Can your employer control your social media

Can the employer speak in if I post on the net?

Dr. Peter Meyer, specialist lawyer for labor law in Berlin and member of the executive committee of the labor law working group in the German Lawyers' Association.
Photo: Dr. Peter Meyer Whether on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter - maybe the employer is reading too. But employees don't really care, right?

Wave got rolling

Dr. Peter Meyer, specialist lawyer for labor law in Berlin and member of the executive committee of the labor law working group in the German Lawyers' Association.
Photo: Dr. Peter Meyer It has happened to quite a few employers: An employee started a wave of negatives with a thoughtless comment on social networks. But is the employer allowed to have a say when employees are active on social networks?

Basically, you have to distinguish between two scenarios, explains Peter Meyer, specialist lawyer for labor law in Berlin. What is the behavior of employees in the workplace and what do they do in their free time?

"The employer can, for example, regulate that employees are not allowed to play around on their smartphones during working hours."

It can also prohibit employees from using their employer's resources, such as the PC, for social media activities. In addition, the employer has the option of stipulating that employees are not allowed to reveal any internal company information - this of course also applies to social media.

Insults and discrimination are taboo

The second area concerns the question: What is an employee actually allowed to do during his free time? "One can say: Basically, the employer cannot impose any restrictions, the employment relationship does not affect private life."

Employees are not allowed to insult their employer in their free time either: A trainee who describes his training company on Twitter as a "molester" must expect a warning or even a dismissal. "But it is always a case-by-case decision whether there will be a termination," explains Meyer.

In addition, the following applies: If the leisure behavior affects legitimate business interests, the employer can regulate this in the employment contract. "Correspondingly, it can be considered a breach of duty if an employee, for example, reveals business secrets and internal company matters worth protecting in the social networks." But: Not every lack of taste automatically has consequences under labor law.

Social media as a professional duty

On the other hand, employers can also oblige employees to use social media. "This is part of the employer's right to issue instructions." For example, the employer can instruct a HR manager to present the company on various platforms or career networks.

The prerequisite, however, is that there is a content-related relationship between the employee's activities and the use of social media. "For example, the employer cannot ask an accountant to post job advertisements via their profile on Facebook."

To person

Peter Meyer is a specialist lawyer for labor law and a member of the executive committee of the labor law working group in the German Bar Association (DAV).