Social Media has become a huge part of the lives of people throughout the United States and abroad. It is an easy way to stay connected to friends, family and your local community. It can also be a phenomenal tool for businesses to create greater connections with employees and clients. Still, there are some pitfalls to using, or should I say misusing, the myriad channels that are now available including Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube to name a few.
Recent events across the nation involving entertainers and other public figures have shown the amount of damage one Tweet can do to not only the offender, but the organization to which they are connected.
While you may want to restrict employees from making negative comments about your leadership or your organization online, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) which interprets the NLRA, has ruled that this kind of restriction is illegal.
However, as an employer you can certainly encourage employees to use good judgement and think before they post – you can remind them that behavior akin to unlawful harassment of co-workers may still lead to discipline. Below are a few Do’s and Don’ts when creating a Social Media Policy.
- Be sure to maintain control over you OWN company social media accounts. As the employer, you own them and have a right to access them. You should always have the current credentials to access company social media, even if you assign an employee or outside party to oversee the accounts.
- Be sure to always respect the privacy of employees. Even publicly-viewable social media accounts remain part of the personal lives of employees. Monitoring personal conversations indicates a lack of trust and if employees believe their employer doesn’t trust them, they will be less engaged and committed.
- Encourage employees to be respectful and to avoid statements that could be interpreted as threatening, harassing, or defaming. Advise them to never present their personal point of view as that of the company and ask them to refrain from sharing confidential information online.
- Notify employees that you may request to see their social media activity if it’s relevant to an investigation of misconduct. State laws generally say you may request access to an employee’s personal social media only if you’re conducting an investigation into that employee’s alleged misconduct and you have a reasonable belief that the employee’s personal social media activity is relevant to the investigation.
- Don’t examine social media accounts of applicants or employees. If you learn information about a protected class or protected activity and make an adverse decision regarding the employee or applicant, you could open yourself up to claims of retaliation or discrimination. Generally speaking, it’s best that employers and supervisors not be online “friends” or “followers” of their employees.
- Don’t restrict concerted activity. According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), employer social media policies should not be so sweeping that they prohibit (or would seem to discourage) the kinds of activity protected by federal labor law, such as the discussion of wages or working conditions among employees.
- Don’t ignore the laws. While state laws differ, they share some general themes. #1: Laws prohibit employers from requiring or requesting that employees or applicants disclose their login credentials (usernames or passwords). #2: The laws say you can’t require or request that an employee or applicant access their personal social media in your presence or add you to their contacts or friends list. If an account is private, you shouldn’t try to gain access to it. #3: The law prohibits retaliation on your part. For example, if you were to discipline an employee for refusing to show you what’s on their social media timeline, or not hire an applicant who refused to do the same, you’d be in violation of the law.
Lastly, if you have employees working in any of the states with social media privacy laws, it’s a good idea to examine the specific laws to make sure you’re not in violation. But even if your state has no social media privacy law, we recommend using a social media policy that encompasses the advice above.
If you currently use our HR Support Center, you have access to a ready-to-use social media policy which was recently updated with the NLRB’s newest decisions in mind but is not written in the most restrictive terms possible. If you aren’t using our HR services and have additional questions about enacting or revising your company’s social media policy, contact us today and talk directly with one of our HR Specialists.