If you are a boss and you friend your employees on Facebook, don’t be surprised if their status reads: Suing my boss for sexual harassment.
Employment lawyers are warning that managers should refrain from friending their subordinates on Facebook or following them on Twitter.
Doing so can “trigger or exacerbate a host of legal claims, including harassment, discrimination or wrongful termination” and cause concerns of favoritism if the boss does not friend everyone, The National Law Journal writes.
Because of the personal nature of social networking sites, bosses are very likely to learn something about their employee that the employee would not want them to know. If the employee is ever fired, there is the chance that he could claim it was because of whatever information was on Facebook, Cozen O’Conner employment attorney Michael Schmidt told the NLJ.
Shanti Atkins, an attorney and head of a compliance training business, also noted that a boss knowing about a person’s religious affilation or health problems from their Facebook page could be pointed to if issues of discrimination ever come up.
Plus, she says, awkward situations, such a manager learning an employee was drunk at work, could arise.
All of these things are true, and management-side advisors are smart to tell their clients this. But it’s Atkins last statement brings up an obvious point. Employees, of course, should think ahead a little.
If your boss friends you and you post these types of things — especially the being drunk at work thing, which is really just inadvisable all the way around — shouldn’t a person just kindly explain that they keep their Facebook for personal use only? Or if one does accept friendship, shouldn’t they always be thinking who is going to see it?
The ubiquity of social networking sites increasingly blurs the line between public and personal information. And that means that whatever is on your site or what can be confirmed you saw on someone else’s might be evidence in a lawsuit down the road.
Just because you are Facebook friends does not mean your more formal roles are erased, and sexual harassment via Facebook chat is still sexual harassment. Be careful out there.
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