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Social Media for Clients and Employment

It’s not unusual to sit down at a restaurant, look around, and notice several people just looking down at their cell phones. Technology has taken over. How about this “Titanic possibility”?

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Which brings me to the topic of social media in our cases, and what’s being discussed in the employment arena.

In the last few years, one of the items that we see being requested by defense attorneys is a copy of the posts of our clients’ Facebook pages. They are looking for something in their fishing expedition that might show photographs and postings of our clients’ activities.

Their intent is to try to cross examine our clients on their injuries and an explanation of their activities in the postings. Not surprisingly, clients are bothered when the defense is asking to see such personal things.

When the defense asks for such postings, we file motions to fight that discovery. It’s not unusual for a judge to allow some form of social media discovery. Recently, one judge ordered that only the defense attorney could have access to our client’s Facebook account… and only the defense attorney… for only a period of 24 hours. Still, it shows a change in what is now considered to be relevant in a lawsuit, as well as information that is now available to be discovered.

In the world of employment, now social media is garnering attention. (Pilot Online) As indicated in the article, according to VCU Professor Marcus Messner, think about what you are posting for five minutes before posting. Remember that your thoughts are going into cyberspace.

In September, the Chesapeake School Board Chairman was under scrutiny after she posted the following on her personal account, “Muslims hate pork, beer, dogs, bikinis, Jesus and freedom of speech”. Several criticized her for this personal post because they felt that it reflected poorly on the School Board, even though they endorsed her right of freedom of speech.

Last year, a Norfolk assistant principal was suspended after she retweeted a picture on her personal account that had racial overtones involving a prom picture. She was held to a standard in her position by many, despite the account being personal.

Social media is now part of the hiring process of a lot of employers. The underlying question, “should an employer be allowed to place limitations on its employees regarding what they post on social media, even if it is a totally private account?”. Ultimately, it does go to a freedom of speech question.

The city of Virginia Beach has instituted the following guidelines regarding what is posted by its employees on social media, “make sure others know that your personal opinion is just that; be careful when and where you are posting; and do not insult others online or use questionable language”.

 

And for some positive thinking on a Monday!

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