Fall 2014 Issue
Facebook, You Tube, Twitter….Oh My!!
A Practical Guide for Implementation of a Social Media Policy Covering Employees’ Use of Technology Outside the Work Place
Sara Markouc, Esq.
The numbers are staggering. Facebook currently reports 1.19 billion users; LinkedIn has 259 million members; Twitter comes in at 500 million users; and YouTube reports approximately 4 billion views per day. Social media is not going away but is, instead, becoming more prevalent every day. The good news for employers is that social media can have tremendous promotional value for your organization. However, there is also a great potential for employee misuse of this medium – both in and out of the work place.
What can an employer do to combat employees’ potential misuse of social media outside of the work place? The first line of defense is a comprehensive social media policy, in addition to your company’s acceptable use policy. This should be incorporated into your employee handbook, which new employees are required to review and sign off on having received upon hire. The following items are critical to incorporate into this policy:
- An initial statement explaining that, due to the public nature of the Internet, an employee’s posts and comments about work, the workplace or co-workers may become accessible to millions of other Internet users and could have an impact on the company, its image and reputation.
- All employees are expected to post on the Internet in a responsible fashion and in accord with the company’s guidelines. No posting may violate any provision of company policy.
- No employee may imply the organization’s endorsement of any statement or posting or attribute views or opinions expressed in such statements or postings to the company. To avoid any confusion, employees should include a disclaimer in any such statements which explains that the employee's views do not reflect the views of the company.
- All employees accept full personal responsibility – and liability – for the content of their personal Internet postings.
- Employees are prohibited from posting threats of violence or remarks that are obscene, malicious or bullying, comments that are racist, sexist or otherwise discriminatory and create a hostile work environment, and rumors or other disparaging statements about the employer that the employee knows to be false.
- Employees are prohibited from disclosing proprietary, financial, marketing, strategic or other confidential business information belonging to the employer that is clearly defined and does not relate to terms and conditions of employment.
- Employees are personally and legally responsible for all content that is published on the Internet. The company may not indemnify any employee from legal action that may result from that employee's personal online activities.
- When expressing opinions, employees should make it clear that their statements are opinions and not purported fact or statements that have otherwise been endorsed by the company in any fashion.
- Employees are prohibited from posting any personal material or conduct any activity that fails to conform with any and all applicable local, state or federal laws.
- An employee’s failure to comply with these policies may lead to discipline up to and including termination. If an employee has any questions about this policy, please contact Human Resources.
Additionally, employers should be aware of recent decisions from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) finding that postings on social media by employees constituted concerted activity that was protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Employers should consider including a clause in their social media policy describing activities that are protected by the NLRA and clearly stating that the policy is not intended to interfere with these rights.
Markouc is an attorney practicing in the labor and employment practice group of Cleveland-based Walter | Haverfield.