Is It Discriminatory to Monitor Your Employee’s Social Media Accounts?

discriminatory to monitor your employee's Social Account

With the growth in the popularity of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, our language, relationship and the hiring process have all been affected. A number of employers look up people they potentially want to hire. Out of employers who surveyed, 65% of them reported that the professionalism and social conduct of candidates were the main reason behind screening them on social media.

The screening process at times involves employees being asked to share their social media profiles with the prospective employer and at times, usernames and passwords are also asked to be disclosed. However, with new legislation enforced, such information can no longer be asked from potential hires.

A 29-year-old pediatric dentist, Dr. Harris reports her experience who decided to block her employer from her social media account. However doing so only made the employer contact a Facebook friend of hers through whom they were able to keep track of her. They wished to look for information on her with great vigor and apart from her Facebook profile; her office and notes were also looked at. Her computer was also searched for anything they may not approve of and the employer wished to know every last detail as to where she spent her free time and vacations at. She, however, believes that this treatment was only meant for her due to her race.

Dr. Harris was then once asked to attend a meeting with the partners of the firm she worked at where she was confronted with African American content she had uploaded on her personal Facebook page. The employers questioned her beliefs regarding it and gave her the ultimatum as to either toning down the posts she uploads or to leave the job. She chose the latter.

According to the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, federal laws are enforced which deem illegal any discrimination against an employee or a potential applicant based on that person’s sex, religion, race, age, disability, national original or genetic information. When a legal counsel for EEOC was asked whether or not what Dr. Harris experienced would be considered as harassment, the Council stated that harassment would have to be proven on one of the mentioned statutorily protected basis.

The counsel stated that harassment is generally seen to be a number of small offensive behaviors which, when taken together tend to be very severe to the extent of changing the terms of employment. The council gave her experience of the cases she has worked with which involve Facebook stating that the issue generally consists of a number of negative things occurring at the workplace which is directly related to the protected status of the individual.

Considering the case of Dr. Harris once again, the Employee Online Privacy Act of 2014 was signed by the governor in May of 2014. The bill prevents employers from asking their employees to disclose their usernames and passwords to the employer unless it is under special circumstances.

For Dr. Harris, the biggest problem was that due to things happening in Ferguson, Mo and in Black America was the exact reason why change could not occur. She believes a number of individuals who are under her position and are professionals do not speak out with what they experience as they are afraid they may lose their jobs.

The act of looking up employees online and keeping an eye on their personal lives such as the case mentioned above is very much happening. While looking into potential employees is definitely suggested, doing so at this extreme is unlikely to be appreciated by anyone applying for the job and can result in a great deal of hostility and eventual negative actions.

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