Employment Lawyer Amy Davis: Social Media can Erode Workplace Civility

Just a few years ago, the Facebook term “unfriend” was named the New Oxford American Dictionary’s verb of the year, demonstrating the omnipresence of social media.

A more recent example of how that power can be abused was the firing of a Houston-area teacher who admitted that she created a false Facebook page to even a score with one of her co-workers.

Amy Davis, an employment lawyer, says that the case of 26-year-old Spring ISD teacher Lily Chau should be a wakeup call to both public- and private-sector employers to develop and implement social media policies.

“Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from harassment in the workplace,” says Davis. “Unfortunately, the ubiquity of social media networks means that the boundaries of the workplace have expanded almost infinitely.”

It seems Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media have made the notion of boundaries seem as obsolete as the Edsel.

Mobile connectedness has a well-documented tendency to erode fundamental human courtesies.

Davis says that the dissolution of social boundaries and common courtesy can mean trouble for employers if a company knows, or knew, about harassment, but doesn’t take steps to stop it. That’s particularly the case if it involves sexually oriented content or is motivated by a person’s gender, race, religion or other protected status.

Perhaps when Facebook-fueled incivility dies down, employers can again “friend” social media.


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