Facebook. Instagram. Twitter.
Social media is all around us — we’re inundated with it. And since it’s hugely popular, with nearly two-thirds of American adults using at least one social networking site, it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon.
Social media, by its very nature, is invasive, imploring users to post or simply browse multiple times per day. The average smartphone user touches their phone more than 2,600 times per day. The likelihood that some of the swipes, taps, or clicks happen on company time or are about the company itself, reinforces the need for a social media policy.
Here is a starting point for what every employer’s social media policy should — and should not — contain.
National Labor Relations Board
Let’s first talk a bit about the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA “protects the rights of employees to act together to address conditions at work, with or without a union. This protection extends to certain work-related conversations conducted on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.”
The overseer of the NLRA, the National Labor Relations Board, has been rather aggressive in challenging the provisions laid out in employers’ social media policies, purporting that certain provisions “unlawfully restrict employees from engaging in protected concerted activity, including communicating about terms and conditions of employment through the use of social media.”
In response, employers must carefully draft their social media policies so as to not infringe upon the rights laid out in the NLRA. Some basic DOs and DON’Ts include:
- Use precise language in the policy. The NLRB has a history of targeting policy language that may be considered subjective or vague.
- Provide specific examples of acceptable online postings as well as questionable or inappropriate online activity.
- Explain that employees using company computers, including tablets and mobile devices, should have no expectation of privacy — even when those devices are used to access their personal accounts. The company retains the right to monitor those devices at any point in time.
- Remind employees to use their best judgement when posting anything work-related online. The Internet truly is forever.
- Have an attorney review your policy prior to implementation to ensure that the policy aligns with current NLRA guidelines.
- Restrict employees from interacting or “friending” coworkers on their personal social media pages.
- Require current or prospective employees to divulge their social media accounts or passwords.
- Completely prohibit employees from posting information about the company. Generally, proprietary or confidential information is off limits. However, the NLRB has taken the stance that employees may freely discuss some employment-related information with coworkers, like salaries or working conditions, on social media.
- Neglect the policy. As social media platforms evolve, the parameters of the NLRA may change. Commit to reviewing your policy annually, along with your other HR systems and policies.
Social media is a powerful force. By establishing guidelines for your employees, hopefully that power will be used for good.