The use of social media has become extensive in the workplace, and social media policies are gaining attention. Workers’ exchange of “personal” and work-related information brings risks to employers.
Learn to manage employees’ social media use and understand its potential impact on your brand. All companies need a social media policy—even if the company has no social media presence—because your employees may be creating one of their own.
NLRB’s social media guidelines
The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) social media guidelines are very important. The Board’s decisions in social media cases can be used as guidance by all federal courts when deciding freedom of speech cases. The National Labor Relations Act’s (NLRA) provisions cover all employees, regardless of whether they are unionized. Section 7 of the NLRA permits employees to engage in “protected concerted activity”—i.e., when two or more employees take action regarding the terms and conditions of their employment for their mutual benefit.
The NLRB’s social media guidelines initially faced criticism because of confusion created by some of the Board’s decisions. Employers must walk a very fine line between prohibiting unwanted conduct and avoiding unlawful restrictions on protected activity.
All employers should consider including in their handbooks a policy that establishes rules for employees to follow when communicating about the company on social media. Policies should not prevent employees from engaging in protected speech on their own social media sites or punish them for making disparaging remarks about the company or supervisors.
Developing a sound policy
Here are some things to consider when creating a policy on social media use for your company:
No policy can prevent all potential abuse from occurring. However, implementing a lawful social media policy and training your workforce will go a long way.