HOUSTON — A teacher’s aide in Michigan has been suspended because she refused to give her Facebook password to her employer. And a Texas legal expert says it could easily happen in this state, as well.
Kimberly Hester of Cassopolis, Mich., posted a picture last year of a coworker’s pants down around her ankles. Only the coworker’s pants and shoes are visible in the photo.
At the time, Hester was a teacher’s aide at Frank Squires Elementary in Cassopolis. Another parent, who is one of Hester’s Facebook friends, notified the school superintendent.
Hester said she was told by Lewis Cass ISD Superintendent Robert Colby that he would like her Facebook password, so that he could view the photo himself.
"He asked me three times if he could view my Facebook and I repeatedly said I was not OK with that," said Hester.
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 has since been suspended, and her case is headed for arbitration.
So could this happen in Texas?
"Yes," said Prof. Gerald Treece, a legal expert for KHOU TV in Houston. "Because you can get fired just for your attitude."
Treece said a private employer in Texas can fire you for almost any reason—except race, religion, gender or physical handicaps. It can be more difficult for a government employer, like a school district, to terminate an employee over something like the Facebook flap, but Treece said the school district has its rights, too.
"If this lady has some bad conduct or immorality, they have a duty then to protect those children," said Treece.
States like Texas and Michigan do not have laws against employers demanding info like Facebook passwords, but many states do have such laws in the works.
"I think that we’re way overdue," said Treece. "Our law usually stays way behind most technology it’s so quickly advancing. This is a good example."
A good example, and until laws change, a fair warning.