More Social-Media Woes for School Districts

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 20, 2011In: Public Sector, Social Media in the Workplace

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Continuing the theme from yesterday, here is another story of the impact social media is having on educators. This story is a follow-up to the post written last month by Michael Stafford, No First Amendment Protection for Teacher's Facebook Posts. By way of recap, Jennifer O'Brien was a first-grade teacher in a largely black and Latino school in Paterson, New Jersey, posted on Facebook that she felt like a "warden for future criminals," as reported by NPR.

O'Brien was terminated and subsequently filed suit alleging the district had violated her First Amendment rights. When the suit was later dismissed, O'Brien's lawyer defended her client's Facebook comment, syaing that it was not a reflection of how O'Brien felt about her students. Instead, claimed the lawyer, the comment had been a mere expression of frustration made at the end of a tough day.

I find that defense a bit difficult to buy, frankly. It requires us to disregard what a teacher writes because she "didn't really mean it"? In other words, "Do what I say and not what I do." That sounds like a bad idea for anyone but particularly for a teacher, who is supposed to serve as a role model for the children she teaches.

See also, Social-Media Woes for School Districts

Social-Media Woes for School Districts

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 16, 2011In: Public Sector, Social Media in the Workplace

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Teachers' use of social media continues to make headlines. NPR reported on a recent incident in New Jersey, involving Union High School teacher, Viki Knox. Knox was suspended in response to outrage surrounding comments she'd posted on her Facebook page.

It started with her post that the school's gay-history exhibit should be removed. She later urged her friends to pray and called homosexuality a "perverted sin," according to NPR. After parents complained about the comments, the school district began an investigation. Later, Knox's supporters and those demanding her resignation faced off in a protest at a school-board meeting.

As I've previously explained, a three-step test is used to determine whether a public employer, including school districts, may discipline an employee due to the employee's speech. First, the court will ask whether the employee was speaking as a citizen or as an employee. Here, that question could be answered either way. Assuming the exhibit was not related to Knox's job duties, it is reasonable to conclude that her Facebook comment was made in her capacity as a citizen, in which case the speech would be protected in the first stage of the analysis.

In the second stage, the court asks whether the speech was on a matter of public concern. Let's again assume that Knox's comment meets the test. If that's the case, the court turns to the final stage of its analysis and asks whether the employer's interest in maintaing an efficient and effective workplace outweighs the employee's interest in free speech.

Here's where Knox's claim would likely fail. The school district would be able to show both actual disruption and the potential for disruption. The protests and complaints received by parents shows that the employee's speech was disruptive to the district's operations.

The school district also would be able to show that there was a potential disruption in the form of loss of trust and respect by parents and students. To the extent that Knox's comments about the "sinful" nature of homosexuality contradicts the district's stated values of tolerance and diversity and that contradiction potentially could result in the inability of Knox to effectively connect with students and parents, the district would be able to discipline her for her speech without violating the free speech protections of the First Amendment.

Initial Discovery Protocols for Employment-Discrimination Cases

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 7, 2011In: Purely Legal

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The exchange of initial disclosures between parties in a lawsuit brought in federal court is not generally considered the most useful endeavor. The parties have to exchange a few pieces of information but, for the most part, expect to get into the substance of the case only after formal discovery has begun in earnest.

Some practitioners and scholars believe that this early period of initial discovery is a time that could be better spent through the mandatory exchange of more meaningful information. To that end, the Federal Judicial Center has released its Pilot Project Regarding Initial Discovery Protocols for Employment Cases Alleging Adverse Action.

What are the Protocols?
The purpose of the Protocols is to "encourage parties and their counsel to exchange the most relevant information and documents early in the case, to assist in framing the issues to be resolved and to plan for more efficient and targeted discovery." Judges in federal District Courts will pilot test the Protocols and report back to the Federal Judicial Center.

The Protocols are designed to replace initial disclosures with initial discovery specific to employment cases alleging adverse action. The discovery would be provided automatically by both sides within 30 days of the defendant's responsive pleading or motion.

In Which Cases Would the Protocols Be Used?
The Protocols would be used in all employment-discrimination cases except the following:

  • Failure to hire;

  • Harassment / hostile work environment;

  • FLSA;

  • ADAAA failure to accommodate;

  • FMLA;

  • ERISA; and

  • Class actions

What Documents and Information Must Be Supplied?

