Legal Implications of Utilizing Micro-Blogs in Employment Practices: A Guide for Business and Marketing Professionals

Legal Implications of Utilizing Micro-Blogs in Employment Practices: A Guide for Business and Marketing Professionals

Stephanie A. Tryce (Saint Joseph's University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8408-9.ch009
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Abstract

Business professionals take full advantage of micro-blogs and other social media platforms as powerful tools in recruiting and screening job candidates. In addition businesses aggressively monitor employees' social media use, both inside and outside the workplace, as employees actively use these platforms to both discuss work experiences and perform work duties. These monitoring practices seem warranted as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizes hiring practices, harassment, and off-duty conduct as the top three areas of conflict in the workplace. Much litigation and literature in this area focuses largely on employees' privacy rights; this chapter will take a more encompassing view and assert that having a strong corporate-wide social media policy in place can help strike an equitable balance between an employee's expectation of privacy and an employer's legitimate business interests in selecting ideal job candidates, managing its brand image, protecting the company's proprietary interests and assuring a harassment free workplace.
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Background

Business and marketing executives use social networks, including blogs and micro-blogs for marketing purposes. In fact, employees often use their personal devices and/or their personal social media networks as part of their official work duties. More than 80% of employed adults use some kind of personally owned electronic device for work-related functions (Miller-Merrell, 2012). In November 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) settled the first lawsuit against an advertising companying for tweeting information without disclosing its business ties to that company as is required by the Federal Trade Act. According to the lawsuit documents, the advertising company asked its employees to tweet about its client’s (Sony) products, without disclosing its association with Sony. As a result, the employee’s tweets were considered “false and misleading” (Tyler, 2014).

Business and marketing executives also use social media for recruiting purposes. Employees actively use their personal social media networks to discuss their workplace experiences and sometimes to perform their work duties making the lines between their personal and the professional lives, at times, difficult to discern. Each of these scenarios is fraught with legal consequences. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the governmental agency responsible for enforcing employment discrimination law in the United States cites hiring practices, harassment and off-duty conduct as the top three areas of conflict in the workplace related to social media use (Trottman, 2014). Accordingly, this chapter will discuss these three areas beginning with a discussion of the legal implications of social networking in business hiring practices including recruitment and screening. It will follow with a discussion of employee monitoring and therein address an employee’s expectation of privacy, harassment, off-duty conduct, and the improper divulgence of company information.

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