Technology increases efficiency and productivity by allowing instant access and transfer of electronic data. And yet, unlike its physical counterpart, electronic data is vulnerable to attack from anywhere in the world. As the use of social media, cloud computing and mobile-device technology increases, so does the level of related security threats. Consequently, businesses are constantly threatened with cybercrime, privacy breaches, theft of intellectual property and business interruption, all of which compromise competitiveness and productivity.
Some analysts employed by Standard & Poor's (S&P) have recently seen their internal e-mails and instant messages printed in the newspapers, read aloud on TV and passed around on blogs and social media. Their messages figure prominently in a $5 billion lawsuit that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed against S&P alleging that the company deliberately inflated its ratings of risky mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations before the financial crisis of 2008. Public revelations of internal messages sent between S&P employees will likely increase as the case unfolds. Some analysts could also be called upon as deposition and trial witnesses in the case.
The number of job-related disability claims filed with the EEOC increased in 2102 for the seventh year in a row. A total of 26,379 employment disability claims were filed in fiscal year 2012 under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), up from 25,742 in 2011 and 14,893 in 2005.
A recent survey of people who said they were victims of bullying at work found that most of the self-identified victims blamed the bullies, and not the targets, for the incidents. Respondents to the survey, conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute, selected “bullies were threatened by target's technical skills” as the most common answer to the question of why they, or people whose bullying they witnessed, were bullied. One in five respondents, who could each chose two answers, selected that as a reason.
When an employee reports misconduct or unsafe working conditions, employers should know how to conduct an effective investigation. Investigations promote ethical conduct by assisting in the enforcement of applicable laws and policies.
Popular perception seems to be that individuals and entities decide to engage in insider trading based entirely on a risk vs. reward analysis without regard for the law. The alleged insider-trading scheme involving Steven Cohen and Mathew Martoma of SAC Capital may have netted $276 million in illicit profits and averted trading losses for the company. Numbers like that can certainly fuel speculation about motivations for insider trading and raise the question of whether the risks associated with violating the law are large enough to act as a deterrent.
The Department of Labor (DOL) recently expanded the definition of “son or daughter” under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to include adult children. The new interpretation allows employees to take up to 12 workweeks of leave per year to care for any children who are 18 years of age or older and unable to care for themselves because of mental or physical disability. Previously, the FMLA limited the definition of “son or daughter” to children age 17 and under who have serious health conditions.
The United States Department of Labor (DOL) appears to be reviving the “Right to Know” initiative first proposed in 2010. This initiative is aimed at reducing worker misclassification by requiring employers to reveal more information about how they classify employees. The DOL recently announced its intention to collect information about “employers' experiences and workers' knowledge of basic employment laws and rules so as to better understand employees' experience with worker misclassification.” The DOL may ultimately use this information in crafting and implementing a new Right-to-Know rule.
The severity of this year’s flu season is prompting legislators in some U.S. cities and states to consider passing mandatory paid sick-leave laws. In New York City, Councilwoman Gale Brewer has proposed a bill that would require businesses with five or more employees to offer five paid sick days a year. If the bill becomes law, NYC would become only the fifth place to have passed such legislation, joining Connecticut, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and Seattle. Connecticut has a law similar to the one proposed in NYC that requires private employers to grant full-time employees five paid sick days a year, while Seattle has implemented a tiered system of paid sick leave that varies based on the size of the business.
A review of the performance of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division for 2012 shows a continued increase in the successful enforcement of antitrust laws. The EU successfully enforced its competition laws as well.