From Facebook to Twitter, LinkedIn and beyond, we’ve reached an age when nearly everyone in the workplace is on social media. While social media can be a tremendously powerful tool to grow your business and connect with customers, it also has its potential downsides. But before you develop a restrictive social media policy for your office there are some important considerations to take to avoid legal trouble.
With the proliferation of unregulated online chatter, many companies are inclined to implement restrictions and blocks on the use of social media for employees, fearing that they might discuss wages, working conditions or the company in a negative light. But before you put your employees social media use on lockdown, consider the many recent rulings by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that deemed many company’s restrictive social media policies to be illegal. Many employees who were fired for saying something negative online about their company, were subsequently rehired and compensated as their comments were deemed protected by the NLRB.
To help you develop an appropriate, but thorough social media policy for your office, here are two major conclusions from the NLRB ruling to incorporate:
- “Employer 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.”
- “An employee’s comments on social media are generally not protected if they are mere gripes not made in relation to group activity among employees.”
And here are a few other guidelines to keep in mind and help stay out of legal hot water:
- Avoid restrictions that are too broad, and instead focus on what is permissible.
- Avoid muting whistleblowers as employees are allowed to talk to the media and federal agencies, including OSHA.
- Keep your guidelines up to date with current laws and social media developments.
- Avoid “friending” subordinates to steer clear of the potential awkwardness and legal entanglements.
Social media is likely to become even more ingrained in our daily lives, both at home and at work, so developing a social media policy that is effective, yet legally sound, is critical. When developing a social media policy, the Social Media Governance website offers some helpful examples of what has worked well for other companies. Back Office Support Solutions can also help with developing resolutions to specific problems that arise or implementing a social media policy.