Social Media

I read an article by Dr. Travis Bradberry entitled “9 Idiotic Office Rules That Drive Everyone Insane” published on December 12, 2015 in the Huffington Post, that has a lot of good advice for employers but I want to comment on one of his thoughts.

He discussed how many firms restrict the use of the Internet while on the job, specifically Social Media type offerings. Oftentimes there are legitimate business interests that can be pursued on different platforms, from learning more about potential customers and partners on LinkedIn to understanding different competitors’ offerings better on FaceBook, Twitter and the like. So while I agree that an outright ban on Social Media should be avoided in the workplace, hiring professionals and managers should not use Social Media as part of their background due diligence of potential employees as they are encouraged to do so.

It’s not that you can’t learn a great deal of potentially useful information that way, it’s simply that you can also learn information that is prohibited from guiding your hiring decisions. For example, by accessing an interviewee’s Facebook profile you can potentially learn their race, marital status, religion, political beliefs and other protected traits. None of those can be considered when you decide to offer employment. (See the NYS Executive Law Article 15 Human Rights Law)

Further, no manager or HR personnel should require an employee to “friend” or “like” or “link” with him or her as a condition of employment, nor should a company fire an employee simply for posting a comment on Facebook that it doesn’t like. The test is if it relates to the employee’s “legal recreational activities outside work hours, off of the employer’s premises and without use of the employer’s equipment or other property,” then the company cannot retaliate. Thus, firms should not be quick to terminate or adversely impact an employee for Social Media activities.  (See NY Labor Law – Article 7 Section 201-D)

We all want a better workplace for ourselves and our employees. Happy employees make for happy clients and customers. We simply need to be sure that our policies achieve legitimate business objectives within the bounds of applicable law.

The opinions expressed are those of the author. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice. 

Francine E. Love
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Founder and Managing Attorney at Love Law Firm, PLLC which dedicates its practice to New York business law
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