Monthly Archives: November 2011

Social Media Freedom “More Important Than Salary” to Generation Z

A couple of weeks ago, Cisco released its second annual Cisco Connected World Technology Report — and the findings were truly eye-opening. (Here’s Cisco’s press release, which includes the highlights; they were also featured in the news article “Millenials Put Tech Freedom Before Salary.”) For the report, Cisco surveyed more than 2,800 college students and young professionals in 14 countries — the so-called “millenials” or Generation Z. Given the generally crummy state of the economy, I thought those who were looking for jobs (or soon to be ) would list their primary concerns as, well, just whether they’d be able to find work, along with salary, salary, and salary. (As in, is it enough to get my own place, or will I be living with my parents until the end of time?)

But no. According to this survey, it’s all about social networking, portable electronic devices, and working from home or other remote locations. Here are a few choice bits:

  • More than half said that if their company banned access to social media sites from work, they would either turn down a job offer or find a way to get around the prohibition.
  • 40% of college students — and 45% of young professionals — said they would accept lower paying work if it offered more flexibility regarding social media access, mobility, and device choice.
  • About 70% said they should be allowed to access personal sites and social media sites using company-owned devices.
  • About 30% said they should have the “right” to work remotely once they get work; 70% believe it unnecessary to be in the office regularly, as long as they show up for important meetings (I’m with them on that).

What to make of these findings? On the one hand, it gives employers a blueprint for attracting the best applicants of the youngest working generation: Let them work remotely, access social media sites from work, choose their mobile devices, and use your equipment for personal as well as business reasons. On the other hand, there are some fairly sound arguments to be made for having rules in place that separate business from personal, at least in electronic devices. Want to be liable for employee overtime you didn’t even know about? Let employees do work using their personal electronic devices. Interested in exposing yourself to personal injury lawsuits? Let employees use their company-issued smart phones for personal calls and texts, then wait for them to do it while driving. Sexual harassment lawsuits more your thing? Encourage managers to friend employees on Facebook, then wait for the nude pics to show up. The truth is that unless and until the legal climate changes to accommodate the blurring of personal and professional lives that younger generations embrace, it might be tough to offer the types of electronic freedom these future workers of the world want.

Cain Harassment Allegations Highlight Settlement Agreement Terms

In the past few days, the media has been buzzing about accusations of sexual harassment made against GOP presidential contender Herman Cain when he was chief executive of the National Restaurant Association. The New York Times reported today that there were two women who accused Cain of harassment and received paid settlements; one received $35,000, one year’s salary.

The exact allegations have not been discussed — except by Cain, who has said that he told one of the accusers that she was the same height as his wife. Cain also seems to be the only one speaking on the record about settlement amounts (he stated earlier that one of the accusers received a few months’ pay; the Times got its information from “three people with direct knowledge of the payment,” but no names named as yet). He has also said that an investigation revealed that the accusations had “no basis,” and that he has never sexually harassed anyone.

Now, the lawyer for one of the women has come forward and indicated that his client would like to join the conversation — but she can’t because of a confidentiality clause in her settlement agreement. This is quite common, especially when the settlement agreement is intended to resolve known disputes (as opposed to a standard release of claims, which employees are often asked to sign as a condition of receiving severance pay, for example). Sometimes, a confidentiality agreement requires that only the amount of the settlement be kept secret; sometimes, the agreement covers much more, including the fact that it exists in the first place. An employee who breaches confidentiality might have to pay liquidated damages, return the money paid under the agreement, or agree to some other penalty.

So do Cain’s comments violate the confidentiality agreement? Full disclosure: I have no idea. But one possibility is that he isn’t a party to the agreement at all. If the agreement is between the National Restaurant Association and the accuser, Cain may not be bound by it, personally. Also, confidentiality agreements aren’t always mutual — that is, they don’t always bind the employer as well as the employee. Typically, it’s the employer who wants confidentiality, because it doesn’t want other employees (who may also have claims) to know that it’s willing to settle or for how much.

We may soon find out the details, of both the allegations and the settlement agreement terms: The accuser’s lawyer says he has asked the NRA to release his client from her confidentiality obligations.