Spoilation, Shoulder Surfing and Forced Friending

The unchartered waters of employer access to employee social media accounts has added new words to the lexicon.  Speaking at the Society of Federal Labor and Employee Relations Professionals’ 40th Annual Symposium, Sean Rogers cautioned employers against “shoulder surfing” the practice of watching over an employee as he or she using her social media and “Forced Friending” which occurs when employers require employees to grant requests to connect to them to the employees facebook so that employers can monitor an employees online activity.  Spoilation, a third word to pop up with regard to employer-employee social media relations,  is the act of deleting social media activity before it can be retrieved, perhaps for discovery purposes.

Both spoilation and forced friending have made their way beyond the dictionary and into the Courtroom.  In Gatto v. United States, No. 10-cv-1090 (D.N.J. Mar. 25, 2013), the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey sanctioned a former JetBlue Airways employee who sued the airling and a second company for personal injury, after he deactivated his Facebook account in response to defense counsel gaining access to that account and printing out incriminating photographs.  In Downs v. Anapol, Schwartz, et.al., 2013 WL 1147449 (Pa.Com.Pl.) the Phildelphia County Court of Common Pleas is considering whether a firm’s forced friending of sorts, which ultimatly lead to firing, is grounds for employment discrimination.

These cases further illustrate the murky waters surrounding employer-employee social media relations.  Seems like as with everything else social media, society is able to ascribe a term to particular conduct much more quickly than the law is capable of its regulation.


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