More people than ever before are connecting with one another
on-line. As a result of the proliferation of social media sites
like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter, individuals have the
ability to create personal profiles and exchange e-mails, pictures,
files and instant messages on the Internet.
Social media sites are being used in the workplace. Some
employers develop their own internal social media sites to assist
employees in working together or for the purpose of sharing company
information. In many cases, social media sites are accessed by
employees at work for personal reasons.
This article addresses some aspects of social media sites that
concern employers. Employers should be concerned about
employees' use of social media sites for personal reasons. One
major concern is loss of productivity. A second major concern
revolves around privacy issues.
Social media sites raise privacy concerns for employers. The
monitoring of potential or existing employees by employers through
personal or work-based social media sites may be subject to privacy
legislation applicable in their jurisdiction. In British Columbia,
for example, employers are restricted in their ability to collect,
use and disclose employee personal information without an
Many employers use Internet search engines, personal websites
and blogs to discover information about prospective employees.
Employers should be aware that even publicly available social
media site pages may contain inaccurate or outdated personal
information. Employers must be extremely hesitant about relying
upon such information. Employers should also not use personal
information obtained from such sites in a discriminatory manner
against prospective employees.
Most employees view their personal social media site pages as
private. Employees are often unaware that personal information
posted on these sites may be accessible by their employers and
co-workers. Any organization that monitors its employees' use
of social media sites must ensure that its employees are aware of
There are possible consequences to employers of inappropriate
use of employee personal information on social media sites. An
employer that uses an employee's personal information, which
has been obtained from a social media site, without that
employee's consent or in a discriminatory manner, could face
privacy or human rights complaints, a workplace grievance under a
collective agreement, a defamation lawsuit and negative
In order to minimize the risks associated with the use of social
media sites, employers should develop and communicate to all
employees a clear policy on the appropriate use of social media
sites. The policy should cover:
whether work-based or personal use of social media sites is
permissible in the workplace;
under what circumstances, and when social media sites may be
used, such as only during unpaid breaks;
a description of acceptable and unacceptable use of social
whether the employer monitors social media sites;
whether privacy legislation applies to the collection, use and
disclosure of personal information in the workplace; and
the consequence of failure to abide by the policy.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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