Social MediaSocial Media in the Workplace? Here’s How to Make it Work.

Social Media in the Workplace? Here’s How to Make it Work.

Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are now an everyday part of our lives, and that includes in the workplace. But while social media can be an excellent communication and marketing tool for businesses, personal use of social media at work can interfere with productivity and pose some serious data and cybersecurity risks. So how can businesses mitigate these risks and help make sure the company isn’t trending for all the wrong reasons?

Create an Acceptable Media Use Policy

Make sure you have a clearly outlined social media use policy in place, such as an Acceptable Media Use Policy. These policies typically warn employees that they:

o May not divulge trade secrets or confidential or proprietary information online

o Can be held accountable for content they post on the Internet—whether in the office, at home or on their own time—particularly if something they post or share violates other company policies

o May need approval (from a specific person or department) before posting certain types of information that could be associated with the organization, employees or customers

The most successful social media use policies also:

o Explain employee productivity expectations in conjunction with social media habits

o Provide examples of policy violations

o Explain disciplinary measures for policy violations

Overall, employees need to understand that they are ambassadors for the organization’s corporate brand. What they write on social media could be disseminated to the world—even if they only share it with their “friends.” Encourage employees to think twice before posting comments they would not say out loud or that they would not want their CEO or grandparents to see. Employees should be encouraged to use disclaimers and speak in the first person to make it clear that any opinions expressed are not those of their employer.

A note for unionized workforces: Employers operating in union environments need to be mindful of additional requirements that may impact their policies under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  Under the NLRA, policies that are too broad or too restrictive might interfere with a workers’ right to complain about their employer and discuss the terms and conditions of employment with other employees. Always review any policies with counsel before implementing to make sure they are suitable for your particular circumstance.

Make Training Mandatory

Even the best social media policies won’t go far if employees aren’t properly trained on social networking’s benefits and pitfalls. Training should be succinct and interactive, including real -examples and table-top exercises on both the specifics of your social media use policy and more general best practices for using social media responsibly.

At Beckage, we encourage employers to leverage training such as Cybersecurity Best Practices 101, which covers topics like network security and protecting confidential and proprietary information. Organizations must educate employees about how a downloaded application or even a simple click can infect computers and the network at large. A critical concern about social networking platforms is that they encourage people to share personal information. Even the most cautious and well-meaning people can give away the wrong kind of information on company-approved social networking platforms.

Address Negative Incidents Promptly

If it seems like an employee is misusing social media at work or there’s a negative incident, it’s important to promptly investigate, document all conversations, review internal policies and procedures and take disciplinary action if warranted.

But be aware that workers’ speech is protected in certain situations. In addition to the National Labor Relations Act, federal and state employment laws protect employees who complain about harassment, discrimination, workplace safety violations and other issues.

Be Careful Using Social Media During the Hiring Process

Employers must exercise caution when using social networks during the recruiting or hiring processes. Social media can play a role in the screening process, but employers should consider when and how to use social media this way and weigh potential legal pitfalls.  For example, a candidate could claim that a potential employer did not offer a job because of legally protected information found on a social networking site (such as race, ethnicity, age, associations, family relationships or political views)

In short, successfully managing social media in the workplace comes down to the employer’s policy: in today’s workplace all employers should have a robust policy, train on it annually, and then consistently enforce it. If you’re not sure where to start, turn to experienced legal counsel to craft a social media policy that works for your company culture and brand. The experienced team at Beckage PLLC can help navigate state and federal laws, pinpoint potential social media pitfalls, and ultimately set your employees on the path to social media savvy.

*Attorney Advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

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Arm grabbing book from shelfChanging Times Means Revising Employee Handbooks

Changing Times Means Revising Employee Handbooks

While employee handbooks are not required, creating, maintaining and regularly updating a company handbook is a best practice to follow. An employee handbook lays out basic information to employees about company policies and the employment relationship. But creating and implementing your handbook is insufficient – it is a living and breathing document that must be updated regularly (ideally annually) to ensure compliance with evolving federal, state and local laws as well as fast-moving changes to technology.

A properly drafted employee handbook is a valuable communication tool to help employers avoid legal problems and relay expectations, especially with the proliferation of technology use both in and outside of the workplace. From smart phones to tablets, employees regularly conduct both personal and professional business using various devices. Clear and concise employer-issued policies, such as those that govern social media use, computer use, data security, and bring your own device (BYOD), help set the expectations for both the employees and employers on what behavior is appropriate and can help protect employers from liability if an issue arises.

This past June the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (the “NLRB”) issued a memorandum that, while not binding, provides helpful insight to employers reviewing their handbooks under the National Labor Relations Act (the “NLRA”). By way of background, the NLRA applies to both union and non-unionized workforces and generally protects an employee’s right to discuss wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment, known as Section 7 rights. Based on NLRB case law, employers may not maintain any work rule if the rule has a “chilling effect” on such rights. The NLRB will find such a chilling effect if employees would “reasonably construe” the rule’s language to prohibit their Section 7 rights under the NLRA. This memorandum marks a shift in the NLRB’s prior broad prohibition on certain workplace rules and signals a more employer-friendly approach in interpreting federal labor law.

The NLRB memo, issued on June 6, 2018, provides practical examples for employers of specific workplace rules and breaks them down in to three categories of rules that are useful in evaluating employer policies. Rules in the first category are generally lawful and include those requiring civility and authorization to speak on behalf of the employer and preclude the disclosure of confidential customer information. Examples include rules against defamation or misrepresentation, rules against using employer logos or intellectual property, and rules requiring authorization to speak for the company. Rules in the second category warrant “individualized scrutiny” and include, for example, those regulating off-duty conduct, confidentiality and conflicts of interest. Rules in the third category are unlawful and include confidentiality rules regarding wages, benefits or working conditions. The memo does a good job of providing specific examples in each category that are informative in crafting and evaluating language contained in employer policies.

While not binding, this memo is instructive as to what the NLRB will be looking for in terms of its prosecution of employers. Employers are encouraged to carefully review their handbooks and technology-use policies to see where they might be able to articulate stronger expectations in light of the various examples offered in the memo. It is expected there will be more guidance and decisions coming out from the Board in this area over the next several months so employers should proceed cautiously in revisiting rules in their employee handbooks with the assistance of counsel. Beckage attorneys are available to help you draft or redraft rules in light of these changing standards and closely monitor this evolving area of employment law.  

DISCLAIMER: This client advisory is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice, and may not be used and relied upon as a substitute for legal advice regarding a specific issue or problem. Advice should be obtained from a qualified attorney or practitioner licensed to practice in the jurisdiction where that advice is sought.