Teacher's aide fired for refusing to hand over Facebook password

Summary:Kimberly Hester, a teacher's aide at an elementary school, was fired last year for refusing to give her Facebook password to her supervisors. She is now fighting a legal battle with the school district.

You can add this one to the short but growing list of employers demanding access to Facebook accounts. After refusing to give her Facebook password to her supervisors, Kimberly Hester was fired by Lewis Cass Intermediate School District from her job as an aide to Frank Squires Elementary in Cassopolis, Michigan. She is now fighting a legal battle with the school district.

This all started in April 2011, when Hester was using Facebook on her own time (when she wasn't working at the school). She jokingly posted a picture of a co-worker's pants around her ankles and a pair of shoes, with the caption "Thinking of you."

A parent and Facebook friend of Hester's saw the photo and complained to the school. A few days later, Lewis Cass ISD superintendent Robert Colby asked her three times for access to her Facebook account. Hester refused each of the district superintendent's requests.

Soon after, Colby wrote Hester a letter, a part of which said the following, according to WSBT: "…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 says he put her on paid administrative leave and eventually suspended her. She chose unpaid leave, to collect workman's compensation, and vowed to put up a fight.

"I stand by it," Hester said in a statement. "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."

Hester plans to use the letter she received from Lewis in her legal case against the school district. The two parties are scheduled for arbitration in May. She will have a tough time given that there is currently no law barring her employer from asking for access to her Facebook account, although the issue has been put under a spotlight recently (see links below).

Michigan State Representatives Matt Lori and Aric Nesbitt have contacted Hester to let her know they are including her story in House Bill 5523, which aims to make it illegal for employers to ask employees and prospective employees for their Facebook password. Michigan is one of several states currently pushing for legislation that would make such practice illegal.

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Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Emil is a freelance journalist writing for CNET and ZDNet. Over the years, he has covered the tech industry for multiple publications, including Ars Technica, Neowin, and TechSpot.

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