Topic of the Week Workplace Surveillance on Social Media and Employer Computers
Generally, employers have the right to monitor their employees use of the Internet on computers owned by the employer, during employees’ on-duty hours. This allows employers to monitor your website activity, e-mail account, and instant messages. This right, howbeit, cannot be used as a means of discrimination. Federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against a prospective or current employee based on information on the employee's social media relating to their race, color, national origin, gender, age, disability, and immigration or citizen status. However, employers can and do use information on such websites as a method of conducting background checks. Employees should therefore be conscious of what information they display on social media websites. 1. How does social networking and social media relate to the workplace?
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 viewing the public social media profiles of job candidates. 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.
2. If an employer asks for my social media password, how should I react?
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:
- Create a page that is purely business and bring that up;
- Make sure you only put information on Facebook that portrays you in a positive and professional light and require your tagged photos to be approved by you;
- State you would be glad to bring up your LinkedIn or Google profile instead as that is business-related;
- State that Facebook is like a diary, something to be opened only by people with authorization;
- Ask them to bring their page up and then search for you.
Note that if your state’s law protects you from providing this information and being punished for refusing to do so, you are not required to provide your login information. If you believe that your employer had violated your state’s employer privacy law by asking for the username and password to your social media accounts, you may want to contact an employment attorney.