Most employers train their employees on sexual harassment and most employees have been educated on what constitutes bad or illegal behavior in the workplace. But, with the explosion of social networking there is a new area that needs to be included in harassment training. Facebook alone has 500 million members and it is likely that co-workers are friends on these sites. The potential for damaging harassment claims from employee's actions on these sites has become greater than ever.
When an employee uses a social networking site they may feel that they are in a private, social world apart from work, however if they are friends of others at work, what they write and say on their account is broadcast among co-workers. As an example one employee may make a comment of a sexual nature about a co-worker on another co-workers page. Depending on the privacy measures that this co-worker has on his/her site, this comment could be broadcast amongst hundreds of people. The potential that the co-worker who had comments made about them would see this broadcast are extremely high. Not to mention the potential for other co-workers being offended by the comment. Unlike a comment made verbally which could be overheard by just a few people, a comment made on a social networking site can be seen by hundreds if not thousands of people. Imagine the potential for harassment claims.
The potential for cyber-stalking and unwanted sexual advances on social networking sites is also high. Employees may see these sites as a world outside of work, however if these advances are unwanted and they are between co-workers, harassment claims could arise.
The courts will undoubtedly begin to hear numerous harassment claims arising out of social networking. How they determine illegal behavior has yet to be determined, but to be sure the potential for a catastrophic lawsuit is immense. Protect your company with proper training on online harassment and make sure they are aware of what constitutes appropriate behavior.