Teacher's aide refuses to share Facebook access, is suspended

School authorities insisted that Kimberly Hester open up her Facebook account following complaints over a picture she posted. Now she's fighting for her job and her rights.

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Teacher's aide Kimberly Hester has found herself on suspension and in the middle of a legal battle with her school after reportedly refusing to show a superintendent her Facebook account.

Working as an aide at the Frank Squires Elementary School in Cassopolis, Mich., Hester was employed by the Lewis Cass Intermediate School District, according to news site WSBT.

The issue arose in April 2011 when Hester posted a picture on her own time of a co-worker's pants around her ankles and a pair of shoes. Hester thought the picture harmless enough. But one of her Facebook friends, also the parent of a student, apparently did not.

After the parent complained to the school, Hester found herself summoned to the office of Lewis-Cass Intermediate superintendent Robert Colby, who wanted to see 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 WSBT.

In return, Hester received a letter from the Special Education Director at Lewis Cass informing her that "...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."

The incident led to paid administrative leave and a suspension for the aide, eventually prompting her to file a lawsuit against the school district. Currently collecting workman's compensation, Hester is preparing to fight her side of the case, which is slated for arbitration this May.

"I stand by it," Hester told WSBT. "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 right of employers to ask workers to open up their Facebook accounts has been a lively subject recently. Just over a week ago, Facebook advised its users not to share their Facebook accounts with their bosses, warning both employees and employers that doing so violates the social network's own guidelines.

But Facebook's guidelines aren't legally binding, so employers are under no obligation to follow them. Naturally, Washington lawmakers have gotten into the act, but with little progress so far.

An amendment that would make it illegal for employers to request an employee's Facebook account was rejected last week after Democrats tried to use it to shoot down an unrelated Republican bill.

 

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