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HOUSE APPROVES TRADE-PROMOTION AUTHORITY FOR OBAMA IN ANTICIPATION OF THE TPP

“The House on Thursday took the first step toward resuscitating the White House’s trade agenda by passing legislation granting President Obama fast-track authority.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where the White House and GOP leaders are seeking to strike a deal with pro-trade Democrats.

The House vote was 218-208, with 28 Democrats voting for it.

 

This is the second time in a week the House has voted to approve the controversial fast-track bill. On Friday, the House voted 219-211 in favor of fast-track, which would make it easier for Obama to complete a sweeping trans-Pacific trade deal.

In last week’s vote, the House GOP paired the fast-track bill with a measure known as Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) that gives aid to workers displaced by trade. Both measures needed to be approved in separate votes for the entire package to move forward.

House Democrats have historically favored TAA, but they voted against it on Friday to kill fast-track, which is deeply opposed by unions and other liberal groups.

The White House still wants both measures to reach Obama’s desk, but is now advancing a different strategy that would see the two bills move separately.

The problem lies in the Senate, which previously approved a package that included both bills.

If the two move separately, Republicans and the White House will have to convince Senate Democrats to back fast-track on the promise that TAA will move forward at a later time.

The president spoke with a group of Senate Democrats on Wednesday at the White House, and talks continued in the Senate on Thursday on a way to give the president trade promotion authority, also known as fast-track.

One possible solution would see the Senate vote first to pass a trade preferences bill, this time with the TAA program attached. It would then be sent to the House for a vote before the Senate considers fast-track.

This planned move angered members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who asked Senate leaders not to use the trade measure, which would provide preferential access to the U.S. market for African countries, as a bargaining chip to pass trade promotion authority.

Democrats opposed to the trade package expressed frustration that GOP leaders were bypassing them.

“Instead of cooperation, they’ve opted to use procedural tricks to pass the TPA,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.).

As promised, all 28 pro-trade House Democrats supported the bill again.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said on Wednesday that those who backed the trade agenda are “really committed” to getting fast-track and TAA done.

“The tough vote has already been taken,” Kind said. “We’re on record; we supported TPA last week. We also supported TAA last week, too,” he said.

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) warned that repeating last week’s debacle would reflect badly on the international stage.

“It gives America credibility,” Ryan said of TPA. “And boy, do we need credibility right now.” ”

 

Originally posted by The Hill.  Article can be found at http://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/245417-house-approves-fast-track-218-208-sending-bill-to-senate

New Virginia Law Restricts Employer Access to Employees’ Social Media Accounts

“Add the Commonwealth of Virginia to the ever-growing list of states (now 19) that have enacted legislation to restrict an employer’s ability to seek access to current employees’ or job applicants’ social media accounts.  Signed into law by Governor Terry McAuliffe on March 23, 2015, the new legislation, H.B. 2081, will take effect on July 1, 2015.  Employers with operations in Virginia should take notice of the new restrictions, and make any necessary adjustments over the coming months.

The Restrictions

The new Virginia law prohibits public and private employers, of all shapes and sizes, from:

  • Requiring that employees and applicants disclose their social media usernames and passwords,
  • Requiring that employees and applicants add the employer, supervisor or administrator to the list of contacts associated with the account (i.e. you can’t make your employees “friend” you – thereby allowing you to see their complete profile); or
  • Taking action against, threatening to discharge, disciplining, or “otherwise penaliz[ing]” current employees and/or failing or refusing to hire applicants who don’t provide their social media information.

Like similar laws in other states, the Virginia law has a fairly expansive definition of “social media account,” covering any “personal account with an electronic medium or service where users may create, share, or view user-generated content, including, without limitation, videos, photographs, blogs, podcasts, messages, emails, or website profiles or locations.”  Because of the breadth of the definition, employers should safely assume that an employee’s account is a covered “social media account.”

What Isn’t Restricted

Thankfully, the new law is not as sweepingly broad as password-privacy laws in other states and contains some common sense exclusions that allow employers to continue to run investigations and enforce workplace policies.

