Many people in Texas might be aware that any emails that they send through their work email accounts can be accessed by their employers. But what about personal online communication accounts such as Facebook? Can your boss get into your Facebook account?
It may surprise many Houston residents, but currently employers in Texas may ask their workers for access to their Facebook accounts. While employees do not have to oblige, because Texas is an at-will employment state employers could fire employees for refusing to comply. Some states have explicitly banned employers from asking workers for their Facebook passwords, and there is a bill pending in the Texas legislature that would do the same, but so far this is legal in the state.
Because this is not currently illegal, Texas residents may be wise to be careful about what information they share on Facebook and online in general. Most of what is published online remains available forever, and certain types of social media posts or blog entries may suggest to employers that a person is not a good fit for a job.
Of course, in some cases Texas employers may use Facebook and other websites to make illegal employment decisions. For example, an employer might learn about a worker’s religion or disability through social media and then choose to discriminate against that worker. Anything along those lines would be illegal under anti-discrimination laws. However, for now, deciding to fire a person because they complain about work on Facebook might be legal in Texas.
It should be noted that this is a relatively gray area in employment law–because, as noted above, much of the information that could be learned about a person online may lead to protections under other employment laws. It is wise for Texans to be very careful with their online presence, but those who are disciplined or fired for such may be wise to seek legal advice.
Source: MyFoxHouston.com, “Will job applicants have to surrender Facebook passwords?” Damali Keith, April 24, 2013
- To learn more about employment law and discrimination in Texas, please visit our Houston employment law firm’s website.