Online Privacy In The Workplace

by Five Fantastic Lawyers™ on January 15, 2014

Online Privacy The issue of privacy and online presence has been at the forefront of many debates over the past year as many more employers and others are using the information found online as a way of gauging a person or perhaps even disciplining their actions. This is a legal issue as many of those posts, pictures, thoughts and videos individuals put on social media sites are those of a personal nature and are not typically indicative of their work or school. This is where the issue of privacy comes in to play as many question whether employers, schools or others have the right to fire, demote or suspend someone based on something seen online.

Pictures Speak Volumes

There have been numerous cases of late where teachers or those in positions of respect and power have been let go from their jobs or suspended due to pictures found online that show them in controversial or even slightly personal situations. In fact, many have lobbied to be reinstated at their jobs if they have found themselves fired as a teacher for having social media pictures of themselves out with friends drinking or posing in a bathing suit. This begs the question of where the line between professional and personal life begins and ends. It is becoming one of those key legal issues where many are fighting back as the incidents are happening more often as more and more people use social media to stay in touch with friends and showcase their life and lifestyle.

Written Words Can Be Good or Bad

The posts and comments one makes online are visible to just about anyone, including employers and teachers. This means that one should use high caution when making derogatory remarks about a teacher or employer as those could be used against the person. This is especially true in a workplace situation where if one posts company information, protected data or even harshly worded criticisms of the business; the business could view this as a hostile and insubordination issue. This could result in grounds for terminating ones employment and thus those who choose to post work related complaints or issues online need to understand that they are taking that risk.

The continual usage of social media has created a legal scenario where these issues are being explored on a case by case basis as no two are the same. This is also rooted in the fact that many schools and employers do not have blanket policies currently in place to dissuade such online behavior. It is time that those employers and schools that have had such issues arise take the time update both employee and student handbooks outlining what is and what is not acceptable social media behavior.

The rampant and routine use of social media by individuals continues to increase and thus these types of legal issues will continue to present themselves until more strict and definitive rules regarding such online activity are set in stone. This is in the best interest of all but until those are created; it is in the best interest of all to use common sense when making those comments or posting those pictures online if they have even a shadow of a doubt about how they will be perceived.

Featured image: Creative Commons image source

This post was contributed by Eduardo Dieguez, blog writer at Rue, Ziffra & Caldwell, P. A. Eduardo is a 1st generation American born Cuban that is currently in pursuit of his AA Degree.

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