Time to Revise Your Internet Postings and Electronic Resources Policies (Again!)

This post was contributed by Jennifer E. Will, Esq., a Partner in McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC's Labor and Employment Practice Group. 

As social media continues to affect your business, there are a few more steps that you should be taking to protect your assets. The Federal Trade Commission has revised and posted its "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (.pdf)."

What does this mean for employers? You could be held liable for false or unsubstantiated statements about your Company's services or products that are made by your employees on blogs or social networking sites.

Duty to Disclose? Employees who endorse their employer's products have a duty to disclose the employment relationship at the time of the endorsement or testimonial . . . even when it is posted on a site that is NOT maintained by the employer.

Time for a Check-Up? Your current Internet Postings and/or Electronic Resources Policy should be reviewed to ensure that it puts employees on notice of their duty to disclose the employment relationship. Also, your policies should already contain guidance to employees regarding privacy rights, monitoring and the improper use/disclosure of proprietary and confidential information. 

Employers should take time now to review and update their policies.

Business Websites Face Americans with Disabilities Act Accommodations Claims

Target Corp. has agreed to pay $6 million in damages to plaintiffs in California unable to use its online site as part of a class action settlement with the National Federation of the Blind. The issue centers on the Americans with Disabilities Act’s requirements that retailers and other public places to make accommodations for people with disabilities. Target had argued that the ADA covered only physical spaces. The California court held that the ADA covers an online retailer’s website. Websites can be made more accessible through screen-reading software that converts text into speech for visually impaired access. The court certified the case as a class action before it settled.

The case has important implications for retailers who may now face class action lawsuits. Employers that rely on a web-based application and recruiting processes should also examine their websites for compliance with the ADA’s employment provisions which require accessibility and accommodation in the hiring process.   A recent OFCCP Directive sets forth the agency's policy on review of employer websites where applications are solicited:

Effective immediately, all compliance evaluations shall include a review of the contractor's online application systems to ensure that the contractor is providing equal opportunity to qualified individuals with disabilities and disabled veterans. The review should include whether the contractor is providing reasonable accommodation, when requested, unless such accommodation would cause an undue hardship. In this directive, the term "online system" shall include, but not be limited to, all electronic or web-based systems that the contractor uses in all of its personnel activities.