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Privacy at work (3/3) - Social media

What is your boss allowed to know about you?

We are discovering more and more how many people and organizations know more about us than we thought. So we keep protecting our data more and more. Because privacy also plays a very important role in the workplace, says De Unie this week this week extensively. Because what is your employer actually allowed to know about you, and what can you say: 'None of your business'? Today: privacy and social media.

Social media and work

The premise is that social media is initially private. Nevertheless, social media can have consequences for your employment relationship and your employer can see what you post online. Recently, another university employee was put on hold after comments about Thierry Baudet on Facebook.

Not only employees are also active on social media, many employers are also active on social media. The reach of social media can be large and the craziest videos or tweets can go viral. For example, social media use by employees can also boost brand awareness or help employers recruit new employees. But you can't always post everything on social media. An employee is expected to know that social media is not entirely private and that certain statements can harm the employer. Online statements can therefore have consequences for the employment relationship.

Control of social media by employer

As with other means that an employer can use to monitor employees, it also applies to the control of social media that this is only permitted when the employer has good reason and there is a need for it. Again, as an employee, you must be informed in advance that the employer can view social media. For example, an employer has a legitimate interest in keeping an eye on everything that is being said about his organization online. In doing so, the employer may come across photos, posts or comments from employees. The employer may only check public information on social media. An employer may not force you to become 'friends' on Facebook or to establish a connection in any other way. Of course, an employer cannot force you to give up the login details for your account.

Consequences of Social Media Use

Of course it can be great fun to post what cool adventures you have experienced or to say what you think about something. A disadvantage of social media can be that your employer may also read along. In case law, several cases are known in which someone has been fired due to statements on social media. Think of a girl who called in sick at the Albert Heijn to go shopping in Amsterdam for a day. Or the runner who was ill due to pain complaints (including neck, shoulder, knee), but who posted a photo showing that he had run the marathon. He was initially fired on the spot, but in the end the judge ruled that it is not up to the employer to determine whether the runner opposed his reintegration, but that this is up to the company doctor. There is also a case about a teacher who was fired for having close contact with students via social media, calling a colleague “an annoying old pliers and a pucker” and providing answers to a test via social media.

Statements on social media can also be used as evidence. A forklift driver had posted videos on YouTube showing that his driving behavior was in violation of safety regulations. The judge then decided to terminate the employment contract. The line in case law is that what you post on social media in principle falls under your freedom of expression. This freedom is limited by being a good employee. This means that as an employee you must observe a certain level of care with regard to your employer.

Check whether there is a code of conduct or social media protocol

Does your employer have a code of conduct or other form of policy on the use of social media? Read these so that you know what is expected of you. Part of such a code of conduct is often how you should deal with social media during work, but also, for example, that you are not allowed to make negative statements about your employer.

Your employer may block certain websites, such as facebook. However, your employer may not prohibit you from all use of social media in the workplace. An employee also has some degree of freedom at work to communicate with others during work. This can be via social media, among other things.

Competition and relationship clause and social media

Becoming friends or connecting online is the order of the day for some. Just like keeping your network up to date on your latest career move. But what if you entered into a non-competition and / or relationship clause with your previous employer? A LinkedIn update can be an indication for your previous employer to investigate whether you are in breach of the non-competition clause.

In addition, relations of your (previous) employer can be part of your online network. Do you violate the relationship clause if you enter into a relationship with a relationship of your previous employer via LinkedIn? The description of your relationship clause is important here. It may also be important whether the connection already existed when you were still employed by the employer and who took the initiative to make the connection. It can make a difference which medium is involved and how it is used. A recruiter who tweeted that she was looking for people and assignments in the same field as her former employer had agreed on a non-relationship clause in her employment contract with the former employer. The employer saw this as a violation of the relationship clause. This was not seen as an offense by the judge because following on Twitter is a one-sided act by the follower and it can be seen more as a modern form of advertising and not as maintaining business contact.


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This article is part of our privacy series. Last week we already posted blogs about it privacy and disease en privacy and camera images. So would you like to know more about privacy, your employer and the information that you can keep to yourself? follow De Unie on social media!