You might remember the 2013 photo of a Burger King employee posting a photo of himself lying on a pile hamburger buns to Instagram. The photo, which was relatively tame, still went viral.
While viral moments are often hilarious for outsiders - it can create headaches for employers looking to prevent employees from abusing social media on the job to the detriment of the company.
A 2013 study conducted by the York College’s Center for Professional Excellence reported that 50% of human resource professionals have seen increased abuse of IT by employees. In response to this, many lawyers, such as Daniel Handman of Hirschfeld Kraemer LLP, advise employers that “social media policies are not just as necessary for employers as discrimination, leave and vacation policies.”
Does a social media policy infringe my employee’s free speech?
Your social media policy cannot prohibit employees from lawfully discussing their working conditions online.
The National Labor Relations Act gives all employees the right to engage in protected concerted activity for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection. Typically, this means that employees do have the right to discuss their working conditions online - even on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
What company information can a social media policy protect?
A well-drafted social media policy will outline what company information is considered confidential. As an employer, you are encouraged to define what kinds of information your employees can and cannot share online.
Social Media Policy Database
Chris Boudreaux of Social Media Governance has compiled a database of 100+ social media policies from universities, companies, and other organizations.
For example, the database includes the social media policy used by the Associated Press for its employees. You can view these example policies to formulate your own.