April 3, 2012 at 3:04 PM ET
Demanding that employees fork over their Facebook passwords isn't regular practice for the Lewis Cass Intermediate School District in Cassopolis, Mich. Administrators did, however, make that non-negotiable request of Kimberly Hester, a teacher's aide, after she posted a picture of a co-worker with her pants around her ankles, with the caption, "Thinking of you." Hester refused to turn over her password. Now she's fired.
"I have the right to privacy," Hester told WSBT News.
Hester's legal battle to regain her job, which began a year ago when she first posted the picture, is emerging as representatives in various states push for state and federal legislation preventing employers from requiring inappropriate access to social network accounts. According to WSBT News, Michigan state representative Matt Lori, R–Constantine, contacted Hester to include her story in House Bill 552, legislation would make it illegal for employers to ask employees for social media login information.
Hester, 27, worked as a full-time teacher's aide at Frank Squires Elementary in Cassopolis when she posted the photo, which she describes as "very mild, no pornography," just a gag posted during her off time. A student's parent with whom she's Facebook friends saw the picture and reported it to the school. Three days later, Hester was called to the office of district superintendent Robert Colby. WSBT News reports:
“(Superintendent Colby) asked me three times if he could view my Facebook and I repeatedly said I was not OK with that,” Hester told WSBT.
In a letter to Hester from the Lewis Cass ISD Special Education Director, he wrote “…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.
Hester is currently on unpaid leave, collecting workman's compensation while legally battling the school district. "I stand by it," Hester told WSTB News. "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.”
Government representatives in Michigan and other states, and even Facebook, agree with Hester.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., made the request along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., who also said he's writing legislation that would outlaw employers from requesting Facebook passwords.
Erin Egan, Facebook's chief privacy officer on policy, also decried the practice of employers asking for access to Facebook accounts. She said that such requests are a direct violation of Facebook's terms of service and "it also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability."
Helen A.S. Popkin goes blah blah blah about privacy and then asks you to join her on Twitter and/or Facebook. Also, Google+. Because that's how she rolls.