For example, employers are not prevented from seeking information or access to social media accounts as part of legitimate, formal workplace investigations.  Specifically, employers may request that an employee provide his or her log-in information “if the employee’s social media account activity is reasonably believed to be relevant to a formal investigation or related proceeding by the employer of allegations of an employee’s violation of federal, state, or local laws or regulations or of the employer’s written policies.”  Similarly, the Virginia law does not stand in the way of an employer’s ability to otherwise generally comply with federal or state laws, rules or regulations.

The law also permits employers to view on-line information about employees or applicants that is “publicly available” and excuses those employers who inadvertently receive an employee’s information (e.g. through normal monitoring of employees on company networks). The law also specifically excludes from the definition of “social media accounts” those accounts that were set up on behalf of or at the request of the employer, or that were “set up by an employee to impersonate an employer.”

Recommendations

While the Virginia law does not explicitly restrict every avenue for circumventing an employee’s social media privacy settings, employers would be wise to train their managers and HR representatives to avoid any behavior that would violate the spirit of the new law.  Employers should not ask for, or seek access to, employee and/or applicant social media accounts unless there is a solid business justification that fits squarely within the exceptions provided. In addition, employers should note that just because an action may not violate this new statute, it does not insulate the employer from liability under the National Labor Relations Act or other employment laws. ”

 

Originally posted by JD Supra. Article can be found at http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/new-virginia-law-restricts-employer-78200/

Digital Jobs Help Grow Hollywood’s Economy

“A surge in digital entertainment jobs from new online shows on Amazon, YouTube and other new-media outlets has helped drive employment in Hollywood to the highest level in a decade.

Some 8,000 new jobs were added to the motion picture and sound recording sector in Los Angeles County last year, according to state jobs data. The 6.5% growth from the previous year was three times higher than all private-sector jobs in the county.

There have been signs that the California economy has been on the mend for some time. But the dramatic recovery of the entertainment sector is particularly crucial to L.A. because it pumps billions of dollars into the region’s economy.

It’s an unexpected comeback story for an industry hard hit by a stream of layoffs at major studios and an unwelcome trend of filming being lured out of state by generous tax credits and rebates.

“We have a prolonged recovery from the recession, then we have a digital media surge that is taking place here in Southern California and an increase in commercial activity as firms are increasing their advertising expenditures,” said Robert Kleinhenz, chief economist with Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “It’s encouraging that we have been able to see these gains in employment elsewhere that have been backfilling the jobs that are lost.”

Although California does not break out job figures for digital media, Kleinhenz and other economists believe that the rebound has been partly fueled by a crop of new online shows from YouTube, Amazon Studios, Yahoo and other Internet companies.

These new digital venues are rapidly reshaping how…”

 

Originally posted by The Los Angeles Times. Full article at http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-fi-ct-hollywood-jobs-20150210-story.html

The Health Care Mandate Kicks In THIS WEEK!

“On Thursday, the long-anticipated “employer mandate” kicks in, meaning businesses with 50 or more employees need to start offering their workers health insurance plans, if they’re not doing so already.

Well, for the most part. Nothing is ever simple when it comes to health reform, especially in the group market. Employers with between 50 and 100 full-time workers may be able to postpone the mandate if they meet certain criteria.

Also, the “pay or play” mandate won’t begin on Jan. 1, 2016 for mid-size employers with non-calendar year-based plans, said Sarah Friend, consultant at The Partners Group. They won’t be subject to the mandate until the first day of the plan year in 2016.
The employer mandate was originally schedule to go into effect in January 2014, but it was pushed back a year, after business groups raised a hue and cry over the complexity of the requirements.
Now the deadline is looming. Employers with 100 or more workers must start providing health benefits to at least 70 percent of their full-time employees starting Jan. 1 (and 95 percent in 2016) to avoid a “sledgehammer penalty.”
However, they may still be at risk of “tack hammer” penalties if they don’t offer affordable minimum essential coverage to all their full-timers if an employee subsequently gets federally subsidized insurance on the public exchange.
Employers who don’t offer insurance will be …”

 

Originally poster by Biz Journal. Full article can be found at http://www.bizjournals.com/portland/blog/health-care-inc/2014/12/remember-that-employer-mandate-it-kicks-in-this.html

FACEBOOK ‘LIKES’ PROTECTED BY THE FIRST AMENDMENT

“In the United States, Facebook likes are protected by the first amendment. Liking something on Facebook is the same as using your right to free speech to actually say, “I like this.”   That means that employers should think twice before firing employees over something they “like”. This is what we learned from a federal court ruling on Wednesday.  The case has been making its way through the legal system for over a year.

