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This post is part of our ongoing series exploring the impact of technology on legal issues. For an introduction to the series and a collection of the posts in the series, check out this post.

The hiring process is a key component of operating a successful business and employers do their best to properly vet prospective employees. Many employers conduct searches online through search engines and scour social media profiles as a part of that process, but there are significant legal risks if that process is not conducted with caution. Here is an overview of a few of the potential issues an employer could face with seeking out information online:

Discrimination Claims

Searching social media profiles can reveal all kind of information about an individual, including sensitive information which could identify that person as a member of a protected class. In Pennsylvania, protected classes include race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex (including pregnancy), age, physical or mental disability, use of a guide or support animal, having an association with an individual with a handicap or disability, familial status, education, sexual orientation, veteran/military status and genetic information.

Think about how much of the above information you could learn as a result of a quick review of someone’s Facebook profile. If an employer decides not to hire a prospective employee based on learning some of the above information, the applicant could bring a discrimination claim.

In order to avoid liability for these claims, consider the value of conducting a social media search in the first place. Is there significant job-related information that can be gained from conducting such a search? Employers should carefully document all decisions made in the hiring process and use the same screening process for all applicants.

If you decide that social media searches are useful for identifying job-related characteristics, then consider having one person or a small group conduct the search, and instruct them to filter out all information that is not job-related and pass that on to those with input on the hiring process in order to avoid decision-making based on protected criteria. Continue Reading Use Caution When Using Social Media Searches in the Hiring Process

If you’re interested in leadership development and live or work in Lancaster, you should absolutely check out Leadership Lancaster and its programs. As I’ve previously written on this blog, it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of this organization and what it does for both individuals and the community.

My introduction to the organization was as a member of the Core Class of 2016 (for more on my experience, check out my three part Reflections on Leadership Lancaster series). Since then, I’ve joined Leadership Lancaster’s ACHIEVE Committee to further support the organization and its mission to develop outstanding community leadership to support the needs of Lancaster County.

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending their annual Leadership Inspired! event, which celebrates local leadership. The event included a presentation of three awards to local individuals and organizations that have made a significant impact on the Lancaster County community. This year’s well-deserved winners were:

SoWe: for the organization’s accomplishments in furthering their mission to create a better environment for the neighbors, businesses and organizations that reside in the southwest Lancaster City community.

Dr. Martin Hudacs: for his commitment to putting others before self and educating community leaders through his 40 years in education and in various capacities through Leadership Lancaster, including his role as an immediate past Chair of Leadership Lancaster’s Board of Directors.

Bob Shoemaker: for his inspirational leadership as Project Executive (and previously the President and CEO) of the Lancaster City Alliance and contributions to Lancaster County as a lifelong resident and supporter of numerous nonprofit and community organizations, including Lancaster Safety Coalition, EDC Finance, Lancaster CRIZ Authority, Fulton Theatre, Lancaster Health Center, Lancaster Farmland Trust, and Lancaster Chamber Foundation, to name a few.

Continue Reading Leadership Lancaster Connects, Educates and Inspires at Leadership Inspired! Event

As a business attorney, I try to understand my clients’ businesses and keep up with trends that may help my clients address problems they may encounter as their business grows. Three of my favorite podcasts that help me do that include Mac Power Users, which helps you get the most out of your technology, Cortex, which features business and productivity tips from independent content creators, and Free Agents, which discusses the trials and tribulations of starting your own business. On all three shows, the hosts have mentioned that they have hired virtual assistants to help them with various aspects of their growing businesses.

While browsing LinkedIn, I noticed that Frances Annis, a connection I met through the Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, had recently moved to a Lancaster-based virtual administrative support company called My Reliable Admin. Fran put me in touch with My Reliable Admin founder, Angie Mobarak, who explained that the company provides virtual administrative support to busy professionals and business across the country, utilizing technology and flexible plans and pricing to suit the needs of their clients.

Angie described My Reliable Admin’s approach to providing a positive client experience: “The VA (Virtual Assistant)/Client relationship hinges greatly on trust and communication. The highly responsive nature of our Assistants creates an in-person feel even though clients may reside in a different time-zone from their VA. Full transparency is also critical in building trust as our clients can always know how their Assistant’s time is being spent by viewing a task tracking portal we provide.” Continue Reading Need Administrative Help? Consider Hiring a Virtual Assistant

Our favorite coworking space, The Candy Factory, and Ben Franklin Technology Partners has officially announced that they are teaming up to create a technology incubator in Lancaster City. The formal announcement can be seen in this Lancaster Online article: State-backed incubator for small, new tech businesses in Lancaster County to open March 29.

