Revise those Social Media Policies | DCR Workforce Blog

Revise those Social Media Policies

For all the laudatory and enthusiastic reports you see online about the energetic, motivational work place provided by Google – juxtaposed by an equal number of posts which are highly critical and directly accuse the company of under-paying and over-working its staff. Social media at the workplace brings with it uses as well as challenges, which leave many an employer in an agony of indecision about having it or shunning it.

Is it an excellent marketing tool or the perfect place to publicly wash the dirty linen? What issues would arise in the work place, with employees working remotely at all times? Can performance be managed using a task-based approach instead of a time-based one? If allowed access, do the employees know how to use it responsibly and productively or will they use it, for the most part, for personal mails, accounts, contacts and online shopping? Can we totally ban such use or set reasonable limits? Then there are the questions about the safety and health of employees relegated to a desk for long hours, getting addicted to the use of  gadgets and media; and the worries about the reduction in face to face communication! Some offices set aside a separate systems room, where the employees can attend to personal work like buying travel tickets, buying groceries and paying bills– as these tasks are also a matter of importance to the employee and may affect employee’s productivity if required to handle in person.

Some best practices suggested with adopting Social Media advise employers to set the rules on the use of social media with specific disciplinary measures in each case and processes to monitor employees effectively and enforce the rules diligently. Employers were to decide if employees could befriend co-workers, clients and competitors or not.

Not anymore! The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is keen to eliminate the so-called ‘Facebook Firings” and protect the rights of employees  to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations and collective bargaining under Section 7 of the NLRA. Workers engaging in activity to better their conditions of employment, including soliciting co-workers to join a union, discussing poor working conditions or unfair wages with each other, appealing to the public regarding workplace plights, etc. will continue to be a “protected, concerted activity”, even on social media.

Read on to find out more about the unlawful clauses in your social media policy and remove or revise them at the earliest possible.

  • Let the policy assign sole responsibility and liability for activities and posts to the employee who may also be required to use a personal email id and first person singular in language used.
  • The NLRB has ruled that employers may not issue unlawful and overbroad instructions dissuading workers from be-friending colleagues on different social media sites.
  • Nor can the employers prohibit employees from discussing their work on these sites.
  • An employer cannot encourage employees to report on unusual or inappropriate internal social media activity. Same goes for union activities or other employees’.
  • Decide if you wish to allow employees to provide a link to the company’s website on the social media pages or not.
  • A policy that prohibits employees from posting photos, music, videos or personal information of others (with or without their permission), their logos and trademarks is also unlawful, when the logos and trademarks are used for a non-commercial purpose. Consider providing a reference point for employees unsure of their proposed posting activity to seek guidance, to avoid any controversy later.
  • Any prohibition of disparaging language against the company may better be qualified by providing examples, which do not violate the protection of Sec 7.
  • The NLRB is also against policies which prohibit topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory, ask employees to adopt a professional tone, stay off religion and politics, controversy and fights and stay friendly on all engagements – as this could be construed to prohibit all discussions; including robust but protected discussions about working conditions or unionism and quell all criticism of the working conditions provided by the employer. Decide if you wish to allow the individuals to claim an affiliation with the employer or not.

The NLRB did not find fault with rules which advised that employees should desist from:

  • Any activity which makes them the slightest bit uncomfortable,
  • Trusting online contacts and develop healthy suspicion,
  • Harassing co-workers online, from office or home,
  • Posting confidential company information
  • Saying how much they hate their job or how they have other jobs in hand,
  • Posting online at times when the company’s rule prohibits the use of social media,
  • Providing references when the employer prohibits them.

As we go along, the exploding use of social media will continue to be a challenge to monitor or keep track of. Most employees who use social media and end up facing a ‘Facebook firing’ would frankly admit to being surprised by the final outcome.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.