FYI: If You Sue Your Employer, They Can Use Your Social Media Postings Against You
Danielle Mailhoit filed a discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, a Burbank, CA Home Depot, in 2010, alleging bias based on her gender and her disability (vertigo). Last year, Home Depot went to the judge requesting:
Any profiles, postings, or messages (including status updates, wall comments, causes joined, groups joined, activity streams, blog entries) from social-networking sites from October 2005 (the approximate date Plaintiff claims she first was discriminated against by Home Depot), through the present, that reveal, refer, or relate to any emotion, feeling, or mental state of Plaintiff, as well as communications by or from Plaintiff that reveal, refer, or relate to events that could reasonably be expected to produce a significant emotion, feeling, or mental state…
And they wanted any photos that she was tagged in or posted herself.
According to CNET, the request was deemed “too broad” by U.S. Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal, but she did allow postings about Mailhoit’s job and the lawsuit.
We all know at this point that we must be mindful of what we post on social media. Or if you don’t know by now, let me say it plainly: Don’t put incriminating, personal things on your social media sites, especially if you haven’t changed the privacy settings to keep out the roving eyes of potential employers. What qualifies as incriminating and personal? Pictures of you drunk and sloppy at the club. Snapshots of you making out with your boyfriend (or someone else’s boyfriend. OH!). Status updates that use excessive profanity or other language that could be taken the wrong way.
If your profile is private, for the eyes of only close friends and family, then certainly there’s leeway. But if your profiles are public, or if you do a job where showing your social media savvy is important and your digital activity has to be public, think about what you’re posting. As a writer, I know other writers who let it all hang out and it’s totally fine. It speaks to the topics they cover and their personal style. But if you’re not in one of those jobs, you’d be best advised to think twice.
Moreover, no matter the job, you might want to reconsider what you’re posting about the company you work for or the people you report to. With or without a lawsuit, they can become sensitive to negative talk. And if you decide to sue your employer, you might want to take a look back at your status updates to see how you’ve been feeling over the past few months.