Friend Request to Your Oregon Employee? Not So Fast…

Everybody likes a friendly boss.  But as a supervisor/manager or business owner, is it okay to send your employee a “friend request” through Facebook?  Or to ask them to connect with you on LinkedIn, or other social networks?

Thanks to a new Oregon law, effective last month (January 2014), you’ll want to think twice before sending that request.

As summarized in our previous post concerning 2013 legislative changes (we warned that this was coming…), the new law says Oregon employers can’t force an employee to associate with them through the employee’s personal social media accounts.  (Work accounts are a different story.)  The new law prohibits plenty of other actions, too—such as forcing the employee to show you their personal social media page—but makes exceptions for certain situations involving investigations and more.  Check out our previous post for more details, or see the new law here.

“But I’m not forcing them!  All I did was send the friend request. . .”   We hear you.  If it’s truly not “forced,” it technically should be fine (or as we lawyers would say, “defensible”).  But keep in mind the legal trap here and the fundamentals of power dynamics in the workplace.  An employee might feel forced to say “yes” or accept an otherwise unwanted connection, if only to keep their boss happy.  If that’s the case and they are (or later turn) disgruntled, your seemingly-innocent friend request could hand them another card to play, so to speak, in terms of a potential legal violation to use against you.

Does that mean you have to “unfriend” the employees who report to you, who already “friended’ or connected with you last year?  No, not necessarily—especially if the connection pre-dates the new law’s effective date (January 1, 2014).  There are situations where “unfriending” past connections might be smart, though.  For example:  if you did require an employee to connect with you through their personal account before the new law, it wouldn’t hurt to think about offering a graceful way out of that connection, if only to keep things as harmonious as can be at work.