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Workplace Social Media Policies Must Protect Employers Without Violating Employees’ Rights

Workplace Social Media Policies Must Protect Employers Without Violating Employees’ Rights By / April 16, 2015 / Employee Handbooks and Workplace Policies No Comments

By now you probably know it’s a good idea for your company to have some kind of social media policy in place, but have you implemented one yet? And, if so, have you had it reviewed by an attorney to make sure it’s not violating employees’ rights to concerted activity or whistleblowing protections?

Also, have you considered how to handle employees who violate your company’s policy? What about former employees?

I’ve been reading a lot about workplace social media policies this week. Here are some articles and blog posts I think are worth a read. I hope you’ll find them useful.

Employees Can Vent on Social Media to an Extent. USA Today: “Workers who complain about employers on social media can’t be fired if they’re involved in what’s called concerted activity, or joining with fellow staffers to improve working conditions, according to the National Labor Relations Board, the government agency responsible for upholding workers’ rights. ‘The NLRB is effectively taking the position that commentary about working conditions on social media is completely protected,’ says Henry Perlowski, an employment law attorney with Arnall Golden Gregory in Atlanta.”

Profane Facebook Rant Was Protected, Concerted Activity. SHRM: “In another edition of surprising National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions, the NLRB ruled that a profanity-laced posting on Facebook about a manager and his family was protected, concerted activity and that the employer violated the law by discharging the employee who posted the message. Three key factors in the board’s March 31, 2015, decision were that profanity was common on the worksite and usually went unpunished, the posting encouraged co-workers to vote for a union, and the post was just two days before a union election.”

The Importance of Strong Social Media Policies. SkillPath: “In May of 2013, an appeals court ruled the U.S. Department of Education wasn’t allowed to dismiss a teacher for posting rude remarks about her experience in the classroom on Facebook. The teacher stated she hated her pupils, a statement the appeals court determined was meant only for her friends online and therefore was a private post. In an effort to avoid ending up in court, companies need to ensure their social media policies not only exist, but that they adhere to the law.”

How to Mitigate Risks with Social Media in the Workplace. The Business Journals: “Policies and policing attack the problem too far downstream, reacting to an incident after it has happened. Rather than describe in detail behavior you do not want to see, spend time defining the behavior and organizational climate you want to see. Professionalism. Respect. Mutual support. Good judgment. Recruit for this, orient new hires that this is what is expected, measure performance against it, then coach and counsel when staff stray outside the boundaries.”

How’s the Ex? Former Employees Can Help or Hinder Your Brand. INTHEBLACK: “In the US, 50 percent of employees post messages, pictures or videos on social media about their employers. The vast majority are positive, but on the negative side, 16 percent have shared criticism or adverse comments. Clearly, in an age of Glassdoor and Vault, negative social media can cause serious brand damage, and with it dire commercial consequences…Thanks to social media, ex-employees now have louder voices than ever, and an audience that wants to listen.”

Need help developing and implementing a social media policy for your organization? Contact us; we’re experts at creating employee handbooks and policies.

HR Solutions is a human resources outsourcing firm based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We eliminate human resources headaches for businesses with 10 to 1,000 employees by handling their payroll, employee benefits, regulatory compliance and other staffing needs. Contact us to learn how we can streamline your company’s human resources function to save money and reduce risk.


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