We Interrupt this Pandemic to Bring You an Important Message from #PoorJennifer

While we will continue to keep you up-to-date on the important legal issues about which you need to be aware, we thought we’d take a quick break and give you a little public service announcement on a potential workplace headache on which you may not yet have focused. 

A remote workforce has unique challenges, including ensuring productivity, tracking time and maintaining engagement. Among these unique issues are those new ones that may arise from the proliferation of virtual meetings, particularly those enhanced by live video on platforms like Skype and Zoom. A lot can go wrong and already has. Just ask #PoorJennifer. 

If you are not among the more than 7.5 million viewers of the March 22 Zoom meeting gone wrong, we’ll enlighten you. During a virtual meeting with what appeared to be 11 co-workers, Jennifer stood up, carried her laptop to the bathroom, put it on the floor with the camera facing her, pulled down her pants and while still focused on her employer’s business, she started to do her business for all to see. Yikes! The video went viral (sorry…too soon?) and has prompted a lot of commentary around the world and the new hashtag, #PoorJennifer, which trended just long enough for even us to see. While Jennifer’s potty break injected some momentary comic relief into an otherwise dismal week, it quickly became a serious matter for many. In fact, Jennifer has become a symbol for new potential employer liabilities.

In order for the world to see Jennifer’s porcelain plight, two things had to happen. First, the meeting had to be recorded. That could happen by virtue of the host hitting the record feature on Zoom or not blocking participants from recording. Even if the host disabled the record feature, those darn cell phones can record anything. The second thing that had to occur is that one of Jennifer’s charming co-workers had to post the video. Those co-workers, whose full names appear below their images in the Brady Bunch boxes in Zoom gallery view, have been referred to by their adoring fans on Twitter as #Covidiots. Those same fans have implored the yet unnamed employer to terminate the yet unnamed Covidiot who made Jennifer a media star. Some have suggested criminal charges and, of course, in no time someone tweeted, We’ll see how #PoorJennifer is after she sues…and WINS. #JusticeforJennifer. 

Let’s start with the recording. It sure beats taking notes, but might not be such a great idea. If you’re going to do it, informing the group is important, though in a dual consent state (call us, if this doesn’t make sense), you better get permission. Even with everyone on board, for us, recording means evidence and evidence in our line of work is often a disaster. Comments that might offend and the involuntary facial expressions of managers in response will forever be on the record. We don’t yet know who Jennifer’s boss is, but if he’s the smirky guy in the upper left corner of the video, he’s in big trouble. The manner in which Jennifer’s employer responds to this debacle is critical. So in the midst of this chaos, the employer needs to investigate and take prompt remedial action to deal with the Covidiot.

Another important point of etiquette for the new normal: know what’s happening in the background that might be incriminating. Last week, for example, one Tweeter reported that during a Zoom meeting, her boyfriend was ripping the bong in the background which we have since learned does not mean tearing up something. And one poor Fordham professor told the NY Post that during his first Zoom class, from behind one of his 90 students, “I could see a nude man rising from a sofa in her living room, and it was clear from her face that she had just had a great night.” TMI Prof.

We are all suddenly facing so many new, complicated and concerning challenges. One of those challenges, as #PoorJennifer learned the hard way, is adjusting to the new work style that has been thrust upon so many of us.  There are, and will continue to be, new legal bumps in the road. As we spot those bumps on the horizon, we’ll warn you. In the meantime, and what we care about most, is that all of you stay healthy, safe and optimistic that we will all soon be out of this with a new perspective on life–and maybe a few new neuroses and far more toilet paper than we will ever need.