The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year against a California policeman who sued his employer after he was disciplined for using an employer-issued pager to send personal messages. The employee had sent sexually explicit messages to a mistress that were intercepted by the employer. The Supreme Court ruled that employees should have no expectation of privacy while using employer-issued equipment while on the clock.
An article published in The Virginian-Pilot discussed a recent seminar on employment law that gave tips for employers on navigating the complicated topics of privacy rights in the age of the Internet and in a workplace dominated by electronic communications.
An employee should remember that their communications and activity can be monitored by an employer while using employer-issued electronic equipment. Employees should also watch what they share on the Internet and think twice before posting confidential or sensitive information.
Employees should keep in mind that employers may also decide to look them up online to find out information that they believe might give them an insight into whether a person is a good employee or would be a good employee before hiring them.
If, however, in the search to find out whether someone has photos on their Facebook page that show they are a "partier," the employer finds out information on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or other protected information and uses that information to take an adverse action against an employee or decide not to hire them, this could potentially lead to a claim of discrimination.
Employers navigate social media's thorny legal issues (The Virginian-Pilot)