Tuesday, July 8, 2008

You Can't Read Employee Emails?

On June 18, 2008, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals decided that employers have no right to read their employees' text messages without their consent. Even if employers pay for the service, providers are prohibited by the federal Stored Communications Act from releasing the text message contents to them.

The Court ruled that reasonable expectations of privacy vary depending on the specific facts and circumstances, and that the availability of other, less intrusive, ways to monitor the amount of text-messaging services played a role in the decision.

This opinion emphasizes the importance of having good policies and procedures, including reference to when and how the employer may search, review or monitor phone calls, emails, etc. This case is only binding in AK, AZ, CA, GU, HI, ID, MT, NV, OR, WA.

E-Verify Required In Georgia

Effective July 1st, under the Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act, public employers, contractors and subcontractors with 100 or more employees (but less than 500) were required to use the e-verify system, an online system operated jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration (SSA). Participating employers can check the work status of new hires online by comparing information from an employee's I-9 form against SSA and Department of Homeland Security databases. More than 69,000 employers are enrolled in the program, with over 4 million queries run so far in fiscal year 2008.

In addition, public employers in Arkansas, Colorado, Mississippi, and Oklahoma are required to use E-Verify. Rhode Island mandates its use for public employers and state agencies. Two states-Missouri and Tennessee-encourage its use. In Indiana, Minnesota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Utah, state agencies must use the system, and in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia E-Verify legislation is pending.

To register for E-Verify, go here.

Supreme Court ERISA Case

On June 19th, the US Supreme Court ruled that the dual role of ERISA plan administrators that both determine whether an employee is eligible for benefits, and pay benefits out of their own pockets, creates a conflict of interest. Thus, a reviewing court should consider such conflict as a factor in determining whether a plan administrator has abused its discretion in denying benefits, and the significance of the factor will depend upon the circumstances of the particular case.

The case is Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Glenn, No. 06-923.

Jobless Claims Continue To Rise

Employers cut payrolls by 62,000 in June, the sixth straight month of nationwide job losses, underscoring the economy's fragile state. The unemployment rate held steady at 5.5 percent - the same as May. Previously, the last time the unemployment rate hit as high 5.5 percent was in October 2004.

Heavy job losses in construction, manufacturing, business services and retailing eclipsed job gains in education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and government.