Legal Rights of an Employer and the Employees
In this assignment, you will consider the rights and duties of employers and employees in an organization, and learn about intellectual property laws in the workplace.
Jeremy Jacob works as a buyer for Cranes Hardware Stores, located in Biloxi, Mississippi. On his lunch breaks, Jacob spends time on the computer sending e-mail to his friends and occasionally playing online poker. Sometimes Jacob sends the e-mails from his personal account and sometimes when he is in a hurry, he sends them from the account of Cranes Hardware Stores.
On Friday morning, Jacob is summoned to Human Resources where he is confronted with e-mails sent to friends containing jokes of a sexual nature. The director also questions him about the use of the Internet to play poker and other computer games. Jacob claims he has the right to do what he wants to do on his lunch breaks. Jacob is terminated for violating provisions of the employee handbook. The employee handbook contains the following provisions.
Cranes Hardware Stores Employee Handbook
- E-Mail Policy: All employees are responsible for using the e-mail system in accordance with this policy. The e-mail system is the property of Cranes Hardware Stores. E-mail is to be used for company business only. Use of the e-mail system for personal purposes is prohibited. Employees have no right or expectation of privacy in data stored in, created, received, or sent over Cranes e-mail system.
As the owner of the e-mail system, Cranes may monitor, access, retrieve, review, and delete any information stored in, created, received, or sent over the e-mail system, for any reason and without the permission of the employee.
Cranes’s policies against sexual harassment and discrimination apply to the e-mail system. Therefore, no e-mail messages should be created, sent, or received containing material offensive material related to race, religion, gender, age, national origin, or any other classification protected by law.
Violations of Cranes’s e-mail policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.
- Internet Policy: Although Cranes Hardware Stores acknowledges that the Internet may have useful applications to Cranes business, employees may only access the Internet for specific business purposes. "Surfing the net" is not a legitimate business activity.
The company has the right to monitor any and all of the aspects of its computer system, including, but not limited to, monitoring sites visited by employees on the Internet, monitoring chat groups and news groups, reviewing material downloaded or uploaded by users to the Internet, and reviewing e-mail sent and received by users.
Employees may not use the company's Internet connection to download games or other entertainment software, including wallpaper and screen savers, or to play games over the Internet.
Violations of Cranes's e-mail policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.
- Cranes Hardware Stores Dispute Resolution: All disputes arising out of the employment relationship that cannot be resolved through the complaint procedures will resolved through Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
Consider the following situations at Cranes Hardware Stores:
Even though it was only noon, Jacob stopped by the Beer and Burger Bar, hoping a few beers would make him feel better. Several hours later when he is driving home, Jacob is pulled over by a state trooper. Detecting a strong odor of alcohol, the officer requests that Jacob take a breathalyzer test. Jacob refuses. Noticing a beer can on the seat of the car, the officer searches Jacob's car. When searching the car, the officer finds a loaded pistol and some marijuana.
Three weeks after Cranes terminated Jacob, a representative from the human resources department at Rowe's Home Supply called to obtain a reference because Jacob applied for a job with their company.Jean Brianna, the human resources manager for Cranes answered the standard questions, but then made the following statement.
"Off the record, Jacob was terminated for a cause. Jacob is threatening a wrongful termination lawsuit. I wouldn't hire him because he's nothing but trouble and we believe he was involved with drugs too."
Brianna knew the statement about the drugs was untrue, but she did not want Jacob to get the job. Rowe's did not hire Jacob.
A new position in Internet marketing was created for Amanda Lucy, the niece of Cranes's owner. Lucy was a junior at State University, majoring in marketing. Lucy created a website to advertise Cranes on the Internet. She copies images from various websites and pastes them into Cranes's site. Beth Ann is a full time law student who works part time in the office as a bookkeeper. After reviewing the new website, Ann tells the Lucy and the general manager, Marshall, that using some of those images and text without permission is an intellectual property violation. Lucy explains that she can use the images because everything on the Internet is fair game and besides, she read about the fair use doctrine in her business law class and believes her use qualifies.
After Jacob resolves his issues with the state trooper, he creates a blog about his former company called Cranes Hardware Hell. The blog contained a picture of Cranes Headquarters engulfed in flames. On the blog Jacob promises readers that he will provide various stories about what it's like to work for Cranes and encourages others to tell their stories. In the first article, Jacob uses pseudonyms to describe the executives and some of the managers in unflattering ways. Another story provides details about a coworker who is having an affair with her manager.
Based on the different situations described in the scenario, create a 6- to 9-page Microsoft Word document that includes the answers to the following questions:
- Jacob claims the employer violated his rights. In your opinion, what are the legal rights of the employer and the employee in this situation? Explain. Is Jacob correct in his allegations? Why or why not?
- Since Jacob believes he was wrongfully terminated and various rights were violated, he plans to consult with a lawyer and sue Cranes. What are Jacob's options with regards to resolving his claims through the court or ADR?
- Jacob claims the state troopers violated his rights. Do you agree?
- Has Brianna committed any offenses? Why or why not?
- Did Lucy violate intellectual property laws? If yes, how? If no, why not?
- Has Jacob committed any violations in his Internet postings concerning his former company? Why or why not?
- What are the ethical issues related to this scenario?
Support your responses with examples.
Cite any sources in APA format.