We all have been warned of the dangers and risks of offending Facebook material—specifically posting questionable photos and statuses online. We have been told many times that employers are frequently doing a full background check, which includes looking into profiles via social media. With this added personal material viewable, it has raised a lot of questions about what is okay for employers to look at and base their decisions off of, when concerning employment. Is it okay for employers to make a decision to not hire someone based on personal information not conveyed directly to them, but seen on a social networking site? Further, should an employer be able to fire someone who is already working for them based off what they have found online?
In my opinion, I think the best way to avoid having this dilemma altogether is to maintain private settings, be friends with only people you actually know, and most importantly, do not post anything you would ever be uncomfortable having your mom, grandmother, or employer see. These, in what I consider, common sense steps are an important way to avoid ever having any type of this conflict.
However, if following these steps still raises an issue in employment, I think it is important to consider the content that was considered offending, in order to evaluate if the Facebook activity is valid enough to have a person miss a job opportunity or get fired. For me, I think that anything that is posted online should be automatically assumed to be in the public. Thus, if you choose to post pictures of you partying or write statuses defaming someone, assume that it will be seen. That being said, it is time to consider the evaluations that employers are making when judging such material.
For an employer to fire someone based on Facebook activity actually seems OK to me, but only if it affects the company, itself. For example, if an employee has been posting private company information or defaming the company itself, I think it is not out of line for a company to fire that employee. However, if a company sees images or text that they do not agree with; however, it does not affect the company or the employer’s representation of him or the employees at the company, I think there should not be an issue. Of course, anything illegal (whether affecting the company or not) is always grounds for firing.
Again, all of this is very avoidable by taking action of what you do post online. Evaluate your priorities. If keeping your job is near the top of the list, you should be doing everything necessary to make sure you don’t lose that job, which includes keeping that bad work day rant to yourself rather than spilling it on your Facebook status.
Karen Stephenson is a regular Facebook user and has done development work for different companies in social media. She promotes many websites such as Find UK Phone Numbers, a website which helps people find different company service telephone numbers in the UK.