With the recent Carte Blanche interview with Social Media Lawyer, Verlie Oosthuizen of Shepstone & Wylie we could not help but wonder what employees were thinking when considering what they have posted on social media.

The big question is “Can my employer check my social media?”

This is a complex answer as there are many considerations which need to be made. Firstly, from an overall legal perspective, the short answer is, YES, employers can look at and check the social media profiles, content and activity of a staff member. This is legal, when the content and profiles being viewed are in the public domain. Doing so is the same as viewing someone’s Facebook profile whom you are not friends with and let us be honest, who has not done the Facebook stalk for business or personal reasons?

This though, does come with its set of ethical and legal dilemmas.

Firstly, it is not advisable for a direct manager or supervisor to do so personally. This can lead to complications and a high potential for discrimination against an employee exists.

Secondly, should an employer/ manager/ supervisor request a staff member to accept friend/ follow requests this can be seen as coercion and being forced. This will allow the individual to view activity and content which is outside of the public domain.

To eliminate the risk associated with the viewing and assessing staffs social and digital media activity, behaviour and content, employers should never do so internally and it is strongly recommended that the employer makes use of an external service provider who has a fixed, measurable and impartial process to conduct social media risk assessments. This will ensure that no discrimination takes place, only public domain information/ content and activity is viewed and each individual is assessed according to the same criteria, with no preferential treatment or negative stigmas attached to an individual are known or considered in the process.

So………YES, employers can check your social media, but should do so wisely and utilize independent, objective parties to do so, external to the company.