Does my social media account belong only to me?

A decade ago, employers had an issue with controlling their employees’ online use at work; today the same problem is much wider and stretches to employees’ use of social media profiles.  Every employer hopes for word of their business to go viral, whether it is through a Tweet, Facebook message or blog.  However, a bad viral message can be damaging to the company’s reputation.  How can employers prevent this and can they dictate what employees say or write?

In his recent article in the Globe and Mail, Employment Lawyer, Daniel Lublin writes about a growing concern in today’s society of how your personal social media profile and work social media profile can collide.

Who owns the online profile?  If the profile was created, populated and maintained by an individual and is for his or her personal use, then he or she is the owner.  In situations where social media profiles are created for work or that have business purpose, the profile itself and all of the contents within are owned by the employer, even if an individual or group of individuals were responsible for its popularity and content.

Online posts.  In some circumstances, employers can control what is posted on a social media profile because most employees’ public profiles are directly linked to their employer’s websites or social media profiles.  Therefore, personal opinions can easily be confused with those of their employers.  When this occurs, employers are within their rights to demand that employees remove that content, or possibly lose their job.

Accessing social media accounts.  Prospective employees have no legal obligation to provide his or her social media password and they can readily refuse.  As well, an employer can refuse to hire any candidate that does not comply with their hiring process, subject only to the prohibition against discrimination in hiring based on human rights laws.  Current employees may be subject to a policy (if an employer has one) that permits it to access and monitor e-mail sent from work or away from work but through the company’s servers.  Since employers own workplace computers and the servers they are connected to, they are allowed to monitor them with proper notice.

For more information on this growing issue of social media privacy in the workplace, you can read the full article here.