Some companies have in recent years been snooping on the Facebook activities of their employees and prospective employees. Those days are coming to an end – at least in some states. Oregon just became the 11th US state to ban companies from asking employees or potential hires for their social media passwords.
Oregon is not the first to do this; two years ago, Maryland passed a law that banned companies from getting Facebook and Twitter logins from their current and possible employees. At that time, Facebook got on the record condemning the practice. Erik Egan, the Chief Privacy Officer for the social media giant, stated:
‘We don’t think employers should be asking prospective employees to provide their passwords because we don’t think it’s the right thing to do. But it also may cause problems for the employers that they are not anticipating. For example, if an employer sees on Facebook that someone is a member of a protected group (e.g. over a certain age, etc.) that employer may open themselves up to claims of discrimination if they don’t hire that person. ‘
Some experts, such as Inc. Magazine, are recommending that companies use caution when they decide to make a firing decision based upon an employee’s social media information. One recent example was with Lacoste. That firm fired someone for posting his paycheck on Instagram. Many lawyers think that this firing was illegal. They maintain that employees have the full right to share what they earn, according to the national Labor Relations Act.
According to Inc.com, employers should have a strong social media policy in place, but you should reserve punishment for really outrageous things, such as threats of violence or proof that fraud occurred. If you fire someone for posting a paycheck, you are asking for trouble.
If your company is watching the social media profiles of your employees, that is fine. But if you are going to use the information gathered to make hiring or firing decisions, you really need to be sure you are up on the laws in your state. Companies definitely should use social media, and monitor what their employees are doing, but use caution in making decisions based upon that activity.
Social media sure can lead to some strange things – even Facebook has gotten in trouble lately for scanning the private messages of its users. Be careful out there on the social media Interwebs!