Social Media: Avoiding Legal Pitfalls for Employers
According to the most recent Pew Research Center survey, roughly three-quarters of adults in the United States use some form of social media, and most of those social media users visit their preferred platforms daily. This prolific social media use can create concerns for management, as employers often want to limit not only their employees’ social media use in the workplace, but also what their employees can and cannot say online. While a well-crafted social media policy can be successful in curtailing social medial use at work, employers have to be careful not to implement overbroad policies.
No employer wants its employees to use social media to make public, disparaging remarks about management or the business’s products or services. But social media usage can be a form of concerted activity protected by the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”). The National Labor Relations Board continues to take a hard line on what constitutes an overly broad social media policy, and employee discipline under an overly broad policy is a violation of the Act unless the employer can show that the employee’s conduct interfered with the employer’s operations. Accordingly, employers must be careful not to overly regulate their employees’ online conduct.
On the other hand, employee usage of social media can support claims of harassment and hostile workplace if the employer is aware of the postings. Employers may also become subject to liability if the employee engaging in harassing behavior does so from an employer-owned electronic account or device.
What does this all mean for employers? Employers should create written policies to define their expectations regarding social media, without prohibiting protected activity. Management should have any social media policies drafted or reviewed by an attorney to make sure the policy accomplishes the employer’s goal without violating federal law. If you have questions about establishing a social media policy or an existing social media policy, the Employment Law team at Teague Campbell is here to help.