Labor: Social media's impact on the workplace

How to handle issues from employee productivity to trade secret protection

The use of social media is growing exponentially and few workplaces are immune from the impact of its unrelenting attraction. Consider these numbers: LinkedIn, known for business networking and marketing, claims to have some 175 million users and 2 million companies with LinkedIn pages. Facebook, mostly a personal medium, states that there are 140.3 billion “friend” connections among its 1 billion users. Still, some companies are slow to recognize and manage social media’s impacts.


“You’re not my friend”

Many states, such as California, Illinois and Pennsylvania, have made it unlawful to require an employee or applicant to provide personal usernames and passwords to social media sites. Managers should resist the temptation to make or accept a Facebook “friend” request, whether intended as a measure of friendship or as a way to keep an eye on their team. Managers may come into contact with information they should not have that could be alleged to influence an adverse employment action. In a recent case, an employee’s rejection of her manager’s friend request was the precursor to a series of alleged retaliatory actions for her refusal to accept the manager’s sexual advance. As absurd as this may sound, the employer did prevail, only after incurring legal fees to defend the lawsuit.

Contributing Author

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Mark Terman

Mark Terman is partner in the national law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath, LLP where he handles labor and employment litigation and counseling matters for employers and their management. He is based...

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