In our last series of posts, we’ve gone through some sticky issues that can arise in the workplace when a company has a social media policy and when a company doesn’t have a social media policy. The biggest, overarching takeaway from those posts is that companies should have a social media policy that is carefully worded and complies with applicable laws.
4 Company Social Media Policy Do’s
So, what exactly should be in a social media policy? Thankfully, the NLRB’s guidance on this question is becoming increasingly helpful:
1. A prohibition on the sharing of specific confidential company information. This is usually a company’s greatest concern, so obviously it should be and can be addressed. However, it has to be as specific as possible, providing examples such as internal company initiatives, internal programs (specific, named programs is preferable), and product/project launch dates.
If you would like to include “trade secrets,” do not simply include that term, define it, be specific, and give examples.
If this prohibition is not specific, chances are it will be found violative. For example, in the NLRB’s May 30th report, it found a provision prohibiting disclosure of “confidential information,” generally, to be violative.
2. A prohibition on the disclosure of any confidential personal information of any clients, customers, patients, and the like. This is fairly straightforward, but again, be specific and give examples.
3. A prohibition on improper employee conduct. This is the area with which one has to be the most careful. Employees (together, not just one employee—a “technicality,” yes, but an important distinction) are free to complain about workplace conditions and the treatment of employees. We know you don’t like it, but get over it or suffer the consequences. So, anything even touching on an employee’s ability to engage in such activity is a huge no no. However, there are still commonsense limitations on an employee’s acceptable use of social media that should and can be prohibited, so long as specific examples are provided. For example, a policy can prohibit the following (this is not exhaustive by any stretch):
i. slanderous activity;
ii. harassment or bullying of other employees;
iii. discriminatory remarks; and
iv. threats of violence.
4. A prohibition on the use of social media in the workplace, unless work-related and authorized. Again, this is pretty straightforward. However, if you’re going to have this be a part of your policy, you have to enforce it, as you should be doing with all of your policies. When we talk policies with companies, and when we come to a policy that gets a lukewarm reaction, we always say that if you’re not going to enforce it, don’t put it in. Workplace policies should be there for a reason and should not simply be lip service.
These should at least provide a rough understanding of what can be prohibited by a social media policy without running into problems with the NLRB. However, if you are an employer and you either have a social media policy or are thinking about incorporating a social media policy into your workplace, contact an employment law attorney to have your policy reviewed or to have your policy drafted. As evidenced by the NLRB’s penchant for cracking down on social media policies, these policies are littered with potential pitfalls.
Furthermore, once a social media policy is in place, training should be provided on the policy and what is prohibited under it. Only 27% of employers conduct social media training.
Hopefully it’s not shocking to hear that employees do not sit down nightly with an employer’s policies and study them. So, if an employer’s going to go through the effort of creating a social media policy, it is important to supplement the policy with training as well. This will tell the employees that the company is serious about the policy and will enforce it, hopefully resulting in less violations of the policy and less headaches for the company.
Does your workplace have a social media policy? Does it cover these bases? Let us know!