Plaintiff Taps Into Anti-Hacker Law To Bring Claims Against Employer Who Posted On Plaintiff's Social Media Accounts

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The Fast Laner has previously addressed the headaches accessing employees’ social media accounts can create for employers, and a recent Northern District of Illinois case suggests those fears are well-founded.  In Maremont v. Susan Fredman Design Group, Ltd., et al., the plaintiff sued her former employer and alleged a violation of the federal Stored Communications Act (SCA) after the employer purportedly accessed and posted on the plaintiff’s Facebook and Twitter accounts during her medical leave of absence without her permission.  The SCA was originally enacted to protect privacy interests in personal and proprietary information from the mounting threat of computer hackers, not for employment law purposes, and claims brought under the law often focus on whether the individual who used the information had permission.  In the Maremont case, however, the judge held that issues of fact existed with respect to whether the plaintiff granted her former employer permission to access her accounts,  and precluded summary judgment for the employer.  The judge denied the motion for summary judgment despite the fact that the plaintiff admitted that she sometimes used her personal Facebook and Twitter accounts for work (such as promoting her employer’s company) and despite the fact that she kept a log of her ID’s and passwords to the accounts on employer-owned systems.  While this opinion, which largely focused on the issue of damages, may be overlooked by many commentators, it creates a scary proposition for employers who should be wary of letting employees (such as sales representatives, marketing employees, professional bloggers, and others) “blend” their personal social media accounts with professional accounts.

Topics:  Employer Liability Issues, Facebook, Medical Leave, Right to Privacy, Stored Communications Act, Twitter

Published In: Communications & Media Updates, Labor & Employment Updates, Privacy Updates

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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