“JT & Dale Talk Jobs” is the largest nationally syndicated career advice column in the country and can be found at JTandDale.com.
Dear J.T. & Dale: My company just announced a “no Facebook” policy. It states anyone found on Facebook during work hours will be terminated. Can they do this? I don’t know if accessing it via cell phone counts, and I’m afraid to ask for fear they’ll add it to the policy. What should I do? — Kayla
Dale: We get asked a lot of difficult questions. This isn’t one of them. How is Facebook any different from a company banning personal phone calls at work, or making a rule about bringing in children or against taking a nap at your desk, or… ?
J.T.: We get the idea. And Dale is right — if you’re not part of a union, you’re probably an at-will employee. And that means your company can create and implement any policy it wants to at any time, as long as it doesn’t violate your basic employment rights (discrimination, safety and the like). As far as using your cell phone to access Facebook, I wouldn’t risk it. The policy sounds vague.
Dale: Yes, and a vague policy is like a vague law — defined over time by enforcement. Firing someone for trying to sneak around the ban would be just the thing to demonstrate the company’s intolerance, something that management just might relish doing.
J.T.: The upshot is this: If you have a strong feeling that the policy is wrong, and you can’t live without your Facebook, then you’ll just have to consider finding a new employer.
Dale: Agreed — management probably is proud of the new policy and unlikely to back down. And I confess to having some sympathy for that attitude. What do you call an employer that doesn’t mind its employees spending their work hours on Facebook? A takeover target. Companies that can’t get their employees’ attention, whether with compelling work or demanding policies, are overstaffed and in jeopardy. If you want freedom, be self-employed… and then you’ll see why the boss is so demanding.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm, JTODonnell.com, and of the career blog, CAREEREALISM.com. Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with AgreementHouse.com.
Please visit them at JTandDale.com, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.
© 2012 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
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