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Employ workers outside America? Two rulings boost your legal risks

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

1. EU harassment rule. Employers in Europe will need to do a better job of preventing sexual harassment. Reason: A newly approved European Union (EU) directive, which takes effect in 2005, gives workers new legal protections in the workplace.

Under the tighter rule, employers must step up prevention to guard against sexual harassment and give employees a regular report on their efforts. The law also gives courts a freer hand to award unlimited damages to employees. Courts in some European countries already acknowledge sexual harassment protections.

For the first time, a definition of sexual harassment has been adopted and applies across Europe. It defines harassment as: "Any form of unwanted verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment."

To learn more about the new law, go to www.idsbrief.co.uk/news/harassment.htm.

2. Canadian Internet privacy. Meanwhile, Canada's top privacy official said in May that employers who monitor their workers' Internet and e-mail use are violating Canadian privacy rights.

In comments at a recent conference, Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski said online surveillance of employees' computer usage is a violation of Canada's Personal Information Protection and Elec-tronic Documents Act. He compared such surveillance to physical searches of desks or lockers because it's a way to collect employees' personal data without permission.

Rule of thumb: In Canada, choose the least privacy-invasive method to discourage Internet or e-mail abuse, then consider more probing methods if necessary.

To get a copy of Your Privacy Responsibilities: A Guide for Businesses and Organizations to the Personal Informa-tion Protection and Electronic Documents Act, visit www.privcom.gc.ca/information/ guide_e.asp.

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