Tight restriction of social media use may end up damaging employee relations. Set out in the European Convention on Human Rights is the right for everyone to have their private life respected, including private correspondence. They have, in effect, given away their right to privacy. If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article and would like to speak to an HR Employment expert, then please do not hesitate in calling us FREE of charge on Monitoring social media of employees, and prospective employees, is a sensitive issue that can provoke polarised opinions.
Here is my advice on how employers can strike a good balance:. It is therefore imperative for employers to have a clear social media policy in place to cover the following points: Ask our in-house employment law expert Tim any question you want! Your Phone Number required. Your Job Title required.
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Is it acceptable to monitor an employees social media?
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Here is my advice on how employers can strike a good balance: Social media is a useful tool to vet new employees during the recruitment process, but be aware of the anti-discrimination legislation i. In some instances, employees have been terminated due to their comments and posts on social media websites. In other ways, employers have used social media to conduct some sort of background checks on potential hires. Employers want to ensure a potential hire is qualified and will reflect well on the company.
As a result, many employers conduct a background check that includes social media. An online profile can provide information on professional credentials, career objectives, maturity and judgment, abuse of drugs or alcohol, current employment status, and other red flags. However, there is potential discrimination if employers use personal information such as age, race, disability, religion, national origin, or gender to make a hiring decision. As a result, state and federal laws explicitly prohibit that kind of conduct.
There are no federal laws that prohibit an employer from requiring an employee or job applicant to provide their username and password for social media accounts. However, the laws vary from state to state, and do not provide the same level of protection in each state. Other states are considering legislation; you can track these bills by visiting the National Conference of State Legislature's website. For more information on this rapidly growing area of the law, contact an employment lawyer in you area. Being asked for your social media password by your employer or potential employer can be a nerve-wrecking experience.
As a result, you should be prepared for this question. Here are some things that you can do instead: Yes, and most employers do. Employers concerned about lost productivity, excessive bandwidth usage, viral invasions, dissemination of proprietary information and their liability for sexual and other forms of harassment when explicit documents are exchanged via e-mail or the web, believe that monitoring is an important deterrent to inappropriate Internet and computer usage. Therefore, employers that provide you with a computer system and Internet access are free to monitor almost everything that you do with the computer and Internet access with which you have been provided.
This is especially true when an employer gives you a written policy regarding the monitoring of your computer use. Courts have generally agreed that an employee does not have a reasonable expectation of privacy when using a device owned and issued by the employer. In one case, the court ruled that even though the employer told its employees that their e-mail communications would not be intercepted, and that the employees would not be reprimanded or terminated based on the contents of their e-mails, the terminated employee could not assert that his reliance on these employer promises should prevent his termination by the employer.
Some union contracts or state laws such as those in California , may limit an employer's ability to monitor your computer activity. Only Connecticut and Delaware require employers to notify employees that their e-mail is being monitored, while Colorado and Tennessee require state and other public entities to adopt policies regarding the monitoring of employee's email.
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The technology exists for your employer to monitor almost any aspect of your computer usage, such as:. If you can do it on your work computer or on devices such as PDAs provided for your work use, then you can expect that your employer has the ability to monitor it. Even without a policy, however, your employer still may be monitoring your computer and Internet activity.
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Work Email Generally, whatever correspondence done through a company email account is considered the property of the employer. This means that it can be monitored by the company without notice to the employee. The legal reasoning behind this is because courts have ruled that there is no reasonable expectation of privacy on a work email. Private Email Yes, with certain limitations. Only two states, Connecticut and Delaware , require employers to notify employees that their e-mail is being monitored. Certain companies even have software that aids them in monitoring your e-mail.
Such software pulls up any e-mails that mention "key words" such as:. If you want to send a private e-mail, it is best to use non-work e-mail accounts such as Yahoo! However, these e-mail accounts can sometimes be monitored as well. In one case, an employer searched through an employee's personal e-mails accounts on a company computer, gaining access to the accounts due to the storage of the employee's user names and passwords on the computer. Although the employee won the case, employees should be aware of the potential that any saved user names and passwords on a company computer may be subject to monitoring by the employer.
It is best not to discuss non-work related or private issues at all while using your office computer, if you are concerned that your employer may be monitoring your computer activities or your employer's policies permit computer and Internet monitoring. Outgoing e-mail, or e-mail going from one co-worker to another, can be used as the basis for firing employees. Be careful about saying negative things about your bosses, coworkers, or the company for which you work in e-mails, especially when using your work address to send this information outside the company.
Also, be very careful to check your address line before sending your e-mail, as workers have been very embarrassed - if not out of a job - when copying a private e-mail intended for only one or a few individuals to the company intranet, large distribution list, or listserv.
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You may have some protection if you are communicating with your coworkers about work conditions, under laws that protect an employee's ability to engage in " concerted activity. Consult an labor and employment lawyer in your area to determine whether your rights have been violated. They also worry about the loss of productivity caused by Internet surfing during work hours, and have fired employees for using the Internet for non-work related activities such as online shopping or sports sites.
As it is possible -- and even probable in many workplaces -- that your online activity is being monitored, be sure you know what your employer's monitoring policy is before engaging in activity during work time that is not work-related. You should not visit any websites that you would not want your employer to see or that your co-workers might find offensive. While most employers do not mind if your personal internet use is occasional and doesn't interfere with your work, some employers do mind, and expect you to confine your personal Internet usage to non-work hours.
Generally, an employer can fire you for having a personal website or blog that it deems inappropriate, with very limited exceptions. Even if you have a non-work related website that you don't access from your office, employers can fire you if they feel the content on your personal site or blog is offensive to them or to potential clients, or reflects badly on the company. For more information about how to blog without risking termination, see our site's page on off-duty conduct. California , Colorado , Connecticut , Illinois , Minnesota , Nevada , New York , North Dakota , and Tennessee all have laws that prohibit employers from firing an employee for engaging in lawful conduct, or for using lawful products ex: However, courts in these states will weigh the employee protections against an employer's business interests, and typically rule that those interests outweigh employee privacy concerns and permit the employer to be exempt from the law.
Some laws provide explicit exemptions for employers: Some state laws regarding personnel records may protect an employee's off-duty Internet activities. For example, in Michigan and Illinois employers cannot gather or keep information of an employee's communications or non-employment activities, without the employee consent.
However, exceptions exist in both states that allow employers to keep records of an employee's criminal activity, activity on the employer's property, or activity on the employer's time which may cause damage to the employer's business. Outside of these exceptions, employers may be liable for violating these laws or retaliating against an employee on the basis of improperly gathered information.
Although an employer might be able to legally fire you for your content on social networking and social media websites, the National Labor Relations Board NLRB has stated that, under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act NLRA , workers' social networking and social media usage can be protected if it is "concerted activity" for the purpose of collective bargaining, mutual aid or protection. Thus, protesting about working conditions might be protected, while complaining about a boss might not be.
If an employer's social networking policies are broad and vague, that works against the employer during Section 7 considerations done by courts. An employer may be violating federal law if they access Facebook posts of an employee, when the employee intended the posts to remain private by adjusting the privacy settings to limit access only to the employee's Facebook friends, the employer is not a Facebook friend of the employee, and they access the posts without authorization, or intentionally exceeds authorization.
The court ruled that Facebook wall posts are electronic communications, transmitted by an electronic communication service, placed in electronic storage, and can be deemed private if the Facebook user set her privacy settings to limit access to information on the user's Facebook profile.