Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. YouTube. Blogs. Email. Texts. Social media and the “E-Workplace” have become a fact of life for all employers. Companies have learned that these social media sites can be powerful marketing tools, but also provide an open door for risk. Employees can post or write negative comments in social media that may create liability for their company, cause public relations nightmares, or even reduce profits.

Some companies initially reacted to these threats by shutting down employee access to these social networking tools in the workplace. But with personal devices like iPhones, iPads, and now the Apple Watch, employees can engage in social media at work – frequently and undetected – on their own, personal devices outside the watchful eye of their employer.

Social media has become a powerful tool for employers to use in the pre-employment and hiring process, as well as for managing employee behavior and can often provide the basis for discipline. But how far can an employer go? Google searches may or may not be ok, but what about checking Facebook pages or Twitter and Instagram feeds? Some employers request (or demand) social media passwords from applicants or employees – is that appropriate? Or worse, is it even legal?

And once an applicant is hired, what rights does he or she have to voice complaints about their workplace or supervisor? Is it legally protected activity? Facebook has become the modern day water cooler, a place for employees to vent their frustrations about work and the workplace. But what restrictions – if any – are placed on the employer for disciplining the employee for making negative comments through social media?

This is just a small sample of the many issues employers face in the “E-Workplace” of today.