There is no doubt that social media has completely changed the way that people interact on a daily basis. Unfortunately the issue of what you post online and how your boss can react to said issue has yet to be firmly defined.
I’ll admit I’ve grown up in a generation that has seen the internet from its early beginnings to the instantaneous updates of every action of every day.
But with that, I don’t believe that employers can have the expectation of its employees to not have a life outside of the office. They should not have the ability to hire and fire based solely off of what they’ve seen online rather than objectively judging a person based on their capacity to accomplish assigned tasks and their performance on the job.
Sure, if you’ve got multiple profiles on social media websites its no invasion of privacy or rights for your boss to look you up and see information that is readily available to the public. But to be penalized for an opinion or an action that has no direct effect on the company or business that you both work for is nothing but unfair.
The problem that comes into the picture is that this kind of issue sometimes must be looked at on a case-by-case basis, especially if someone has difficulty separating his or her personal and professional lives. There have been recent stories regarding these kinds of situations and how they’ve been handled differently because this is all still relatively new territory for both employers and employees. Stories of how this has happened in different areas reinforce this idea, really showing those cases that are not as common but still shouldn’t be overlooked.
The head of a police department, fire department, school or really any kind of organization that regularly serves the community should be concerned when an employee regularly posts racist or anti-semitic remarks and look into said employee’s conduct.
A company that specializes in technology and innovation should be concerned and address the issue if an employee is disclosing trade secrets to competition or the public as its basically undermining the company’s daily operations. If an athlete is constantly defaming the team and organization that he or she plays for or is a part of, he or she may want out in the first place so it would be worth looking at.
With that, if you’re doing your job on a consistent basis, then why should your boss even care what you do in your free time? It shouldn’t be an issue what you do off the clock if you come into work on time every morning, respectful to your employer and fellow co-workers and continually perform at or above organization expectations.
Because this is new territory, the law hasn’t clearly been defined as how to handle these kinds of issues. It seems that most recently States have been taking the side of employees with six states including Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Illinois and California outlawing employer efforts to coerce employees into turning over social media account information at the beginning of this year. Otherwise there aren’t many if any legal ramifications for actions taken against employees due to social media usage. Once again the problem is that these issues can’t be looked at in black and white because there is just so much gray area in between.
If employers are going to discipline employees based on their use of social media and sharing what they do in their free time, then the employer needs to have set rules and regulations established which outline what is okay and what’s not; as well as actions that could be taken against them and consequences of such behavior while always informing their employees.
People still have to be aware of these kinds of things though because no one, especially college students, can know where their lives will be in 20 year’s time. And once something is on the internet for the world to see there are no guarantees that it will be going away. I don’t think anyone should have to be fearful of having a personal life and having the freedom to share that life with others online due to consequences that may arise in trying to find or keep a job.