Monday, December 21, 2009

Social Networking and Some Employment Law Snafus (Part I)

Imagine yourself the Human Resource Specialist for a large employer – as the arena of social networking explodes, you are faced with a series of issues that were never even considered before the days of internet insanity. Let’s try out a handful of these situations, and see how you would fare –
1. One of your employees is found to have posted their photo, complete in company logo shirt, on Facebook.

Does it matter that it’s a personal site? How ‘bout that the logo is represented in the photo?

The outcome might be to consider prohibiting the display of a company logo, or product, etc., on even an employees’ personal site. (Keeping in mind that certain businesses may want to have their logos or products given higher exposure.)

2. What if the employee’s photo is of themselves at work in a skimpy bikini?

Certain websites have privacy abilities where such photos may not even be seen, however, coworkers often bring to your attention items that even the employee themselves may not realize is visible. Can someone’s behavior after work hours be monitored? How does such monitoring balance with freedom of speech protections?

In reality, a situation like this is probably best handled in consultation one-on-one with the involved employee. The best case scenario would be the employee didn’t realize the photo was publicly visible and agrees to remove it. However, another outcome might be to consider prohibiting the posting of photos of work area, or on-duty activities. (For certain companies there is a security justification for such posting prohibition.)

3. What if employees take a pay cut because business is down, and then photos are posted by the boss’ wife on Facebook?

And then the employees start circulating a union petition…and demand a raise?? Isn’t there some similarities to the boss driving up to work in a new car?

At its heart, this is all about perception. If workplace executives or managers are counseled on the business impact of personal posts, along with the encouragement of using privacy settings, it should help. Also, it can’t hurt to increase your transparency, so to speak, of business finances. (And possibly gear up for a union election campaign at the same time!)

We want to hear from you – send your social networking and employment law snafu situations to us this week at, and stay-tuned for Part II!

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