Be Careful What You Wish For
For the past several months the National Labor Relations Board has been evaluating the use of social media in the workplace and what impact it might have on employers and employees. In order to make the issue clear for employees, employers have been writing very specific policies about the use of social media in the workplace, only to have the NLRB overule them and find in favor of employees using social media regardless of what the workplace policy might be.
At this point it seems they considering nearly everything which happens on social media networks protected speech and allowing employees to say what they want.
The NLRB does not make law, it merely interprets the law as it relates to employer and employee relations. It is tasked with protecting the ability of employees rights to gather and improve working conditions regardless of whether or not they are part of a union. This means they have a vested interest in what happens to employees who speak out against employers via social media. This might also explain why they seem to favor allowing employees to say what they want on social media regardless of what the company manual says.
So what does this mean for you? Not much. Allowing employees to say what they want via social media is no more damaging than allowing them to say what they want every time they clock out and leave for home. It is not the words which might hurt you, but the truth behind the words. If your company is fair and honest in its dealings with employees you have little to worry about. Disgruntled employees are instantly recognized as such and if their gripe is not legitimate little credence is given it.
In the final analysis it isn’t social media you need to fear, but your own actions. If you are sure of your actions then you have nothing to worry about.
Even if you don’t have a defined social media policy, this report might still have an effect on your decisions. Meyer says, “Regardless of whether you have a policy, the NLRB takes the position that — except in very limited circumstances — you can’t discipline employees who discuss workplace responsibilities and performance together online, even if the online conversation includes swearing, sarcasm or insults.
On the bright side, Bussing adds, “At least you won’t get in trouble for your policy. But before you fire someone for being a complete jerk, think about whether the employee was being critical of wages, hours or working conditions and was communicating to or for other employees.”
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