Thursday, January 17, 2013

Week in Review

The 1st Amendment protects freedom of speech, but that doesn't mean that employees' speech is always protected from employment consequences. Case in point: the tenured New Jersey first-grade teacher fired for referring to her students as "future criminals" in a personal Facebook post she wrote at home in her free time. The teacher challenged her termination on 1st Amendment grounds and appealed to the New Jersey Court of Appeals. The court recently rejected the 1st Amendment claim, finding that her "personal dissatisfaction" with her job did not address a matter of public concern--which could have made it protectable free speech--, and that, even if it had, the district's interests in efficiently operating the school outweighed any interest the teacher had in Facebooking her opinions.

Contrary to what employees may think, the right to free speech is not absolute, particularly in the workplace. Employers may take employment action in response to employees’ speech and social media communications in certain circumstances.

Several news stories emerged this week regarding other public employees who ended up on the wrong side of Facebook. An Arkansas first responder was let go after she criticized the city's emergency response policies and practices on Facebook. The termination was appealed -- and rejected -- by the city council, and there isn't word yet on whether any legal action will ensue. Down the road in Kentucky, a school bus driver was fired after engaging in a heated private-message exchange on Facebook with a student she believed was bullying her son. She is now suing the school district in federal court, alleging that her free speech, equal protection, and due process rights were violated. Stay tuned to see if the Kentucky court agrees.

Technology and the Workplace
Teacher's Facebook Firing Upheld by N.J. Appellate Court (DE Employment Law Blog) (Employer Handbook)
School Bus Driver Comments on Facebook Get Her Fired, Fuels Lawsuit (Employer Handbook)
Quitman City Council Upholds Firings to Volunteer Employee After Facebook Post (Arkansas Matters)
7 Ways Mobile Apps Are Driving Revenue for Business (Mashable)
How to Win Business: Stalk Your Client on LinkedIn (CNET)

Technology and the Law
TX Civil Liberties Advocates Seek Limits on Law Enforcement Tracking Cellphones (Dallas News)
Deaf Woman's eBay Complaint Highlights Dispute Over Web Access for Disabled (CNN)
FBI to ACLU: Nope, We Won't Tell You When or Why We Track You (ARS Technica)
New "Aaron's Law" Aims to Alter Controversial Computer Fraud Law (CNET)
Filming Police Encounter... A HIPAA Violation? (Lawffice Space)

There's an App for That
DuiCam App Helps Catch Drunken Drivers (Tech News Daily)
"Monster" App Rewards Kids for Doing Chores (NBC)
OkCupid Launches "Crazy Blind Date" App (CBS)
Call Friends for Free with Facebook Messenger App (Mashable)
The Anti-Surveillance Clothing Line That Promises to Thwart Cell Tracking and Drones (Slate)

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