Like it or not, technology is everywhere and ever changing, a fact that has slowly altered the ways in which legal professionals and consumers handle these technologies. The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and employer liability for accidents an employee causes by driving while using a cellular device are just two examples of how today’s burgeoning technology affects employment law and its practice. It is important for attorneys and their clients alike to understand these impacts. The last two decades have seen dramatic expansions in the applicability and scope of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (18 U.S.C. § 1030), or CFAA. This has allowed many employers to sue their former employees and even their new companies if, in the name of competitive advancement, they attempted any unjust use of information taken from the ex-employer’s computer system. CFAA claims are common in cases of misappropriation of trade secrets. As a remedy for this, employment law attorneys tend to recommend that employers unambiguously define to what extent their employers are allowed to access the employer’s computer systems’ information. Secondly, as cell phone use while driving has grown exponentially in recent years, the doctrine of Respondeat superior, which in many cases makes an employer responsible for his or her employee’s actions that are carried out within their course of employment, has been affected in its applicability. If an employer does not have an appropriate policy that releases them from liability in such situations, they stand to be held liable for any accident caused by an employee while driving using a cell phone to conduct work-related use. Further, if a cellular device is employer-issued, employers can run into the same liability if they do not also issue a policy that prohibits the use of the cell phone while driving, regardless of whether the use is business-related or personal.
Written by Barrett Sharpe
Barrett Sharpe, founder of AdDaddy Networks, is a law firm marketing, attorney advertising, and search engine optimization specialist. He has had his hand in many successful projects, including Lawyer Search and the widely known LegalHub website where attorneys and clients connect. He is available, on a very limited basis, for consulting in a number of fields. Mr Sharpe also operates a seminar, coaching and consulting business for law firms. He accepts communications from interested parties via fax and FedEx exclusively. (phone calls or emails will not be accepted, nor answered.) Barrett Sharpe, 3201 B North Davidson St., Charlotte, NC 28205, fax: (704) 488-0552