Friday, October 19, 2012

Social Networks and Workplace Risk: Scenarios from a U.S. and EU Perspective

Here's an excerpt of my 40-page article, which is being published in a journal (January 2013):

Social Networks and Workplace Risk: Classroom Scenarios from a U.S. and EU Perspective

Many employees in the United States are unaware that their conduct on social networks may lead to discipline or dismissal.  For example, recent incidents show the extent to which employers will reprimand and even fire employees for using social media:

  • A waitress was fired for griping on Facebook about an inadequate tip left by a customer.  The employer had a policy against disparaging customers or putting the restaurant in a bad light.
  • An emergency medical technician posted a murder victim photograph online; he was fired, though the employer did not give a reason for the dismissal.
  • A university diversity director resigned when it was discovered that he posted blog items including one that said “women are not as smart as men.”  He claimed that the blog was “clearly satirical” and that he wrote the items before accepting the university job.
          This paper builds on our classroom experiences and provides social media scenarios and projects that allow students to analyze and critically compare the workplace boundaries of social network use.   Part I includes a description of an out-of-class assignment that assesses what types of social media comments students deem inappropriate in the workplace, completed by students before the professor actually discusses applicable legal principles.  Then, Part II provides classroom scenarios which reinforce what students learn about the evolving law of social networks and privacy in the U.S. and the EU workplace.  Part III looks at other legal considerations of social media use including sexual harassment and anonymous speech, and offers additional classroom scenarios.  Part IV outlines a class project in which students collaborate in groups to develop social media policies for the U.S. workplace, and compare and contrast the impact of similar policies on EU employees.  

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