We’ve discussed before how data from social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are being used to gather evidence in criminal trials, against employees (which can lead to lawsuits) and applicants to jobs in the US and abroad, applicants to colleges and graduate schools, politicians and high school students. In November, NPR reported that the National Labor Relations Board is stepping into the fray to protect employees from illegal retaliation for their social-networking site postings.
Now, the Wall Street Journal takes a look at the question: Can employers fire workers over gaffes on Facebook?
Facebook gaffes that can cause trouble in the workplace aren’t unique to drunken college students anymore. As more companies and their workers tap into the world of blogs, Twitter and Facebook, employers are tripping over legal potholes in social media. [...]
Job seekers and employees have long been warned that risqué revelations on Facebook can jeopardize career prospects. But now companies are facing their own challenges for alleged blunders in dealing with social media.
“The intersection of social media and the office is a potential minefield,” said Philip L. Gordon, the Denver-based chairman of the privacy and data-protection practice group at law firm Littler Mendelson PC. Even when a company prevails in such legal actions, “there are reputational risks,” Mr. Gordon added. [...]
Part of the problem is that social networks are brimming over with personal information of employees and job applicants. Along with various suits that have grabbed media attention, the potential for further litigation is broad, lawyers caution. [...]
In Georgia, former high school teacher Ashley Payne sued the local school district in the Superior Court of Barrow County, claiming she was essentially forced to resign over Facebook photos that showed her drinking alcohol during a European vacation, said her attorney, Richard J. Storrs. [...]
Experts say an employer’s’best defense against legal action is to establish a social-media policy that outlines what is and isn’t appropriate in social media, and then to train employees about the policy.
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