Chances are most of your employees are on social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Some of them
may be using their private accounts to say things about their
employment. Frustrated employees might even be complaining about their
working conditions – or about you.
While it may seem prudent to ban employees from saying anything negative
about your organization online – or perhaps even discussing work at all
– the National Labor Relations Board, which interprets the National
Labor Relations Act, has ruled that this kind of restriction is illegal.
That said, employers can still encourage employees to think before they
speak (or type), and remind them that behavior akin to unlawful
harassment of their co-workers may still lead to discipline.
Also be aware that 23 states have already implemented social media
privacy laws for employees, so you’ll want to ensure you’re not
overstepping any legal requirements when drafting your social media
Here are a few Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind when creating a company social media policy:
DO… Maintain control over company social media accounts. As the
employer, you own them and have a right to access them. You should
always have the current credentials to access company social media, even
if you assign an employee or outside party to oversee the accounts.
DO… Respect the privacy of employees. Even publicly-viewable social
media accounts are part of the personal lives of your employees.
Monitoring the personal conversations of your employees indicates you
don’t trust them. Employees who believe their employer doesn’t trust
them will be less engaged and committed.
DO… Encourage employees to be respectful and to avoid statements
that could be interpreted as threatening, harassing, or defaming. You
can tell them not to present their opinions as those of the company and
to refrain from sharing confidential company information on social
media. Put employees on notice that you may request to see their social
media activity if it’s relevant to an investigation of misconduct. State
laws generally say you may request access to an employee’s personal
social media only if you’re conducting an investigation into that
employee’s alleged misconduct and you have a reasonable belief that the
employee’s personal social media activity is relevant to the
And now for the Don’ts:
DON’T… Examine the social media accounts of applicants or employees.
If you were to learn information about a protected class or protected
activity, and then made an adverse decision regarding the employee or
applicant, you could open yourself up to claims of retaliation or
discrimination. Generally, it’s best that employers and supervisors not
be online “friends” or “followers” of their employees.
DON’T… Restrict concerted activity. According to the National Labor
Relations Board (NLRB), employer social media policies should not be so
sweeping that they prohibit (or would seem to discourage) the kinds of
activity protected by federal labor law, such as the discussion of wages
or working conditions among employees.
DON’T… Ignore the laws. While state laws differ, they share some
general themes. First, the laws prohibit employers from requiring or
requesting that employees or applicants disclose their login credentials
(usernames or passwords). Second, the laws say you can’t require or
request that an employee or applicant access their personal social media
in your presence or add you to their contacts or friends list. If an
account is private, you shouldn’t try to gain access to it. Third, the
law prohibits retaliation on your part. For example, if you were to
discipline an employee for refusing to show you what’s on their social
media timeline, or not hire an applicant who refused to do the same,
you’d be in violation of the law.
In conclusion, if you have employees working in any of the states with
social media privacy laws, it’s a good idea to examine the specific laws
to make sure you’re not in violation. But even if your state has no
social media privacy law, we recommend using a social media policy that
encompasses the advice above. You can find a ready-to-use social media
policy in the HR Support Center in the Policy Library, under the Tools
This content came from a team of HR professionals at HR Support Center.
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