Should Employers Monitor Employees' Social Media Activity?
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[fa icon="calendar"] Jun 7, 2018 8:12:53 PM / by Michelle Nystrom

Michelle Nystrom

Should You be Monitoring Your Employees’ Social Media Activity?

Should Employers Monitor Employees Social Media Activity?An employer’s goal is not only to protect their company, but also to protect their employees.  With social media uprising it may seem impossible to put rules into place, but with proper guidelines and policies, employers and employees can both feel at ease.

It is important to both the employer and the employee that social media use be monitored. This is simply to ensure that within the online realm, things are kept professional from both parties. An employer wouldn’t want an employee to leave work and bad mouth the company to all of their online friends. In relation, an employee would not want their boss snooping on their social media page. To ensure that these things don’t occur, it is best to put a policy into place that way if something does occur there will be precautionary steps taken to solve the issue. With proper guidelines and regulations in place, social media monitoring can potentially help a company succeed in many different aspects of the business.

Why do Companies Monitor Employees’ Social Media?

Companies monitor their employees to ensure that no harm is being done within the workplace. A professional business wants to be viewed exactly that way; professional. If an employee makes statements that are malicious or harmful to the employer’s business reputation, this could potentially lead that employee down a very difficult path due to the social media privacy laws put into place. Companies are not allowed to request or demand personal account login information from employees. The only reason an employer should have access to an account is if, and only if, a potentially legal issue within their policy reaches the surface and needs direct attention.

Advantages of Monitoring Employees’ Social Media

When a company monitors an employee’s social media account, they are not only protecting themselves, but their employees as well. It is important to be aware of what your employees are posting on the Internet because posts can travel so fast via the web that it could potentially promote or destroy a company within minutes. Monitoring activity will allow everyone within the company to be on the same page and share the same values. Not only will monitoring help keep a company on track, but it can potentially be used as a way of recruitment for companies as well.

Disadvantages of Monitoring Employees’ Social Media

Employers have to be careful about what information is found on an employee’s social media account. If an employer chooses to utilize social media within their hiring process, they have to be careful that the information they find is not being held against them in an unlawful manner. Meaning, an employer cannot choose to deny an applicant a job opportunity due to their race, gender, religion etc. If an employee knows that their social media page has been utilized, they can claim that they were not hired due to any of these observations and the issue can be taken into court. It is important to note that if social media is utilized within the onboarding process that positive things from the page are taken into account, and the potential candidate should be aware that their page has been viewed by their employer. If a potential employee allows their accounts to be accessed by including links in their resume to view them, any information, in accordance with applicable law, found can be utilized.

How do Companies Monitor Employees’ Social Media?

Monitoring employees’ social media accounts can be done in many different ways, however, whichever way an employer chooses to utilize it, it should be done carefully. It is important for employers to know what their employees discuss on the web. It is also important for employers to know how their employees carry themselves online to the public. A person can seemingly have two separate lives when viewing their social media account to getting to know them in person. If an employee is engaging in inappropriate behavior that is not protected by law and  does not coordinate with the values of their company, they can be at fault and potentially lose their job if things get out of hand. Companies want to make sure that their employees share the same mission and vision as they do. Incidents may sometimes occur, but if a proper social media policy is put into place, incidents can hopefully be avoided.

Computer Surveillance

Monitoring an employee’s social media usage on the computer may seem like a stretch, but it is actually quite common. Computer surveillance is a type of computer software program that can enable the employer to be able to view what an employee is doing on a particular computer. This can be installed in potentially all of the computer systems that are available to the company itself. This system allows an employer to monitor what websites an employee is using, potentially see emails and keeps track of the number of keystrokes per hour. With privacy laws put into place it is not ethical for employers to view personal information through emails but is absolutely possible if need be, provided that the employer has a solid policy in place informing employees that no information sent or received on company equipment is private. Within the workplace, this can only be done if the computer system belongs to the company itself, this does not qualify for personal electronics that employees may be using within the workplace. If an employer sees that an employee doesn’t have a proper number of keystrokes this could encourage them to sift through the websites that an employee had accessed or figure out why they haven’t been utilizing their computer work station at all.

Company Equipment Surveillance

As computer surveillance is utilized, that is not the only piece of equipment that can be monitored. Any piece of company equipment that is given to an employee can be subject to a search or require surveillance. This is simply to ensure that none of the devices that are offered by the company are being misused. Many companies offer things like tablets, cell phones and laptops to their employees to not only work on within the workplace but in their own homes as well. Allowing employees to take this equipment home can seem risky, but with proper surveillance installed, employers can still monitor what their employees access via the web. Utilizing these tools will maintain a professional identity by the company and allow employees the chance to monitor their own online behavior ensuring that they maintain a professional identity as well.

What Are the Ethical Issues?

Issues involving ethics via social media can be very difficult to determine. While ethics does not seem like something that one typically relates to social media, it is actually a key factor in handling the idea of social media monitoring. Employers are tempted to monitor their employees social media accounts to ensure that their company is being run smoothly and by the best candidates. Some may wonder, what makes a post ethical or unethical? A simple way to determine this is by understanding what the meaning of ethical is. An ethical post would contain something that has moral principle. Meaning, if an employee utilizes social media on a daily basis, they should be certain to maintain an online persona that pleases the public in a way that does not harm either them or their place of employment in any way. Respecting the values of a company in and out of the workplace would be ensuring that any online posts would be considered ethical and appropriate to viewers.

What Are the Legal Issues?

Legal issues can often occur when attempting to monitor employees’ social media accounts. Being that in some states it is against the law to request an employee’s social media information, employers have to be careful about what they expect from their employees. Unless serious accusations are made, employers are not allowed access to an employee’s personal social media account. However, if an employee is using the company’s social media account and improperly posting content, the employer is granted access to that account and able to take necessary steps to handle the situation. Employees are allowed to discuss things like salary and wage via the web without punishment. If any employee decides to utilize their accounts as a way to make malicious statements  about the company or damage the company name in any way, these are grounds for employers to request access to these social media pages.

Reduce the Risk by Establishing Official Company Policies

By putting a company social media policy in place, many of these risks can be avoided. It is important to be very specific about the do’s and don’ts that are required by employees, so be sure to not breeze over any regulations. State and federal laws are constantly being updated, so it is imperative to stay up to date with current laws and regulations to avoid any liabilities. During the onboarding process, employees should be introduced to these social media policies to avoid any confusion. If these policies are not stated and introduced immediately during the onboarding process, an employee may not realize that there are specific social media rules in place. Employees must be aware of the regulations before not abiding by them can be used against them in any way. By ensuring that employers and employees are on the same page, any misuse can be handled accordingly and properly.

Proceed With Caution

With social media continuously updating, it is important for employers to stay up to date with new technology and information. Some companies choose to ban social media use altogether, while other companies choose to monitor it heavily. No matter which route a company takes, social media use will always occur in some form or another and it is important that a company policy is put into place and guidelines are specific. By ensuring that guidelines of usage are specific if any problems occur, it can be handled in an orderly fashion.

 

This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  No attorney-client relationship is created between the author and reader of this blog post, and its content should not be relied upon as legal advice.  Readers are urged to consult legal counsel when seeking legal advice.

 

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Topics: Managing Employees, Company Culture, Management