New Jersey Employment Law Attorneys
In recent years, an increasing number of employers have started monitoring their employees’ use of social media. In some instances, companies may require employees to “friend” the company or provide passwords to their Facebook account in order to ensure proprietary information isn’t being posted or behavior engaged in that the company believes is at cross purposes with its interests. Additionally, a large percentage of employers now engage in “Facebook profiling,” the practice of checking a job candidate’s Facebook page to learn more about the personal habits or activities of a prospective employee.
The Social Networking Online Protection Act
Recently, however, Congressman Eliot Engel of New York and Congressman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois introduced the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) in order to prevent employers from demanding access to an employee’s or job candidate’s social media websites. Under the terms of SNOPA, employers will not be allowed to require employees to share passwords to personal social media websites (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter) to employers. Additionally, SNOPA prevents employers from using online content to deny a job candidate employment or punish current employees for refusing to share certain kinds of information.
The Ramifications of SNOPA for the Workplace
Already Facebook has threatened legal action against any organization that requires employees to share their Facebook password since, technically speaking, it is a violation of the existing Electronic Communications Protection Act of 1986. Additionally, a number of states have already undertaken initiatives to prevent employers from engaging in this kind of activity.
SNOPA and the Shape of Things to Come
So, what does this mean for employers in New Jersey? First, it’s clear that at both the state and federal level, a movement is afoot to reign in what many have seen as an abuse of the Internet by employers when it comes to hiring and firing decisions. After all, all kinds of information can be gathered from a Facebook page that under the Americans with Disability Act or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 employers are barred from asking about or using.
Secondly, job candidates and current employees can’t always control what friends or family members post on their blogs, Facebook page, or Tweet about. Is it fair to hold unflattering pictures or unpopular political views against an employee that is posted on some else’s Facebook page?
Lastly, while case law is still evolving in this area, early indications suggest employers are not necessarily on as firm legal ground as they assume when making hiring and firing decisions based on an employee’s use of social media. As such, it is in the best interests of an employer to error on the side of caution here and protect it’s employee’s rights and adopt policies consistent with SNOPA and state initiatives that are beginning to gain popularity.
Questions regarding Social Media in the Workplace? Call LaVan Law
If you have questions about the legal dimensions about the use of social media on the part of employers or employees, contact Moorestown, New Jersey employment law attorneys at LaVan Law today. We review employee handbooks and explain what your legal options are in light of current law and what HR policies are in place in the workplace.