Tag: media policy

Four Reasons Why Employers Should Not Ask for Facebook Passwords

Late last month several US Senators asked Attorney General Eric Holder and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate the legality of employers asking potential employees for their Facebook passwords as a condition of employment.  Soon laws will be in place to clear up the confusion.  However, regardless of the outcome, here are four reasons why employers should just avoid asking an employee for their Facebook password in the first place.  These excerpts were taken from an opinion piece appearing in the 4/8/12 edition of the Chicago Tribune by Jeff Nowak, Partner and Co-Chair of Franczek Radelet’s Labor and Employment Practices Group.

  1. It could expose the employer to discrimination claims.  A fundamental best practice for employers when soliciting information about job candidates is to make certain that any inquiries are “job-related”.  When employers access a candidate’s social media account, they likely are exposed to information that is not job-related and not to be considered in an employment decision.
  2. Employers can also be exposed to privacy claims.  Mr. Nowak points out that social media is the new “water cooler of the workplace”, where employees gather to share personal commentary and complaints.  New legislative issues aside, employers accessing social media could be violating existing anti-eavesdropping and privacy laws depending on the state.
  3. Most employers are not prepared to handle private information.  If an employer misses signals in social media accounts that an employee may engage in conduct harmful of others, will the employer face liability for negligent hiring practices?  Also, once an employer has an employee’s password they are responsible to protect it.
  4. Employer = Big Brother.  Legal issues aside, think of the messages an employer sends to prospective employees by asking for access.  First, it suggests that you lag in your understanding and acceptance of social media, and, second, it says immediately upfront that trust is an issue.

Mr. Nowak summarizes, “Requiring Facebook passwords is not good business.”  It is highly unlikely to bring meaningful benefits.  And, people can erase their media posts in seconds, so why go to the trouble?  HRInsights agrees.

Social Media Policy

Even just a few years ago, many company managers rightly assumed that a Social Media Policy was all about limiting employees’ use of the internet. The priority was to prevent workers from spending company time buying on-line, conducting personal business on-line and, truth be told, watching pornography. It was all about e-mail and personal internet use. Now however, with the growing importance of the internet to a company’s marketing efforts and even now as a distribution and sales channel, it is prudent for small businesses to clearly articulate and communicate their Social Media Policy.

HRInsights would ask you to consider the following 4 subjects when developing your small business Social Media Policy. For those old enough just take out the word “social”, and you might see a rough version of the company’s former Media Policy.

1. Confidentiality:

  • No employee or other compensated representative of the company is able to speak on behalf of the company to any outside individual or organization, whether they be a partner, supplier, competitor, customer, or member of the press without his/her manager’s permission. If you are approached, please refer the inquiring party to the General Manager or other person who has been designated to handle outside inquiries.
  • No employee or other compensated representative of the company can share or otherwise publish confidential and/or proprietary information about the company. This includes but is not limited to information about employees, existing products, new products, services, trademarks, strategies, financial information, and any information that has not been publicly shared by the company.

2. Company References:

  • Inform your manager if you intend to develop a site or a blog where you mention and/or provide opinions and perspectives about the company, its employees, partners, competitors, customers, or current or future products.
  • Company logos, artwork and trademarks are not allowed to be used in employee personal communication in the internet, blogs, or in other social media unless otherwise approved in writing by your immediate supervisor.

3. Competitive activities:

  • Employees or compensated representatives of the company are prohibited from selling, distributing and/or promoting the sale of products and/or services that compete directly with the company’s products and service.

4. Privacy Rights:

  • Employee communications over the internet, in blogs and other social media must show respect to the company, its products and services, other employees, suppliers, customers, distributors. Wrongful statements or misrepresentations of any above-mentioned constituent which is not viewed favorably by management can result in disciplinary actions up to and including termination.
  • Employee communications over the internet, in blogs and other social media must identify the author as an employee of the company and must contain an appropriate disclaimer that his/her views are personal and not intended to represent those of the company and its employees.
  • Out of respect for privacy, it is always good practice to get written permission from those parties and/or individuals who are mentioned in communications published over the internet.