This week the internet is buzzing about a waitress who was fired for making disparaging comments on Facebook about a customer. It was inevitable, and if employers have not realized it yet, this story should bring the point home that social networking is yet another issue employers need to take a proactive step in managing. This is also a wake up call for employment lawyers who have neglected to come up to speed on the new issues social networking present in the employment context.
In California, a court has ruled that postings so social networking sites are not private (click here for post). So while it would be difficult for an employee to have a claim for violation of privacy, employers should consider what they can and cannot do regarding information they learn about employees on the internet as well as conducting background checks on the internet. Some employers have even gone as far as asking prospective employees for their login information for social networking sites as part of the interview process.
Social networking sites are here to stay. It is time for employers to manage this issue by learning what they can legally do to protect the company’s interest on the Internet. Employees and individuals have to realize that the information posted on the Internet is usually discoverable by everyone – it is not only a conversation between friends.