Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Employers Networking Socially and Sexting


It is a sign of the times when an employer doesn't go through the normal channels to perform background checks on potential or current employees. For the last 3 years or so, it has been making headlines that employers are more and more turning to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc. to get the low down on...well...you. Think about it, how better to learn if you're going to show up on time to work, or whether you really left your last job amicably (or if you actually got fired for spitting in someone's food), or if you happen to also moonlight as a stripper than to look on the website where you post pictures and information about you doing all of those things! Or, at least, dressing up like you do them on Halloween.

A lot of people think this is an invasion of privacy, because, you know, when you post up pictures of you doing a keg stand on a website where millions of other people can view them...that's private. Well, there's something to that. You think you're just posting up funny pictures for you and your friends to laugh about, but you don't expect your potential boss to peruse them, too. But, what about text messages? What about texting your mistress you'd like to use your golf club to get a hole in one? (Sorry, I had to make the Tiger Woods joke. Too soon? Okay....)

Do you feel your text messages are supposed to be just between you and the recipient? Not if you're doing it on a phone your company pays for! From the government to the private sector, employers are trying to jerk the chain on the text messages you're sending. It's gotten so big, now, that the Supreme Court is going to hear the case of Police Sergeant Jeff Quon and three other officers after their Police Chief read their text messages - some of which were shown to be sexual in nature, known as 'sexting'.

City officials in Ontario [California] said they had told their employees, including the police officers, that they did not have a guarantee of privacy when using city-supplied texting devices. The police chief said the devices were to be used for official police business, and he asked to see the messages to determine whether the devices were being used for mostly personal message. The Arch Wireless Co., which provided the texting service, turned over transcripts to the chief.

So, employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy, according the both their initial court and appellate courts, thus far. However, I can definitely see in this instance why a Police Chief would not want his officers to use their company phones, perhaps on company time, to sext someone. Shouldn't they be policing the streets instead of getting their rocks off? This idea goes into many areas of business. If the company provides you a phone, it's because they want to make damn sure they can get in touch with you and that you'll have needed resources at your fingertips for communication. I doubt it was given so you could use the text messages they paid for to sext.

Now, don't get me wrong. A personal message or two is one thing, especially if your personal phone is not around and it's important, like 'Pick up the kids from school' or 'My wife is beating me senseless with a golf club.' (Oops, I did it again.) To draw this all together, we need to wake up and realize that we are no longer in an age where anonymity is easy to come by. Employers can easily access your Twitter fight with your boyfriend about spilling coffee on the floor when he popped by your office for an afternoon quickie, and know that you weren't out to lunch...you were in...to lunch, using company space and company time for personal pleasure. No longer can you flaunt those weekend indiscretions, like dressing worse than any hooker and doing Jell-O shots off of a stripper, because your boss WILL find out, and he/she may use that as grounds to make things harder for you at work or, at worse, fire you. Thus, because I work for the government and with kids, I try and keep some sort of anonymity here by using a pseudonym.

Is it right? No, but maybe it will begin to teach our youth a lesson that sending each other naked pictures, putting up tawdry images of themselves online, and having lewd conversations where millions of anonymous strangers can read them and join in will have consequences. If you record it, text it, post it, or follow it, your employer, your parent, your next door neighbor can all see it, and they will make judgements about you based on what they see. Make sure it's a good, clean image. Unless, of course, your life goal is to become a porn star, in which case PARTY ON! Just don't get anything on my sofa.

Love and Lyte,

Fire Lyte

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