Monday, November 30, 2009

Facebook & Game Developer Face Class Action Law Suit

Social networking site, Facebook, and social media gaming developer, Zynga, (think YoVille, FarmVille, Mafia Wars, etc.) face a class action law suit over online "offer-based" advertising. The ads allegedly caused users to be billed for services they didn't mean to sign up for.

More here:  Facebook, Zynga Face Class Action Suit Over Offer-based Ads Digital Media Wire

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Woman Fired for All-Caps Email Reminds Employers & Employees to Watch "Tone" of Online Communications


Ahem . . . sorry, I didn't mean to shout at you.

Vicki Walker, who worked for New Zealand's ProCare Health, learned the hard way that "all caps" emails annoy people.  Walker sent emails to other employees with instructions on how to properly complete forms.  She used various formatting to make her point:  ALL-CAPPED TEXT, bold text, and colored text.  (Gosh, maybe she even used a COMBINATION?!).  Apparently, the instructions came across a little gruff.

ProCare fired Walker for these "confrontational" emails, saying she created "disharmony" in the workplace.

Walker sued for wrongful termination, and recovered $17,000 for the discharge.  (As another blogger points out, is it really possible to be confrontational in an email on how to fill out a form?!)

Employees should keep in mind "netiquette" when communicating by email, via social networking / social media, or with other online platforms.  As I've cautioned before, employers should also bear in mind how responding to employees' online activities might result in liability. And, people:  LET'S BE FRIENDLY WHEN WE TYPE!

*Particularly for those of you visiting my blog for the first time:  All all-caps, bold, and/or red and blue font used above was incorporated for illustrative (and admittedly, sometimes sarcastic) purposes only, and does not accurately reflect the author's true writing style or habits.  She generally doesn't make a habit of addressing her audience in all-caps.  UNLESS SHE'S REALLY EXCITED ABOUT SOMETHING.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Woman Says She Lost Disability Benefits Because of Facebook Pics

If your insurer ain’t havin’ fun, ain’t nobody havin’ fun.

A Canadian woman claims she lost disability benefits because her vacation pictures on Facebook made it look like she was having a good time.

Nathalie Blanchard, an IBM employee in Quebec, had been on long-term sick leave for major depression for about 18 months when she stopped receiving her monthly disability benefits from her employer’s insurance company. She claims the insurer told her that pictures she posted on Facebook (at a Chippendales show, at her birthday party, and enjoying a sunny beach on vacation) showed she wasn’t depressed and was able to work.

Blanchard counters that her doctor recommended she spend time with family and friends; she says she went out with friends and took a short trip with her mom on her psychiatrist’s advice.

The insurance company didn’t comment on this particular case, but issued a statement it “would not deny or terminate a valid claim solely based on information published on websites such as Facebook.”

According to an article in the USA Today, Blanchard is taking legal action to challenge the insurer's decision.

As this story illustrates, employers aren't the only ones using Web 2.0 to investigate workers.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Teacher Sues After Forced to Quit for Pics & "B-Word" on Facebook Profile

Beer, wine, and the “B-word.”

One Georgia teacher says that particular trifecta on her Facebook profile led to her forced resignation – and the resulting lawsuit she’s bringing against her former employer.

WSBTV out of Georgia reports that high school English teacher, Ashley Payne, claims the Barrow County (Georgia) school district forced her to resign because her Facebook profile included photos from her European vacation that showed beer mugs and glasses of wine. Shocking or inappropriate that an adult traveler who visited the Guinness Brewery might have a mug of beer? Or a glass of wine in Italy? Payne certainly didn’t think so. The “B-word” also appeared in one of her posts.

Payne said she didn’t look intoxicated, wasn’t doing anything provocative, and wasn’t acting inappropriate in any of the photos. In fact, she said the pictures didn’t even show her actually drinking the drinks (although, the news broadcast accompanying the station’s print story showed a photo of a woman holding a mug to her face). Payne restricts access to her Facebook page, and doesn’t “friend” students or strangers.

Payne claims the school principal called her into his office, and – citing the photos and expletive on her Facebook profile – advised her she should resign immediately to avoid suspension on her record. Payne said the principal claimed he’d already spoken with the superintendant, suggesting the decision was final.

In response, Payne filed suit against the school, saying the school violated state labor law because it failed to make her aware of her right to a hearing. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

Facebook Status Alibi

The New York Times reports that robbery charges against a teen in New York were dropped after he used his Facebook status update as an alibi.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Florida County Bans Employee Text Messaging

County staff in Alachua County, Florida may no longer use text messages to conduct government business. 

In an effort to prevent potential problems before the arise, the county manager banned employees from sending text messages dealing with county business -- whether on county-issued or personal cell phones.  The county is convinced text messages constitute public records; because the county's computer sytem cannot currently track and save text messages, the county manager apparently decided forbidding employees to send texts altogether would be the best way to comply to with the state's open records law.

Alachua County's decision to ban text messages seems to have been spurred by controvery surrounding another state agency just over a month ago.  In September, the Florida Public Service Commission (which regulates utilities in the state) disabled texting capabilities on its state-issued smartphones in September after Commission staff members were caught communicating via text messages with a Florida Power & Light lawyer in an alleged attempt to sidestep the state's open records law.

The Gainesville Sun reports more on the Alachua County story here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Law Professor Sues Blog for $22 Million

An African American law professor has sued Above the Law, a popular legal blog that published a series of posts about Professor Donald Marvin Jones (who it dubbed "The Nutty Professor") following his 2007 arrest on suspicion of soliciting an undercover officer for sex.

The professor claims the blog's posts constituted racism, portrayed him in a false light, invaded his privacy, and infringed the school's copyright on his faculty photo. Jones seeks $22 million in damages.

More on the story here: Law professor sues legal blog for $22m in damages - Legalweek