I’m sure I’m not the first blogger or social media user to suggest a ‘Dislike’ button but I find my normal restraint in calling for a change strained with this latest decision from a Californian Judge.
In the case of Danielle Mailhoit versus Home Depot, the Federal Judge decided that some posts (and even private messages) on social media were ‘fair game’.
Danielle Mailhoit brought a discrimination case against her employer. Home Depot then requested she be ordered to turn over her social media activity for the period in which she claims she was discriminated against.
U.S. Magistrate, Judge Suzanne Segal, ruled that the blanket request was “impermissibly overbroad” and would result in a lot of irrelevant noise.
She did, however, grant the request for any of the plaintiff’s posts that discuss working at Home Depot, or messages to her fellow employees meaning that any posts and / or private messages on social media were within the scope of the Order.
This must surely raise the question as to what is and is not within the scope of such an action given private messages via social media platforms have previously been considered ‘private’.
If electronic communications are within scope, this could result in e-mails; text and voice calls also being ‘fair game’. And if it’s good for the employer, it must also be good for the employee?
It is unlikely such a ruling would be made in a UK Court as this would likely run contrary to various laws including the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Human Rights Act of the same year (as suggested in this article), both protecting the individuals from unnecessary intrusion unless a crime has been committed (and such cases are covered by Civil rather than Criminal law in the UK).
But it does serve as a timely reminder that anything you say on social media channels can (and will) be used against you……as the caution goes.
I’m afraid the intrusion into private messages gets a large “Dislike” from me.
A few interesting rulings from UK Employment Tribunals over actions taken by employers against their employees for comments and use of social media can be found on Personnel Today.