A federal judge rejected a claim by a woman whose former employer had changed her LinkedIn password after her leaving the company, which prevented her from accessing contacts. The judge dismissed her case. This brought up some serious questions about employment in the social media age — when an employer and employee split up, who owns the connections that had been made?
This case opens some serious concerns for attorneys and employees across the U.S., and may result in numerous employment disputes. Employers may now be able to claim ownership of any and all accounts, such as Twitter lists of followers, and retain them — even if they are personal accounts in the employees’ names. In the ‘old days,’ employers might have been able to just keep the Rolodexes of their employees. Social media isn’t quite the same thing, however, and people are likely to be far more protective over those accounts than of a collection of business cards.
Employees in the U.S. have no right to privacy over emails sent at work — even on personal accounts — so the question becomes, is social media any different? If a journalist has 100,000 Twitter followers and numerous important connections on LinkedIn, can they retain that information and keep those connections? These are questions that have never needed to be addressed before, but in the advent of the technocratic age, these are important considerations for employees.
People who feel that their rights as an employee have been violated in the workplace may not know where to turn. Consulting an experienced employment attorney can present options you didn’t know were open to you.
Source: NBC News, “When you and your employer split, who gets your friends and followers?” Bob Sullivan, Oct. 12, 2012.