Employer Request for Personal Internet Account Information in Utah

The majority of Utah’s working class has at least one personal internet account, and it isn’t uncommon for employers to use potential employee’s profiles as a way to get to know them prior to hiring.

Social Media and Job applications

Photo by: Kathryn Decker

Beginning in 2011 many companies were asking for the Facebook user name and password of potential hires. Other companies were requiring that a potential employee “friend” the company representative. A query on Facebook and Twitter are common for potential employees. The company is trying to hire the best candidates and the more information the company has the easier it is to get the best or at least get the candidate that will embarrass the company in the least. Unknown to many employers however, some intrusions into a current or potential employees personal life were later deemed an invasion of property, similar to asking for a key to a house or apartment just for “a look around”.

 

Personal internet account information

 

Photo by: Paul O’Rear

Utah Code 34-48-201 regarding the Internet Employment Privacy Act prohibits employers or potential employers from certain hiring behavior regarding personal internet accounts. It states that an “employer may not do any of the following:

1. Request an employee or an applicant for employment to disclose a username and password, or a password that allows access to the employee’s or applicant personal Internet account; or
2. Take adverse action, fail to hire, or otherwise penalize an employee or applicant for employment for failure to disclose [above described] information”.

Unfortunately, not all employers are well versed in current hiring laws which can be especially true of smaller companies. Other companies may know of the law but still request and have the mentality of only wanting employees that are willing to disclose everything to their employer.

Potential civil and action

Bosses are still allowed to request to be your friend on social media. If they request personal internet account information then they may run them the risk of a civil suit. Regardless of how promising a job may be, an employee does not need to allow their employers to access their personal Internet account. Employees should be warned that allowing an employer this access could lead to criminal action if a potential employer finds any incriminating conversations, pictures, or videos and shares the content with law enforcement. With that said, anyone who is facing legal trouble stemming from information pulled from their personal Internet account should consult with an attorney to decide whether or not any evidence obtained falls within the parameters of a lawful search and seizure.

Man Tired of Being Single – Makes Terrorist Threats While Visiting Utah

A Colorado man visiting Utah was tired of being single and used social media to make terrorist threats against girls.

Loveless and lawless

Terrorist threats

Photo by: Pietro Zanarini

27 year old Christopher Wayne Cleary of Denver, Colorado was visiting Provo, Utah when he posted on Facebook his woes regarding his lack of a romantic life. In the midst of his personal oversharing, he also made terrorist threats against girls by threatening to cause a mass shooting and kill “as many girls as I see.” Alert members of the online community contacted Denver police who then tracked Cleary down to his location in Provo. Officers in police were able to apprehend Cleary peacefully where he was then questioned before being booked into the Utah County jail for making the terrorist threats.

Making terrorist threats

Cleary is facing charges of a probation violation as well as felony charges for making terrorist threats. Utah Code 76-5-107.3 states “A person commits [terrorist threats] if the person threatens to commit any offense involving bodily injury, death, or substantial property damage, and:

• Threatens the use of a weapon of mass destruction . . . ; or
• Threatens the use of a hoax weapon of mass destruction . . . ; [both second degree felonies] or
• Acts with intent to:
o Intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence or affect the conduct of a government or a unit of government [a second degree felony];
o Prevent or interrupt the occupation of a building or a portion of the building, a place to which the public has access, or a facility or vehicle of public transportation operated by a common carrier [a third degree felony] ; or
o Cause an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies to take action due to the person’s conduct posing a serious and substantial risk to the general public [a class B misdemeanor].”

That section goes on to note that “A threat under this section may be express[ed] or implied.”

Social media oversharing

Law enforcement officers did not report finding any weapons on Cleary and when they found him he was merely sitting at a McDonalds, not taking actions to carry out his threat. Cleary was compliant with police and when asked, he didn’t deny making the terrorist threats. According to Cleary, he posted the threat on Facebook when he was distraught and quickly took it down following the backlash from other Facebook users. While it may be seen as awkward and even inappropriate, many social media users use their posting rights to “vent” when they are upset. Some may overshare by openly saying what is on their mind. Others might participate in “Vague-booking” or posting vague comments to get the attention of someone specific or anyone who will ask follow-up questions. However they go about it, often these “venting” posts are taking down once the person has calmed down and realized they have probably posted a little bit too much personal information for every single one of the Facebook friends to see.

Crossing the criminal line

While the awkward venting posts may not result in much more than embarrassment, using the social media resource to threaten harm on a single individual or a group of people can quickly lead to criminal charges even if the person never had any intention of carrying out their threat. Utah Code 76-5-107.3 defined above warns that “it is not a defense . . . that the person did not attempt to carry out or was incapable of carrying out the threat.” Anyone using their accounts for venting are warned to always keep their posts within legal boundaries. Those facing criminal charges for comments or posts they made to any social media accounts including terrorist threats are encouraged to immediately seek legal counsel from a reputable attorney.

Man Offering Tweens Candy Arrested for Disorderly Conduct

A Utah man was arrested in St. George last week for disorderly conduct after attempting to lure some tweens by offering them candy.

Stranger danger

Photo by: Phillip Male

Last week a southern Utah mom made a Facebook plea to residents to be on the lookout for a guy who behaved in a creepy manner toward her daughter and a few of her friends. According to the mom’s post, the man approached the tweens as they were walking and offered them candy to which they declined. He then invited them to join him at a party which was also countered with a “no”. It was then that a mother of one of the girls pulled up and asked the individual to leave the girls alone.

Creepy to criminal

Up to this point, all the individual had done was offer the girls candy and an invite to a party. Although this is creepy and inappropriate behavior, nothing about it was against the law. When the mom got involved, the man became notably irritated. He then proceeded to yell at her, violently strike her vehicle hood with his fist before throwing a bag of candy into her car and taking off. It was at this point that his behavior transition from creepy to criminal.

Disorderly conduct

Police were able to locate and apprehend 41 year old Jeffrey Lambert who was booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on a variety of charges including disorderly conduct. Utah Code 76-9-102 states: “A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if . . . intending to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, the person:

(i) Engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous, or threatening behavior;
(ii) Makes unreasonable noises in a public place;
(iii) Makes unreasonable noises in a private place which can be heard in a public place; or
(iv) Obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic in a public place. . .

Disorderly conduct is a class C misdemeanor if the offense continues after a request by a person to desist. Otherwise it is an infraction.”

Defamation of accused

While the behavior of Lambert toward the tweens was questionable, the community had already identified him publicly prior to his arrest. Not only did the community jump in the find the suspect, they also made public assumptions that proved to be not entirely correct. While Lambert did offer the girls candy, he did not lace it with drugs as many presumed. Additionally, speculations had arisen as to what his intentions were. While many can guess, only those investigating the case will know for sure. The community is encouraged to not publicly burn someone at the stake but instead let the individual face their charges in a court of law. Anyone who does otherwise and publicly slanders a suspect could face their own charges of criminal defamation. For more information on criminal charges and defamation that could arise prior to or during a case, contact a criminal defense attorney.