Both the plaintiff and the defendant in the case would be required to provide certain documents and information going back three years before the date of the alleged adverse action, unless an earlier period is provided.

Documents to be produced by Plaintiff

The plaintiff-employee would be required to produce to the defendant-employer the following documents and information without waiting for a formal discovery request:

  • All relevant communications between the plaintiff and defendant;

  • "Claims, lawsuits, administrative charges, and complaints by the plaintiff" that rely on any of the same factual allegations or claims at issue in the present lawsuit;

  • All documents concerning the formation and termination of the employment relationship, irrespective of the relevant time period;

  • Documents concerning the terms and conditions of the employment relationship;

  • Diary, journal, and calendar entries maintained by the plaintiff relating to the allegations or claims at issue;

  • Plaintiff's current resume;

  • Documents relating to unemployment benefits that are "in the possession of the plaintiff;"

  • Documents relating to the plaintiff's job-search efforts, including communications with potential employers; offer(s) of employment, job description, and income and benefits information;

  • Documents relating to the termination of any subsequent employment; and

  • Any other documents upon which the plaintiff relies to support his or her claim.

One of the most interesting items on the list is the second-to-last--documents relating to the termination of any job held by the plaintiff after his or her employment with the defendant. This category of document is not one that plaintiffs usually want to turn over, so the Protocols would eliminate any potential dispute about the discoverability. As a safeguard, though, the Protocols do provide that the defendant may not contact or subpoena a prospective or current employer without giving the plaintiff 30 days' notice and an opportunity to file a motion for a protective order or motion to quash.

The plaintiff also must provide the defendant with certain information, including the identity of "persons with knowledge," which also is required under the current standard for initial disclosures. Additionally, the plaintiff must describe the categories of damages claimed and disclose whether he or she has applied for disability and/or social-security disability benefits after the alleged adverse action, whether any such application has been granted and, if so, the nature of the award if any.

Documents to be produced by Defendant
The defendant must produce the same types of documents as the plaintiff, as well as the following additional types of documents:

  • Relevant communications "among or between" the plaintiff's managers, supervisors, and/or the defendant's human-resources personnel;

  • Responses to any claims, lawsuits, administrative charges, and complaints by the plaintiff that are based on the same allegations or claims at issue in the present lawsuit;

  • The plaintiff's complete personnel file (both the official version and any "unofficial" versions maintained by a supervisor), irrespective of the relevant time period;

  • Documents used in making the disputed employment decision;

  • Workplace policies or guidelines relevant to the adverse action;

  • Table of contents and index of any employee handbook or manual in effect at the time of the allegedly adverse action;

  • Job description(s) for the position(s) held by the plaintiff; and

  • Documents showing the plaintiff's compensation and benefits, such as retirement plan benefits, fringe benefits, employee benefit summary plan descriptions, and summaries of compensation.

The defendant must provide the same information required of the plaintiff, as well as the identity of:

  • the plaintiff's supervisor(s) and/or manager(s); and

  • the person(s) who were involved in the adverse decision.

What Does the Model Order Protect?

In addition to the Protocols themselves, there also is a model standing order for use by the implementing judges and a model protective order that counsel and the judge can use as a basis for discussion. The model protective order contains important provisions, including:

  • Counsel may designate documents or information as confidential when necessary "to protect the interests of the client;"

  • Confidential information disclosed will be used only in connection with the case;

  • In the event of a challenge to the confidentiality designation, counsel must make a good-faith effort to resolve the dispute before seeking the court's assistance;

  • Production of confidential document or information does not constitute an admission that the document or information is relevant or admissible;

  • Any document or information may be designated as confidential up to the latter of 14 days after the close of discovery or 14 days after production; and

  • At the conclusion of the litigation, within 30 days after the entry of final judgment, all copies of confidential information must be returned to the producing party or certified as destroyed
  • Pilot Project Initial Discovery in Employment Discrimination Cases.pdf (PDF)

Will Delaware's Medical Marijuana Law Go Up In Smoke?

