It may be tempting to leave social media policies out of your employee handbook, but doing so could subject you to more legal and regulatory liability.
Without policies in place, you may have zero recourse if an employee is using social media to bash you, the company, clients, or coworkers. Lack of policy also means that managers and supervisors may take individualized approaches to disciplining employees about their social media usage.
Here are some tips from an article on AccountingWEB about developing social media policies to comply with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
- Understand what “protected concerted activity” can include and be sure that the policy doesn’t prohibit such activities.When employees criticize a manager on Facebook, it’s natural to want to respond. Employees and supervisors need clear guidance on what is acceptable and legal. The NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) says that one employee griping about a manager isn’t the same as a group of employees complaining online about a policy, benefits, or bonuses.
- Specific policies are best. Don’t try to cover every possible situation. The NLRB accepts policies that are limited and specifically address business-related issues: sexual harassment, confidentiality, intellectual property, etc. Provide hypothetical examples in your handbook to provide guidance.
- When in doubt, escalate. Regulatory actions and court rulings surrounding social media are constantly changing. If you have questions about whether an employee’s actions violate your social media policies, consult with HR before disciplining.
- Regularly review the policy. Periodically review your company’s social media policies and update them so they keep up with the latest social media rulings.
- Be careful about monitoring. Businesses should track how they are discussed online through searches or Google Alerts to protect your brand and reputation. But don’t troll the Internet for the sole purpose of seeking out employees’ social media postings. The NLRA could consider that “surveillance” – which could be illegal.
Balancing employee free speech and protected activity is increasingly complicated in today’s social media environment. Employers should work proactively to educate supervisors, managers, and employees about what is acceptable under federal law, as well as what types of comments can get workers legally fired.
Portions of this article originally appeared on AccountingWEB.
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