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How Much Say Can Your Employer Have in Off-site Behavior?

Just about everyone knows someone whose work situation has been affected by their personal life. But how much say does your employer have over what you do away from work?

Whether you work for a small business where everyone knows your business, or for a large employer where keeping your head down is a virtue, here is where the law draws the line over your employer's involvement in your personal life.

  1. They can't inquire about family or personal matters. This one goes way beyond "How's the wife and kids?" An employer can't ask when/if you are going to have children in the future, how many kids you are going to have, your marital status, or your age, or your sexual orientation. After you have been hired, an employer can only ask these things for the purpose of health care coverage, life insurance, or other payroll- or benefits-related reasons.
  2. They can't ask about your credit. Even if you are applying for a job where you will be responsible for budgeting or handling money, your employer is not allowed to check your credit before hiring you. In some states, employers are allowed to seek this information with your permission, but in many it's illegal even then.
  3. They can't stop you from posting about work on social media. Increasingly, the courts consider work venting a free speech issue that is protected under the First Amendment. This means that you can't be fired for venting about work online. You do want to be careful about how specific you are, however. Your employer can restrict speech that shares confidential information about the company, employees or customers. Many employers will also have you sign a confidentiality clause when you are hired, as well as social media policies. These may specify what you can and cannot post online. Know your company policies before you post.

If you have been the target of workplace harassment, discrimination or unfair termination due to off-site behaviors, social media activity, or your personal life, Amy Crossan represents clients in federal court and before the EEOC, MSPB and in state and union grievance hearings. Call Bouchillon, Crossan & Colburn, L.C. at 304.523.8451 or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

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