Posted by William W. BowserOn December 6, 2011In: Drug Testing

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Delaware legalized marijuana for medicinal uses in May 2010. The law provides that Delaware residents with certain specific medical conditions will be able to legally purchase marijuana at "compassion centers" in the State. While the law is now technically in effect, there are no compassion centers to make a purchase. That's because the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services has not yet issued the needed regulations. The law requires the DHSS to issue the regulations by July 1, 2012.

Even when the regulations are issued, the future of medical marijuana in Delaware will remain hazy.

Marijuana is currently classified as a "Schedule 1" controlled substance under federal law. That's the same category as heroin and LSD. According to the federal government, there is "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States" for a Schedule 1 drug.

According to a recent article in the New York Times, federal agencies have moved to block state efforts to expand the use of medical marijuana. For example, in response to an bill passed by the State of Washington Legislature to legalize and regulate marijuana dispensaries and growers, the U.S. Justice Department warned that growing and distributing marijuana was still against federal law, and said that "state employees who conducted activities mandated by the Washington legislative proposals would not be immune from liability." The warning caused Washington Governor Christine Gregoire to veto the bill.

Similar actions froze Rhode Island plans, to permit state-regulated marijuana dispensaries. Federal prosecutors warned Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee that the dispensaries could be targets of prosecution.

As Delaware moves forward with its plans to permit use of medical marijuana, a similar federal response seems possible, if not likely. Whether such actions will stomp out Delaware efforts remains to be seen.

Fitness Instructor Fired for Big Mac Tweet

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn December 5, 2011In: Social Media in the Workplace

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Some employees take their work more seriously than others. Take Grant Hill, for example. Hill worked as a cycling instructor at Life Time Fitness in Rockville, Maryland, one day a week, according to the Washington Post's Capital Business Blog. On November 6, after arriving at the gym, Hill saw a coworker preparing to eat lunch. Although a workday meal is not usually a particularly interesting event, Hill was particularly interested in this lunch because it came from fast-food restaurant, McDonald's.

Apparently perturbed by his co-worker's lunch choice, Hill tweeted a picture of the McDonald's to-go bag as it sat on his co-worker's desk. The tweet stated:

A McDonald's bag sits on an employees desk @lifetimefitness aka "the healthy way of life company." Ah the irony.

As you may have guessed, Hill's employer was about as thrilled with Hill's tweet as Hill was with his coworker's Big Mac. According to the Capital Business blog, management demanded that the tweet be deleted but Hill refused unless he was permitted to write an article about the health risks of fast food to be published in Life Time's wisely distributed magazine. Hill was fired a few weeks later.

A spokesperson for Life Time said that the termination was not a result of the tweet but for Hill's second job, which Life Time deemed to be a competing personal-fitness business.

Hill stands by his tweet and is quoted as saying that he "directed at [his employer] hoping to engage in dialogue socially." For my two cents, tweeting a sarcasm-laden comment doesn't seem like the most "social" way to go about starting a dialogue of any kind. Instead, it seems to be more like a stab in the back, or a nasty quip said just loud enough to be heard by the intended recipient.

On the other hand, because the tweet relates to the "mission" of Hill's employer, it seems like the kind of commentary that the NLRB would argue constitutes protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act.

Ex-Employee Must Return Social-Media Log-In Info to Employer

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn November 28, 2011In: Social Media in the Workplace

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What happens to an employer's social-media accounts when the employee tasked with managing those accounts leaves the organization? I asked that question in a recent post, Who Owns Your Company's Twitter Account? A recent case from the Southern District of New York, Ardis Health, LLC v. Nankivell, offers an answer.

Ardis, the employer, moved for a preliminary injunction against its former employee, Ashleigh Nankivell, seeking to require her to, among other things, return its log-in information for various websites. Nankivell had been employed as the company's Video and Social Media Producer, in which she was responsible for maintaining the company's websites, blogs, and social-media pages for marketing purposes. She was given and had sole control of all passwords and related information necessary to access the sites.

After her employment ended, Ardis demanded that Nankivell return the access information--since her departure, the employer had been unable to access the sites or update content.

The court found that the employer would be irreparably harmed if the access information was not returned prior to a final trial on the merits because, without that information, the employer precluded from continuously updating its profiles and pages and from reacting to online trends.

