Coworking Part 4: Managing Employees

In my recent blog posts, I discussed the emerging importance of coworking spaces in the post-industrial workforce and some of the risks around data security and privacy, as well as interpersonal employment law risks.  In this next part of the series, I set out strategies to consider when managing employees in the coworking space.

Nobody likes to be a joy-killer with draconian policies and 20 page employment contracts.  But having nothing in place is asking for unnecessary headaches.  Here are a few lean strategies that you can consider, and to ramp up and expand as you grow:

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Legal Services in the Modern Workplace

March 2014 was one heck of a month for me.  On March 1, my friend and colleague, Inna Koldorf, and I launched our new law firm, Koldorf Stam LLP. 

After 10 years of practice, nearly 7 years at Baker & McKenzie, one of the planet’s largest law firms, I knew I needed to jump in to the new way of practicing law.  We really are at a cross-road in how we deliver legal services – but more importantly, how we consume legal services.  The internet has changed everything.  You can look up statutes on CanLii, note up cases online, read blog posts full of legal ‘information’, or go to the Ministry of Labour website for labour standards – all for free.  So where do lawyers fit in with all of this?

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Coworking Part 3: Interpersonal Employment Law Risks

In my last blog posts (here and here), I discussed the emerging importance of coworking spaces in the post-industrial workforce and some of the risks around data security and privacy.  In this part three of the series, I set out some of the employment law issues related to human interactions in coworking spaces:  booze, sexual harassment and discrimination.

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Coworking Part 2: Data & Privacy Risks

In my last blog post, I discussed the emerging importance of coworking spaces in the post-industrial workforce.  In this part two of the series, at the risk of bursting this utopian post-industrial bubble, I set out some of the more pressing employment law issues with coworking spaces:  confidential information, data security, privacy and ownership of content.

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Coworking Part 1: Turning the Workplace Upside Down

For the last many centuries, workers have gathered together in the same workplace because they were paid and employed by the same employer, and because that’s where the work was.  It didn’t really matter if you had anything personally in common with your co-workers, and you certainly didn’t have to be inspired or motivated by them.  But you did have to show up at the bricks and mortar workspace to do the work and get your paycheque.@85KingEast insTED Talk on Jan 28 2014 with founder Roger Brennikmeyer and speaker Nick van Weerdenburg from Ranglio.io

Technology and the explosion of the entrepreneurial economy have changed all that.  Work for many is where our computer can hook up to a signal and get access to documents in the cloud.  That means work can be anywhere for many pockets of our post-industrial workforce.

This is the first part of a 4 part series looking at the coworking world:  (1) what it is; (2) what are the data & privacy risks; (3) what are the human risks; and (4) how to manage your employees who may be working out of a coworking space. 

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Canadian Law Blogs to Check Out

The 2013 Clawbies winners were announced on December 31, and I am humbled and so very grateful to the readers that nominated my blog.  I am happy to write that this blog was selected for a Best Practitioner Blog in Canada award.

More importantly, however, is the chance to explore what blogs are out there.  I subscribe to many blogs through my Feedly, but there are new ones popping up every day.  The Clawbies Awards are such a great opportunity to check out blogs that may have missed my radar. 

A huge thanks to the adjudicators that volunteered their time to organize and review this year’s Clawbies Awards.

Here’s a summary of Canadian law blogs you may want to check out.  A full description of each blog is at www.clawbies.ca.

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Top 2013 Canadian Employment & Labour Cases

Looking for a bootcamp on important cases from 2013?  Here are a few of my favourite Canadian bloggers and their top 5-10 cases from 2013.  There is some overlap, but also a good range of cases to highlights how law can be much more of an art than a science.

Feel free to comment if you think an important case was overlooked in any of the above lists.

 

Other great top 10 type lists to check out:

 

Happy Reading - and may 2014 treat you all well.

 

 

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2013 Clawbies Nominations

It’s Clawbies Season again!  

When I started my blog in 2009, I could count on one hand my employment law blogging compatriots in Canada.  There are some excellent marketing departments now pushing out all kinds of content, but I remain sentimental for the independent blogger blogging for the love it, for the opportunity to connect with colleagues and clients, and yes, to raise profile within the growing audience of blog readers.

