Investigating Employees Through Their Social Media Accounts
Social media can provide a lot of information about people’s lives. Why would an employer want to know what an employee is doing through social media?
An employer may suspect that an employee is doing other things during work that do not relate to his or her job, such as posting on Facebook, watching Youtube videos, etc. An employer may also wonder if the employee is speaking badly about the company or discussing private company information.
Any number of reasons could motivate an employer to pressure an employee for social media account information or to access the employee’s site without permission.
What laws protect the privacy rights of employees?
The American Bar Association warns employers about not violating the Stored Communication Act (SCA). The SCA includes social networking sites when it states that individuals are subject to criminal and civil actions when the individual:
“Intentionally accesses without authorization a facility through which an electronic communication service is provided”
“Intentionally exceeds an authorization to access that facility”
(By intentionally accessing) “obtains, alters, or prevents authorized access to a wire or electronic communication while it is in electronic storage in such system”
Keep in mind that a government institution may obtain a subpoena for an investigation and through court approval access social networks for information. However, a private company conducting an internal investigation does not have this right.
Employers who obtain access to social media under false pretenses or through duress can be held liable and courts typically do not view favorably attempts to access an employee’s account information or the private account of a “friend.”
However, in some instances where employers obtain the information without asking or pressuring an employee to provide it, the courts have allowed it.
Get Legal Help with Your Questions about Employment Law
It is often wise to seek legal advice when you have questions about accessing an employee’s social media information. Stephen Hans & Associates offers seasoned legal guidance and representation to assist business owners with employment issues.
A well designed website that is optimized for search engines, contains high quality content, and shows the benefits of retaining your firm can act as an anchor for all your marketing efforts. When done properly, a site can also control your firm’s image and increase your referral rate. In fact, it’s highly likely that the first thing a person will do when referred to you is to check your website.
A website will save you time and increase efficiency
A website can answer many of the basic questions a potential client has about your firm, such as your address, directions to your office, your areas of practice, and your background. This will allow your staff to be more productive because they won’t be fielding phone calls seeking this type of basic information. An effective website should include:
- Firm address
- Directions to the office
- Phone numbers and email addresses
- Relevant legal articles you have authored
- Media about you or the firm
- High profile cases you have won
- Achievements or awards
- A frequently asked question page covering areas of practice
- A helpful and informative blog with articles about your practice focus
- Links to resources for clients
Your site should also include a well-written attorney profile with:
- A professional photo of yourself
- Your education
- Court admissions
- A summary of your practice areas
- Charitable and/or community involvement
- A few personal facts about you that make you relatable and show you are a person a prospective client can trust and like
Make your website the centerpiece of your marketing efforts
While a website isn’t the only marketing tool you should use, it can serve as the centerpiece to your marketing efforts. A home base that your other marketing can point to and direct prospective clients to for further information about your firm. All your directory listings, email campaigns, and print, TV, and radio ads should direct prospective clients to your site, where they can benefit from getting the full information about your firm.
Talk to a NY SEO website specialist today
In the age of information and technology there isn’t any reason not to have a website but there are plenty of reasons to have one. Your site doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be effective—and show why you are the legal professional a potential client needs. Web Perseverance provides custom websites for legal professionals in New York and throughout the United States. We are experts in search engine optimization (SEO) and understand how to build sites that will come up in search results when people are looking for an attorney. To talk an NY SEO specialist about building an effective website for your firm contact us or call (631) 765-8098 today.
It’s pretty common procedure for a fiduciary to a trust to obtain a release, with the objective of waiving the fiduciary’s obligation to provide an accounting of the assets of the estate and trust. A recent opinion from the Surrogate Court in New York County casts some doubt on the potential validity of such releases.
In Matter of Ingraham, NYLJ, June 16, 2017, at p. 28 (Sur. Ct., New York County), the court considered the validity of a receipt and release and ruled that it did not absolve the trustee from the legal responsibility to provide an accounting. In Ingraham, a successor trustee had filed a petition with the Surrogate Court asking that the former trustees submit an accounting. One trustee complied with the request, but the other trustee objected, citing both the language of the trust document, which she argued relieved her from any obligation to provide an accounting; and releases that had been signed and executed by the trust’s grantor and by the other trustee.
According to evidence entered during the proceeding, the document signed by the grantor released the trustee from “any and all claims related in any way to her role as trustee,” other than claims arising as a result of fraud or willful misconduct. The document also included a provision waiving the right to a formal accounting of the trust. The other trustee had executed a similar release.
The court, however, found that that trustee could not use the release to avoid the duty to provide an accounting, citing two specific reasons:
- The release specifically reserves the right to seek relief if there are allegations of willful misconduct or fraud
- The duty to provide an accounting is a fundamental aspect of any fiduciary relation, an essential part of a trustee’s duty
The court also concluded that, even if the released waived the grantor’s right to an accounting, it was not legally binding on the other trustee, successor trustees and trust beneficiaries. Furthermore, the court rejected the argument that the trust document waived the requirement that trustees provide an accounting, concluding that the trust document only waived the obligation to provide periodic accountings, not the requirement that there be a final accounting.
When you’re involved in an estate or trust administration dispute, it’s essential that you have knowledgeable, skilled and experienced legal representation. Estate and Probate Attorney Bonnie Lawston has protected the rights of individuals in trust and estate matters on Long Island for more than 20 years.