The employee argued that there was no irreparable harm because the pages had not been updated for two years prior to her termination. The Court rejected this argument, citing the fact that it was the defendant's responsibility to update the sites, so she could not use her own failure to perform her duties as a defense.

And, even if that was not the case, the Court continued, new opportunities may arise the employer would not be able to take advantage of due to the employee's withholding of the access information.

So, in short, in this case at least, the answer to the question, Who Owns the Company's Social Media Information?, is The Company.

Ardis Health, LLC v. Nankivell, 11 Civ. 50134 (NRB) (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 19, 2011).

3d Cir.: Employees Fired for Pornographic Emails Lose Age-Discrimination Case

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn November 28, 2011In: Age (ADEA)

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Employee_Email.jpgEmployers can find comfort in a recent decision from the Third Circuit, which serves to remind us that we can (and should) discipline employees for policy violations--regardless of whether the employee is in a protected class.

In 2007, while investigating a complaint of sexual harassment, the employer discovered that six employees had regularly exchanged sexually explicit pictures via their company-provided email accounts. All six employees were immediately suspending pending further inquiry. Four of the six employees were subsequently terminated. Each of the terminated employees was in their late 50s or early 60s at the time they were fired.

The four employees then filed suit in federal court in the Western District of Pennsylvania, alleging that they were terminated because of their age in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA"). The District Court granted summary judgment to the employer finding that the employees had failed to demonstrate that "but for" their ages, they would not have been fired. The employees appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

To carry their burden on appeal, the employees needed to offer evidence of age bias in order to show that the reason offered for their termination (i.e., the misuse of the company's email), was merely a pretext for unlawful discrimination. The employees contended that they could demonstrate pretext because they'd been subject to discrimination in the past. They alleged that the following incidents were representation of a culture of age bias:

  1. after asking one of the four employees, Magdic, if he was ready to retire, the company's CEO said, "it looks like you are ready to retire. You have gray hair and are fat;"

  2. one of the employees, Crossan, was transferred to a different position because the employer wanted "new blood" in the department;

  3. the CEO mentioned the need to recruit a "younger workforce;" and

  4. during meetings, older supervisors sat at one end of the table and were routinely interrupted when they tried to speak, whereas younger employees were encouraged to speak.

The Third Circuit rejected the various evidence proffered by the employees, finding each to be either a stray remarks that were "completely unrelated" to the investigation of the employees' violation of the company's email policy.

Hodczak v. Latrobe Specialty Steel Co., No. 11-1085 (3d Cir. Nov. 18, 2011).

HR's Worst (and Most Costly) Mistake

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn November 22, 2011In:

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What is the most expensive mistake regularly made by front-line managers and supervisors? Well, it depends. At least that's the answer you'll get when you ask a panel of lawyers. Ask 4 lawyers, get 4 different answers, each right in different ways. Here's the short version:

(1) Failure to engage in the interactive process required by the ADA;
(2) Failure to maintain the public-access file for H1B determinations;
(3) Failure to limit who knows of a complaint of discrimination; and
(4) Failure to document.

For the full version, check out the BLR article, HR's Worst--and Potentially Mosts Expensive--Mistakes.

Who Owns Your Company's Twitter Account?

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn November 17, 2011In: Social Media in the Workplace

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Many employers use social media for a variety of purposes. I am currently in Las Vegas to speak at the Advanced Employment Issues Symposium, where there will be several sessions on how best utilize social media for recruiting and hiring, employee engagement, and as a corporate-communications tool. I'm looking forward to hear about the ways that employers can take advantage of sites like Twitter and LinkedIn for all of these purposes.

But what happens after you put these tools to work? In other words, if you hire a social-media specialist to use Twitter to promote your business or even if you authorize an employee to use Twitter as part of his or her job (i.e., to recruit employees), what happens when that employee leaves for a new employer? Do you own the Twitter account?

I'd bet that many of us would guess that you would--that you (the employer) authorized the employee to start the account on the organization's behalf and that you would expect the employee to return the account, so to speak, at the end of his employment.

And that's all fine and well, provided that the employee agrees. But what if he or she does not agree? What if the employee decides that he wants to take the account with him to his next job. I mean, gosh, he put so much work into building up all of those followers, right? At least that's what the employee will surely say!