When reflecting on which blogs are deserving of a Clawbie, I have arbitrarily, unscientifically and completely subjectively based my decisions on the following criteria:

  • I prefer independent bloggers writing with their own voice, sweat and tears (not a series of posts ghost written by a marketing department or articling student);
  • I am an employment lawyer, so will have a natural bias for bloggers in my area of practice; and
  • I love passionate writing – I tend to write more neutrally in the otherwise polarized employment world, and appreciate the courage in others to rage against the system/worker/institution/judge/The Man/the jerk on the bus, etc.

My 2013 Clawbies Nominations

Based on my above criteria, here are my nominations:

1.     Law of Work – You can’t get more passionate then Professor Doorey’s lefty legal rants.  There is no ambiguity around his politics, he’s a colourful writer, always engaging, and full of useful, interesting, helpful commentary on the law.  I may not always agree with him, but still love reading his posts.  (I feel like this is a wasted nomination, since everyone else will also vote for him.)

2.     MacLeod Law Firm -  Doug MacLeod and his new associate Nicole Sims write in a succinct, practical manner that cuts to the point and provides useful day-to-day information for the real world.   He skips all the legal theory, keeps his post short, regular and topical.  I hope to be as disciplined with my posts when I grow up.

3.     Employment Law Blog for the Suddenly Unemployed - I don’t know how he does it, but Sean manages to push out all kinds of useful content, is topical, opinionated, passionate and colourful – everything I love in a blogger.  He popped onto the scene in 2012 and has continued to deliver top quality content throughout. 

4.     South of the Border Choice:  Molly DiBianca at the Delaware Employment Law Blog is the real deal.  She’s an original legal blogger and set the tone for many of us in the early years.  She writes with a unique flare and always keeps it always engaging.

Runner’s Up:

1.     First Reference – I nominate them every year, but Yosie Saint-Cyr and her team are always putting out such high quality analysis.  I have focused on individuals for my top three, but there is no doubt that Yosie’s writing and legal talent should keep her at the top of the list.

2.    Canadian Privacy Law Blog – David Fraser is a national expert in his area, and blogs with an impressive, high quality frequency that puts most of us to shame.

Good luck to all my colleagues, friends and fellow bloggers.  I look forward to learning about a new list of blogs I should subscribe to.

Happy reading to everyone!

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2014 AODA Requirements for Large Private Employers

On January 1, 2014, private sector employers with 50 or more employees in Ontario face the next round of compliance requirements under the Accessibility for Ontarians with a Disability Act, 2005 (“AODA”). 

Most organizations have already complied with the AODA Customer Service Regulation.  The AODA Integrated Accessibility Regulation  (“IAR”) sets out the followings requirements to be met in the new year by “Large Organizations”, defined under IAR to include private sector employers with 50 or more employees:

1.     Accessibility Policies:  Large Organizations must develop, implement and maintain policies governing how the organization achieves or will achieve accessibility through meeting its AODA requirements.  The policy must be in writing and include a statement of organizational commitment to meet the accessibility needs of persons with disabilities in a timely manner.  The policy must be publicly available, and provided in an accessible format upon request. 

2.     Multi-Year Accessibility Plan:  Large Organizations must establish, implement, maintain and document a multi-year accessibility plan, which outlines the organization’s strategy to prevent and remove barriers and meet its AODA requirements.  The plan must be reviewed and updated at least once every five years.  The company must post the accessibility plan on the company’s website, and if requested, provide the plan in an accessible format. 

3.     Self-Service Kiosk:  Large Organizations should review any “self-service kiosk” to determine whether the kiosk is accessible to a person with a disability.  A kiosk is defined to mean “an interactive electronic terminal, including a point-of-sale device, intended for public use that allows users to access one or more services or products or both.”  This will likely capture all self-service online job application and career websites, as well as any other “interactive electronic” parts of an organization’s website or online presence.  The IAS requires Large Organizations to have regard to the accessibility for persons with disabilities when designing, procuring or acquiring self-service kiosks, and to consider how to ensure people with disabilities can use the kiosks independently and securely. 

