A story arose earlier this week out of the UK where a man was fired (and is now suing the employer) for simply having the interested in “career opportunities” checked in his LinkedIn profile. The legal issue at hand was the fact that his employment contract/documents that he signed upon employment did detail this nuance/rule. The conversational issue is whether or not you think employers can/should control such things.
Many employees fail to realize that the big stack of papers that the human resources department gives you upon employment at some businesses are indeed contracts. They are binding. They are legal. They have the five considerations making the just that. Now that businesses are finally embracing (to some degree) social media, there are piles of social media policies that are being created (sadly at times by either general counsel who doesn’t truly get social media, or by the intern who stole one from his favorite brand online) and now must be considered when you are taking a job. And you can be fired for non-compliance.
Do we think this policy is logical? No. It’s quite the contrary in our opinion. What the employer fails to realize is that “career opportunities” could also be those things like paid article writing that would actually HELP the company. It can also include inquiries from firms seeking acquisition of talent for a bigger buyout that would benefit the firm. And overall, really, should you be able to control the fact that there is such as a thing as a living resume now? If someone is happy in their job, they won’t go looking for another one, so why do you really care?
But…policy is policy. Good, bad, smart, or stupid.
You have to pay attention when signing employment contracts and be sure to manage the expectations of such. It is completely ok to deny signing a document, ask for an amendment, cross out specifics, etc. While this of course is easier said than done, especially in a down economy, the tides will change one day and it will again be an employees market (for those of you with stellar talent/accomplishments that lend to the bottom line) and you will be able to dictate more of your own agreements. But until then, pay attention to the social media policy you are handed, or else you may just end up without a job.