Mark Eting is one of Duncey’s Caps top outside sales agents. Because the company is based in Texas, but Mark lives in Cleveland and sells for the company in the northeast, Mark purchased a personal computer and a laptop to use for work purposes, but did not get reimbursed by the company. He did, however, provide the computer to Duncey’s IT department to install the company’s sales tracking program. Unbeknownst to Mark, the IT department also installed software that allowed the company to determine when Mark accessed the sales tracking program and what information he accessed. Duncey’s employee handbook – which Mark acknowledged – stated the company could monitor his use and access of company data on personal devices. For the laptop, Mark purchased software called “LogMeIn” which allowed him to remotely access the home personal computer while he was on the road. Thus, Mark could use his laptop while traveling, access the home computer, and enter the sales data. At a team sales retreat, Mark casually mentioned to his boss, Tom Prior, how he logged his sales data on the road by using LogMeIn.    

When Mark quit, Duncey’s IT department investigated his use of the sales program, and found he had been logged in more than usual. Suspicious of this activity, Tom went into LogMeIn and successfully guessed his username and password. While perusing Mark’s personal computer, Tom found Mark had set up a Google Mail account and was emailing Duncey’s customer information to one of its competitors. Duncey filed suit against Mark for various claims. When Mark read the lawsuit’s allegations, he realized the only way Duncey’s learned that information would have been by accessing his personal computer or laptop. Mark fired off a counterclaim for computer hacking. Does Mark’s claim stand a chance?  

Continue Reading An Employer’s Spooky Interpretation of its Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy

Last month, Jim Duncey, the majority owner and face of Duncey’s Caps, Inc., was involved in a car accident and arrested for DWI.   Facing a PR crisis Duncey’s board of directors called an emergency meeting.  The board implemented its crisis plan, issued a statement condemning driving while intoxicated, suspended Duncey, ordered him to attend rehabilitation, and made a $100,000 donation to MADD. 

While the company survived the initial PR crisis, its bottom line did not.  Retail sales during the following quarter were down 20%.  One of the company’s major commercial customers also terminated its contract that produced $3 million in revenue annually.  To make matters worse, the board’s private investigator discovered that Duncey had previously been arrested for DWI three years earlier while on vacation in another state, but had managed to keep it quiet.  Does the company have any legal remedies against Duncey on top of terminating him?  Should the company seek those remedies? Continue Reading The Calm After the PR Storm: Recovering Damages from the Offender

Jim Duncey is more than just the majority owner of Duncey’s Caps, Inc. – he’s the face of the company, appearing on billboards, in television and radio ads, and on the home page of the company’s website.  He is one of the most influential and recognizable business leaders in the city.  On Saturday night Jim and his wife Diane attend a charity event at the toniest country club in town.  With a little “liquid courage” Jim was the high bidder at the night’s live auction, which earned him respect (and envy) from those in attendance.  On the way home Jim ran a stop sign and t-boned another vehicle.  The driver of the other vehicle suffered serious injuries that would force her to spend several weeks in the hospital.  Police investigating the accident gave Jim a field sobriety test, which he failed.  Jim ended blowing a .12 BAC and was charged with DWI.  The accident, along with Jim’s arrest, was the lead story on the Sunday news.        

With the face of the company in legal and public relations trouble, Duncey’s board of directors called an emergency meeting to discuss the situation and consider options.  What can they do?

Continue Reading Jekyl and Hyde: When the Face of Your Company Becomes a PR Liability

 

Before Duncey’s Caps, Inc. hired Bud Dunop as its new human resources manager in 2018, all of Duncey’s human resources issues were handled by Dot Uris. One of Dot’s responsibilities was to have all new employees complete their new hire paperwork, which included an agreement for the employee and Duncey’s to arbitrate any employment-related disputes.  The arbitration agreement included a signature block for Dot to sign on behalf of Duncey’s.  Instead of signing each employee’s agreement, Dot just placed it in the employee’s file.   

One day Don “Crash” Gordon broke his foot when he walked around the corner of the warehouse and stepped into a bucket that another Duncey’s employee placed on the floor.  Crash filed a lawsuit against Duncey’s when it failed to cover his medical bills.  Duncey’s attorney filed a motion to compel arbitration, attaching a copy of the arbitration agreement that Crash signed but Dot did not.  Will Duncey’s be able to get this lawsuit sent to arbitration? Continue Reading Are Employers Required to Sign Employees’ Arbitration Agreements?

Duncey’s Caps, Inc. hired Bud Dunop as its new human resources manager for 2018.  Bud quickly determined that Duncey’s needed a formal employee policy handbook.  Included within the handbook was an arbitration agreement requiring employees to arbitrate all claims against Duncey’s relating to the employee’s employment.

