Forced Windows 10 Upgrade Costs Microsoft $10K

Forced Windows 10 Upgrade Costs Microsoft $10K

Those of us that run a business know how important our laptops and desktop computers are to us. We rely on them on a daily basis to get work done and keep in contact with our clients. If you own a Windows 7 system, Microsoft has most likely asked you to update to Windows 10 several times. Many people continue to ignore the update simply because they do not want to learn a new interface or deal with all the new features of Windows 10. Teri Goldstein was in the same position. As a travel agent, Goldstein avoided upgrading to Windows 10 until the computer automatically updated one day. Goldstein said she never approved the upgrade. After the upgrade failed several times, her computer started crashing and nearly forced her to stop using the machine altogether.

Goldstein filed a claim against Microsoft in Small Claims Court arguing that the upgrade “crippled her work PC.” Goldstein said her problems with the computer began in August 2015 and she tried to work with Microsoft to resolve her issues. Not only did she spend countless hours on the phone with technical support representatives, Goldstein even visited a local Microsoft store for help. Nothing seemed to be helping. All this took place during Goldstein’s busiest booking season. Since she was not able to respond to client emails or answer their questions about bookings, her business suffered. When the busy season was over in December, she bought a new desktop PC to replace her crippled computer.

Goldstein estimated that she lost about $17,000 worth of business and additional expenses due to her PC. Although she repeatedly contacted Microsoft, she said the representatives were unable to help her. One representative even offered to pay her $150 to “go away.” Goldstein used this as proof of guilt in building her case against Microsoft. The Small Claims Court heard her case in March. While Goldstein came to court very prepared with all of her documents, Microsoft did not even bother to send an attorney. They sent an unprepared store representative. Goldstein based her claim on California’s UCC arguing that Microsoft’s forced upgrade led to lost wages. She won the case and was awarded $10,000. Microsoft originally said they would appeal, but ended up paying Goldstein the full amount one month later to avoid fees associated with further litigation.

Windows 7 users know that Microsoft has aggressively been pushing the update for months now. They started off by asking customers to “reserve” their copy of the new update, but later got more aggressive and automatically started updating certain PCs. More and more people are starting to complaint about the company’s tactics. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is currently investigating Microsoft. Goldstein says she suffered from the update and urges other to speak up if they lost any money due it. Goldstein believes companies should not be allowed to push their products at the expense of small businesses. She provided her phone number and e-mail address in the link below for anyone interested in speaking to her about her case.

Source referenced: Computer World

Avoiding HIPAA Penalties

Avoiding HIPAA Penalties

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) shared a resolution agreement it reached with Anchorage Community Mental Health Services (ACMHS) in 2014 as a way to emphasize the importance of basic security measures when it comes to HIPAA.

OCR and ACMHS entered into a resolution agreement after ACMHS failed to updates its IT requirements and had unsupported software. This compromise in security led to a breach of 2,743 individual accounts. The investigation by the OCR found that ACMHS adopted sample Security Rule policies, but failed to adhere to them. Not only did they fail to conduct accurate assessments of potential risks, ACMHS even failed to ensure information technology resources were regularly updated. Due to their carelessness, ACMHS paid a $150,000 fine and was required to come up with a corrective action plan. The OCR also required a two-year compliance reporting period from the mental health services provider. Listed below are some tips that can help  you avoid being in ACMHS’s situation.

Six Tips to Avoid HIPAA Penalties

Tip #1: Identify software key to the security of information and establish procedures. Maintenance schedules to ensure timely installation of patches and updates.

Tip #2: Identify employees who are responsible for monitoring and installing available patches and updates. Be sure to inform them about the importance of their job and the importance of adhering to HIPAA guidelines.

Tip #3: Ensure firewalls are in place with threat identification monitoring of inbound and outbound traffic.

Tip #4: Adequately support information technology resources.

Tip #5: Regularly conduct security risk assessments, including an evaluation of what risks might be posed by the software and hardware in use, and promptly address areas of high risk.

Tip #6: Implement, follow, and regularly update HIPAA policies and procedures that are developed to address the security risks of your organization, as identified by security risk assessments. Don’t put sample HIPAA policies on a shelf to collect dust, utilize them.

HIPAA was very generous to ACMHS in only fining them $150,000. Unfortunately, they are not always so generous. Following the tips specified above should help you avoid costly HIPAA penalties for your business or organization.

Source referenced: JD Supra




Is Flashing Your Head Lights Illegal?

Is Flashing Your Head Lights Illegal?

Michael Eli was cited in November 2012 for having signaled an approaching vehicle with his head lights. He was trying to warn of an impending speed trap. Such a signal is prohibited by a Louisville, Missouri ordinance. The municipal judge overseeing the case, told Eli that the standard fine would be $1,000.00. When Eli announced he would be pleading not guilty to the charge, the judge became frustrated and claimed Eli was obstructing justice.

The case was then taken on by the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri who sued on behalf of Eli. The Federal Judge hearing the case was Judge Henry Autrey, who predicted that the plaintiff will succeed in his free speech claim against the City of Ellisville. Autrey wrote that Eli’s form of communication was in no way illegal and said his conduct, “was clearly inapplicable to the expressive conduct at issue.” With this Autrey issued a preliminary injunction to prevent Missouri towns from ticketing or further prosecuting drivers for flashing their head lights. Now, Ellisville City Attorney George Restovich has confirmed that the city changed it’s policy and no longer pulls over people for flashing headlights.

