Is it ethical for an employer to evaluate a potential or current employee based on his/her myspace or facebook profile? I fist think there is a bigger question going on here, is it ethical for an employer to evaluate an employee based on his/her personal life? To answer that question I think one would have to consider the following; does this employee have a strong public relations role for the company, what type of company does the employee work for, is there a set of rules or obligations for the employee to conduct his or herself by already set forth by the employer.
If the employee has close ties to public relations it would matter what the employee does in his/her personal life, but it does depend on the level of public relations that would determine the degree in which the person would have to conduct his/herself on his/her own time in an area in which could be accessible or seen in public. For example, it would be inadvisable for let’s say the spokes person for an anti drunk driving company or campaign to post drunken pictures of him/herself online at a website like myspace or facebook that could be seen by the public. Just as it would be inadvisable for a person as such to be drunk in public, or even worse to drink and drive. In a scenario such as this, the actions of the employee would have a direct affect on the company, and of course the company has to look out for its best interest to stay afloat. So, in this case I would say that an employer could evaluate an employee based on his/her myspace and facebook accounts or any other areas that would/could be in the publics eye.
What kind of company does the employee work for? There are many different companies that do many different things in many different fields in many areas of the world. So, each company is unique, with its own way of doing things. So, lets say there is an employee that works for a crab processing plant, and his job is just to drive a forklift, and process crab into something eatable. Should it matter if this employee drinks on the weekend? I think it shouldn’t matter what this employee does, just as long it does not affect his work. Same with any employer/employee type relation it should not matter what the employee does outside of work unless it directly or sometimes indirectly affects the employer.
What about a code of conduct that employees have to follow? If there is a set-forth code of conduct in which employees know that they have to follow prior to employment with a certain company, they should follow that code of conduct. If the code of conduct includes use of drugs, or violations of the law, or any other rules, the rules should not be broken. If the employer discovers the employee has broken the code of conduct, the employer would take action. But, the method of how the employer discovers the violation of the code of conduct is the question here. Is it ethically right for a employer to look up an employees myspace to see if the employee has broken any of rules for a code of conduct? In this case I would say that the employer can not base any of the information found on a online account to fire or take action against a employee. For example, let’s say an employee thinks of himself as a bit of a comedian, so he decides to post on his myspace that he just smoked a bunch of heroin and he was drinking and driving. Horrible as that would be if it was the truth, but all the employee did was say it, he wrote words, committing no crime. So, how could an employer fire someone for a mere act of writing, there is no concrete proof of any violations of the code. The employee is simply using his freedom of speech right to make some humor, which is not against the law, nor should it be against company policy. Same with rumors in an office, unless they are proven, it is just a rumor and should be treated as such. So, in the case, no a employer can not take any actions against an employee based on a myspace or facebook account.
Other things to consider; is it ethically moral for an employer to “friend” its employees. I think this would depend on what the intentions of the employer is; if the employee has a restricted account (meaning that it is not public and only friends can view the info on the account) and the boss of that employee wants to “friend” the employee because they both consider each other mutual friends and have more than just a boss/employee role, then in that case I see no un-ethical practices. But, if the boss just wants to dig into the personal life of an employee to possible discriminate against based on the employees personal life, I not only see this as ethically wrong, but illegal as well.
Overall, can employers evaluate the employees based on Facebook or Myspace activities? Overall I would no, but it does depend to an extent. The only way that an employer could do this evaluation is if it directly affected the company in a negative way, and unless the employee is causing harm to the company in his/her personal life the company has no right into his/her personal life.