As posting to social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, personal blogs and LinkedIn becomes increasingly part of our daily routine, it can be easy to lose sight of how these posts can impact not only your personal life, but also your professional life.
Users of social networks need to ensure that what they share with others, regardless of how innocuous it might seem, does not land them in hot water. The following three points should be kept in mind in order to avoid social media gaffes that could harm your career.
1. Be Careful What You Share
Although privacy laws exist, when you choose to share something with others through the Internet, you are giving permission to people around the world – including colleagues, bosses, and clients – to read or view what you have shared.
Many employers have social media policies in place, or at the very least, anti-violence and/or anti-harassment policies that may become relevant depending on your use of social media networks. If the comments that you publish reflect poorly on your employer, your posts could result in discipline or even dismissal, depending on their frequency and severity. Similarly, if your comments are so damaging or have so poisoned the workplace that it would no longer be possible for you to work harmoniously and productively with the other employees of the company, this may also lead to the loss of your employment.
The position you hold will almost certainly be a factor, as any post or action deemed incompatible with your position is more likely to lead to discipline and possibly termination. Furthermore, if your conduct is subject to greater scrutiny by the public, what you do off duty will become more relevant to your continued employment.
2. Avoid Personal Use of Social Networks on Company Time
A significant concern for employers is overuse of social media by employees during company time. Many employees have ready Internet access, whether at their desks or on their smart phones, with the lure of social media just a quick click away. Because of this, employers might monitor employees’ Internet use. Excessive use of social media during the work day may result in discipline and, depending on its severity, discharge. In order to avoid any problems, employees should limit their social media use to designated break times.
Similarly, employees who call in sick to work, but spend the day blogging or posting pictures about their amazing day, place themselves at risk of facing sanctions for such behaviour from an employer who has been told by the employee they were too ill to work.
Use of social media can also cause problems for employees receiving disability benefits. Insurers may use photographs, posted without sufficient context or explanation, as evidence that an employee is no longer disabled such that his or her benefits should be terminated. Be careful of the photos you post, for while a picture may be worth a thousand words, it may not truly be the whole picture.
3. Post-Employment Traps
Even after the employment relationship has ended, be mindful of what you post on social media. If your employer provided you with a severance package that required you not to disclose the terms of the settlement, and you post the details of your settlement on social media, you risk being required to reimburse the employer the value of the package (beyond the minimum entitlements) for the breach of the release.
Finally, even if you voluntarily left your position and simply feel inclined to post about how much you hated your job, your boss, or your co-workers, resist the temptation to do so on social media. This reflects poorly on you and could harm your reputation and future job prospects, as employers regularly perform social media searches of potential hires.
Regardless of what your privacy settings are, once you post something on the Internet, it is there forever, and can often be found without too much difficulty. Be mindful of this; think twice before you post.
Karine Dion is a member of Nelligan O’Brien Payne’s Employment and Labour Law Groups. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 613-231-8369.
Dana DuPerron is a member of Nelligan O’Brien Payne’s Employment Law Group. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or by calling 613-231-8364.
This article originally appeared in Ottawa Life Magazine.
For more information on employment and labour law, please visit www.nelligan.ca.