Disgruntled Employees Make Fair Use Of Social Media
You might think you have the best, most loyal employees in the whole wide world, but that doesn’t mean they will stay that way forever. Too often disgruntled employees wreak havoc for their former employers simply through word-of-mouth, made much simpler today with the advent of social media.
The National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly found in favor of employees who have been fired for posting negative comments about their employers on one of the many social media networks. To protect themselves from this type of actions, and give themselves the ability to fire employees who engage in this behavior while still employed, business owners have started amending their employee handbooks to specifically prohibit this behavior.
Unfortunately, even with these legally binding procedures in place the NLRB has continued to support the employees, even going so far as to force employers to re-hire fired employees.
The best way to protect your company from these types of actions, either by current or former employees, is to do your due diligence: amend your employee handbook, post new policies, educate your employees, and above all else try to maintain good employee relations to lessen the risk they might be inclined to bad mouth you later.
The ruling is a wake up call for employers. The employer had a social media policy on the books, so having a policy is no longer enough. In addition, the postings on Facebook contained profanity and were exactly the type of discussion no organization wants to see; an embarrassing airing of ‘dirty laundry’. It wasn’t surprising that the decision was to fire the employees.
The National Labor Relations Board found differently, however. The judge looked beyond the profanity and determined that the content was aimed at improving work conditions. With that interpretation, the postings became “protected speech” under the National Labor Relations Act (Section 7). And because it involved several employees, it was also a “concerted activity”. Therefore, the employees were within their rights.
So how do you prevent a similar issue at your company?
First, ensure you have a published social media policy that is communicated to employees. The policy will protect the organization in some instances and also set basic expectations. Having no policy makes it nearly impossible to discipline an employee should an issue arise.
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