A recent Pew Research poll indicates 73% of the U.S. population uses social media. It’s out there. There are so many social media outlets to choose from it’s difficult these days to find people not on multiple social media sites. Although Facebook may be suffering from a wave of withdrawal, other sites are maintaining their status or growing. Heck, even myspace is on the resurgence, particularly among teens. For Texas employment lawyers, on both the employer and employee side, social media presents both opportunities and liabilities.
Employment discrimination and social media in Texas
It’s a wealth of information available in litigation to learn details about a person not so easily obtained pre-social media. However, that same wealth of information can create liability for both the employer and the employee. Today’s post will deal with employment discrimination claims but you can read more about social media and employment law by clicking here. Your social media information may be available to your employer in a variety of ways. A large amount of that information has been duplicated by other sites and made available to the public through a basic search engine search of your name (Google yourself).
You may also make that information publicly available by how to set your privacy settings in your accounts. Your employer may also obtain that information because you have added coworkers or your boss as a friend/circle/follower/whatever or somebody with access to your account my share your account information. For now, it is (sort of) legal for your employer to demand your password to review your account. That may change soon.
How social media affects employment discrimination claims
It does not take much for even innocent social media activity to result in an employment discrimination claim. A common way this occurs is the information posted relates to something that the employer dislikes or discriminates against. This information might surface through topics or organizations you like/+1/follow/etc., statements you have made on your account, your pictures and so on.
For example, if you have family members who suffer from a particular disability then it would be unsurprising to see you join or share information from a group that supports people with that particular disability.
Your boss could see that and fear you will need a lot of time off from work to assist your family member and decide not to give you a promotion because that promotion involves a high-demand position.
In another example, you may be Mormon and you naturally have reposted information from your temple’s own social media account. You apply for a job and during a background check the employer discovers this connection. The hiring manager chooses not to hire you because she hates Mormons. It’s not like you need to have bizarre or dangerous affiliations to trigger an employment discrimination claim.
Attorneys for employment discrimination in Texas
Given how easily social media creates liability you may wonder why employers want to access employee social media accounts. There are some good reasons. The employee may have posted information that suggests an employee could cause harm others in a particular job.
For example, somebody who posts on Twitter that they got popped for their third DUI and think it’s funny probably isn’t a good candidate for a job that requires driving company vehicles. It would not be unlawful discrimination to decline to hire that applicant for that reason.
Failing to attempt to find publicly available data could create liability for the employer if they hired a candidate and he drove drunk and harmed somebody. Employers have to balance investigation and what use of the information can create liability when used in an unlawful manner.
The best protection against your employer using your social media activity against you is to review your privacy settings. Limit what is publicly available and think carefully before you grant coworkers or supervisors access to your account. It may be a good time to prune your list of people who have access to your accounts. Talk to an employment attorney today.