Contact Probate and Estate Administration Attorney Bonnie Lawston for all your Probate and Estate Administration matters.
Winter Weather Driving Tips
Driving in winter weather can be a challenge. Treacherous winter driving conditions range from freezing rain, sleet, snow or simply a drop in temperature causing wet surfaces to turn icy. Understanding some basic ideas about how to drive on ice or in snow can help you prevent accidents.
Recommendations for Driving in Snowy Weather
The American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends the following tips for driving in snowy, winter weather.
- Press down on the gas pedal or brake slowly. Fast acceleration can make you skid or spin. Allow enough time to stop slowly.
- Drive slowly. Driving slowly helps you have enough time to maneuver for gradual acceleration and stopping.
- Increase your driving distance between cars. Understand that you should increase the distance for stopping within three to four seconds to eight to ten seconds.
- Apply smooth brake pressure. Rest the heel of your foot on the floor and press the brake pedal with the ball of your foot for gradual braking.
- Avoid stopping. If at all possible, avoid stopping in snowy weather and keep rolling. For example, roll up to a traffic light so slowly that you can keep rolling until the light changes.
- Do not accelerate driving up hills. You can easily go into a spin when accelerating too much as you climb a hill.
- Do not stop when going up a hill. If the hill is icy, it is difficult to keep the car from spinning as you press the gas pedal to start the car moving again.
- Stay home whenever possible. The best way to avoid snowy weather accidents is to avoid driving in snow. Stay at home if at all possible.
Legal Help If You Have You Been Injured Through the Fault of Another Driver
If you have suffered serious injury in a winter driving accident, you may be able to recover compensation for damages. At Sackstein Sackstein & Lee, LLP, we offer a free initial consultation to discuss your accident and the prospects of pursuing a case. Call (718) 539-3100 to arrange an appointment.
Author: Bonnie Lawston
Under New York law, a valid will must contain the signatures of two witnesses. There are no requirements regarding the capacity of the witnesses. The testator (person executing the will) must sign in the presence of the witnesses, but they need not sign in each other’s presence. There’s also nothing that prohibits you from having a family member as a witness to your will, but there can be consequences.
Under New York law, a witness who has also has an interest in the estate is known as an “interested witness.” The fact that the will was witnessed by an interested witness does not invalidate the will, but it will render any benefit to the interested witness in the will void. Accordingly, any conveyance of property to an interested witness under a will, even if it’s part of a residuary estate, will be ineffective and will be returned to the estate, to be divided among other beneficiaries.
The “interested witness” rule, however, can apply to more than just property received. Consider the facts in Matter of the Estate of Cynthia R. Wu. In that case, the deceased had a provision in her will that called for estate and inheritance taxes to be paid as debts of the estate, rather than by beneficiaries out of their pro rata share of the estate. The deceased’s brother, the named beneficiary of two life insurance policies owned by the decedent, had also been a witness to the decedent’s will. The court concluded that, because the brother was an interested witness, he was not entitled to the benefit of having the estate taxes paid out of the estate. Instead, the court ordered him to pay his pro rata share of the estate taxes out of the death benefit proceeds.
Contact the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston
At the Law Office of Bonnie Lawston, we focus our estate administration practice on estates subject to probate in Nassau County and Suffolk County on Long Island. Contact our office online or call us at 631-425-7299 or 24/7 at 855-479-4700) to set up a free initial consultation.
When accusations of discrimination or harassment emerge, employers should consult with an employment law defense lawyer as soon as possible. Aside from seeking counsel, what actions can you take right away and what mistakes can you avoid?
The American Bar Association suggests avoiding the following mistakes.
- Failing to investigate immediately. Waiting for an employee to submit a formal statement about harassment or discrimination or waiting for witnesses to submit written statements is the most common mistake made by employers. Any investigation delay can make it appear like you’re ignoring the situation or not taking it seriously.
- Inserting cross-examination into the process. Conducting an investigation without bias is important for avoiding claims of unfair investigation against your company, even when you suspect a complainant, witness or the accused individual is lying. A better approach is to ask in a respectful manner that the person explain contradictory statements or ask for evidence that refutes the statements.
- Not maintaining confidentiality. You must keep the investigation confidential along with the information obtained during the investigation. If witnesses suffer backlash from the investigation because their identity is made known or for any other reason, as the employer, you may become subject to claims of retaliation.
- Not interviewing all witnesses with knowledge of the alleged events. The investigator should interview all the witnesses because it will help determine whether information is consistent.
- Failing to make known the company’s policy against retaliation. Retaliation is a common problem, according to the EEOC and comprises about one third of the cases the EEOC handles. It is important to reinforce the company policy by reminding all parties that retaliation will not be tolerated against complainants who make good faith claims. This focus also helps protect you as the employer.
- Failing to conduct a thorough investigation. Overlooking records, such as telephone or cell phone records when they are crucial to an investigation is a common mistake.
- Failing to end the investigation with a conclusive finding. When investigations end with disputed evidence by both sides and nothing is concluded, the investigation is tantamount to no investigation. Some conclusion must be reached based on a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, the investigator must reach a conclusion that it most likely that the harassment did or did not occur.
Put an Experienced Employment Defense Lawyer on Your Side
Employers dealing with harassment or discrimination issues should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Stephen Hans & Associates brings decades of experience to the table in every case we handle.