As Facebook postings cause controversy on the job, more employers are asking for use of social networking accounts, preparing the talk over online privacy. The newest case about Facebook privacy to generate headlines occurred in Michigan last spring, when teacher’s aide Kimberly Hester posted a photo of a co-worker’s legs with pants around her ankles. The posting wasn’t made while Hester was at the office, but a student’s parent discovered the image, then promptly notified the school district.
Administrators asked Hester to stop her Facebook password so that they could evaluate the photo, but she refused. The district placed Hester on administrative leave before suspending her. She’s now collecting workers compensation and also the case will likely be heard in arbitration in May. “I stand by it,” Hester thought to local television station WSBT. “I did nothing wrong. And I wouldn’t normally, still today, let them in my Facebook. And i also do not think it’s okay to have an employer to ask you.”
A social media profile walks the little difference between private and public, open for viewing but monitored and administered through the user. As increasing numbers of employers question, suspend or fire workers for any posting that reflects poor judgment inside the eyes of employers, the discussion is moving beyond questions of what is appropriate and toward the right to keep profiles private. And the arena for the debate is playing in statehouses and Congressional floors.
Debates about Facebook privacy rights often revisit one central question about how precisely much an account shows someone’s self-image. Negative postings can certainly produce a person seem unfit or unqualified to continue inside their distinctive line of work. For the people in the industry where reputation matters, like teaching, even a playfully suggestive or inappropriate posting may raise concern, such as Hester’s case.
A minumum of one labor relations board, in Connecticut, upheld the right to personal Facebook activity involving a staff who had previously been let go after posting negative comments about her boss to be with her Facebook page. The board found the firing illegal, but with no precedent in a very civil court, not all cases could have similar results.
Facebook advises users to not share their information, and it is own guidelines warn against sharing almost any password or protection. But employers increasingly refer to access. It’s no longer the questionable content that’s under scrutiny, but the user’s entire online identity.
Many users aren’t quick to cave on the pressure, however. In another case, a 12-year-old filed a lawsuit against her school district after it requested Facebook use of investigate concerns the girl was making comments about a school employee and having inappropriate connection with a male student.
The controversy becomes attention nationwide, as lawmakers in several states, including Illinois, Maryland and Michigan, craft social media marketing privacy bills. Even the U.S. Senate weighed in on the trouble in the kind of a Democrat-backed amendment that would prohibit employers from requiring job candidates to “friend” them or pay username and password information. Lawmakers shot around the amendment, which may have legally granted Facebook pages privacy protection akin to that relating to personal property, almost entirely along party lines.
A long time before Facebook, workers hated their bosses, played pranks to embarrass their friends, or involved in activity they wouldn’t want their co-workers to view. But Facebook provides a platform for sharing these moments, intentionally or otherwise. As workers and employers continue to face off about Facebook privacy, lawmakers are likely to still discuss the situation by debating and money practice, or users will adjust their behavior accordingly.