When It Comes To Facebook, What You Know May Hurt You

by Henry Meier

Suppose you have a supervisor who takes an avuncular interest in one of the up and coming employees he manages for your credit union.  He likes him so much that he tries to set him up with his daughter.  The employee politely refuses the offer, but the daughter ends up friending him on Facebook.  She tells her father that one of the organizations the employee has liked on Facebook is dedicated to advocating for same-sex marriage.

When the supervisor, who is deeply religious, turns hostile against the employee, can the credit union be sued for discrimination, particularly in a state like New York that now bans discrimination based on sexual orientation?  Yes it can be.

This hypothetical is not a hypothetical at all.   A great article in this month’s Inside Counsel magazine highlighting the legal challenges faced by social media in the workplace noted a case in which the Library of Congress is being sued by an employee who claims he was discriminated against after a supervisor surmised he was gay based on his Facebook page.

Now, for the record, I don’t get Facebook and I never will.  Why people want to post the minutia of their lives to scores of casual acquaintances I will never know, but the fact is they do.  As reckless as I think some people are with their Facebook accounts for acting as if this information is private, employers are better off using that as their working assumption as well.

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