Emoji-Awareness in Law

Is that winky-face or heart eye emoji considered friendly or flirtatious at your office? Emojis have created a tricky new area of employment law that attorneys now must face. In fact, employment attorneys might even want to think about setting up emoji-awareness seminars for companies on how emoji and apps are creating new conflicts in the workplace.

Leigh Goddard, partner at McDonald Carano, recently sat down with Inside Counsel to discuss the legal implications of emoji use in the workplace. Goddard practices in commercial and complex litigation, employment & labor law, and trust & estate litigation. Her representation covers all aspects of litigation, from investigation through filing of initial pleadings, discovery, and motion practice, to trial.

“Companies do not necessarily need to set up emoji-awareness seminars,” she explained. “Rather, they should insist that employees remain professional in their communication style so that the meaning of the communication is not misconstrued. Existing harassment and discrimination policies likely already cover emoji and emoticons, but it would be wise for companies to provide additional examples in their handbooks and trainings regarding the use of emoji.”

For example, applications like Slack are electronic communications platforms designed to facilitate discussions among team members. These platforms are no different from existing systems, including email, message boards, Instagram, Facebook and more. Emoji should typically not be used in professional communications and can alter the meaning or intent of communications. According to Goddard, as with any other form of electronic communication, humor, sarcasm or intent can be misconstrued, and this is no different when emojis are used in communications are used in communications with co-workers.

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By Amanda Ciccatelli

Inside Counsel (9/7/17)


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McDonald Carano has shaped the Nevada landscape for nearly 70 years. With over 50 lawyers in our offices in Las Vegas and Reno, we are Nevada's law firm for business. We proudly represent Fortune 500 companies, financial and governmental institutions, fast-growth and mid-market companies, entrepreneurs, start-up ventures, non-profit organizations and individuals. Our attorneys deliver cross-discipline, one-stop, commercial law and government affairs counsel. Our dedication to clients, innovative thinking and practical solutions based in sound business and legal judgment are at the heart of our practice. For more information, visit mcdonaldcarano.com, call 702.873.4100 (Las Vegas office) or 775.788.200 (Reno office), or email info@mcdonaldcarano.com.

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