For the last three years, global law firm Proskauer has conducted a worldwide study of social media use in the workplace. With 36% of all employers fully blocking access to social media sites, and 70% of businesses reporting they took action against employees violating the rules, it seems company social media usage policies are more important now than ever. Not surprisingly, establishing such rules can carry legal ramifications. Proskauer notes that each year in the United States, hundreds of lawsuits are brought against employers for unfair labor practices surrounding social media use. The main issue in these suits typically involves social media rules interfering with or fully violating employee rights to engage in protected activity, as established by the National Labor Relations Act. To avoid such lawsuits in your company, Proskauer offers the following five recommendations.
1) Because laws surrounding social media are ever evolving, it is recommended that you have your legal team review the laws at least once per year, and make sure your current employee rules are in line with them.
2) Make sure your policies surrounding social media use are reviewed thoroughly as part of your employee training program.
3) Make sure your policies and training cover the following topics, and specifically how they pertain to social media: misrepresenting the views of the business, misuse of confidential information, the impropriety of disparaging remarks about the business or fellow employees, the inappropriateness of use that is not business related, and the legalities surrounding online harassment.
4) If you have employees that are required to use business-related social media as part of their job, make sure clear lines are drawn on the boundaries between work and personal use.
5) Implement a provision regarding the repercussions of misuse of social media by former employees to disparage your company or their former colleagues.