4.     Accessible Websites and Web Content:  Large Organizations are required to make their internet websites and web content conform with Level A of the World Wide Web Consortium Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.  More details (for the company’s IT team) can be found at http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/wcag.   The requirements apply to (a) websites and web content, including web-based applications, that an organization controls directly or through a contractual relationship that allows for modification of the product; and (b) to web content published on a website after January 1, 2012.  While only public sector organizations are specifically required to make their intranet accessible, large private employers should be aware of those internal sites that will be captured under the future employment standards accessibility requirements.  In many cases, it will be cost-effective to consider the wider range of website material.

The above is intended only to be a brief checklist and overview summary.  If your organization has any questions about complying with AODA or would like to start planning for the additional requirements that will continue to roll out over the next couple of years, do not hesitate to contact me to discuss further.

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No, Privacy is Not Dead

There is no doubt that we are in the midst of a massive shift in how we consume information and how we communicate with each other.  And there is also no doubt that those under 20 who grew up not knowing any different will have a very different kind of comfort around the online universe. 

Defining Online Privacy

Privacy is in the eyes of the beholder – for the very young, there is a tendency to continue to engage in frequent, open online interactions while asserting privacy rights around those online comments.  For many people over a certain age (50? 60? 30?), this is totally ridiculous.  You post it and it’s public.  Yet a typical Boomer would be appalled if someone listened into his or her conversation at a restaurant or at a public fountain. 

When so much of our personal life’s interactions are online, why not start to carve out the same sort of privacy we demand offline? The permanency of the written record only makes it more essential to think critically about what to do with all that information, not to just throw our hands up and give up.

The “public” status update may be online, but does that entitle the universe to act on that information to harm me, particularly when I’ve signaled my intention to maintain privacy over certain information through my privacy settings?  Whether or not it’s easy or possible to access and act on information, should we not set some re-defined, socially acceptable (and legal) parameters around online information?

Online Privacy in the Workplace

This is the core of the privacy dilemma that employers face.  In most US States, there is simply no expectation of privacy in the workplace, so employers have more flexibility around how to act upon their employee’s online information. 

In Canada and Europe, however, employees have varying degrees of a right to privacy on their workplace computer and in their online life generally.  Employers do not have any inherent right to read an employee’s Facebook page and discipline them for unpleasant or unpopular comments, subject to various legal tests such as the degree of economic harm on the employer’s business. 

It is legal in Canada, therefore, to be a total jackass online, and it is difficult to terminate an employee because of their online life, unless your employee is otherwise breaking the law or an enforceable workplace policy, bad-mouthing the employer’s business or exercising poor behavior that specifically intersects with the job’s reputational management concerns (e.g. a firefighter being sexist or a daycare worker writing hateful comments about children). 

Freedom of expression is, after all, a constitutional right in Canada.

Online Privacy in the Modern Economy

I anticipate that the generation growing up with the online world as simply an extension of their physical world - and not a public soapbox with different rules than in a restaurant or by the public fountain - will continue to carve out privacy rights in a way that makes sense to them and the online aspects of their daily, hourly lives.

Many proclaim that privacy is dead and we may as well either get over it or go off the grid.  The latter is not an option if you want to participate in the economy.  But giving up all privacy must surely bristle against human nature. 

The Desire for Privacy Won’t Die

My unscientific sense is that most of us inherently crave some amount of privacy.  Whether it’s to shield our imperfections from friends and family, to explore business or artistic ideas quietly, or to develop a potential romance without everyone staring and critiquing, the desire for privacy will not die anytime soon. 

We just have to figure out how to nurture and assert privacy parameters in the modern economy and online world.  And employers will have to continue to pay attention to this massive shift happening beyond the workplace to figure out how to handle expectations of privacy in the modern workforce.

I'd love to hear from you if your workplace has figured out the balance, or if you want to brainstorm about privacy policies that might help ease the way to the modern, online, e-information packed economy.

 

 

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