therefore hired a private investigator to follow and videotape the driver on his routes. The employer placed a GPS device on the employee’s truck to ensure that the investigator would be able to regain contact with the truck if he lost visual contact during the course of the surveillance. Over the course of his surveillance of the employee, the investigator personally observed the employee engaging in work rule violations including operating his truck in an unsafe and illegal manner, failing to follow specified delivery times, stealing time, and falsifying his daily log. Finally, after the GPS located the employee stopped in the employee’s hometown, he located the employee’s truck parked in the driveway at his home during work hours. Thereafter, the employer terminated the employee based on the investigator’s report. There is no indication that the employee was ever aware that the GPS device had been installed on his truck or that the employer had notified its employees that it might use GPS tracking for any reason in association with their employment.

Hard to see the NLRB’s General Counsel going along with this. Obviously, there are some other facts at play here.

First, the collective bargaining agreement contained work rules that prohibited drivers from “stealing time” and requiring that they adhere to Department of Transportation regulations mandating that drivers accurately account for their time on daily log records.

Second, the employer “has a practice of retaining a private investigator to follow an employee suspected of stealing time and using any results obtained through the investigator’s personal observations for disciplinary purposes.” The union was aware of this practice and “has no objection to it.”


Continue Reading NLRB General Counsel Advice Memo absolves employer for not bargaining over use of GPS devices to track employee

One of the first cases filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) following its 2012 updated guidance on the use of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions has been resolved. Last month, a federal court in South Carolina approved a settlement in which BMW Manufacturing Co., LLC (BMW) agreed to pay $1.6 million and offer jobs to aggrieved African-American former employees and applicants. BMW had already voluntarily changed its criminal conviction policy.

The EEOC filed suit against BMW in 2013 claiming that BMW’s criminal conviction policy was not job related and consistent with business necessity and disproportionately screened out African Americans from employment. BMW used a contractor to provide logistics services at its facility in South Carolina. The workers who provided services to BMW were subject to criminal background checks consistent with the contractor’s policy, which reviewed only convictions from the prior seven years. When BMW switched contractors, the workers were told that they would need to re-apply for employment with the new contractor, and BMW instructed the new contractor to perform criminal background checks on all workers under BMW’s policy. BMW’s criminal convictions policy had no time limitation, excluding from employment all applicants with convictions in certain categories of crimes without regard to whether the conviction was a misdemeanor or felony, the age of the conviction, or the nature or gravity of the individual crime. One hundred incumbent workers, eighty percent of whom were African American, did not pass BMW’s inflexible criminal background check, including many who had worked for BMW for a number of years. All of these workers were denied employment with the new contractor.


Continue Reading The use of criminal background checks to make employment decisions is not without peril

We would like to thank Adam Bennett, one of Porter Wright’s summer law clerks, for his significant contributions to this blog post.

If a recent federal court case is any sign of the times, employers should think twice before engaging in their own forensic crime scene style investigations of employee questionable behavior—even if the employee

I’m looking forward to joining my colleagues Dennis Hirsch and Jay Levine for a roundtable discussion of “Big data, data analytics and the law: What your company needs to know about the next big thing” on May 13. Here is a glimpse into what I plan to talk about from the employment lawyer’s perspective:

Even if we don’t know exactly how big data works, we know what it can do for us in our daily lives. Movie suggestions on Netflix. Targeted coupons at the grocery store. Cheap airfare and hotel rates. Facebook suggestions of people we may know. There is a certain creepiness to all of this but many (most?) of us seem willing to overlook it for the convenience and opportunities it provides.

Human resources departments now are figuring out how to use big data in the workplace. LinkedIn was one of the first businesses to recognize the value that data held for employers. At its most basic level, LinkedIn can steer its individual members to potentially attractive jobs that fit their profile and, for recruiters, it provides a rich database of candidates, including people who aren’t even looking for a new job. But there are a lot more than just recruiting opportunities. Companies like Knack now promote tests like Wasabi Waiter and Dungeon Scrawl that it claims will reveal job applicants’ talents, traits and skills to permit employers to identify the best candidate for their needs. JP Morgan Chase apparently has developed software that analyzes its own employees’ data to try to identify which ones are most likely to “go rogue,” so it has time to stop them before they do.
Continue Reading Big data in the workplace

We all pretty much know the drill at this point. Organization announces data breach, sends out notices as required under state and/or federal law to those individuals that are affected, offers some kind of identity theft protection or credit monitoring service, awaits public criticism and backlash. The NLRB and the American Postal Workers Union (“AWPU”)

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has now brought its first whistleblower enforcement action against a publicly traded company under the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 for utilizing an overly broad employee confidentiality agreement. Specifically, the SEC alleges that KBR, Inc., has violated the Act by implementing employee confidentiality agreements that “potentially discouraged” employees from