According to FindLaw, that seems to be the issue in the case of one employer, PhoneDog, who has filed suit against its former employee, Noah Kravitz. During his employment with PhoneDog, Kravitz tweeted under the handle @PhoneDog_Noah. When he quit, he changed the account name to @noahkravitz and has refused the company's requests for him to relinquish his use of the account. In its suit, PhoneDog alleges that Kravitz's use of the account consitutes misappropriation of trade secrets, interference with economic advantage, and conversion (i.e., theft).

Whether the claims will succeed is almost a side issue--there are much more immediate considerations at play. For example, even if the company were to win at trial, any benefit of the account would, by that point, likely be lost. All of the followers that PhoneDog did have would either have stopped following the account or no longer be interested in the PhoneDog perspective--by that point, they'd be more interested in the Noah Kravitz version. And, in the meantime, PhoneDog would have already had to start all over trying to build a new following.

For any company considering implementing social media as a communications, PR, or HR tool, this case should serve as an excellent reminder of the importance of planning for the worst. Consider now who owns what in the social-media realm and then put it in writing and communicate it with any employee who is granted access to the social-media accounts. Letting the ownership of social-media accounts wait until a crisis arises is never a good idea.

Settling a Discrimination or Harassment Lawsuit

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn November 14, 2011In: Discrimination & Harassment

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GOP presidential contender Herman Cain has been in the news for more than his political platform recently. Instead of addressing issues like job creation, Cain has been facing tough questions about on-the-job harassment. Specifically, Cain is having to deal with charges of unlawful harassment leveled against him when he was the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.

There likely are multiple lessons that can be learned from this story but I'll offer you just one. In short, employers should not dissuade this news story from settling a lawsuit or charge of discrimination brought by a current or former employee.

Contrary to what some of the pundits may claim, lots of people and businesses settle lawsuits even though they know they've done nothing wrong. This is the reality of today's litigious society. There are a multitude of factors that get weighed when deciding whether and when to settle a lawsuit. But the equation is always based on business factors and is, by no means, an indication of "guilt" or "innocence."

In fact, most settlement agreements include a confidentiality provision, whereby one or both sides agree not to disclose the terms of the settlement or to discuss the facts underlying the lawsuit. Sometimes, though, this is not the case, and, for a variety of reasons, the parties may agree in advance to what will be said, thereby ensuring that neither steps over the line and leaving no room for misunderstanding.

Which brings me back to Mr. Cain's story. The individual who is claiming that she was harassed by Mr. Cain apparently entered into a settlement agreement to resolve the matter. It seems that, pursuant to the agreement, she received a settlement payment in exchange for her dropping her claims. Presumably, the agreement also included a confidentiality provision. And, presumably, she violated the provision by releasing information about her claim or the settlement. If that is the case, and she did renege on her promise, those who are following the story should consider how reliable the source really is.

But employers should, in my opinion, disregard the story altogether for the purposes of deciding whether or not to settle a lawsuit or potential lawsuit. Stick to the facts as applied to your particular business at this particular time. Settling a lawsuit is not, contrary to what some of the pundits might have us believe, an indicator of wrongdoing.

No 1st Amendment Protection for Teacher's Facebook Posts

Posted by Michael StaffordOn November 11, 2011In: Public Sector, Social Media in the Workplace

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chalkboard desk green.jpgFacebook has landed another public school teacher in hot water. An administrative law judge in New Jersey has recommended that a school district terminate Jennifer O'Brien for her Facebook posts, in which she referred to her first-grade students in Patterson, New Jersey as "future criminals" and analogizing her job to being a "warden" in a Facebook post.

According to the NSBA, parents initially discovered and reported the teacher's Facebook musings.
In the words of the ALJ, the teacher "demonstrated a complete lack of sensitivity to the world in which her students live. The sentiment that a 6-year-old will not rise above the criminal element that surrounds him cuts right to the bone." In the ALJ's view, the district's need to operate efficiently trumped any free speech rights because "thoughtless words can destroy the partnership between home and school that is essential to the mission of the schools."

The lesson here is clear- exercise good judgment when using social media and remember, the world is watching!