It began when Deputy Sheriff Daniel Ray Carter of Hampton, Virginia liked the page of  “Jim Adams for Hampton Sheriff.”  Carter’s boss, Sheriff B.J. Roberts was running against Adams. Roberts saw the like, and eventually won the election against Adams. Carter was then fired. Carter claimed it was the Facebook like that led to his termination. He sued, but the judge ultimately determined that a like is not protected free speech. Carter appealed the decision, and Facebook itself even came to his defense. Facebook had this to say in legal documentation last year:  “When a Facebook User Likes a Page on Facebook, she engages in speech protected by the First Amendment”

The district court’s holding that ‘liking’ a Facebook page is insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection” because it does not “involve actual statements,” J.A. 1159, betrays a misunderstanding of the nature of the communication at issue and disregards well-settled Supreme Court and Fourth Circuit precedent. Liking a Facebook Page (or other website) is core speech: it is a statement that will be viewed by a small group of Facebook Friends or by a vast community of online users.

When Carter clicked the Like button on the Facebook Page entitled “Jim Adams for Hampton Sheriff,” the words “Jim Adams for Hampton Sheriff” and a photo of Adams appeared on Carter’s Facebook Profile in a list of Pages Carter had Liked, J.A. 570, 578 – the 21st-century equivalent of a front-yard campaign sign.

If Carter had stood on a street corner and announced, “I like Jim Adams for Hampton Sheriff,” there would be no dispute that his statement was constitutionally protected speech. Carter made that very statement; the fact that he did it online, with a click of a computer’s mouse, does not deprive Carter’s speech of constitutional protection

 

The ACLU also filed a brief saying:

With “one click of a button,” an Internet user can upload or view a video, donate money to a campaign, forward an email, sign a petition, send a pre-written letter to a politician, or do a myriad of other indisputably expressive activities. The ease of these actions does not negate their expressive nature. Indeed, under the district court’s reasoning, affixing a bumper sticker to your car, pinning a campaign pin to your shirt, or placing a sign on your lawn would be devoid of meaning absent further information, and therefore not entitled to constitutional protection because of the minimal effort these actions require. All of these acts are, of course, constitutionally protected…

That many people today choose to convey what they like or which political candidates they support by “Liking” a Web page rather than by writing the actual words, “I like this Web page” or “I like this candidate,” is immaterial. Whether someone presses a “Like” button to express those thoughts or presses the buttons on a keyboard to write out those words, the end result is the same: one is telling the world about one’s personal beliefs, interests, and opinions. That is exactly what the First Amendment protects, however that information is conveyed.

 

Fast forward to this week, and a federal judge overturned the decision, appearing to agree with the ACLU’s and Facebook’s reasoning. You can see the 81-page legal document here, but basically, what it comes down to is that pressing the like button to show that you like something on Facebook is no different than if you had actually typed the words “I like this.” You know, basic speech.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, employees using Facebook on company computers is not a federal crime.

Now, just because employees should be able to expect to be able to freely like whatever they want to on Facebook doesn’t mean that they can do whatever they want on Facebook and get away with it. Ask the Taco Bell employee that posted a photo of himself licking a stack of taco shells to Facebook earlier this year. When the photo went viral, he was fired.

I don’t see a court of law having any problem with that. Posting actual incriminating content on Facebook is obviously a great deal different than voicing your support of something via a Facebook like. You wouldn’t believe how often that happens, by the way.  There are other times when the lines are a little blurrier, such as when racism or other types of hateful content….”    To continue reading, click here.

 

Originally posted by WebProNews and can be found at: http://www.webpronews.com/dont-fire-employees-over-facebook-likes-2013-09

NEVADA MAKES INQUIRING ABOUT SOCIAL MEDIA ILLEGAL

“Unless it is necessary to comply with a state or federal law or regulation, effective October 1, 2013, it will be illegal for a Nevada employer to require, request, or even suggest that an employee or a prospective employee disclose the user name, password or other access information to his or her personal social media account.