Last month, Brandon Harter and I attended a sneak preview headlined by Steve Fafel, Director of Business Development and Portfolio Manager for Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP). He introduced BFTP’s role as a state-funded economic development group helping early-stage technology and technology-related companies in Pennsylvania. It does this by providing direct financial resources along with indirect resources like mentoring, facilitating connections, and professional support. Mr. Fafel emphasized that encouraging and helping these entrepreneurs is better for all residents of Lancaster County, as it helps combat issues such as an aging population leading to decreased tax revenue over time, and a population that, for the seventh year in a row, has seen more households leave Lancaster County than move in. Continue Reading The Candy Factory Teams up with Ben Franklin Technology Partners in Lancaster City

Last week, I had the honor and privilege of being admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States. The trip is organized on an annual basis by the Lancaster Bar Association. Since we were allowed one guest, I invited my mom to attend with me.

The admission ceremony occurred prior to two oral arguments before Court. After going through security to enter the building and spending some time in a conference room waiting for the next step, we were ushered into the Courtroom. My first reaction was surprise at how small the Courtroom actually is. This was immediately followed by nervousness – I was sitting about 15 feet from the bench where the nine justices of the Supreme Court would soon be seated. Continue Reading A Trip to the Supreme Court of the United States

Photo credit: JCT(Loves)Streisand* on Visual hunt / CC BY-NDWhen you think of Barbra Streisand, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it a career spanning six decades, including ten Grammy Awards, five Emmy Awards, a Special Tony Award, and more? The unique spelling of her first name? Is it her first album, titled (you guessed it!) The Barbra Streisand Album? Who could forget about her role in Meet the Fockers as Roz Focker. For me, the first thing that comes to mind is actually none of those things. And I’ll stop summarizing Barbra’s Wikipedia page now.

I would argue that no matter which of Barbra’s many talents you are most impressed with, as a business owner, the top association with Barbra Streisand should be the Streisand Effect. The Streisand Effect is “the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.” It stems from an incident where Barbra Streisand attempted to stop photographs of her house in Malibu, California, from being posted online, which unintentionally drew more attention to the photograph. You can read more about the Streisand Effect here.

Understanding the Streisand Effect is important when evaluating how to publicly respond to negative information about you or your business because it’s possible that taking certain actions could actually make the problem worse. It is inevitable that you will encounter conflict, whether it be with unhappy customers, competitors, disgruntled employees, or maybe you inadvertently get caught up in a conspiracy theory, such as Pizzagate. Negative information about your business may be posted online, or you could hear through the grapevine that so-and-so has been talking about you out in the community. Continue Reading What Would Barbra Do? A Business Lesson from Barbra Streisand

In Part I, we discussed what the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is, when it applies, and the consequences of failure to comply with the law. Below, we’ll discuss further questions and answers regarding an overview of what’s required when COPPA applies to your website, app or online service. Continue Reading Your Website and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – Part II – Compliance Overview

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA, is a federal law that gives parents and legal guardians control over the collection, use and disclosure of children’s personal information. The goal of COPPA is to protect children’s online interactions and to make sure that parents consent to the collection and use of such data, since children under 13 are considered incapable of understanding the potential consequences of sharing such information.

Here are a few frequently asked questions and answers regarding COPPA, its application and consequences for failure to comply.

What information is considered personal information under COPPA?

 As defined under COPPA, personal information is information that is collected online and identifies an individual, including but not limited to:

  • First and last name
  • Physical address that includes street and town or city name
  • Email address
  • Online identifier that permits an individual to be contacted directly (for example, a username)
  • Telephone number
  • Social security number
  • Image, video or audio containing an individual’s image or voice
  • Information sufficient to identify the home or other physical address of an individual
  • A persistent identifier such as a cookie number, IP address, unique device number
  • Any other information collected from a child that is either about a child that can be used in combination with other personal information to identify the child

When does COPPA apply to a website, app, or online service? Continue Reading Your Website and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act – Part I – Does It Apply?

As an avid podcast listener, one of my favorite year-end activities is reading through the “best of” lists of the best podcasts and episodes of the year. Below are a few of my favorite lists of favorites (meta, right?) to get you started:

The Atlantic – The 50 Best Podcasts of 2017

Vulture – The 10 Best Podcasts of 2017

Vulture – The 10 Best Podcast Episodes of 2017

IndieWire – The 50 Best Podcast Episodes of 2017

My typical approach is to review the lists and their descriptions, then add episodes that sound interesting to a new playlist in my preferred podcast app, Overcast.

This year, I thought I’d share my own list of some of my favorite podcasts: Continue Reading My 2017 Podcast Picks

Earlier today a client emailed me and asked for my mailing address because her scanner wasn’t working. As I was replying (using my TextExpander snippet for my office mailing address), I thought to myself: there has to be a better way!

Turns out, there is. And it’s even easier than my initial recommendation, which was to go to the app store on your smartphone or tablet and download one of the many excellent apps that use the device’s camera to scan and create PDF files. I’ve used Scanbot for iPhone to do this for years.

Caution: from here on out, this post is a complete Apple lovefest. If you have an Android or Microsoft device, you can read on and see what you’re missing, or just check in with Brandon Harter – I’m sure he can give you a tip in the right direction. Continue Reading Is That a Scanner in Your Pocket? How to Scan Documents with Your iPhone or iPad