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article imageTeacher aide suspended, refused to show employer Facebook account

By Leigh Goessl     Apr 3, 2012 in World
Cassopolis - An employee recently found herself suspended after she refused to allow an employer to see her Facebook account upon demand.
Kimberly Hester, a teacher's aide for the Lewis Cass Intermediate School District in Cass County, Mich., had posted an image on her Facebook account, with the permission of the photo's owner, who happened to be a coworker.
A (presumably) offended parent wrote to the school informing them of the image. The parent was allegedly friends with the school employee, and a parent, but not the parent of one of Hester's students.
This complaint led to Hester being called in to her superior's office. At this meeting, the 27-year-old employee was asked by Robert Colby, the school district's superintendent, to see behind her Facebook account's privacy settings. She refused.
WSBT reported Hester said, “He asked me three times if he could view my Facebook and I repeatedly said I was not OK with that."
No union representative was present for this meeting. "I asked for my union several times, and they refused. They wanted me to do it right then and there," Hester said, reported ABC News.
Hester said the picture was both taken and posted off work hours. The image, posted on her Facebook page in Apr. 2011, was described by Hester as “very mild, no pornography.".
ABC News has received the image in question and has published it with permission of Hester, which is a photo of one of Hester's coworkers with pants around her ankles stating "thinking of you", sent as a joke. The image shows the pants, part of the coworker's legs, and the tips of her shoes. It was visible to Facebook friends, not a public post, said Hester.
According to WSBT, the Lewis Cass ISD Special Education Director sent Hester a letter which said “…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 had provided WSBT view of the letter.
Next Hester was put on administrative leave with pay, but eventually suspended. Currently, there are no laws preventing employers from demanding access to social media accounts.
When Hester did go back to work after the suspension, she indicated she was treated unfairly and not allowed to use her time and other allotments under her contract. She's also not allowed to speak to coworkers and this has taken a toll on both her health and her family, Hester said.
That isn't stopping Hester from not backing down, however. She wants her back pay and an apology to restore her reputation.
“I have the right to privacy,” Hester told WSBT. To date, she is fighting a legal battle, but has not allowed the school to see inside her account, stating, "I don’t think it’s OK for an employer to ask you.”
As for the coworker, reportedly she was forced to resign.
The case will be heard before a private arbiter in May.
In the meantime lawmakers in Michigan are looking at a law, House Bill No. 5523, dubbed the "Social network account privacy act" which is designed to prevent employers and educational institutions from insisting on seeing private social media accounts.
Last month, as reported by Digital Journal, Facebook warned employers and schools about the practice of demanding Facebook account access, noting this was against the social network's Terms of Service.
More about Kimberly Hester, Facebook, Privacy, Internet, Employee rights
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