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September 24, 2017
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INTERNET USAGE
Updated On: Nov 25, 2009

   The internet has rapidly become the primary mode for communicating and receiving information in contemporary society. In the last few years, millions of people have connected to websites, blogs, or other instant messaging forums to communicate with, or obtain information from, other users. The benefits of the new medium are obvious.

   But there is a darker side to these technological advancements. The anonymity which internet sites provide creates the opportunity to make statements which are threatening, demeaning, defamatory, or otherwise problematic. The law has been struggling to keep up with these changes, and recent court cases have begun to provide some guidance regarding regulation of these activities.

   In Stengart v. Loving Care Agency, The New Jersey Appellate Division recently concluded that an employer overstepped its bounds by retrieving a former employee's confidential internet communications with her attorney on a company computer. The employer had provided the employee with a laptop computer to help her perform her responsibilities. A handbook distributed by the company informed all employees that the computer was for business only usage, and that any communication made on that computer was the property of the company. The handbook recognized, however, that "occasional personal use is permitted".

   Just prior to being fired, the employee had begun to gather information to support a potential lawsuit against the employer. She shared that information, and other communications, with her attorney over the internet. After she was fired, the employer seized the laptop computer and was able to extract all of the prior communications. It then attempted to use some of the communications against the employee in the subsequent lawsuit.

   The court held that the mere fact that the computer was provided by the employer did not convert every message on the computer into company property. Recognizing that computers today can be utilized to access tax returns, medical records, intimate personal conversations, and other communications in which the employee has a privacy interest, the court concluded employee handbooks must be tailored to protect the legitimate interest of the employer. Moreover, ambiguity in handbook language should be resolved against the employer, since the employee must communicate clearly permissible or impermissible usage.

   As a result, the court concluded the employer did not have the right to obtain or retain the email messages between the former employee and her attorney, even though the communications were conducted on the employer's computer. The court was careful to point out, however, that the employer can certainly terminate an employee for the improper usage of company property. In other words,a company can fire its employee for using work time to conduct private internet activity. Retaining the actual messages that the employee sent, however, is an entirely different matter.

   Obviously, the case raises as many questions as it resolves. For current purposes, however, it is critical that employees understand that an employer can access a company supplied computer, and can learn both the amount of usage, and type of usage in which the employee engages on work time. The employer can also terminate an employee for spending time surfing the web at work. Checking whether the employer has a policy regarding internet usage or any claimed right to the employees email messages is an important step in protecting job security.

   In two other recent cases, the courts have spoken on whether an employee can be terminated for private and personal internet usage which affects the employer's interest or that of its employees.

   In Matter of Smith v. City of Newark, a police officer accessed a blogging website called "Newark Speaks". The officer would log on anonymously and make defamatory statements about superior officers, contending they were thieves, pimps, crooks and other demeaning characterizations. The officer never identified himself, and assumed-mistakenly- that his identity would never be known to the City. To the contrary, Newark officials were monitoring the website, and obtained a Grand jury subpeona to compel the internet provider to disclose the names of the users. Eventually, Newark learned the identity of the officer who was making the anonymous postings. The City then fired the officer. The case went to trial and the court upheld the termination. It concluded that employers have a legitimate interest in precluding defamatory or scandalous statements made by its employees on a publicly accessed website. This is true even if the postings occur off duty on the employee's own computer.

   A similar result was reached in Nicosia v. City of Belleville. There, a town employee posted a statement on a website that "all of the city cops should be shot in the head". Again the employer was able to obtain the identity of the individual, and terminated him. The court rejected the claim that an employee's off-duty internet usage as of no concern to the employer, and upheld the termination.

   While these cases are clearly not the last word on the subject, thay provide some guidance about the rosks associated with defamatory or threatening statements on internet websites.


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Current Campaigns
  • The IBT and your Atlanta Committee members, Geoff Maloney and Chris Rogers have been negotiating with Company management since 2010; almost as long as the IBT have been negotiating for the Express Jet CRJ members. 

    The Company has now given us their final, closeout proposal on wages. Neither the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Airline Division, the Business Agents of Local 210 and Local 19, nor your rank-and-file committee members are recommending this be ratified. A detailed letter from your ExpressJet CRJ Negotiating Committee can be found here. A copy of the company’s last, best and final offer can be found here.

    Ballots were mailed on Tuesday, June 20, 2017.  Each member will receive voting instructions and credentials required for voting.  Voting will close on Monday, July 10, and will be counted the same day. 

