Employers are the first to recognize the impact social media has in the workplace. Social media websites are increasingly being used by businesses and their employees for both professional and personal purposes. For that reason, employers have a genuine interest in managing how employees’ social media postings affects the business. Employers must also be aware of legal limits on their ability to influence the social media activities of their employees.
Increasingly, states are prohibiting employers from requesting or requiring employees or applicants to disclose personal passwords or to provide access to personal social media accounts. Among them are Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Mexico, Michigan, New Jersey, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Many more states are currently considering such legislation.
Also at the forefront of social media management is the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB). In recent years, the NLRB has taken a position that favors protecting employees from adverse employment decisions based on their social media activity, when it qualifies as “protected concerted activity.” The NLRB generally disfavors a social media policy that is overbroad or that can be construed as prohibiting employees from discussing the terms and conditions of their employment. And, generally employers cannot require employees to post a disclaimer on their social media accounts.
Employers are encouraged to develop social media management policies within the guidelines established by the NLRB. Suggestions include:
- Avoid general, blanket prohibitions on any employee activities such as forbidding employees from talking about their jobs or their bosses
- Be specific about confidential company information that employees may not reveal, without banning protected activities
- Give specific examples of inappropriate postings such as bullying, discrimination or retaliation
- Do not restrict employees’ ability to “friend” co-workers on their personal accounts
- Do not ask employees or applicants for their passwords or account information
- Ensure that your social media management policies serve a legitimate business purpose.
More information is available on the NLRB’s website.