Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Text Message Harassment - No LOLing Matter

In yesterday's post, Internet Under Attack!, I explained that employment lawyers are attacking various web-based activities. Ultimately, however, the employer (and employee) problems simply presented the same old problems amplified in a new forum. First thing this morning, I get an email update from the National Law Journal with an article, Text Messages Increasingly Bolster Sexual Harassment Claims (free registration required).

As the article explains:
"Perhaps the biggest culprits... are male bosses who are sending scandalous text messages to female employees, asking them out on dates or promising promotions in exchange for sexual favors. These texts are explosive evidence in lawsuits... and pretty tough to dispute."
Once again: old problems, new medium. We all know managers can't condition promotions on sexual favors. It doesn't matter if he whispers in her ear, hands her a note, calls her, emails her, IMs her, text messages her, or dispatches his droid R2-D2 to display a holographic image of himself explaining sexual favors are her "only hope."

Now, I hope I don't sound like I'm disparaging these warnings, they have a point. Maybe they're the same problems in a new environment but its important to understand the new environment. The latest trends, the methods of harassment, the extent of the problem... all present knowledge that employers should possess.

And at the end of the article, we're reminded that there may be some new rules involved too:
"[T]here are privacy issues that employers need to consider before reviewing text messages. For example, if the employer owns the device, it has the right to review it. But, if the employee owns the device and is reimbursed for the service, 'the employer doesn't have an unfettered right to review,' [David Walton - Cozen O'Connor] said."
Ahh yes, employee privacy in our increasingly gadget-driven world is a new frontier for another day.