What is considered acceptable use of social media in the modern workplace? How can what you post on social media both in and out of the office be used against you?
Although in many cases U.S. laws and regulations have not kept pace with all the latest developments, legislators and employment specialists have become increasingly aware of the issues. Facebook has over one billion users, with Twitter boasting around 500 million – and LinkedIn around half that.
Understandably, many employers were reported as having noted this tendency with some degree of alarm, voicing fears such as reduced productivity, adverse publicity and a possible trend in work-related claims and liability. Some have wondered about their rights to ban social media usage in the workplace – yet these same employers have seen their levels of businesses grow in many cases due to social media’s innate ability to market products and services to new customers. Companies also hire bloggers, endorsers or community managers to take advantage of the phenomenon.
In addition, employee morale is usually higher with access. What is clear, however, is that social media policies are just as important an area as any other (such as vacations, special leave and anti-discrimination) in contracts of employment and the general relationships between employers and employees.
As social media developed, some government agencies began issuing guidance. While some of this has been based on common sense and an intuitive approach, other examples have been less so. Specifically, some NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) pronouncements on the subject have been viewed as self-contradictory and confusing. The NLRB has received most of its press attention for supporting the employee right of engaging in concerted activities. Here, one key test is whether any one employer policy would reasonably have the effect of distressing employees; such clauses are deemed invalid in employment contracts. The Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEC) has also taken an interest in the question. Read the rest of this entry »