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Employment Blog

Denial of Facebook Access is a New Employment Law Issue

A teacher's aide in Michigan was disciplined for not giving her Facebook password to her boss. The boss wanted to look at her Facebook page because a picture of her coworker had been posted to the employee's Facebook page. The refusal to provide the password formed the basis for disciplinary action against the employee.

Personally, I am not excited about the use of Facebook postings for discipline of employees. Both public and private sector employers do have the right to exercise some level of control over the postings of employees that negatively impact the reputation of the company. Unfortunately, this is a very subjective standard and could lead to further controversy over whether or not the employer had a reasonable basis to investigate the employee and determine if the employee had been abusing Facebook postings and damaging the reputation of the business.

I think employers are going to be better off avoiding this type of activity when looking to investigate the off duty conduct of an employee, however, the case law surrounding this issue is very unclear. This will be the next level of challenge that will be subject to court review.