Social Media. It has been forced into our lives through the sheer virtue of its popularity. More often than not (especially with younger generations) the question of whether or not a business is good or bad does not depend on the quality of its products or services, but rather how many “likes” it has on Facebook or followers on Twitter.
As the social media phenomenon has affected our personal lives, it has also infiltrated our work lives. Employees using their computers to go on Facebook while at work or receiving updates from Instagram via their smart phone; it is simply a fact of life. This has caused a multitude of questions. How far and to what degree can employers curb their employee’s social media activities at work? To what degree do employers have access to employees’ social media accounts? Can the employee be fired for posting something on social media that the employer finds objectionable?
Connecticut Public Act 15-6, entitled “An Act Concerning Employee Online Privacy,” was signed into law by Governor Malloy on May 19, 2015. Under the law your employer cannot: require you to give out your user name and password for the account; require that you access your account at work while your boss watches; or require that you accept your boss’s “friend request” or otherwise invite your boss to have remote access to your account via his account. So, for example, your boss cannot, as a condition of your employment, order you to accept his friend request on Facebook.
There are, of course, things that your employer can do with respect to your social media site. For example, many companies provide their employees with company computers and work phones. Those companies may have monitoring software or storage software that will record every website you visit while using those devices. If you happen to use that device to visit your Facebook page, and the tracking software records everything you see (and post) on your Page, then your boss may be allowed to review the information that is stored.
Another employer "can do" is with respect to “work-place investigations.” Let say, for example, your employee comes to you and complains that a fellow co-worker has been posting on their Facebook page very inappropriate and offensive things (e.g. things having to do with another person’s race or gender). Under the Act, the employer does have the right to “conduct an investigation for the purpose of ensuring compliance with applicable state and federal laws … [and] prohibitions against work-related employee misconduct…”
There are several loopholes and gaps in this Act, however. For example, in order for the employer to have access to your account to conduct an investigation, the employer must receive “specific information” about the alleged improper activity. Public Act 15-6(d)(1). The Act is silent, however, on how specific the information has to be. Also, who decides if the information is specific enough? The Employer? The Department of Labor? The Courts? It seems, at the moment, that the answers to these questions will have to come through litigation. Stay tuned.