COVID-19 data privacy could be a Pandora’s box

by Gerald Sauer

It has taken a global pandemic to finally move legislators in DC toward progress on consumer privacy issues. Despite an urgent need for a comprehensive legal framework to protect personal data, more than a year after it first began looking at a federal scheme, Congress has not managed to reach consensus on a framework such as the European Union’s GDPR or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Now, calls from public health experts to implement a system of contact tracing of individuals infected with COVID-19, and a seat-of-the-pants Senate proposal, have put data protection into hyperdrive.

We’re at a critical juncture, with the health crisis driving us toward a quick fix that could jeopardize the broader public interest. It’s the perfect moment for Congress to put differences aside and enact comprehensive federal data privacy laws, while also addressing the unique challenges of data collection during the coronavirus pandemic. A powerful cure is needed for the country’s data privacy disease, not simply an interim coronavirus relief patch that could, as explained below, open a Pandora’s box of problems.

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For Lawyers, Social Distancing Could Be the New Normal: Gerald Sauer’s article for Law.com

For legal professionals, this new virus has completely rewritten how business is done. Courthouses are closed, office buildings are empty and a lot of things that once were urgent have suddenly been put on indefinite hold.

by Gerald Sauer

The novel coronavirus pandemic is reshaping our world in ways large and small, from compulsive hand washing to take-out meals to home-schooling. As we’re all forced to shelter in place, we find ourselves connecting with others in ways we may not have known about (e.g., Zoom), and in ways we never truly appreciated (e.g., email, texting, messaging).

For legal professionals, this new virus has completely rewritten how business is done. Courthouses are closed, office buildings are empty and a lot of things that once were urgent have suddenly been put on indefinite hold. We no longer meet in person with clients, we’ve stopped going to court, and we can’t even enjoy collegial get-togethers to exchange business cards and referrals.

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Michael Avenatti leaves the federal court in New York City.

Attorneys Should Relearn Rules of Civility: Gerald Sauer’s article for Bloomberg Law

Basic tenets of civility and decorum in the legal profession are being drowned out by a win-at-any-cost mentality, writes Gerald Sauer, founding partner at Sauer & Wagner LLP in Los Angeles. Legal rules, ethics standards, and principles of civility were established not for the purpose of being pushed and broken, but to ensure a system of fairness, he says.

by Gerald Sauer

Recently, a judge before whom I appeared told me that I had an “old-school sense of ethics.” Her comment took me by surprise, but upon further reflection I realized that she was right: I always wear a suit and tie to court; I stand up when I’m speaking to a judge, and I treat witnesses and opposing counsel with respect. I’m decidedly “old school.”

How sad. That I’m considered an outlier in my profession speaks to the pervasive degradation of the practice of law. In a society increasingly defined by the norms of reality TV, it seems to have become acceptable for lawyers to push buttons and break rules.

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Job (In)Security: How to Manage Economic Uncertainty: Sonya Goodwin’s article for Glassdoor

The coronavirus pandemic might be the biggest threat to employees — and the economy — since the 2008 recession. Are you protected if your employer cuts back your hours or lays you off?

by Sonya Goodwin

Time Off? 

If you need time off because you or a loved one is affected by coronavirus, or if your place of work or child’s school is closed, you may get up to two weeks’ paid sick leave under a proposed law that passed the House on March 13 and is expected to clear the Senate. As currently drafted, the law covers employers with fewer than 500 employees but exempts smaller employers who can prove economic hardship.  

Some large employers are adopting policies to respond to the pandemic. On top of existing paid sick leave, Walmart will provide up to two weeks’ paid leave for ill or quarantined employees. Darden Restaurants, the parent of Olive Garden, will permanently provide paid sick leave to all hourly employees. State and local governments may also provide limited paid sick leave, and you might be eligible for state disability leave if you’re sick with coronavirus.

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Can My Employer Share My Personal Info? Sonya Goodwin’s article for Glassdoor

Until recently, employers had a lot of latitude to use, share and even market your private information.

by Sonya Goodwin

Gone are the days when you could share droves of personal information with your employer without fear that the company could share or even sell that data outside the company. 

After all, unlike other countries, the U.S. lacks universal comprehensive data protection laws except for narrow areas such as for medical information. 

Luckily, new state laws strengthen your ability to control your information.

Last year, California passed the nation’s first comprehensive law designed to give consumers and employees more control over who has their personal information and what they can do with it. Other states, as well as Congress, are watching the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and some are moving to enact their own data privacy laws. 

Read full story on Glassdoor.com

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