  • The ‘Let’s Get America Working!’ campaign seeks to restore a dynamic and prosperous middle class to drive economic growth by helping to advance policy decisions that create and maintain good middle-income jobs, guarantee retirement security, expand access to the American Dream, and ensure that the benefits of the ongoing economic recovery are felt by the many, not just the few.

  • We Are eXPOsing XPO’s Global Greed

    XPO Logistics is a top ten global logistics and transportation company with annual revenue of $15 billion and 89,000 employees, another 10,000 workers classified as independent contractors, and thousands more working for firms that subcontract with XPO. We are the REAL workers at XPO Logistics worldwide exposing the truth about the company’s global greed, illegal wage theft, unsafe conditions, and abhorrent and vicious anti-worker, anti-union tactics. 

    This greed includes mistreating former Con-way Freight workers in the United States who are being kept in the dark about terminal closures and layoffs, and the company’s illegal refusal to bargain contracts and denying their workers’ federally protected right to organize. It also includes port, rail and last-mile drivers around the country and in Southern California fighting wage theft in excess of $200 million because they are misclassified as independent contractors and denied the right to form their union. This greed has caused numerous lawsuits and strikes.  Greed also means an unsafe workplace and mistreating its warehouse employees.

    XPO’s greed extends to Europe beginning with breaking its promise to not layoff any workers for at least 18 months. French workers and the unions have been fighting back against XPO’s disrespect, lies and attempts to slash jobs. Similar struggles are taking place in Great Britain, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, and across Europe.

    Join the worldwide struggle now! Get involved with this campaign by joining the Facebook group “XPO Exposed.”

    Together, we can eXPOse the company’s global greed and win fairness, respect and dignity for tens of thousands of XPO employees around the world!

  • This webpage provides information on the Teamsters Union’s legislative advocacy at both the federal and state level as well as our field activity to support those policy positions and to get strong labor candidates elected to office.  Among other resources, you will find our federal legislative scorecard, formal statements of policy position and communications to Capitol Hill,  a weekly update on federal legislative happenings, an overview of bills we are tracking at the state level, and quick links to take action on priority issues.

  • Negotiations for the National Master Automobile Transporters Agreement (NMATA) recently concluded and a tentative agreement has been reached. On Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 representatives from carhaul local unions met in Detroit to endorse the National Agreement and the Central-Southern Supplement, paving the way for members to vote. The Eastern and Western Supplements were approved in 2016, and will not be re-voted. However, all carhaul members will get to exercise their right to vote on the National Agreement and General Monetary Changes.

    Ballots will be mailed out on or about March 10 and are tentatively scheduled to be counted on March 30.

    The tentative agreement is from September 1, 2015, until May 31, 2021.

  • Workers’ pensions are being endangered by both Congress and those charged with overseeing them. The Teamsters and our members are standing united to say “No!” to cuts and “Yes!” to greater retirement security!

  • On Wednesday, April 5, 2017, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Southwest Airlines reached an agreement covering more than 300 material specialists. Details of the agreement are available on this webpage, along with materials explaining the components of this contract.

    Ballots will be mailed on or about Wednesday, May 31, 2017. Each member will receive voting instructions and credentials required for voting via mail, along with paper copies of the tentative agreement’s highlights, the tentative agreement, and a copy of the seniority list. Voting will close on June 21, ballots will begin to be counted the same day.  Please continue to check this page for more information, it will be posted as soon as it becomes available.

  • The Teamsters Union represents more than 250,000 members at UPS and UPS Freight. UPS remains an active member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) despite the organization’s anti-worker and anti-union agenda that seeks to undermine and weaken worker protections.

  • This web page provides information on our fight against fast-track legislation. The measure requires Congress to take only a quick up-or-down vote on secret trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership and does not allow such agreements to be amended. It limits Congress’ constitutionally mandated oversight of such trade deals and lets others decide what’s best for America. The result is fewer good-paying U.S. jobs and unsafe food and products for Americans. Read more to find out why fast track is the wrong track for Teamsters and America.

  • Workers across the country at FedEx Freight and Con-way Freight are standing shoulder to shoulder to form their unions with the Teamsters to win a more secure future. Momentum is building with a first wave of victories with many more to come.

    There is growing worker resentment toward the companies after years of being treated unfairly. While the companies have suddenly made improvements since workers began to organize, workers know that without a legally binding contract the company can take these things away at any time.

    The unfulfilled promises that have been made to drivers and dockworkers over the past decade are coming back to haunt management.

    But now workers are taking action and standing up for themselves by forming their union. It's a different era now. It's Teamster Time! LIKE our Facebook page, here.

 
 
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