Most employees in Jackson and Eastern Tennessee probably think that what they post on their social media accounts, like Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and even videos on YouTube is a private affair.
Even a person’s LinkedIn account, although thought of as a professional social media site, is still protected under Tennessee law to some extent.
To some extent, this is true. In Tennessee, employers may not force employees to give up their passwords to their social media accounts.
Likewise, employers also cannot force the employee to add the employer as a “friend” or follower on social media, nor can employers force an employee to view their social media accounts in an employer’s presence.
An employee who refuses to give up this personal information may not be fired or otherwise punished because of the refusal.
Not all activity is protected
However, Tennessee employers have plenty of other ways of legally monitoring their employee’s online activity.
For one, any information that an employee puts out into the public is fair game. In other words, if anyone else can read what is on an employee’s social media account, an employer may do so too; the take action if the employer does not like what it sees.
Two, employers generally have the right to monitor and regulate how employees use their work technology. Employers have a lot of leeway to review an employee’s online activity on work phones, computers and other devices.
Again, if the employer does not like what it sees, it may be able to fire the employee or take other action.
Finally, in some cases, an employer can demand access to an employee’s social media. For example, if the employer had a good reason to believe that the employee had, in a professional capacity, broken the law, the employer could access the account.
Social media and other employment laws
It is important for employees to remember, though, that not everything they post on social media accounts is something employers can react to. For instance, some of their posts may be protected political, religious or labor organizing activity.