In the age of smartphones, virtually everyone has a recording device at his or her fingertips—including employees. This can present challenges in the workplace. For example, smartphones and other technology enable employees to secretly (read: illegally) record business meetings, disciplinary discussions with HR, and interactions with other employees. Not only does this violate privacy rights and trust, it also risks disclosing confidential company or employee information. Fortunately, employers are not without a remedy. California’s privacy laws offer protection against illegal recordings by employees. READ MORE
Whistle While You Work?: First Court To Rule On DTSA’s Whistleblower Immunity Provision Treats It As An Affirmative Defense
The Defend Trade Secret Act (“DTSA”) contains a whistleblower immunity provision which could have a significant impact on employers. Until last month, however, no court had interpreted this provision which provides that no one “shall be held criminally or civilly liable under Federal or State trade secret law for the disclosure of a trade secret” made in confidence to a government official or an attorney and “solely for the purpose of reporting or investigating a suspected violation of law.” 18 U.S.C. § 1833(b). Now, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts has. In rejecting that assertion of the provision in a motion to dismiss, the court concluded that the party seeking the protections of the provision has the burden of at least asserting facts justifying its application. See Unum Group v. Loftus, No. 16-cv-40154-TSH, 2016 WL 7115967 (D. Mass. December 6, 2016). READ MORE
“Don’t Go There”: Second Circuit Makes it Harder to Bring Claims against Former Employees who Take Company Information without Permission
On December 3, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals became the most recent entrant into the circuit conflict on the question of when and under what circumstances an employee’s use of a computer to gain access to unauthorized information constitutes a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Over a dissent, the Court held that an employee cannot be convicted of violating the CFAA when he uses a database, to which he has been granted access, in a manner that is prohibited by company policy. With the Second Circuit joining the Fourth and Ninth Circuits in the minority on the issue, the answer continues to turn on the jurisdiction in which the suit was brought. Employers should take note because the decision reinforces the need to consider carefully whether and how to limit employee access to sensitive company information within its network—e.g., by use of written policy or technical access restrictions—and how those protections will play out in court if an employee takes company information for use in future employment.
NYCCHR’s Enforcement Guidance on NYC Credit Check Law: Answers and New Questions
On September 2, 2015, the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR or Commission) issued Enforcement Guidance (Guidance) on the New York City Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act (SCDEA), which took effect on September 3, 2015. As detailed in our earlier blog post, the NYCCHR has been charged with enforcing the SCDEA, which amends the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to prohibit employers from requesting or using consumer credit history in hiring and other employment decisions, except in limited circumstances.
President Obama Signs into Law the Theft of Trade Secrets Clarification Act
On December 28, 2012, President Obama signed into law the Theft of Trade Secrets Clarification Act. The Act amends the Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (EEA) and expands the jurisdiction of federal courts over cases concerning misappropriation of trade secrets. It was enacted in response to a recent Second Circuit decision that arguably narrowed the jurisdictional scope of the Economic Espionage Act of 1996.
The passage of the EEA (18 U.S.C. §§ 1831-39) marked the first major federal legislation aimed specifically at granting federal courts jurisdiction over claims of trade secret misappropriation. With the enactment of the EEA, Congress gave federal prosecutors a vehicle to bring criminal charges against individuals who knowingly misappropriate trade secrets. 18 U.S.C. § 1832(a). The EEA also provided the federal government the ability to seek injunctive relief for trade secret theft in a civil action under the statute. Id. § 1836.
Prior to the EEA, trade secrets were the subject of state law protections, largely under state-adopted versions of the Uniform Trade Secrets Act. Under that regime, federal courts obtained jurisdiction over such claims solely by means of diversity jurisdiction or through charges under federal criminal statutes stretched to cover trade secret misappropriation. READ MORE