When Employees Occupy Off-Duty

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn November 9, 2011In: Social Media in the Workplace

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Now-former NPR host, Lisa Simeone, was terminated from her contract when she was seen at an Occupy D.C. protest. A conservative website questioned her presence, claiming that it violated NPR's ethics policy, reports the Baltimore Sun.

So, what's the problem? Image. NPR is partially subsidized with taxpayer funds and works hard to ensure that it is seen as a neutral news source. Simeone, by virtue of being a host on public radio, is a public face, or voice as it were, of NPR. An agency whose image is based on political neutrality. An agent of the agency who publicly takes a political position. It doesn't work.

Or at least that's what NPR would likely argue. Which is why Ms. Simeone is no longer a freelancer for NPR.

When Plaintiffs Post About Their Case on Facebook

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn November 2, 2011In: Social Media in the Workplace

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In April 2011, a jury awarded Shana Maron $86,000, after finding that she was paid less than her former male colleagues in Virginia Tech's Office of University Development. In June, U.S. District Court Judge James Turk threw out the verdict and ordered a new trial, reports

The plaintiff was not happy about the judge's decision. So she did exactly what we would expect--she posted about it on Facebook, writing, "What's the law really worth when you can make it up as you go?" and "Turk is a Turkey." She later added, "The jury spoke, Tech lost, Turk is a biased bully, and I will still prevail."

Sure enough, one of Maron's Facebook friends reported the posts to Virginia Tech's lawyers. And, sure enough, they sought a court order seeking to compel Maron to turn over all of her Facebook postings about the case.

Why would they want to know what the plaintiff had to say during the first trial? Maybe because they thought there could be evidence that could serve as the basis for a mistrial. Or, more likely, maybe the hope to find comments she made that could be used to impeach her during the second trial.

The judge, though, didn't buy it. He denied Virginia Tech's motion on October 20, 2011, ruling that the Facebook posts (assuming they do exist), were not material to Maron's Equal Pay Act claim.

So, what do we learn from this case? First, for individuals who are parties to a suit (and their counsel), silence is golden. And silence includes Facebook silence. I've had several interesting discussions with other attorneys about whether lawyers should monitor their clients' online activities during litigation. And several plaintiffs' lawyers I know have amended their retention agreements to reflect a promise by their clients that they will refrain from posting anything about the case in any online forum, including Facebook. Second, employers' lawyers should consider whether they should monitor plaintiffs' online activities throughout litigation.

Court Denies Reinstatement to Teacher Fired for Facebook Posts

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn October 27, 2011In: Social Media in the Workplace

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Ashley Payne resigned from her job as a teacher at Apalachee High School after the school received a complaint about pictures Payne had posted on her Facebook page. The pictures were a long way away from the type of risqué photographs we normally expect to see in a typical "Facebook firing."

The picture showed Payne smiling while holding what appear to be two glasses and a bottle--which, it was presumed, were alcoholic drinks. Payne was on a trip in Europe when the photo was taken.

Payne claims that she was pressured by school administrators to resign after they received an email complaint about the picture. It's unclear from the news reports whether the complaint was made by a parent or whether Payne's Facebook profile was public at the time of the complaint.

Payne subsequently filed suit, claiming that her due-process rights were denied because she was not given an opportunity for a hearing. But her case sat on the docket for nearly two years before the court ruled on her motion. The motion was denied earlier this month, which came as no surprise to Payne or her lawyer. Due to the length of the delay, it was highly unlikely that a court would order that she be reinstated. Payne filed an amended complaint on October 10, in which she seeks monetary damages.

The lesson to be learned for employers from this case is a familiar one--plan ahead for social-media snafus. And the best way to plan ahead is through education. These days, I'm doing quite a bit of training for managers on the potential hazards of social media. These trainings are an incredible way to get managers thinking about what does and does not really matter when it comes to what employees are doing online--and about the potential consequences of what they do online.

We're Baaaack

Posted by Molly DiBiancaOn October 27, 2011In: YCST

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Apologies to our loyal readers for the lack of posts for the past two weeks. Hopefully, it will be worth the wait. We've been hard at work behind the scenes upgrading the blog. Now that we're back online, posts will resume as normal and, in the weeks ahead, we'll finally be giving our blogroll a much-needed facelift. In the meantime, thanks again for your patience!