Crossing Paths: Employment Law & Social Media

Social media is fully engrained into our daily lives, whether it be a quick log-in to Facebook on the subway, tweeting live during a football game, or sharing photos of a home-cooked meal on Instagram. Social media usage is, of course, not solely limited to individuals, but is frequently used by small businesses and corporations alike. According to a new report by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 77 percent of Fortune 500 companies have active Twitter accounts, 70 percent have Facebook pages, and 69 percent have YouTube pages.[1]  Due to the pervasive use of social media, it touches even unexpected areas of our society, for example, employment law.

Photo credit: Institute for Social, Search, & Mobile Marketing
Photo credit: Institute for Social, Search, & Mobile Marketing

In light of recent changes in both state and federal regulations, it is imperative for employers to understand their rights in the sphere of social media. In January 2013, the Texas state house introduced a bill that would, “prohibit employers from requiring or requesting access to personal accounts of employees or job applicants through electronic communication devices.”[2]  The proposal included computers and social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter as well as cell phones.  Texas State Representative Deborah Giddings, who introduced the bill, remarked that the “social media phenomenon is so new that…we have to set up these new guidelines to guide us into territories that, up to this point, have been uncharted.”[3]

Employers will likely find it increasingly difficult to keep pace with the unchartered changes in laws that regulate the crossroads of social media and employment law.  Employers should review their employee handbooks and company polices to ensure they are current and consult with an attorney to ensure their enforceability.  Organizations like Wiki Leaks and the controversy behind Edward Snowden will likely continue to bring privacy issues to the forefront of the American psyche and further propel the debate and proposal of even more legislation.  Thus, as social media’s popularity and usage continues to rise, the enactment of legislation to regulate the crossroads between social media and employment law will surely follow.

James Stafford focuses his practice in the area of business litigation and business formation as well as a diverse range of other litigation and business transaction matters on behalf of the firm’s clients. In addition to private practice, Mr. Stafford serves as a JAG attorney in the United States Army Reserves. For more information, email

[1] Amy Gesenhues, Social Media Use Growing Among Fortune 500 List with 77% Tweeting & 70% on Facebook, Mktg. Land (July 23, 2013, 6:05 PM)
[2] H.B. 118, 2013 Leg., 83rd Sess. (Tex. 2013), available at
[3] Cody Permenter, Legislating Goes Social: Bills Would Address Web Post, Texas Tribune (Jan. 17, 2013)