Your cannabis activism on Facebook may mean a lot to you. Or maybe you just like posting party pictures. But if you’re in the corporate world, either one can get you fired.
In a growing nationwide trend, companies are starting to pay more attention to their employees’ Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace postings — and that’s not always a good thing, especially when staffers are involved in the marijuana subculture.
This has resulted in employers increasingly punishing employees who are seen as damaging the “digital reputation” of the firms for which they work, reports Tim Devaney at The Detroit News.
This year, more than one in five companies with 1,000 or more employees — 21 percent — have disciplined employees for “violating social networking policies,” compared to 13 percent in 2008, according to a survey by Proofpoint Inc., an email security company in Sunnyvale, Calif.
About 9 percent of these companies have actually fired an employee for these violations, more than double from 4 percent two years ago.
“For every case you see in the news, it’s really just the tip of the iceberg,” said Keith Crosley, director of market development for Proofpoint. “There are many more investigations and breaches that you never hear about.”
In at least one case, a worker got into trouble for a photo that really had nothing to do with his job.
In Farmington Hills, Mich., Filetech Systems demanded that an employee remove a picture of himself dressed as a marijuana leaf on Facebook, because the document management and storage company claimed the photo would somehow “upset customers.”
“Our customers might search on his name and find that picture,” claimed Sara Rothenberg, vice president and part owner of Filetch. “It’s not appropriate for them to see it.”
The employee removed the photo, but the company said he was later terminated for what they claimed was “another online problem.”
Firings such as this one demonstrate that “your digital reputation is 100 percent of your reputation as far as employers are concerned,” said CEO and founder Michael Fertik of ReputationDefender, an online “reputation management and privacy company” based in Redwood City, Calif.
“Just because you’re living a righteous life offline, does not mean you look squeaky clean online,” Fertik warned.
Workers should think twice before they post comments and photos, according to many legal experts.
“If you have messages that you’d be embarrassed to show your mom, then they shouldn’t be on your site,” said Ron Sollish, an employment and work force management attorney for Maddin Hauser in Southfield, Mich.
“For some reason, people don’t make the connection that Facebook isn’t private,” said Jessica Soulliere, spokeswoman at the University of Michigan Health System, based in Ann Arbor.
Even your on-the-job emails can land you in trouble.
Proofpoint found that a growing number of companies are hiring staff specifically to read outbound emails because a third of the surveyed firms discovered that their business was hurt by employees who leaked “sensitive information.”