Question: What are we allowed to limit when it comes to our employees’ personal social media activity?
Generally, employers are allowed to monitor and limit certain types of activity on social media, as long as it doesn’t violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). This act gives employees the right to discuss wages and working conditions online, whether or not they are unionized.
So, as long as you don’t restrain employees from discussing wages and working conditions online, you can create policies that dictate your employees’ social media activity. Just make sure that these limitations are relevant to your business. To give you a better idea of what we mean by relevant, here are some common policies:
Employees must not use statements, photographs, video, or audio that could reasonably be viewed as malicious, obscene, threatening, or intimidating toward customers, employees, or other people or organizations affiliated with the Company. This includes, but is not limited to, posts that could contribute to a hostile work environment on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, or any other status protected by state or federal law.
Writing something that is untrue and ultimately harmful to any person or organization is defamation and can lead to significant financial liability for the person who makes the statement.
Employees must maintain the confidentiality of Company trade secrets and confidential information. Trade secrets include, but are not limited to, information regarding the development of systems, products, and technology. Private and confidential information includes, but is not limited to, customer lists, financial data, and private personal information about other employees or clients that they have not given the employee permission to share.
Employees must not represent themselves as a spokesperson for the Company unless requested to do so by management. If the Company is a subject of the content being created—whether by an employee or third party—employees should be clear and open about the fact that they are employed with the company but that their views do not necessarily represent those of the Company.
Employees must not use company email addresses to register for social media accounts unless doing so at the request of management. Employees who manage social media accounts on behalf of the company should ensure that at least one member of management has all the login information needed to access the account in their absence.
Ideally, employees will feel like they can discuss any work-related issues with management, and they won’t need to resort to social media as an outlet. But, things happen and it’s always best to be prepared. Having a clear policy that you share with employees upfront will help communicate to employees that you’re not trying to limit their freedom of speech, but simply hoping that they’ll act as positive ambassadors of your brand.
Please note: Individual states have adopted different social media laws, so please be sure to review your social media policy with an attorney or human resources professional before distributing it to your employees.
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