Legal Question: Can an employer mandate that I set up a social media profile?

Just got an email from my work saying they’re adding “Setting up a LinkedIn profile” to everyone’s annual expectations. (Meaning, it’s going to become part of everyone’s performance review.) Can they do this?

The claim is that it’s everyone’s duty to help with recruiting, so this is part of that.

I don’t know of any legal principle that would forbid this requirement.

Hijack: Wouldn’t LinkedIn profiles for all of the company’s employees make it easier for competitors to figure out who they want to hire? So this might hurt the OP’s employer more than it helps.

My former employer asked all of us to do this a few years ago because their new (at the time) employee resource tool that used it as part of the evaluation process. I think it was dead easy to just use import as resume. I figured it was better for me than the employer (and it was), but they wanted it. I think you can configure LinkedIn settings in various ways to reduce your visibility.

If you have privacy concerns, you could also to talk to your manager or HR and see if there’s a workaround. Depending on your circumstances, there may be a legal requirement to provide one.

Anything you post to a third-party site, whether voluntary, or at the behest of your employer, is subject to the third party’s user agreement:

Can your employer force you into a legal agreement with a third party you don’t wish to play ball?

Legal advice is best handled in IMHO.

General Questions Moderator

Of course they can’t force you. You can always quit. And should. I would quit, if this were my employer.

If “force,” means “require as a condition of employment,” then yes. At least, I am unaware of any general legal principle that forbids it.

A year or two ago when Microsoft bought LinkedIn I deleted my profile. Now I’m having second thoughts and have looked at re-creating it. There’s apparently no way to upload a resume now. I couldn’t find one and Google searches brought up the occasional forum post mentioning that fact. It was apparently a conscious decision to remove that feature but I can’t fathom it. If I’m wrong, someone please tell me how to do it.

Answering the OP: legality doesn’t have much to do with it. Your employer can dictate this as a condition of employment. If you’re not ready to leave over it, you could do a bare bones profile with almost no information in it.

Meh. While I agree that this is a voluntary request, insofar as the employer isn’t forcing you to comply because you can always find another job, LinkedIn isn’t that horrible and invasive. And it might make sense for some jobs that include a marketing/sales aspect.

Just put up the basics of your resume, attach it to your work email, and you can pretty much ignore it except when you are looking for something else to distract you while on the job.

Now, I would feel different if they were required you to do a certain minimum level of activity on the site (sort of a digital version of the “flair” requirement in Office Space), but that’s because the policy would be annoying.

What? Something this trivial is worth quitting over?

I know that employers had pretty broad latitude to create conditions of employment at the time they are hiring people. But aren’t they more restricted when it comes to creating new conditions for employees who are already working?

As an example, my employer once wanted to prohibit employees from having beards. That decision was fought and we won; it was ruled that because we were able to have beards when we were hired, the employer could not now tell us they weren’t allowed. But the employer was able to create a no-beards policy for new hires; anyone hired after that date was not allowed to grow a beard because the policy existed when they took the job.

The only legal limit I can imagine is if using the particular social media service as a condition of your employment violates the terms of service of the social media service, which some prosecutors have argued (successfully!) is criminal behavior.

So, if you were under 16, say, then it would be potentially illegal for you to join LinkedIn. Generally, your employer cannot terminate you for refusing to commit a crime.

ETA: I say “generally” because many states have statutory protections. I don’t know if there’s some kind of common law contract problem with such termination, or a federal statutory prohibition.

Yes. I deleted my Linkedin long ago because it was just a useless spam collector. Even so, I would not be happy about being told to create any social media profile as a condition of my employment. Unless I was hired as part of the “social media marketing team” or something (even then I would expect to be managing the company’s social media profile, not my own), but I’m not and won’t ever be. I’m an engineer. If you can’t find a way to make use of my skill set without forcing me into some gimmicky social app and using it to monitor me after business hours, I can find another job that will.

Yes, they can make that a condition of employment as there is no law saying that they can’t and it doesn’t come anywhere near to discriminating against a protected class, not paying an non-exempt employee minimum wage, or any other piece of labor law. What is your theory for them not being allowed to do so?

They can make using the site and agreeing to the terms of the site a condition of employment. They can’t force you into an agreement, but they can fire you for not entering it. While it’s odd to require it with linkedin, it’s rare to find an office job that doesn’t require people to use software or sites that have an EULA. Using something like Office, Skype, or OneDrive also involves an EULA, and there’s no big controversy about that.

Requiring a social media presence, especially LinkedIn and Twitter, is pretty routine these days for any company that depends on the reputation of its individual employees.

Not really. Employers in at-will states may modify terms and conditions of employment so long as they provide reasonable notice. Govier v. N. Sound Bank, 91 Wn. App. 493, 957 P.2d 811 (1998). Specific states may differ of course.

This assumes that the employment relationship is one of indefinite duration, rather than for a period certain, and that the terms of employment were not collectively bargained. I vaguely recall that you work for a prison system, so I am guessing you are unionized.

It’s worth noting that the OP only has to set up a LinkedIn profile to get a good performance review. There’s no indication that the employer is requiring employees to set them up, though.

It’s becoming more of a “thing” also for companies to try to get their employees to be social media cheerleaders and “brand ambassadors”. They encourage you to “like” the company page on Facebook, retweet company tweets, etc. I don’t agree with that approach (unless you’re on the social media marketing team). But I’m seeing it more and more.

The danger with that, of course, is what happens when an employee whose social media presence is associated with the company says something off-color or offensive. If the employee’s social media accounts and posts don’t mention the employer, there’s no blowback on them when he/she says something offensive.

But they could decide that having a LinkedIn account is a condition of employment and that, because they’re being ineligible to have one, they won’t employ anyone under the age of sixteen. It’s not much different than requiring your employees to have a driver’s license.