Social media has become global and pervasive. Many social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are still relatively new, but their effects have been felt throughout the world. Businesses use social media to market themselves and individuals use the platforms to connect with friends and family, find jobs and catch up on current events. It is also common for many individuals to sound off and express their views – and that may include criticism of one’s company, managers and customers. Sometimes employees do not stop there, sharing confidential or inappropriate information.
Social media posts can often cross the line and easily affect your company’s reputation. There are bound to be clashes with employers and employees over social media. As an employer, what can and should you do about employee social media monitoring?
There is nothing in the law which specifically prevents you from monitoring your employees’ social media activity. While some employees may try to argue that monitoring their social media activity represents a breach of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the argument will generally not be warranted if you can demonstrate a lawful basis for processing any personal data.
You may be able to take action if an employee shares confidential information online or makes discriminatory remarks. Such actions could range from a warning to termination. However, in order to dismiss an employee for bringing your business into disrepute, you will need to show that their actions caused, or were likely to cause, significant damage to your company.
Keep in mind, when hiring an employee, social media should not be used as the primary basis for determining employment. Refusing to hire someone for information found online, such as religious views or ethnicity, may result in a discrimination lawsuit.
Unless you are suspecting an employee of something that could be harmful to the company, it is probably best not to spy. Life in the U.S. has become highly polarized and monitoring an employee’s activities could easily lead to discrimination, whether we realize it or not. Our employees deserve to have a reasonable amount of privacy and they should be allowed to express their viewpoints and creativity, and of course, free speech is expressly protected within the Constitution.
In order to maintain trust among your employees, consider developing an employee social media policy that clearly defines acceptable behavior and whether your company monitors their social media activity. By communicating and being transparent now, employers and employees can eliminate many conflicts that could arise down the line.
Crafting a social media policy does not necessarily have to be complicated, but it should be thorough and up-to-date. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
It’s likely that federal and state regulations will continue to evolve when it comes to social media activity. Keep current with any new laws that arise to protect yourself and your business. Pass any new regulations on to your employees so they are aware of the laws surrounding employee social media activity.
You may be able to limit what your employees can post online, but be specific and make sure it is relevant to your business. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has criticized overly broad social media policies that prevent employees from exercising their collective bargaining rights.
Some employees may not realize how harmful revealing proprietary information or trade secrets online can be to a company’s well being and their own future. Now is the time to educate all employees on the ramifications that certain posts can have.
Sit down with your employees, either individually or in a group, and talk about your social media policy. Explain the dos and don’ts and why the policy is in place. Each employee should understand how certain social media activity can be harmful to your company’s reputation and the consequences if the policy is violated. Effective communication can help prevent problems from rising up in the future.