Teacher's Aide Suspended: Yet Another Facebook Password Battle

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Yet another former employee is fighting a legal battle against employers after being suspended for refusing to hand over access to her Facebook account. Teacher's aide Kimberly Hester, of Cassopolis, Michigan, has taken unpaid leave and is collecting workman's compensation while she fights her suspension.

Hester was an employee of Lewis-Cass Intermediate School, and working as a teacher's aide at Frank Squires Elementary School, in April 2011, when she posted a photo of a co-worker's pants around her ankles to that co-worker's Facebook wall. The shot was not revealing, she said -- intended as a joke, it showed only her co-worker's pants sitting atop her shoes. But a parent who was Facebook friends with Hester noticed the photo and reported it to the school.

Hester was later called into the office of Lewis-Cass Intermediate superintendant Robert Colby, who asked her for access to her Facebook account. “He asked me three times if he could view my Facebook and I repeatedly said I was not OK with that,” Hester told local news station WSBT.

The teacher's aide was subsequently put on administrative leave and then suspended. A letter from the Lewis Cass ISD Special Education Director, which Hester includes in her court documents, reads: “…in the absence of you voluntarily granting Lewis Cass ISD administration access to you[r] Facebook page, we will assume the worst and act accordingly." [vis WSBT]. Hester is now on unpaid leave and fighting the suspension.

“I stand by it,” Hester said in a statement. “I did nothing wrong. And I would not, still to this day, let them in my Facebook. And I don’t think it’s OK for an employer to ask you.” The case will go to arbitration in May.

While there is technically no law forbidding employers from asking for employees' Facebook login information, the general public consensus seems to be that this constitutes an unreasonable violation of personal privacy, and the issue has been gaining ground in the media recently. One young job applicant recently walked out of a job interview when his prospective employer asked for his social networking login information, and Facebook itself has spoken out against the practice, calling it "alarming and distressing." Senator Richard Blumenthal even requested a Department of Justice investigation into the legality of the practice, as he drafted legislation to prohibit the practice. (That legislation was later blocked by Senate Republicans.) Meanwhile, the debate on the practice's legality has moved to the state level, with states like California proposing legislation barring employers from asking for confidential login information. Michigan is another state consider such legislation under House Bill 5523, and ZDNet reports that Michigan State Representatives Matt Lori and Aric Nesbitt will include Hester's story in bill.

Do you support national or state legislation against employers demanding login credentials from their employees and applicants? Let us know in the comments.

[via WSBT, H/T: ZDNet, Image Source: TechnoTab]

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