What is the true impact social media has in the workplace, and is it something that can be controlled? It’s a hot topic right now in employment law.
Over 850 million people are now on Facebook with another 500 million on Twitter . . . many of whom may be accessing their accounts while at work through their smart phones. Social Media is here to stay.
Some employers are banning the use of social media outright during the workday. While ruling with an iron fist can be effective, don’t forget the effect that it can have on employee morale. Would it be wise to terminate an employee for his or her violation of such a policy when he or she is also a dedicated, productive and efficient employee? Nevertheless, as an employer, you do not have to abandon your existing rules because of social media. For example, you have every right to make sure your employees are being responsible with their usage of social media and insist that rules regarding confidentiality or those prohibiting discrimination extend to all social media forums. Employers should, however, adapt their policies and procedures to, at minimum, account for social media’s undeniable existence.
Employees should also be mindful that their social media presence may be used against them by employers. While there is no clear-cut set of rules as to what an employee can say about his or her work environment on social networks such as Facebook, when posting thoughts about their work, employees should realize that their messages are impactful and may result in termination if they unjustly portray their employers, managers or coworkers in a negative light. Employees should be aware that such actions could be defamatory.
If you believe that your employer has overstepped its bounds by prohibiting all use of social media or if you are an employer that has questions about this issue, we encourage you to seek the counsel of Wilson McCoy, P.A.