Here are some statistics that will make most employers want to ban social media: According to survey by DLA Piper, 31 percent of employers have taken disciplinary action against an employee for improper social media usage, but only 14 percent of employers have a social media policy. That means many of those companies taking disciplinary action have no protection should the employee file a wrongful termination suit.
So What do You Tell Clients?
Having a social media policy is good idea for most organizations. However, it is not possible to simply restrict employees social media without properly balancing employee rights. The National Labor Relations Board has issued at least three memorandums outlining its reasoning behind several social media termination cases. The takeaway from these rulings is:
“Employers should review their Internet and social media policies to determine whether they are susceptible to an allegation that their policy would ‘reasonably tend to chill employees’ in the exercise of their rights to discuss wages, working conditions and unionization.”
In general, social media policies need to be narrowly construed, not overbroad, and not use vague language. They can, however, include reminders to the employees to be respectful, fair and courteous in their online postings, not to defame a company’s products or services, that the company’s anti-harassment and anti-discrimination policies apply online, and that disclosure of confidential information is prohibited.
So what should your clients policies include? To start, it has to be consistent with other company policies that relate to technology use, email use, privacy and confidentiality of company data and clients. You can’t just start making up new rules for a different medium.
To be fair, it has to identify both the benefits and risks of social media use. Essential features include:
- Describe firm’s expectations, the fact that individuals are going to be responsible for their online activities.
- Lay out the requirement of protection of client and firm confidences and address jurisdictional rules on advertising and disclosure to solicit new clients (especially for regulated industries).
- Anticipate the uses of social media that are most likely to cause harm to the company—such as harassment, invasion of privacy, copyright infringement, inadvertent downloads of malware, and the like—and establish specific expectations regarding each.
- Designate contact person(s) for people to consult with in regards to this policy (name, title, and contact info including telephone, email and/or other communications contact)
- Indicate that the company reserves the right to take disciplinary action against who violates – and must outline what those actions may be.
- State that the company reserves the right to monitor use of social media by employees while the employee is using company equipment, if that is the case.
Any social media policy should be informed by the capabilities of the social sites and mobile devices that employees are most likely to use, both now and in the near future. For example, the majority of users now access social media through mobile devices and use them to share such things as their physical locations and current activities. That means a new consideration for employers is whether they want to restrict employees from revealing their physical location during business hours.
Social media archiving is an important part of doing business. And no matter the associated risks, you can’t ban its use. It’s part of the business landscape, its here to stay and its an essential part of the business world. What you and your clients can do is control it in the workplace through smart policies and retention policies.
You can download our Best Practice Guide: 10 Steps to Social Media Discovery Readiness