Blanchard & Walker Weekly

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.


Thought of the Week

"Employees who are now subject to new levels of surveillance report being both “incredibly stressed out” by the constant monitoring and also afraid to speak up, a recipe for not only dissatisfaction but also burnout, both of which — ironically — decrease productivity."

–Harvard Business Review

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Weekly Comic by Jerry King

Blog of the Week

What Rights Pregnant Freelancers Have

Here’s what you need to know about being pregnant and working as an independent contractor or an employee in the United States.

Top Five News Headlines

  1. U.S. Jobless Claims Fell Last Week, Showing Solid Labor Market
  2. Despite High-Profile Layoffs, Most Workers Likely to Keep Jobs if Recession Comes
  3. What Black Friday Sales Say About the Retail Sector
  4. Elon Musk Claims Apple has Threatened to Remove the Twitter App
  5. Once Arcane Job Openings Survey Becomes Darling of Fed's Eye

List of the Week

from Workplace Fairness

Did you know that:

  • 1/3 of internships are unpaid
  • interns cannot legally perform the tasks of employees without compensation


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    The Legal Details