Eli’s charge was of course dropped as the case continued through court.The American Civil Liberties Union legal director representing Eli, states that this will be the first instance in which a federal judge will address the issue and he hopes other jurisdictions will take notice.

With this, Autrey has taken the first steps toward protecting yet another expression protected under the 1st Amendment, which had been unlawfully persecuted. Flashing headlights, even if it is to warn other drivers of a speed trap, is constitutionally protected speech.

Source Referenced: ABA Journal

Are you using social media during the hiring process? Here’s what to watch out for.

The Statistics:

When speaking with our clients we find that the majority turn to social media when going through the hiring process. 43% of employers say social recruiting has led to higher quality candidates, leading them to believe hiring through social media is the way to go in the future. While social media can act as a great supplement to hiring, it can also act as a slippery slope to civil lawsuits if it is the only method used during the hiring process. A 2012 Social Recruiting survey and 2015 Recruiter Nation survey, both from Jobvite, indicate that 96% of employers use or anticipate using social media as a screening of future employees. Approximately 47% of employers turn to Twitter, 55% use Facebook, and an overwhelming 87% turn to LinkedIn for quick background information on potential employees. In fact, 56% of recruiters find candidates from social media sites and 73% of employers have successfully hired a candidate through social networks. However, how much information is too much information?


Why using social media in the hiring process is tricky business:

There are certain “potential employee” aspects which the law would rather an employer not know before conducting interviews. Specifics include, race, gender, religion, disabilities and sexual orientation. When going through personal social media sites, such information is often easy to find and view. Using this information at any time during the hiring process would violate many anti-discrimination laws. These laws include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). This prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). This protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older; and
  • Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). This prohibits employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments.

Here enters the tricky part. Even if an employer does not base his or her decision of hiring a certain individual on the information gained from social media sites, how can the employer prove this? If the individual who was turned down for the job learns that his or her social media site was viewed, he might claim that it was for this reason that he was not hired for the open job position. This claim will inevitably lead to a discrimination lawsuit.

How can hiring employers avoid discrimination lawsuits?

For starters, it is always best to wait until after an interview has taken place to look up a potential employee on social media sites. Even this however does not fully protect employers. So what does?

  • Using an outside screening company which might gather information from social media sites, or using an existing employee to gather social media information is acceptable, so long as the employee is not involved in the hiring process.
  • Only gather information pertaining to education, or experience. Do not gather or utilize any information which is protected under anti-discrimination laws.
  • Include an acknowledgement statement on job applications which allows the employer to access the potential employee’s social media site, for business purposes only.
  • Incorporate a social media process within company policy, explaining the do’s and don’ts of using social media during screening processes and be sure to indicate such a process is used only when determining applicants job qualifications and experience. Also be sure that existing employees are well trained on this matter according to the policy.
  • Always keep copies and records of what information and which sites were used during hiring so that it can be proved that only valid information, which does not violate anti-discrimination laws, were used during the hiring process.

By following these steps, you can help protect yourself and your business from unwanted discrimination lawsuits. The information on Social Media sites has grown at tremendous rates over the last ten years, and can be very tempting during the hiring process, but learning how to filter and organize such information can mean a lot of time and money saved both for you and your business.

Data referenced:

  1. 2012 Social Recruiting Survey
  2. 2015 Recruiter Nation Survey




Keeping a Secret Takes Work

A Superior Court decision in Massachusetts sets new grounds for companies endeavoring to keep their trade secrets safe. The key point in this case is that in order to keep trade secrets safe, companies must actually demonstrate an effort to do so. Such information must be appropriately kept safe from independent contractors. If not, companies risk legally losing their trade secrets.

In the case of C.R.T.R. v Lao, C.R.T.R was suing for misappropriation of trade secrets. C.R.T.R was an “e-waste” company that recycled non-working electronics. Jimmy Lao became one of C.R.T.R’s 20 buyers back in 2007 and sold his shares to buyers in Asia. Eventually, Lao began negotiations in the hopes of purchasing C.R.T.R. through his own company, Honour Crown Asia. During the negotiations, Jimmy Lao’s nephew, Kenneth Lao, began working as an independent contractor for C.R.T.R, as well as working for Honour Crown Asia, as known by C.R.T.R. When negotiations between Jimmy Lao and C.R.T.R. fell through, Kenneth resigned from his position and took  C.R.T.R’s company lists, accounting information, and other confidential information with him.

As a result, Kenneth was sued for misappropriation of trade secrets, while Jimmy Lao and Honour Crown Asia were sued for “unfair and deceptive business practices.” Summary judgment, on both counts, was granted by the court after discovery, as requested by the defendants. The court explained that C.R.T.R. did not take the appropriate steps to protect its trade secrets, knowing that Kenneth Lao was simultaneously working for Honour Crown Asia while working for its company. C.R.T.R. never had Kenneth sign a confidentiality agreement. Nor did it maintain a confidentiality policy regarding its information, which employees are required to follow. As for Jimmy Lao and Honour Crown Asia, summary judgement was granted on the grounds that, “C.R.T.R. had not presented any evidence that the defendants’ conduct was immoral, unethical, oppressive or unscrupulous.”

This case serves as a great reminder to all employers that being lax on confidentiality policies and agreements can be quite costly. When working with our employer clients, we always advise they protect their trade secrets by keeping such policies on the matter up to date, as well as protecting their confidential information through agreements that last through and after a contract of an independent contractor. By demonstrating proactive efforts in protecting your trade secrets, you will more likely be able to uphold such efforts in a court of law.