James F. Mahoney, Attorney
Commentaries
 
     

May 2012

Social Media on the Job: What Do You Really Know?

Quick – take this quiz.

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An extremely long and detailed set of examples about employer control of employees’ social media activities was published yesterday by the Office of the General Counsel of the NLRB.

Here are some examples mentioned that should make crystal clear – not! – how to discipline and advise your employees on just what’s appropriate for online activities at work or off work.

1. True or false: This social media policy stated in a handbook is appropriate:

  • “USE TECHNOLOGY APPROPRIATELY. If you enjoy blogging or using online social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube, please note that there are guidelines to follow if you plan to mention your employment with us. Don’t release confidential guest, team member or company information. “

False. Not lawful. Employees have a right to discuss working conditions and wages and are protected rights under Section 7 of the NLRA.

2. True or false: This social media policy stated in a handbook is appropriate:

  • “COMMUNICATING CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION. You also need to protect confidential information when you communicate it. Here are some examples of rules that you need to follow:

You should never share confidential information with another team member unless they have a need to know the information to do their job. If you need to share confidential information with someone outside the company, confirm there is proper authorization to do so. If you are unsure, talk to your supervisor. Develop a healthy suspicion. Don’t let anyone trick you into disclosing confidential information. Be suspicious if asked to ignore identification procedures.

Watch what you say. Don’t have conversations regarding confidential information in the break room or in any other open area. Never discuss confidential information at home or in public areas.

If you believe there may have been unauthorized access to confidential information, it is your responsibility to report that information.

We’re serious about the appropriate use, storage and communication of confidential information. A violation of [Employer] policies regarding confidential information will result in corrective action, up to and including termination. You also may be subject to legal action, including criminal prosecution. The company also reserves the right to take any other action it believes is appropriate.”

False. Not lawful. Too broadly worded and you can’t threaten employees about misuse of confidential information. Disciplining an employee for ratting is also unlawful.

3. True or false: This social media policy stated in a handbook is appropriate:

  • “TREAT EVERYONE WITH RESPECT. Offensive, demeaning, abusive or inappropriate remarks are as out of place online as they are offline, even if they are unintentional. We expect you to abide by the same standards of behavior both in the workplace and in your social media communications.”

False. Not lawful. Too broadly worded. It doesn’t say what communications at work would be inappropriate, so it’s ambiguous.

4. True or false: This social media policy stated in a handbook is appropriate:

  • "RESPECT PRIVACY. If during the course of your work you create, receive or become aware of personal information about co-employees, customers, business partners or others, don’t disclose that information in any way via social media.”

False. Not lawful. Too broadly worded. It doesn’t say what communications at work would be inappropriate. There can be discussions of wages and working conditions.

For a version of a media policy that would be lawful, you can call or write me.