The new law broadly defines “social media account.” It includes any electronic service or account, or electronic content, including videos, photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email programs or services, online services or Internet website profiles.

It will also be unlawful to fire, discipline, or discriminate against, (or fail to hire or promote), any employee or prospective employee who refuses, declines, or fails to provide this information.

It is only permissible to require an employee to provide the user name, password, or other information that is necessary to access the employer’s own internal computer or information system.

Action needed? We suggest that you educate the appropriate persons in your organization about the change in the law, and review your policies and procedures to ensure that their language is consistent with the new law.”

 

Originally posted by Fisher & Phillips and can be viewed at http://www.laborlawyers.com/nevada-inquiring-about-personal-social-media-will-be-illegal

LAW RESTRICTS EMPLOYERS TO ACCESS EMPLOYEES’ SOCIAL MEDIA

On September 27, 2012, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 1844, which prohibits employers from requiring or requesting an employee or applicant for employment to: (1) disclose a username or password for personal social media, (2) access their accounts in the presence of employers, or (3) divulge any personal social media. It also makes it illegal to discipline or retaliate against an employee or applicant for not complying with a request or demand for access to personal social media.

The bill carves out two exceptions. First, an employer can require disclosure of usernames and passwords if it is relevant to an investigation of employee misconduct or employee violations of laws or regulations. Second, the bill does not preclude employers from requiring or requesting an employee to disclose a username or password for the purpose of accessing an employer-issued electronic device.

While the bill was largely aimed at protecting the privacy of employees’ social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, its definition of “social media” is broad. The definition includes “videos, still photographs, blogs, video blogs, podcasts, instant and text messages, email, online services or accounts, or Internet Web site profiles or locations.”

Finally, this legislation states that the Labor Commissioner is not required to investigate or determine alleged violations of this law. Presumably this will allow employees and applicants to proceed directly to file lawsuits for alleged violations.

This legislation makes California the third state (after Maryland and Illinois) to ban employers from requiring access to employee and applicant social networking sites. At least ten other states and the federal government are currently considering similar legislation.

Employers should evaluate current technology policies and practices to ensure compliance with the new law. The law does not prohibit electronic monitoring of employer-provided electronic devices. Such electronic monitoring, such as key-stroke monitoring for the purpose of reviewing Internet usage, is still permitted.

To read more, visit: http://www.laborlawyers.com/shownews.aspx?Show=15488&Type=1122

FACEBOOK PROFILE AS AN INDICATOR OF JOB SUCCESS?

The idea that Facebook and other social media sites can be used as a tool when hiring a new employee is not so surprising.

What is surprising are the results of a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, where findings concluded a direct correlation between job success and the information a user publishes on their Facebook.

In the experiment, three “raters” (comprised of one university professor and two students) were provided the Facebook profiles of 56 college students with jobs.

“In five or 10 minutes, our raters could look at the tone of a subject’s wall post, note the number of friends they have, peruse their photos to see how social they were and assess their tastes in books and music. It’s a very rich source of information,” said Don Kluemper, the lead researcher and a professor of management at Northern Illinois University.

Raters generally gave favorable evaluations to students who had more friends, traveled, and showed a wide variety of hobbies and interests. Photographs of “partying” didn’t necessarily weigh in negatively, in fact raters perceived the student as extroverted and friendly.

The raters then answered a series of personality-related questions, such as “Is this person dependable?” and “How emotionally stable is this person?”

Six months later, the researchers matched these ratings with employee evaluations provided by each of the students’ supervisors. What they found was a strong correlation between job performance and the Facebook scores for traits such as conscientiousness, agreeability and intellectual curiosity.

Although the study did not examine the legality of using social media sites in the hiring process, these findings do raise questions about Facebook potentially being used as a reliable job-screening tool. The researchers caution that before recruiters use Facebook or other social media sites to assess a potential candidate, there are ethical and legal issues to consider, and employers could be opening themselves up to discrimination lawsuits.

The findings of this study are timely; applicants at police departments in North Carolina and Oklahoma, were asked to provide their Facebook passwords last year, according to a report in Human Resources Journal.