National Labor Relations Board Releases Social Media Guidelines for the Workplace

The National Labor Relations Board released its latest report on guidelines for employers versus employees rights concerning social media use. As the responsible party for labor laws, the NLRB attempts to clearly define what employers can and can’t prohibit employees from posting to their social media profiles. The report seems to imply that broadly worded guidelines that ban employees from expressing themselves freely on social media are in violation of employee rights. This is a must read for any Human Resource professional who is faced with drafting a social media policy for employees.

The NLRB report goes into specific examples of what employers are and aren’t allowed to prohibit employees from posting. Examples of policies that aren’t allowed under the new guidelines are one’s that specifically prohibit employees from naming their employer publicly when or if they have been discussing something inappropriate, prohibit “disrespectful conduct” and “inappropriate conversations,” prohibit employees from posting generally offensive things that could affect the employers reputation, employers also can’t prohibit employees from engaging in public group chats about the “terms and conditions of their employment.” Employees do have to be careful when making an individual complaint about an employer on a social media platform, that type of post will not be protected.

It seems that the NLRB is making the task of writing a social media policy for employees a bit more complicated for those of us in HR. One positive aspect to the report however, is that it has clearly defined the rules. Liability is the bottom line, and even if you don’t like what your employees are saying on Facebook, it’s not worth getting sued over. One easy way to avoid seeing employees negative or offensive posts, as I outlined in Out-of-Office Antics and the Technological Evidence: A Human Resources Perspective, is to have administrators and other executives, avoid accepting friend requests from employees. It may seem rude at first, but in the long-run, your employees may be grateful. Make sure to scour these guidelines completely before even trying to get started on a social media policy for your company, and/or before updating your existing policy.

Social Media has created a whole new host of issues concerning privacy and the rights of employees. The risk of the boss walking in on your water-cooler bad-mouthing sessions is all the more real when the sessions are posted to a public forum. As much as we want to protect the reputation of our companies, employees have rights regarding privacy and free-speech, and it’s our job in HR to protect their rights as well. The NLRB’s report makes these lines much more clearly defined, so be sure to read it thoroughly and refer to it when editing or creating your companies social media policy.

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