Social media and privacy in employment law is an evolving and developing concept. The pervasiveness of the internet and the worldwide access to online content greatly diminish an individual’s expectation of privacy when posting online content in the eyes of the law. This is because anyone can access online content with little effort.
How does this relate to the workplace?
In general, once an employee posts content on social media, they should reasonably expect that others may see the content, including their employer. This applies whether a social media account has privacy setting enabled or not. Thus, a worker cannot claim that an employer has violated their privacy if faced with repercussions for their online conduct. In other words, any online content posted by an employee that violates workplace policy can be subject to disciplinary action. To aid employees’ understanding of what is acceptable and unacceptable with regards to content they post, employers should develop clear social media policies and distribute it to their employees.
When implementing social media policy, it is necessary to take a wholesome approach. Social media policy must be consistent with existing laws and policy in the workplace. Employers must consider how published social media content that is viewable to the public relates to each existing policy in the workplace. This may take on many fronts, such as breaches of harassment policy, confidentiality, violence (ie. bullying), and even behavioural requirements for workers occupying specific roles.
For instance, suppose a worker posts confidential information, such as names of clients, on a social media account with privacy enabled. Workplace policy regarding confidentiality and social media should make it clear that anything in violation of confidentiality policies on social media will be subject to the disciplinary procedures in place.
Overall, once information that is posted online becomes publicly accessible, its ramifications as it relates to one’s workplace and duties of employment are subject to existing workplace policy and law.