A few weeks ago, my colleague Karine Dion blogged about the dangers social media posts can have on your employment; in particular, how potentially offensive comments that reflect poorly on an employer or risk violating employer policies may result in discipline or even dismissal.
The potential perils of social media, however, extend beyond crass or offensive comments. Posts that show an employee to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, regardless of how joyful or inoffensive they might be, can land them in hot water.
A significant concern for employers these days 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, and the enticing lure of social media is just a quick click away. Given their fear that employees will spend an inordinate amount of time posting, liking, and chatting, rather than working, employers might monitor employees’ Internet use. While this may raise privacy concerns, as noted by Karine, employers may be able to monitor social media use just by noticing that an employee liked a friend’s post at 10:15 a.m., posted a picture at 1:30 p.m., and engaged in a lengthy comment war at 2:35 p.m. 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, it is not uncommon for employees to take an occasional sick day when they would otherwise be able to work, perhaps to recharge. While we would advise against taking sick days unless truly necessary, if a mental health day is needed, the best course of action is staying home and recuperating. Heading instead to a museum or waterpark, and live blogging your amazing day, no matter how rejuvenating, will likely not go over well with an employer whom you have told you are too ill to work. Again, an employee may face sanctions for such behaviour.
These pictures 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.
Even after the employment relationship has ended, it is advisable to be mindful of what you post on social media. If your employer provided you with a severance package that required you to sign a release, you likely agreed not to disclose the terms of the settlement. Nonetheless, it is not entirely unheard of for employees or members of their family to post the details of their settlement on social media. No matter how vindicated you might feel, we would advise you not to do this, as you risk being required to reimburse the employer the value of the package beyond your minimum entitlements.
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 post to social media. This reflects poorly on you and could harm your reputation and future job prospects, as employers will almost certainly perform some kind of social media search and may be disinclined to hire an employee who publicly berates a former employer.
As Karine advised, once you post something online it’s out there for anyone to find and read forever. Be cautious about what you post – the instant gratification of a “like” is often not worth the headaches that may follow.