According to a new report, innocuous personal information on social networking sites can be grounds for job dismissal.
While most prospective job searchers understand that employers will usually review a site such as Facebook before tendering an offer of employment, many are unaware that posting what would seem to be “normal” pictures or discussion may result in job loss.
The report, found in a professional magazine of elementary school managers, describes the dismissal of an educator because the social network site showed an individual posing for a picture holding a glass of wine.
According to background information found in the article, school administrators are facing a growing dilemma resulting from social networking that goes beyond preventing cyber-bullying among students.
Administrators also faced with balancing the rights of privacy and free speech of educators with what should be the appropriate behavior of teachers as role models.
In the article, published in the January issue of Principal Navigator, Janet Decker, Ph.D., said a large number of educators have been fired for Internet activity.
“Despite the evolving issues, the courts have not provided extensive guidance for administrators,” writes Decker. “Part of the difficulty is that technology advances at a quicker pace than legal precedent, leaving school employees and administrators unsure of their legal responsibilities.”
Decker’s article highlights cases that have landed in court as a result of school policies on social networking that “were not clear or effective.” The article also examines the law surrounding sexual harassment or abuse of students and freedom of speech for public employees and employee privacy.
“In general, it is important to understand that school employees are expected to be role models both inside and outside of school – even while on Facebook,” concluded Decker.
Decker’s article features the following 10 recommendations as she encourages school administrators to implement technology policies for school employees:
- Educate! It’s not enough to have written policies; schools should also offer professional development about these issues. By doing so, staff is notified about the expectations and they have a chance to digest and ask questions about the content of the policies.
- Be empathetic in policies and actions. Administrators may wish that the school’s computers will only be used for educational purposes; however, an expectation such as this is unrealistic.
- Create separate student and staff policies. Much of the law pertaining to students and staff differs greatly.
- Involve staff in policy creation. This process will help school employees comprehend the policies and will also likely foster staff buy-in.
- Be clear and specific. Policies should include rationales, legal support and commentary with examples.
- Ensure your policies conform to state and federal law.
- Include consequences for violations in policies and implement the consequences.
- Provide an avenue for appeal and attend to employees’ due process rights.
- Implement policies in an effective and non-discriminatory manner.
- Amend policies as the law evolves. Much of the law related to technology is in flux. What is legal today may not be tomorrow.
Although the recommendations are directed toward an educational setting, the suggestions are appropriate for managers in a variety of professional settings. Moreover, employees of a business or institution must be knowledgeable on company policy to ensure compliance and avoidance of unintentional actions.
Source: University of Cincinnati