print version

SHRM Newsletter: Senator Hatch Proposes Immigration Reform Bill

10/05/2010

SHRM Logo

October 4, 2010

This is Utah SHRM Legal-mail no. 2010-11 prepared for Salt Lake SHRM, the Human Resources Association of Central Utah (HRACU), the Northern Utah Human Resources Association (NUHRA), the Color Country Human Resources Association (CCHRA), the Bridgerland Society for Human Resource Management and Utah at-large members of the national Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

CONTENTS:

-  SEN. HATCH PROPOSES IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL
-  RECENT SETTLEMENTS, VERDICTS AND FINES
-  EMPLOYEE BLOGGERS BEWARE
-  RECORDERS BEWARE TOO
-  EMPLOYEES ADDICTED TO PORN?


SEN. HATCH PROPOSES IMMIGRATION REFORM BILL:  Utah Senator Orrin Hatch has proposed a federal immigration reform bill focused primarily on the increased enforcement of existing laws.  Hatch’s proposal includes requiring local law enforcement personnel to participate in these increased enforcement efforts and a particular focus on deporting illegal immigrants engaged in serious criminal behavior other than their mere immigration status.  Hatch’s bill also includes provisions attempting to deal with identity theft issues and proposes that the Internal Revenue Service notify an employer whenever an employee’s Social Security number is found to be inaccurate.  News reports describing Hatch’s bill indicate that if the inaccuracy is not resolved by the employer, the IRS would also be required to notify the Social Security card holder.  Hatch’s bill also seeks to modify a number of existing visa programs.  Congress has adjourned until after the upcoming elections on November 2, 2010, so Hatch’s bill will likely not gain any traction until the new Congress is in place in January of 2011.  You can read more about Hatch’s proposal here: http://hatch.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressReleases.View&PressRelease_id=62edb7ec-1b78-be3e-e04a-590a673046b5

RECENT SETTLEMENTS, VERDICTS AND FINES:  A federal judge in New York has approved a proposal by a national photography products company to pay over $21 million to settle claims of racial harassment and discrimination brought by some 3,000 former and current employees.  The settlement, which also requires that the company engage in diversity training, ends a seven year legal dispute.  A federal court jury in Illinois has awarded an autoworker over $4 million as compensation for his claims that his employer did not act to protect him from religious and ethnic harassment.  The worker is a Cuban-born Jew who said he was harassed both because of where he was born and what he believed.  Finally, a national clothing retailer has agreed to pay a $1 million fine imposed on it for its claimed failure to properly verify employee work status via the I-9 process.  The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office (ICE) claims to have imposed a record number of fines this past year for similar violations.

EMPLOYEE BLOGGERS BEWARE:  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has taken action against a public relations company whose employees were posting positive online comments about the company’s products without disclosing their connection to the company.  Endorsement guidelines recently issued by the FTC require that such bloggers disclose their connections to the endorsed products.  An employer should not allow employees, or other persons connected to it, to blog about the employer’s products or services without disclosing their relationship.  It would be wise to include this requirement in company policies, for example in a company social media policy.  You can read more about this matter at: http://www.seyfarth.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/publications.publications_detail/object_id/99b45f51-a7d9-4db5-bbb8-3675a67c6cd2/FTCTakesActionAgainstEmployeeBloggers.cfm

RECORDERS BEWARE TOO:  A recent federal appeals court decision involving an Illinois hospital is a timely reminder to employers that they should not intentionally intercept oral communications occurring between employees and others.  The case involved a doctor and a hospital employee who were making critical comments about the hospital’s CEO and board while, at the same time, the doctor was dictating medical orders.  The critical conversation somehow was picked up, recorded and transcribed and reported to the hospital management, which fired the employee and revoked the doctor’s staff privileges.  Both persons sued, alleging the communication was illegally and  improperly recorded when a third person (another employee), who allegedly did not like the doctor, came into the room during the conversation and allegedly turned on the dictation machine.  The federal appeals court held that the hospital CEO and board were not liable because it was not clear they knew the communication may have been intentionally intercepted.  However, the court also held that a trial was needed to determine if the hospital itself and the third person were liable because the employee perhaps deliberately intercepted the conversation between the other people.  Federal law generally prohibits intentional (but not inadvertent) interceptions, in interstate commerce, of oral communications.  National SHRM members can read more about this case at: http://www.shrm.org/LegalIssues/FederalResources/Pages/7thPotentialLiability.aspx  You can read the court decision itself at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1538086.html

EMPLOYEES ADDICTED TO PORN?  Perhaps you have read the recent news stories about Pentagon employees and contractors with high level security clearances allegedly downloading and accessing porn, including child porn, from their work computers?  One of the latest allegations in this controversy is that the Pentagon did not fully investigate the matter, see: http://thehill.com/blogs/hillicon-valley/technology/117129-report-pentagon-declined-to-investigate-child-porn-purchases  The fact that such alleged behavior, clearly in violation of Pentagon policy, nonetheless occurred on one of the most secured and monitored computer networks in the world, should be a wake-up call to other employers that this problem may be happening at your workplace too.  Perhaps it is time to dust off your company’s use-of-the-internet-and-computer policies and make sure they are thorough, updated and properly enforced?

Written by: Employment Attorney, Michael Patrick O'Brien
Utah State and Salt Lake SHRM legal director
Email: mobrien@joneswaldo.com
Phone: 801-534-7315
Website: www.joneswaldo.com

Legal-mail is a legal and legislative update service sent out about twice a month to various Utah SHRM members and chapters. As a courtesy to SHRM, the Utah law firm of Jones Waldo Holbrook & McDonough P.C. underwrites the costs of the service. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Michael Patrick O'Brien.

Disclosure: These updates are merely updates and are not intended to be legal advice. Receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.