Teacher’s aide challenges Michigan district claiming she was suspended for refusing to provide online passwords

According to a WSBT TV report in the South Bend Tribune, Kimberly Hester, a teacher’s aide at Frank Squires Elementary in Cassopolis, Michigan, is in a legal battle with Lewis Cass Intermediate School District (LCISD) for suspending her from her position after refusing to give the district access to her Facebook page.  Hester says she became a target for disciplinary action after posting a  picture on her personal Facebook page, showing a co-worker’s pants around her ankles and a pair of shoes.  According to a letter from the Cassopolis schools superintendent to LCISD Superintendent Robert Colby, a parent, who was friends with Hester on Facebook, notified the school about the picture.

Hester said Colby put her on paid administrative leave and eventually suspended her.  “I have the right to privacy,” she said.  However, University of Notre Dame labor law professor Barbara Frick said the school didn’t break any laws by asking for Hester’s Facebook information. Right now there are no state or federal laws protecting social media privacy in the workplace, Frick said. One reason she gave – websites such as Facebook are becoming so mainstream so quickly.

Meanwhile, Hester chose to take unpaid leave and collect workman’s compensation while she fights a legal battle with the school district.   Both sides are scheduled to go to arbitration in May 2012.

Source: South Bend Tribune, 3/28/12, By Kelli Stopczynski (WSBT TV)

[Editor's Note: Just as it was once said that the "eyes are the windows to the soul," employers appear to see Facebook and its social networking counterparts as the windows to a current or prospective employee's character.  However, as reported in the March 2012 Legal Clips summary of an article from The CapitalAnne Arundel County school officials, like their counterparts elsewhere in Maryland, are struggling to draft rules governing how to use social media and to avoid its pitfalls.  This WSBT TV report is more akin to recent news reports about both private and public sector employers asking job applicants to provide Facebook and other social networking site ID numbers.]

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