Q. As an employer, what action can I take to monitor employees who may be communicating about the company through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter?
For better and for worse, social media have become an unavoidable aspect of our personal and professional lives – an outlet through which we can express our opinions on myriad topics, including our employers. A proper understanding of an employer's right to monitor such communications requires an understanding of applicable federal and state laws.
Employees often believe that their employers have violated their right to engage in free speech under the First Amendment. However, the First Amendment right to free speech generally does not apply to private employers and therefore does not provide protection for communications made via social media. Despite the limits of constitutional protection, employers must be aware of certain federal and state laws that, under certain circumstances, protect the privacy of employees' online communications.
Although employers may generally monitor publicly available social networking mediums, the law does not permit employers to monitor private sites and communications.