Fired for blogging? The Employee/Employer relationship and social networking.

Lately I have been battling with a particular thought process which seems to be gaining steam. If anyone has watched the news lately they have likely heard a story or two about Crown Prosecutors in Ontario doing extensive background checks into potential jurors. A professor who is also an investigative journalist warning about the harms of too much information online and a mass of other stories about what people put online, and who can see it. The warnings are all around and should be well heeded but where is that line between an employer’s right to know and an employee’s privacy. At what point should you be saying “No, that has nothing to do with my employment here”.

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In casual talks with employers and managers around the city the predominate feeling is that if an employee or potential employee has a blog, facebook, twitter stream, or any other online presence the it is the employers right to know. While no one would admit to actively hunting these resources out the reactions did indicate a certain “right to know” attitude. The reality is that some employers are doing extensive searches of current and potential employees online habits. A recent Deloitte survey found that 30% of employers were informally monitoring social networking sites for employee’s habits. People have even been dismissed for content they have posted online. A quick search for “Fired for blogging” will give you an easy dozen links to choose for with related stories.

Now on the flip side many employees will argue that their online actions are none of their employers business. According to the same Deloitte survey 53% of employees think that their social networking habits are none of their employers business. Even though over 70% understand it is easy to damage their employer’s reputation online. I think the reasons for this is quite obvious and do not warrant an in-depth discussion. Employees do not want to be held accountable at their employment for things they do off the company time. The basic social contract of mutual financial success, that is I perform a set of duties to assist the company in being profitable and am justly paid for those services, is the underlying principal of this. For many people the employee/employer relationship ends there and unless the employees external actions prevent or inhibit that process, what the employee does is their business.
So where do you stand? Where does the employee/employer relationship end? At what point do you feel the employer is overstepping its bounds of intruding into your personal life? Leave your comments below. I would love to hear from employers and employees alike on this.

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