Can Businesses Make Employment Decisions Based On Social Media?

Business Law Firm for Companies in Manalapan Township

Social media platforms have become the most popular websites on the internet, allowing millions of Americans to connect and converse with each other. However, social media has become a complicated legal arena for both businesses and employees. Employees may behave unprofessionally on social media accounts, either before or during employment. In some cases, this unprofessional behavior can create a conflict with the type of image a company may desire from its employees and raise questions about the legality of employment decisions based on social media.

In 2013, New Jersey passed legislation that bars employers from requesting social media passwords as a condition of employment. As a result, employees can maximize privacy settings and employers have no recourse to ensure their company image is being properly represented. Laws barring businesses from using social media to make employment decisions can have significant drawbacks.

Are The Social Media Activities Of Employees Important To Businesses?

Depending on the situation and position held by an employee, social media activities can have serious consequences for a business.

A good example of how social media has significant repercussions for businesses can be seen in the story of Justine Sacco, a former director of corporate communications at IAC. Justine was a 30-year-old executive at the height of her career, visiting family in South Africa during the 2013 holidays. Airports are incredibly boring, which may have caused Justine to take out her smart phone and log in to Twitter. Justine then made the biggest mistake of her professional life when she tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

After making the infamous tweet, Justine boarded her 11-hour flight to Cape Town, South Africa. Once she landed, her entire world had changed. It did not take long for Twitter to blow up with fury over the tweet. In just 11 hours, Justine and her tweet had become the number one trend on Twitter. People worldwide were furious at IAC and the comment, calling for Justine to be fired. As a major figurehead of IAC public relations, Justine represented the company.

IAC is the corporate owner of several other large companies, such as OKCupid, Vimeo and The Daily Beast. It is a major player in the social networking industry, and one of its public relations employees had just made a racist AIDS joke. IAC fired Justine shortly after her comment was made, but not before taking enormous amounts of criticism.

The moral of the story is simple; if an employee representing the image of a company makes extremely offensive comments, the repercussions can be disastrous. For example, if a company were about to hire a public relations executive who made white supremacist rants on a private social media account, it would have no way of knowing under current New Jersey law.

New Jersey’s current stance on social media and employment decisions does allow for investigations of social media accounts into matters that affect companies, such as harassment. However, access to accounts based on hiring and firing decisions continues to remain off limits.

Can Business Litigation Attorneys Help Companies Handle Social Media Gaffes?

Although New Jersey has its rules on social media accounts and employment decisions, it is still a gray area. Federal and state lawmakers continue to grapple with how social media can affect employees and businesses.

Business litigation attorneys have years of experience navigating the gray areas between businesses, employees and social media accounts.

Garland & Mason, L.L.C.New Jersey Business Litigation Attorneys