Occasionally, there is a workers’ compensation case that gets complicated when an employer finds “incriminating” information posted on an employee’s social media accounts. In other situations, an employee is surprised to face discipline due to visiting certain websites or having conversations with other employees while at work. What are the rules in such scenarios? Can an employer or parent company really pry into seemingly private data and chats like that without any sort of consequence?
For the most part, the answer is yes. Computers owned by a company and on company property are inarguably company equipment and under company control. An employer might even go so far as to include a clause within an employment contract that says any activity carried out with company property, real or digital, is subject to scrutiny and review. With this said, an employee filing for workers’ compensation should be mindful of what is or isn’t discussed using a company computer, tablet, cellphone, or other electronic device.
Social Media Isn’t Company Property – Right?
If an employer can “judge” an employee based on what is said using company property – read: company computers – how does this apply to social media posts made while an employee is at home? Shouldn’t those posts at least be shielded from company review?
In a way, yes, your social media posts made on your private accounts and using your private electronics cannot be easily searched and reviewed by your boss. However, in numerous legal cases, social media posts have been deemed to be open to the public, even when accounts are set to private. Basically, if anyone else in the world can view your post, it isn’t private or protected by property rights.
For example: George files for workers’ compensation after he says he hurt his knee while carrying boxes at his retail job. He is granted several months off to recover. Only a week later, he uploads a video to his private Facebook page that shows himself jogging happily. If his employer sees that video through any channel, not only will he likely lose his workers’ comp benefits but he could also be slammed with criminal charges of fraud.
Avoiding Digital Pitfalls in a Workers’ Comp Case
As trusted and experienced Fresno workers’ compensation lawyers, our team here at Berry, Smith & Bartell, a Professional Law Corporation often gives the following advice to our clients about how to use social media and discuss workers’ compensation claims while at work: don’t.
The only surefire way to ensure that your employer will not try to turn one of your posts against you, no matter how innocuous it was when you posted it, is to not post anything at all. Refrain from your Instagram, Tweet, etc. habits so long as the case is ongoing. If you think you’re going to have trouble with curbing your posting, you might want to consider giving your username and password to a close friend, and telling them to change the password until your case is closed.
Do you need legal help with your workers’ compensation claim in central California? Contact our team today to discuss your case in a free initial consultation.