Employment policies continue to be closely scrutinized by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and certain policies seem to be receiving particular attention. Not surprisingly, some of these policies relate to social media.
A somewhat new area in the employment world, the role of social media is just being carved out in the courts and employers must walk a fine line when determining how to police employees’ use of social media inside and outside of the workplace.
While many employers include language in their employment policies that governs the way employees speak about other employees or the employer on social media, the NRLB has found this to be restrictive of employee rights.
Some of the more frequent issues that have arisen in the NLRB’s review of social media policies include:
- Requiring disclaimers that a post does not represent the Company’s views. Instead, employers might consider requiring that employee postings not create the impression that the employee is speaking on behalf of the employer.
- Prohibiting “confidential information” posts. Employers should take steps to protect confidential information, especially trade secrets, by clearly letting employees know that such posts are strictly prohibited and in breach of the employee’s duties of confidentiality.
- Prohibiting anonymous posts. According to the NLRB, employees have the right to post items about their employer anonymously, even if such postings are highly critical.
- Vague descriptions of prohibited activity. Overbroad language and policies prohibiting posts that are “inappropriate,” “disrespectful,” or “offensive” are generally deemed too restrictive by the NLRB.
- Restrictions on posts about intellectual property. For example, the NLRB has found a prohibition on the use of “company logos, trademarks, graphics, or advertising materials” in social media postings to be unlawful.
As the use of social media continues to expand, so does the need for employers to have carefully crafted policies that properly deal with the many issues that will arise.
To discuss your company’s employment policy, particularly its approach to social media, contact experienced business lawyer Drew E. Pomerance today.