VanAntwerp Attorneys, LLP
Phone: 606-618-0698

The strangest of bedfellows: Social media and the workplace

Modern technology allows easy access data with a tap, swipe or keyboard press. Adding social medial to that mix has created a two-way street. Facebook and Twitter provide friends, family and perfect strangers information into likes, dislikes and beliefs, controversial or otherwise.

Today, people seem to go from screen to screen when accessing, laptops, tablets, smartphones and even smart TVs. Yet, smart is not a word to describe the way many social media enthusiasts use their online platforms/soapboxes.

In the early days of MySpace and other now-defunct websites, employers tried to institute rules requiring account passwords from prospective and existing staff members. Those tactics were summarily shut down quickly with laws enacted in many states banning that practice.

Yet, employers still found themselves with access because of an employee’s lax privacy settings. They were afforded a technological window into an employee’s soul. Their thoughts, beliefs and deepest, darkest secrets became accessible for all to see.

The conduct of employees goes beyond working hours. Countless media stories have told the same story. A staff member who proudly touts their place of employment posts an offensive rant or picture on Twitter or Facebook. Regardless of the hour of the day or night, that employee was summarily fired for damaging the public image of their employer.

Few, if any protections exist for employees posting offensive content online, especially if they can be traced back to their place of work. Employers must be prepared to take action if an employee violates social media or any company policies, up to and including termination.

A safe assumption exists that people who post rants and photos that are racist, sexist and otherwise highly offense are likely already problematic workers who practice what they preach. While exceptions exist, few model employees engage in that type of rhetoric.

Employers should tread carefully and wisely when it comes accessing their employees’ social medial accounts. Even if a friendship exists outside of work, bosses having their direct reports as Facebook friends/Twitter followers and vice versa open those windows up to various problems.

Social media continues to evolve, as are workplace policies governing its use. For legal help, contact VanAntwerp Attorneys, LLP, at 606-618-0698.

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