NYPD Demands That Google Stop Sharing Police Activity
NYPD has reignited the fight against Google and its practice of sharing police activity locations on its Waze app. The department’s stance is that the app prevents it from fulfilling its dual priorities to protect both the public and on-duty police officers. Google claims that users have a First Amendment right to share the locations of police activity.
In a recent letter to Google, the NYPD claims that the app is allowing its users to break the law by sharing information that works in contrast to the department’s public safety goals. The letter builds on the law enforcement community’s previously stated concerns over police safety.
Waze, a popular GPS navigation app for smart phones, includes a feature that allows users to notify others of the whereabouts of police. The intent, say law enforcement groups, is to warn people to avoid speed traps and sobriety checkpoints.
In addition to navigation assistance, the app uses colorful icons that appear on the on-screen map and allow users to notify other drivers in the area of accidents, traffic congestion, and roadside hazards, as well as traffic cameras, police speed traps and DWI checkpoints. Despite its harmless appearance, it is the app’s cartoonish policeman icon that worries law enforcement. The innocent look belies its dangerous potential. The police contend that individuals who share this information are breaking the law, as their actions are intended to impair the administration the law.
Safety Concern for Officers
While the policeman icon has the ability to distinguish the police activity location as “visible” or “hidden”, the comments section may give users more details about what type of police activity is involved. This information sharing gives users the ability to undermine public safety goals, but it also has the potential to put officers in real danger.
In December 2014, in the wake of the murders of two on-duty police officers, the National Sheriff’s Association began a campaign to keep information on police activity from being shared on the Waze app. While the Google-owned app played no role in the tragic deaths of these officers, police departments and law enforcement groups believe that the availability of information pertaining to locations of in-progress police activity puts officers at risk. If someone wanted to target a police officer, they say, this app provides critical information to assist with such a crime.
In addition to safety concerns for officers, the police groups also claim that the app’s police activity feature prevents them from keeping the public safe, as it allows for unsafe drivers to avoid being caught.
However, some reason that the app is actually a help, not a hindrance, to the department’s public safety goals. The argument there is that the app helps to maintain a police presence to deter crime. They believe that if people are made aware of law enforcement presence, they are less likely to attempt to flout the laws.
Still, law enforcement groups see the app as a work around that gives drivers reason to behave recklessly, putting the public in danger.
Attorneys at MacMain Leinhauser Advocate for Police Officers
Attorneys at MacMain Leinhauser successfully handle claims against police and law enforcement agencies. Contact us online or call our West Chester, Pennsylvania office at 484-318-7106. We represent clients in Philadelphia and Chester County.
Company Picnic and How to Avoid Liability
As summer quickly approaches, employers are planning for social events like company picnics. While there are many advantages to hosting a company picnic, employers should take certain precautions to avoid liability for any injuries that may occur at company-sponsored events.
Employer Liability for Company Picnic Injuries
In Pennsylvania, most employees are entitled to workers’ compensation for their work-related injuries. Employees do not need to be injured at work in order to recover; as long as they were acting in the course and scope of their employment, their injuries may be compensable under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. Therefore, if an employee is injured at a company picnic, the employer may be liable if:
- employee participation was mandatory;
- the event was company-sponsored; and
- the employer directly benefitted from the employee’s participation.
Employers may also be liable for any harassment or discrimination that takes place at a company picnic, such as sexual harassment or religious discrimination. When alcohol is served, there is an increased potential for inappropriate behavior and employers may open themselves up to social host liability if they knowingly furnish alcohol to minors. Therefore, when planning summertime company picnics, employers should therefore take certain steps to minimize risk and avoid liability, including:
Tips to Minimize Liability Exposure
- Make attendance optional
- Do not compensate employees for attendance
- Hold the party off company premises
- Do not conduct business at the company picnic
- Limit the amount of alcohol served by providing employees with drink tickets
- Provide non-alcoholic beverage options
- Do not exclude any employees from the event based on their race, religion, gender, or any other protected characteristic
- Remind employees of the company policy against harassment and discrimination by sending out a memo before the event
- Provide alternative free transportation for employees who are unable to safely drive home
Benefits of Company Picnics
Employers should not be deterred from throwing company picnics and other events, but rather simply take the appropriate steps to minimize their liability exposure. While company picnics can potentially open employers up to liability, there are many benefits to hosting company-sponsored events, including that it:
- Encourages interdepartmental communication – Company picnics give employees from different departments the chance to communicate and better understand the connection between their roles in the company.
- Boosts employee morale – Employees often look forward to the company picnic as a reward for all their hard work throughout the year; company-sponsored events boost employee morale, leading to improved performance following the event.
- Provides an opportunity for employers to show appreciation – Hosting a company event is a great way for employers to show appreciation for their staff’s hard work and dedication.
- Allows employers to build rapport with their staff – Employers have an opportunity to connect with their employees outside of a work setting, leading to increased rapport and trust.
- Can be a great time to make company-wide announcements – If there is an important company-wide announcement to be made, the company picnic may be an opportune place to do so.
For more information on how to avoid company picnic liability as an employer, contact MacMain Leinhauser by filling out an online inquiry or calling us at 484-318-7106. From our office in West Chester, our experienced employment lawyers serve clients throughout Pennsylvania.
