Social Media and Employee Privacy in the Workplace

Social Media and Employee Privacy in the Workplace

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Hello my name is David Scher and I am an attorney
at The Employment Law Group. Today I would like to talk about data privacy and data security,
especially in the employment context. Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, said that the
amount of data being put out by human beings in the world every two days is the same amount
of data that has been put out in human history going back to the beginning of recorded history
all the way until the year 2003. In other words, every two days the amount of data that
is coming out into the world is the same as thousands of years of data in prior history
before there was advance computing technologies. That really has changed the world. On Facebook
there are 2.5 billion posts per day. There are about three thousand tweets happening
on Twitter every second. During the presidential debate there were 105 thousand tweets per
second, really extraordinary amount of information that is coming out there. Not to mention the
innumerable social media websites and the ability of websites like Spokeo and other
related websites to find out just about anything on anyone, even on Google Earth for example
looking at someone’s house. What does this all mean in the employment
context? It is very important for employers to understand what information is coming in
and what information they need to know about. We recommend that an employer have a very
clear yet reasonable social media policy. It is simply a reality that employers are
going to use Facebook and other social media at work. They may do so on their private phones
for example. A social media policy should advise employees that information they obtain
while using corporate computers is company information and could be surveyed or used
in any context including an investigation so employees are on notice that if they are
using their computer for personal reasons of any kind that that information could actually
be obtained, even if it is so fleeting as a text. Furthermore, we recommend that employers
conduct thorough background searches to include social media, perhaps even hiring a third
party investigator to understand what is out there, what the employee is doing so the employer
can be educated before they hire an employee and make an educated decision based on legitimate
legal reasons for hiring or not hiring an employee.
Now if you are an employee what should you do? First of all, generally you shouldn’t
be posting about your employer on social media. Now it is lawful to engage in what is called
concerted activity. That means it is lawful to post on social media gripes or concerns
about an employer if you think you are gathering or organizing a response, like a union type
of response. And it may even be lawful to disclose illegal conduct that your employer
is engaging in, if you are doing so for purposes of trying to notify management and correct
the problem. But even though it may be legitimate, it’s certainly not the best idea. It certainly
doesn’t engender good relationships with your employer and it really isn’t the best
way to disclose illegal conduct to your employer. The better course of action is not to talk
about or gossip about your employer on social media, but instead to prepare clear written
instructions and written information directly to your employer, to your manager, to the
Human Resources department and the compliance department. This will provide you the best
protection against retaliation and will ensure that your disclosure can be protected under
the law. If you have questions about this, The Employment Law Group can handle these
types of issues and does so all the time. You can reach us at www.employmentlawgroup.com.
Thanks and have a really fantastic day.

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