The article “Social networking v. the employment-at-will doctrine: a potential defense for employees fired for facebooking, terminated for twittering, booted for blogging, and sacked for social networking” evaluates the legal challenge that the pervasive nature of social networking activity by employees into workplaces pose.
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The key issue in the controversy social networking between employer and employee lies in the differing perceptions that each holds with regard to the privacy of the information present in social networking communications of employees.
Employers believe they possess the right to have access to all the information present in social networking messages of their employees and take necessary action, while employees take the stand that employers do not have the right to intrude into the content of their non-work social networking activities (Crane, 2012).
Employees in the private sector have seldom succeeded, so far, in upsetting any disciplinary action with regard to their Internet postings on the grounds of discrimination and invasion of privacy. Courts have shown a leaning towards employers and the employment-at-will-doctrine. As such, there is limited scope for the freedom that employees seek for their social networking activities (Crane, 2012).
There are several possible legal solutions to this controversy, but none really meet the full complex needs of the issue. The first possible solution is using the life style discrimination statutes as a model for the solution. Using this model it is possible for a life style discrimination statute to give protection to employees for their off-duty social networking communications.
The use of disclaimers, anonymity, and the introduction of blogging guidelines in the workplace is another possible solution to the problem of social networking communications faced by employees.
In place of life style discrimination statutes to offer protection for employees off work social networking communications, employers can use this discrete form of protection. A third solution lies in legislative action to reduce employee liability for any harmful comments in their personal Internet communications (Crane, 2012).
The Stored Communications Act of 1986 (SCA) prevents the unauthorized access of communications stored by an electronic communications service provider and offers scope as a solution.
The SCA as a solution for offering relief to employees can be used, when it can be proven that the employee intentionally placed privacy settings on the personal electronic communications, there was no grant of access to the employer, and that the employer gained access to the information in the personal electronic communication without authorization (Crane, 2012).
The services of employees can be terminated at the will of employers for actions perceived to be harmful by employers (Ivancevich, p.425, 2010). Employees cannot take cover under the intrusion of privacy, since social networking sites are in the public domain and information in these electronic communications are their own (Dasgupta, p.2047, 2010).
The explosive growth of personal electronics communication of employees has heightened employee aspirations for the right of privacy in their personal electronic communications (Griffin & Pustay, p.400, 2002). The SCA was essentially a legislative effort to bring about better parity between the fundamental privacy rights of people of the nation and the legal requirements of law enforcement agencies with regards to the electronic communications (Stevens, p.11, 2011).
Provisions within the SCA can provide the basis for employee aspiration for privacy in their personal electronic communications, as well as allaying the fears of employers with regards the content and use of employee personal electronic communications.
Crane, C. (2012). Social networking v. the employment-at-will doctrine: a potential defense for employees fired for facebooking, terminated for twittering, booted for blogging, and sacked for social networking. Washington University Law Review, 89(3), 639.
Dasgupta, S. (2010). Social Computing: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools, and Applications. Hershey, PA.: IGI Global.
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Griffin, R. W. & Pustay, M. W. (2002). International Business: A Managerial Perspective. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Ivancevich, J. M. (2010). Human Resource Management, Eleventh Edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill Irwin.
Stevens, G. (2011) Privacy Protections for Personal Information Online. Washington: Congressional Research Service.