Employees on Social Media Outside of Work – Company Business or Not?

January 22, 2016

Tweets, Snaps, Instagram photos, and Facebook posts are just a few of the many ways individuals communicate through social media. No big surprise that social media has also infiltrated the workplace.  Employees use social media to interact before, during, and after work time on a daily basis. Most of the interaction is harmless. But, there are those instances when you will wish that technological advances had stopped with “rotary phones” and “party lines” [for those of you who have no idea what a rotary phone or party line is, “Google” it or ask “Siri.”].  

So, you show up to work on the Monday after the best party you have ever attended with a bunch of your co-employees. The party was at another employee’s house. The party was so great, you are having a hard time remembering all that happened. Then you see the “secret” party video one of your friends and co-employees made and has posted to YouTube. Everybody at work is watching the YouTube video when you walk into work – it has thousands of hits. You are the “star.” You are in compromising and embarrassing situations with other co-employees which you just can’t remember. At least now you know why the company name and logo is printed on virtually every square inch of your body in black permanent marker. You run to your supervisor and ask for help. The supervisor tells you it is not a company issue because it happened after work between consenting adults.

No big deal, right? It happened after work and through social media so the company has no obligation to either investigate and/or remediate the workplace fallout. Wrong. Unless you enjoy harassment litigation, the company has an obligation to investigate and remediate to be sure the YouTube video “star” is not harassed at work.  

Whenever employees engage in “illegal, unprofessional and/or stupid” behavior which finds its way into the workplace, the company is at risk for a harassment allegation unless it immediately investigates the matter and then properly remediates the impact. “What goes on in Vegas typically no longer stays in Vegas.”    

Contributed by Jeff Fraser, Partner, Miller Johnson.

View the on-demand webinar “Defining Workplace Harassment: Illegal, Unprofessional & Stupid Behavior” with Jeff Fraser.