A New Jersey jury recently found that a restaurant did not violate employee privacy or cause emotional distress by accessing an invitation-only Myspace page. The page served as a venting spot for employees. The restaurant was, however, found to be in violation of federal and New Jersey laws prohibiting accessing the information without permission. The employer asked another employee for her password, and she testified that she thought she “would have gotten in some sort of trouble” if she refused to cooperate. Shortly thereafter, the company terminated plaintiffs based on their comments on the site and involvement in creating it. Pietrylo v. Hillstone Restaurant Group.
Mr. Victor Schacter of Fenwick & West LLP writes in the Fenwick Employent Brief (Sept. 2009):"This case highlights the challenges employers face with respect to employees’ blogs and social networking sites that contain work-related speech. While this decision does not restrict an employer’s right to monitor communications and information within its own computer networks, it demonstrates the risks of attempting to access an employee’s restricted online content without the employee’s authorization. Employers should consider implementing written policies that address employee work-related speech on social networking and other online sites to require that employees observe appropriate guidelines when referring to the company, its employees, services, and customers."