Bud then held training and review sessions with all Duncey’s employees.  At the end of each session, each Duncey’s employee was required to log into a computer with their own self-created password.  Once logged in, the employee was given the opportunity to fully review the handbook and the arbitration agreement.  The employee was then required to click a box stating that he or she “acknowledges” receiving and reviewing the handbook, and that by clicking the box they “agreed” to abide by the handbook and the arbitration agreement. The employee was then required to enter their initials and click “submit.”

A few weeks later, one of Duncey’s employees who electronically acknowledged the handbook was injured on the job.  The employee filed a lawsuit.  Will Duncey’s be able to get this lawsuit sent to arbitration? Continue Reading Are Your Employees’ Electronically-Signed Agreements Enforceable?

N. O. Smelz, owner of Smelz Rug and Carpet Cleaning, learns that Brite Bank has submitted a request for proposal to clean the carpets at their 15 branches in the DFW area. When Smelz reads the request he notices it includes a diversity provision that requires at least 10% of the total amount paid by Brite to go to a vendor, or a subcontractor, that is a minority-owned, woman-owned, veteran-owned, LGBT-owned, or disabled-owned business. Smelz is concerned because he doesn’t fall into any of those categories, and he doesn’t believe any of his long-time suppliers do either.  But because his cleaning company has the best reputation around, Smelz submits his proposal anyway.  Will Smelz get the contract?         Continue Reading Supplier Diversity Policies

Agreeing with Benjamin Franklin that there is nothing certain except death and taxes, Sketch Wood and his partner Minnie Brix, owners of Wood & Brix, and their 200 employees are certain that the new tax law will affect them, but they are a bit overwhelmed. Looking for an overview, Sketch asked his favorite non-tax lawyer to hit some of the high points of the first significant reform of the U.S. tax code since 1986. Continue Reading New Tax Law – Impacting Your Small Business and You

Frustrated with the high number of employees that did not show up for work in the fall and winter last year, Jim Duncey, the owner of Duncey’s Caps, Inc., issues a memo to all employees that they must provide proof that they got a flu vaccine shot by January 1, 2018 or they would be fired.  Tommy Goinmyownway protests, saying that his religious beliefs prohibit him from getting vaccinations.  New Year’s Day comes and Tommy is fired after he doesn’t provide the required proof.  As he is escorted out of the plant Tommy threatens to sue Duncey’s for discrimination.  Does he have a claim? Continue Reading Sticking it to Your Employees During Flu Season

“Big” Bob Brothers is concerned that his company, Big Brothers Security Systems, is losing out on customers because his salesmen and installation teams are slacking when they are out of the office.  Brothers reads a newspaper article about another company that is putting microchip implants containing radio-frequency identification tags (RFID) into his employees in order to make sure they aren’t doing “off the clock” stuff while on the clock.  Brothers sends a memo to employees explaining that they will all be chipped the next month, and anyone refusing to chip will be terminated.  Can Brothers “big brother” his employees like that?   

Continue Reading Can I “Chip” Away at my Employees’ Privacy?

US Customs and Border ProtectionLast week Emma Grant’s line cook and 25 other undocumented employees at her bar-b-que restaurant Emma Grant’s Bar-B-Que were working the lunch shift when it was raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel, apparently at least in partial response to a recent executive order. Can the President of the United States do that? Can this be a problem for Emma Grant and her bar-b-que restaurant?

Executive Orders

Recognized since George Washington as being authorized by Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution that provides “the executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America,” there have been more than 13,000 issued, in one form or another, since 1789. Notable executive orders were Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and Franklin Roosevelt’s mandatory registration of aliens from World War II enemy countries. FDR also holds the record, by far, of the most Executive Orders at 3,721; next closest is Woodrow Wilson at 1,803. To date, President Donald Trump has issued twelve executive orders. Suggested as undoing many of President Barack Obama’s policies, here’s a list and short summary of each. The Federal Register details the executive orders transcripts, numbers and disposition tables from Herbert Hoover to date.

The Legal Reality

But what about Emma’s exposure? Yes, as the employer of the undocumented workers, Emma Grant could have liability. Employers must verify the identity and employment authorization of each person hired after Nov. 6, 1986 and complete and retain Form I-9. Failure to do so can result in civil fines ($539 for each at the first offense and up to $21,563 for each after multiple offenses), criminal penalties (when there is a pattern or practice of violations), and debarment from government contracts.

Tilting the Scales in Your Favor

Get a completed I-9 for each employee. Undertake reasonable and diligent investigation, if appropriate. For key employees, consider undertaking steps to secure their legal residency in the United States.