Revisiting Social Media Policy: Recent NLRB Rulings

January 22nd, 2013   •   no comments   

A considerable portion of our business at Howell is social media strategy, implementation and guidance. New regulations and rulings affect any client with even one employee. Even if a client does not participate as a business within social media channels, more than likely their employees do.

One of our strongest recommendations is to develop a social media policy and to recognize that one size does not fit all. Continue to update it once it’s been implemented and customize this policy for your individual business culture—this is more important now that ever.

We often see social media policies that include verbiage that attempts to regulate negative comments about that business in the online space. For example: “Do not discuss internal matters publically,” or, “Do not speak negatively about fellow employees or the company itself.” Those who violate these policies can find themselves in hot water—or even fired.

However, it’s important to take note of a series of recent rulings and advisories in which labor regulators have declared many such “blanket” restrictions illegal within nearly all private sector businesses. According to and article in the New York Times, “The National Labor Relations Board says workers have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place at the office or in the social space.”

Basically, if your company’s social media policy discourages employees from “exercising their right to communicate with one another with the aim of improving wages, benefits or working conditions,” then your business could be in violation.

The NYT article goes on to say that the rulings are ordering the reinstatement of various employees who have been fired for their posts on social networks. These rulings have also pushed big brands such as General Motors, Target and Costco, to reevaluate their social media policies.

Whether you’re an international brand or single proprietor in Memphis, TN, you must protect your employees and your business by creating and enforcing a carefully constructed social media policy. Not too long ago, Amy advised on a situation in which there was no written social media policy, but an employee was still fired for allegedly violating it. See the story here and don’t find yourself or your business in a similar situation.

In our digital world, anything could be posted and easily discovered; your business is forced to react, but is it acting within its legal boundaries? It is better to prepare for an incident and run through the scenarios than to be faced with an issue without a plan or policy in place.

Is your social media policy up to date and in compliance with the latest rulings? If you have questions on this, feel free to comment below or give us a call.

Guest post by Kiersten Bagley

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