With the ever-growing popularity of social networking sites, and with so many employees exercising poor judgment online, it’s easy to understand why employers are concerned about the messages and images that that their employees are disseminating on these websites.

For employers, the costs are real: Poor choices by their employees can bring with it not only bad publicity but the loss of confidential information and the risk that the employer and employee will be sued by a third party for a wide range of legal claims, including defamation, invasion of privacy, negligence, discrimination, false light publicity, public disclosure of private facts, infliction of emotional distress and violations of state and federal data breach laws.

Employees seem to comprehend the potential effect of their online rants. According to the 2009 Deloitte Ethics and Workplace Survey, 74 percent of employees believe it is easy to damage a company’s reputation on social media sites. Yet, many conduct themselves as they have a right to do so. Fifty three percent of the employees surveyed believe that an employee’s social networking page is not their employer’s business, and nearly one third said they never consider what their boss would think before posting material online. 

Social media content is also becoming a new source of evidence in employment cases. Employers view such material as a unique way to identify false statements employees make in these cases.  Employees, however, often view their employer’s interest in such content as an invasion of their privacy.

These divergent viewpoints are creating new tensions in the workplace and new issues for the courts to address.  I have written an article in the New Jersey Law Journal this week discussing these issues and trends.   To view the article, click this link.