Legal Danger Zone: ‘Friending’ Your Boss – or Your Employee

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A reader asks: I’ve friended a few employees on Facebook, but I’m seeing them admit to a few things in their status updates that, while legal, are clear violations of company policy. Can I discipline or fire them for that conduct, even if it didn’t happen at the office?

Answer: This is one of those areas where it’s best to proceed with great caution. Under California statutory law, an employee cannot be disciplined for “lawful conduct occurring during nonworking hours away from the employer’s premises.” However, a company may require applicants to sign an employment agreement that protects the employer from “any conduct that is actually in direct conflict with the essential enterprise-related interests of the employer” if that conduct “would actually constitute a material and substantial disruption of the employer’s operation.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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