If your company has begun using social media to expand its reach or engage with customers then it is long past time to take a good hard look at the policy manual and make certain it is keeping up with the times.
Social media is unlike anything we have had before when it comes to the way we do business. Since it is so new, chances are there is nothing in your policy manual designed to handle problems which might arise from the use of social media.
Already the courts have had to step in to settle problems from employers who fired employees who used social media to say something bad about their company. The employees have so far won those cases because social media is considered a protected arena.
If you have a policy expressly forbidding certain behavior, however, you stand a much better chance at protecting your image and keeping your employees “on message.”
Employees are allowed to discuss the conditions of their employment with co-workers — in the break room, in the parking lot or on Facebook.
That was the National Labor Relations Board’s basic position involving an unfair labor practices case the agency brought against an employer.
The back story: A worker — at home, on Facebook — had posted derogatory comments about a supervisor. Co-workers read the post, “liked it” and added barbs.
The employer fired the original author for violating a company policy that barred employees from depicting the company “in any way” on social media.
But the labor relations board said that the policy was too broad and that it infringed on the rights of workers — union and non-union — to engage in “protected concerted activities.”
In settling the case, the employer agreed to narrow its policy so it did not restrict employees from discussing wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers and others while not at work.
In most workplaces, employees are “at will.” Texting or tweeting workers can be fired simply because the boss doesn’t think a post reflects well on the company or the individual.
Lawyers and government agencies will successfully object if the firings violate laws governing discrimination, harassment or other legal protections, such as the “concerted activities” cited in the above Facebook case.
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