Employers and FMLA Claims
The federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants employees 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during a 12-month period to attend to their health and parenting needs or those of their families and parents. Since its inception in 1993, FMLA requests have increased from employees needing to tend to their own health problems and those of their children or aging parents, and for childcare for deployed active duty military parents. As requests for FMLA leave have increased over the years, so too have the fines and penalties for employers who violate FMLA laws.
Defining Corporate FMLA Leave Policies
While the federal FMLA laws are specific, employers must still establish well defined corporate policies related to FMLA leave, including how the 12-month period is calculated. If the company policy is to consider the medical leave in terms of a calendar year, then the previous 12 months of employment determines how much leave the employee is entitled to in that calendar year. However, if the 12-month period is calculated on a rolling calendar year, then the employee can essentially take the last 12 weeks of one year and the first 12 weeks of the next.
Corporate policy needs to also stipulate if FMLA leave must include paid leave. It is within the rights of the employer to require paid leave as part of the 12 weeks of FMLA leave, but this must be clearly stated in the company’s policy and be applied consistently. It is imperative that employees understand this stipulation.
Management Training is Essential to Compliance
All managers authorized to provide FMLA leave need proper training to recognize the conditions that fall under FMLA laws, to fully understand the protected rights of their employees, and how to fully comply with all FMLA guidelines. A manager that fails to recognize employee leave as specified under the FMLA laws, or that denies qualified leave is in violation of these federal laws and therefore subject to fines, penalties and civil lawsuits.
Employers must also understand the laws of the state in which their business operates. Many individual states have enacted their own FMLA laws, which in some cases, overlap the federal mandates. Some states have enacted laws that grant leave to in-laws, domestic partners, and siblings, which does not count as federal FMLA leave. The misinterpretations between state and federal laws leave employers prone to a wide number of violations.
Record-Keeping Relating to FMLA Leave
Employers need to keep copious records of all employees on FMLA leave. Failing to do so can result in inconsistencies in the number of weeks of leave granted to employees. Recognizing conditions that fall under the FMLA laws and documenting the dates of requests, conditions, and number of days or weeks of leave granted for each employee can avoid these pitfalls.
Employers can be sued in a discrimination lawsuit when there are inconsistencies in the amount of FMLA leave granted among corporate employees. Employers should keep copies of all notices sent to employees regarding FMLA policies, health benefit payments, records relating to FMLA disputes, certifications, or re-certifications, and all medical records.
West Chester Employment Lawyers at MacMain Leinhauser Provide Legal Counsel for Compliance with FMLA Laws
The West Chester employment lawyers at MacMain Leinhauser provide legal counsel to help employers comply with federal and state FMLA laws. Call us at 484-318-7106 or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our West Chester, Pennsylvania offices serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Chester County, and across the state.
Judge Rules on Skirt Requirement in Dress Code
A federal judge recently ruled that the dress code at a North Carolina public charter school was in violation of federal sex discrimination laws. The charter school’s dress code required girls in kindergarten through eighth grade to wear skirts throughout the school year while male students wore pants. The parents of three female students filed a sex discrimination lawsuit claiming that the skirt requirement was biased and in violation of federal anti-discrimination laws.
The lawsuit claimed that the skirt requirement caused unnecessary discomfort for the female students, limited their activity, and distracted them from their studies. Female students reported feeling self-conscious and uncomfortable while sitting at their desks, playing at recess, and engaging in other activities during the day for fear their undergarments would be exposed. The plaintiffs claimed that the skirts forced the girls to sit in uncomfortable positions and abstain from many physical activities during the day.
Skirt Requirement Found Unconstitutional
With help from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a mother of one of the female students named in the lawsuit claimed that consideration for her daughter’s comfort should be equal to that of the male students at the school. She argued that failure to provide comfortable options for female students caused her daughter to be distracted from her academic activities because of the discomfort she felt the skirt imposed.
While the charter school is funded through taxpayer dollars, they are not required to adhere to the same mandates of the public schools. Uniform requirements are part of the charter school’s focus on values and discipline; and requiring students to wear uniforms is not a violation of anti-discrimination laws. Uniforms are meant to bring pride to the school community, encourage discipline, and promote community.
In accordance with North Carolina state public school policies, punishment for not adhering to required dress codes were enforced at the charter school. The judge that ruled on the case stated that the charter school was not obligated to enforce punishment as a result of dress code violations. Doing so added to the plight of the female students that already believed they were being treated unfairly.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs asked the school to revise the dress code to include the option for girls to wear pants. Including this option would allow the girls to choose the apparel that was most comfortable for them and allowed for their freedom of movement in all activities.
Officials defending the charter school’s restrictions on their dress code argue that the discipline enforced by the school uniforms support the broader goals of the school. The charter school defends its principles with academic scores far above those at the state’s public school level, however there is no indication that the skirt requirement enhances student performance.
West Chester Education Lawyers at MacMain Leinhauser Advise Charter School Administration on Policy Enforcement
For assistance in drafting and enforcing school policies and procedures, call the West Chester education lawyers at MacMain Leinhauser at 484-318-7106, or contact us online to schedule a consultation today. Our West Chester, Pennsylvania offices serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Chester County, and across the state.