The ink was barely dry on their first report when the National Labor Relations Board’s Acting General Counsel issued a second report just six months later. The hot topic? Social media and the workplace, of course. The NLRB issued the second report to “help provide further guidance to practitioners and human resource professionals.” And don’t we need it! Just when you think you’ve got a handle on your social media policy, another verdict is read that changes everything.
Take the increasing number of “Facebook firings” in the news. One company after another is ending up in court after meting out discipline based on what they thought was a reasonable social media policy. (You’ve heard the stories: Employee has a bad day. Employee goes home and posts disparaging remarks on her favorite social media site. Employer finds out. Employee is fired. Employee takes employer to court.) More often than not, the courts are siding with the employee and are shooting down these policies at a dizzying pace.
Attempting to limit employees’ private postings isn’t the only thing getting companies into social media messes these days. As more companies use social media sites to vet candidates or check up on employees, more Facebook users are tightening their privacy settings. That’s got some employers actually asking for passwords or requesting that candidates “friend” the manager. No surprise, that practice has a lot of groups up in arms, not the least of which is the ACLU. In a recent statement, they compared these requests to an employer insisting on opening up personal postal mail. You can bet it’s just a matter of time before lawmakers address this one.
Clearly, the time has come to review your social media policy. You want to be sure that it complies with the law, saying enough to protect you, but not so much as to get you into hot water. The NLRB report suggests social media policies “should not be so sweeping that they prohibit the kinds of activity protected by federal labor law, such as the discussion of wages or working conditions among employees.” It also reminds employers that an employee’s postings on social media are generally not protected if they are “not made in relation to group activity among employees.”
Your policy should provide a clear statement that categorizes what can and cannot be shared about the company, including proprietary information such as company policies, records and client information. But be careful that it does not violate federal laws that protect employees from disciplinary actions by their companies for discussing wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers.
If you aren’t sure how to craft the best policy for your company, this would be a good time to seek professional help! Call us.