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  • HR Specialist: Employment Law
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Lesson from the court: Never disclose former employees’ medical info


“Hi, this is Mike from XYZ Company. I’d like to ask you a few questions about a former employee whom you used to manage.” At some point in managers’ careers, they’ll receive such a phone call from an ex-employee’s prospective employer. Be careful: One simple mistake in your response could trigger an expensive lawsuit. Remember: Never disclose medical information about former employees.

It’s time to review your e-monitoring policies

A long-awaited Supreme Court ruling has reiterated the importance of all employers to draft and enforce a comprehensive electronic communications policy governing how employees can use e-mail, the Internet, cell phones and text services.

May we check an employee message sent from work to his personal e-mail?

Q. One of our sales managers thinks a salesperson has been e-mailing confidential customer information to his personal e-mail address. Can we review the salesperson’s sent-messages file on the company’s e-mail server to see what he has been sending out?

Can we use GPS cell phones to track employees without telling them?

Q. Our employees have company-issued cell phones with global positioning systems capabilities. Can we use the GPS to track employees’ movements without telling them we are doing so?

Are there privacy concerns when I use social media to check out applicants?

Q. Am I invading applicants’ privacy by reviewing their Facebook, MySpace, blogs and Twitter feeds?

Text messages and employee privacy: The Supreme Court weighs in


The U.S. Supreme Court has held that a police department’s search of an officer’s text messages was reasonable and didn’t violate the officer’s Fourth Amendment rights. The court said that even if the officer had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his text messages, the search was motivated by a legitimate work-related purpose and was not excessive in scope.

Feds propose new HIPAA privacy rules

The Department of Health and Human Services has proposed new rules to strengthen HIPAA’s confidentiality and security measures. While your health insurance carrier will have primary responsibility for compliance, you need to be able to answer employees’ questions about their new privacy rights.

Use social networks to your advantage in employment disputes


I’ve long preached that employees should not enjoy an expectation of privacy in information they voluntarily place on the Internet, including social networks like Facebook. Now according to one federal court in Indiana, it is also fair game for employers to use social networking information when they have to defend against harassment and discrimination lawsuits.

Review e-communications policies in wake of Supreme Court texting decision

The Supreme Court ruled last week that a police department’s search of an officer’s personal text messages sent via a department-issued pager didn’t violate his constitutional rights. But the court punted on the question of how much privacy employees can expect when using employer-provided gear. The split decision means your policies are more important than ever.

Hiring from the competition, how much should we ask about any noncompete agreements?

Q. We are considering hiring an employee away from one of our competitors. Should we ask whether she is subject to a noncompete agreement, or is it better for us to move forward not knowing the answer?