Last Fall’s election, where so much was said about hacked emails, should serve as a reminder to employers that cyber security is of the utmost important.  Cyber crime continues to rise across the globe.  In some European countries it even outpaces traditional crime.  A single data breach can cost a company millions of dollars in lost revenue, fines, and corrective action, not to mention the damages to its reputation and brand loyalty.  So what are the biggest cyber threats and how can businesses best defend against them?
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Franchise agreements typically make clear that a franchisee is a separate entity from the franchisor and that the franchisor has no liability as an employer of anyone the franchisee hires and employs.  Indeed, traditionally franchisors have not been routinely deemed joint or co-employers with their franchisees.  This is because the franchisor usually does not control hiring, firing, wages, breaks, and other day-to-day operations of the franchisee to the extent necessary to create an agency relationship between a franchisee’s employee and the franchisor.  A recent case decided by a federal court in California, however, might put that traditional thinking and legal relationship in doubt.
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Now more than ever employers must have a clear and concise policy regarding work email accounts.  While it is commonly understood that an employee’s work email is property of the employer and subject to search at any time, it is important to inform employees of this.  A recent case, Hoofnagle v. Smyth-Wythe Airport Commission out of the Western District of Virginia, demonstrates the importance of a clear policy on email accounts.

Hoofnagel was the manager of a small, local airport who was fired for his use of an email account he used both personally and for business to write an impassioned and volatile email to U.S. Senator Tim Kaine.  The manager’s email came in the wake of the Newtown school shooting tragedy and vehemently defended gun rights.  The airport did not have its own email system, or a written policy addressing the use of email and accompanying expectations.  The manager created the email account when he started there and the airport published the address as an official point of contact.  Further complicating the matter, the manager signed the email with his name and position.  Shortly thereafter, the airport commission voted to terminate the manager and he filed suit.  After the airport terminated the manager, it began going through his emails to check for airport business.
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Recent laws in North Carolina and Mississippi and the subsequent backlash are all over the news.  The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ogberfell v. Hodges making gay marriage legal across the country is not even a year old.  The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals very recently rule in favor of the right of transgender high school students to use bathrooms for the gender with which they associate.  LGBTQ rights are at the forefront like never before.  Employment discrimination is no exception.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has recently filed two separate suits in Pennsylvania and Maryland district courts challenging the long-held belief that Title VII does not protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation.
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