The practice of “friending” on social-networking sites can be a legally dangerous one when it involves a supervisor and a subordinate. Plus, a lot of subordinates think it’s creepy.
The seemingly innocent practice of sending friend requests to staff via Facebook, Twitter and other sites can trigger a slew of legal claims, including harassment, discrimination or wrongful termination, as well as touch off complaints of favoritism if the boss friends only a select person or persons.
That’s the warning from attorney Michael Schmidt on law.com.
Here’s the source of the problem: Social-networking sites typically are packed with personal information. So, what happens if a friending boss learns TMI — too much info — about a subordinate? That opens the door for an employee complaint that the boss made work decisions, such as promotions, based on the personal information.
The example given by Schmidt:
- Suppose an employee is a member of a gay-rights group.
- Then suppose the friending boss fires the employee because of performance issues.
- The employee then could argue that the boss used the personal information as a basis for the termination.
That’s just one example of many: religious affiliation, age, political affiliation, health problems. All could serve as a basis for a lawsuit should the supervisor take an adverse action against the employee.
If that’s not enough, consider that in a survey by staffing firm Office Team, 47% of respondents said they don’t want to be friended by their bosses.
The message to supervisors: Don’t do it.