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Hartford Business & Commercial Law Blog

Security Risks: Smartphone Apps and Sensitive Data

As discussed in an earlier post, the release of Pokemon Go raised speculation about app security failures, including reports that the app's standard permissions released user's Google data and emails to the game's developers. While investigation did not reveal Pokemon Go to be more dangerous than other apps, it would be foolish to end the conversation about app security on that sigh of relief. Mobile Apps do not come without security risks to individuals, businesses, or even governments, and risks vary widely on different platforms and between different apps. If an employee's smartphone contains sensitive company data alongside gaming or productivity apps, there are very real risks to be aware of when trying to prevent security breaches.

Expanded Video Game Liability Post-Pokémon Go?

Pokémon Go, a free iPhone and Android gaming app, was released recently and promptly followed by a media frenzy. The app is built on Niantic Inc.'s "Real World Gaming Platform" and uses GPS technology to track users' locations and allow interaction between the virtual components of the app and real-world locations. Its initial release raised both safety and also privacy concerns about the use of users' Google data, including speculation that app developers could access the personal emails of players, but the concerns were shown to be overblown. Of course, any app that collects user data can carry security risks and may raise privacy concerns, but Pokémon Go does not appear to carry any unique risks.

Connecticut Department of Labor Provides a Tool for Businesses During Economic Downturns

To prevent layoffs and allow businesses to spring back from economic downturns, the Connecticut Department of Labor's Shared Work program allows workers to be kept on board part-time while the state pays them partial unemployment benefits. Talent is retained until business improves, saving the business recruitment and training costs as well as the systemic challenges of on-boarding a new team. Workers also benefit, receiving a higher income than they would with unemployment benefits alone and exemption from unemployment work-search requirements.

NY Company's Contract Terms Draw Fire from Connecticut AG

In Connecticut, businesses may have their contracts "undone" and be forced to pay restitution if the contract contains unfair or deceptive terms and provisions. In a recent settlement, Ferrandino & Son, Inc. (F&S), a New York business, agreed to pay damages based on alleged unfair trade practices in a snow removal contract with Connecticut subcontractors. The contract laid out a payment arrangement involving a flat rate for snow removal services and a tiered bonus structure for snow removal amounts above a 30-year "average annual snowfall." The contract signed by each subcontractor included an exhibit listing the snowfall averages that would be used to calculate bonuses, however the express language of the contract required that bonuses be calculated based on 30-year "historic snowfall averages." According to the CT Attorney General (AG)'s office, the actual benchmark used for calculating the bonus structure "was not based on any industry standard or verifiable mathematical calculations of site specific historic snowfall data, and thus was not a valid 30 year snowfall average for that site." The snowfall averages listed in the contract were much higher than actual historic snowfall averages, and as a result, even when snowfall was higher than average, the subcontractors received lower compensation than if historic data had been used to calculate the bonuses.

Switching to Biometrics May Increase Data Exposure

Passwords and PINs require ever more complexity and become difficult to recall.  As a result, many people take actions that could give rise to a data security concern:  they write them down on a paper near their computer.  Thus, there has been a call from many to switch to biometric data, e.g., fingerprints.  Apple iPhones, for example, have the capacity to let one log in without entering a PIN, by using a fingerprint, and then that fingerprint can also authenticate apps.  [There is a caveat that the PIN must be entered the first time after the phone is restarted.]

L+M Medical Office Building Employees Not Permitted to Join L+M Hospital Union

On October 6, 2014, the NLRB Region 1 Director issued a decision in a matter involving employees of Lawrence & Memorial Hospital and Lawrence & Memorial Medical Group in New London, Connecticut.  See 01-RC-134298.  AFT Connecticut had been seeking to add a group of LPNs and a group of Medical Assistants employed at the nearby L+M Medical Office Building to exiting bargaining units at the hospital.  The Regional Director found that there were sufficient distinctions, including separate human resources departments, different scheduling requirements, separate supervision and little overlap to warrant these groups joining the hospital units.  This is notwithstanding the fact that certain functions, such as payroll administration, were shared or that both entities have a common owner.

Second Circuit Upholds FLSA Class Action Waiver

Connecticut employers should take note that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit on August 9, 2013, issued a ruling upholding a class-action waiver in an employment agreement. In the case in questions, Sunderland v. Ernst & Young, LLP, the employee was making a claim for unpaid overtime wages, asserting that the employer improperly classified her as "exempt" for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The district court denied the employer's effort to compel individual arbitration, which had been agreed to by the employee in her original hiring. While on appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court decided American Express Co. v. Italian Colors Restaurant, 133 S.Ct. 2304 (2013). That decision compelled the Second Circuit to reverse the District Court's decision.

The long, winding road of Macy's v JC Penney should soon end

The attorneys for Macy's Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. made their final arguments recently in their contract dispute over rights to Martha Stewart Living merchandise. The parties reconvened after the last of many breaks in the trial that opened in February. While scheduling issues caused most of the delays, the court halted the proceedings at one point -- in March -- so that the retailers could attempt to mediate the matter.

From the tone of the testimony and the behind-the-scenes drama at Penney, though, mediation looked like a long shot to analysts tracking the suit. The interference with contract claim has not only drained Penney's coffers but it has kept the retailer from moving forward with a major in-store merchandising shift, specifically, opening Martha Stewart Living boutiques within the department stores.

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