A few years back, at an old job in a state far, far away, one of my fellow co-workers was fired because of a post she made on MySpace. Wherein she threatened to put laxative in our coffee. A long HR battle ensued, the main point of contention being whether what she had MySpaced (didn’t it look like I just wrote in Sanskrit there?) was technically in the public or private realm. A few years later, we all know the answer to that question. Every week there’s a new Facebook/Twitter firing or faux pas, the latest that I know of being when a California Pizza Kitchen employee criticized his company’s uniform switch. With human resources departments increasingly having to deal with social-network-related problems, there still isn’t any consensus on how to treat social-networking job infractions.

Only 10 percent of the nearly 800 companies surveyed by the Health Care Compliance Association and The Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics have a specific policy addressing social networks, even though a quarter of them (24 percent) had disciplined an employee “for activities on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.”

Thirty-nine percent of respondents answered ‘no’ to this and 37 percent of respondents didn’t know one way or the other.

While the number of transgressions is pretty high, more than half of companies responding to the survey (53 percent) do not actively monitor social networks. (Which is a good thing – social networks are tipping the power dangerously towards the brand at the expense of the individual).

Corporate policies will get stronger as more transgressions transpire.

“[T]he lack of formal processes for monitoring the usage of social networks could mean that there is much going on that organizations are as of yet unaware. In the long term, that may lead to more rigorous policies and procedures for managing social network usage,” the report concludes.

The social web has made us all public figures, but doesn’t provide us with the PR assistance and protection that public figures rely on to keep their professional reputations in line.

Unless they’re on Twitter, too.

By Mark Alvarez