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"Changing Currents in Employment Law" is the D.C. Bar's annual three-hour event featuring legal updates and practice tips from the area's top employment attorneys — all for CLE credit. TELG's Scott Oswald serves as faculty director and will moderate the event on October 29, 2019. Here he previews the panel on "B.Y.O." technology policies with panelist Barbara L. Johnson of BLJohnson PLLC.
This video interview by TELG managing principal R. Scott Oswald was published by The Employment Law Group, P.C. on August 23, 2019.
» “Changing Currents in Employment Law” will take place on October 29, 2019. Click here for more details and registration options.
(Transcribed and edited lightly by The Employment Law Group)
R. Scott Oswald: Welcome everyone — we are here with Barbara Johnson. She will be speaking at this year’s “Changing Currents in Employment Law” at the D.C. Bar on October 29, 2019.
[Turning to interviewee] Barbara, welcome.
Barbara L. Johnson: Thank you!
Oswald: So I was interested, in looking at your bio, just how varied your experience has been. You’ve just gone from BigLaw to opening up a much smaller shop. Give us a sense of, you know — behind that decision, what was going on?
Johnson: As much as I had enjoyed my time at BigLaw — had amazing experiences there — I really missed the day-to-day advice work and being able to talk to clients, be in the trenches dealing with them. And the reality is that the economic model for BigLaw doesn’t really lend itself to that very well. So now I’m counsel with a woman- and minority-owned firm. There are seven of us, which has worked out really well.
Oswald: My guess is that you can be a little more nimble.
Oswald: Tell us a little bit about counseling employers — especially on your [panel] topic, which is Bring Your Own Device to Work. What are some of the things that an employer should think about before they institute a policy like this?
Johnson: Well, first of all they need to have a policy, because many employers just kind of let this happen. You know, employees start using their own laptops, using their own cell phones and iPads, or whatever, and they don’t really think about it. And then the challenge is that the employee has access to all the employer’s confidential information — and what happens when that employee leaves? What system does the employer have in place to get that information back?
Oswald: So this isn’t something that employers should just allow through happenstance. It’s something where they need to actually think about what they want to do in advance.
Johnson: Yes, including things as simple as having employees use personal e-mail addresses, right? As opposed to the information being housed on the company’s server. So there are lots of aspects of this. As well as the employee thinking, you know, “This is my device, so what do you mean you’re going to wipe out all of this information when I leave? Because my kids’ pictures are on there — what’s up with that?”
So just thinking through, and educating the employee about what to expect as well.
Oswald: So for an employer thinking about putting in such a policy, [what are] a few things that you give to — advice you give to clients right at the outset, as they’re thinking about such a policy?
Johnson: Mainly to be proactive, and mainly to ensure that the employee understands that the information that is housed on their personal device is the company’s information. And [also] putting in place, I advise, the technology that will allow you to erase that company information from the personal device if and when the employee leaves your employment.
Oswald: Give us a sense of your panel and some of the things you’ll be talking about at “Changing Currents 2019.” If I’m in the audience, what am I going to see?
Johnson: What you’re going to hear about is some of the best practices. First of all, the pros and cons of allowing employees to use their personal devices. And then, if you decide that you are going to implement a bring-your-own-device-to-work policy, some of the issues that you need to look at. Some of the Fair Labor Standards Act issues as far as employees working off-the-clock, where you have hourly employees that are answering e-mails and working away — yes, so there are lots of issues to be thinking about and those are some of things that you’ll hear about.
Oswald: That must be a counselor’s nightmare, right? Having someone responding — an hourly employee responding to e-mails off time. What do you tell an employer [if] they want that employee to be responding? What do they do, under those circumstances, with the Fair Labor Standards Act?
Johnson: Well, you need to have some way of recording the time, unless it’s de minimis — if it only is taking a couple of minutes. But if you know that an employee is doing more than just a de minimis amount of work, you really do need to have some way of capturing that time and managing those expectations, right? So you know that there are people who are going to e-mail someone at 10 o’clock in the evening: Is that really what you want? You need to be thinking through those after-hours kinds of issues.
Oswald: Training managers and others in the policy: Is that important?
Johnson: Absolutely. It’s that communication, because the fact that there’s a policy in place really doesn’t mean much if nobody’s looked at it — if the employees are not aware of it
Oswald: So Barbara, tell us a bit about your background before you became a lawyer. I saw that you were a chemist?
Johnson: I was a chemist before I went to law school. I was very fortunate because I met some people, they’re both attorneys, and they convinced me that this was a good thing to do. And before you knew it I was in law school and I was hooked.
Oswald: Barbara, thank you.
Johnson: You’re welcome — thank you!
Oswald:[Turning to camera] We look forward to seeing all of you at “Changing Currents in Employment Law” this year on October 29, 2019, beginning at 6 o’clock at the D.C. Bar.