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What You Need to Know About Your Employer's Social Media Policy and the Law

The National Law Review recently reported that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reached a settlement with Georgia-Pacific over their social media policy. This is big for just about anybody who works. As always, the law is trying to catch up with changes in technology and society. The details of this case help inform employees and their employers which businesses may and may not regulate regarding employees' personal use of social media.

(Photo Credit: Victor1558/Flickr)

The settlement required Georgia-Pacific to re-write their social media policy. One revision was to repeal the prohibition against employees talking about their conditions of work, including discussion of wages and hours. Georgia-Pacific may not tell employees they may not talk about their jobs to friends on social media sites.

Before the settlement, Georgia-Pacific's social media policy stated: “[e]ven if your social media conduct is outside of the workplace and/or non-work related, it must not reflect negatively on GP's reputation, its products, or its brands."

Again, this goes against guidelines set forth by the NLRB prohibiting employers from regulating employee conversations outside of work, on their own time.

The New Water Cooler

It is often said that social media is the "new water cooler." Employees used to be able to gather around the water cooler, or even at the local pub or cafe to discuss work related issues without fear of reprisal.

The main difference between those conversations and ones taking place on social media sites is lack of privacy. Employers worry that disgruntled employees will air their grievances in public, and make the company look bad. This is understandable, but other end of the spectrum is squashing speech. The lawsuits are about finding the middle ground.

What to Look for in a Social Media Policy

E-Commerce has a list of ten do's and don'ts for employers crafting their social media policies. Reading this list informs us of what employers may reasonably and legally expect from employees who use social media in their personal time (so, all employees.)

It is appropriate for your employer to prohibit your sharing trade secrets and confidential information. However, the terms and conditions of your own employment do not fall into this category, and you should be allowed to discuss them on social media if you so choose.

It is also reasonable for employers to expect you to refrain from making disparaging comments about customers. An employer may reasonably expect you to not use social media as an outlet to be offensive or harassing to other employees. When discussing work issues on social media sites, be accurate, honest, and polite.

Your employer may not ask you for your social media passwords. They should not ask you to submit social media postings for them for their approval.

Tell Us What You Think

How much do you think employers may rightfully monitor employees' use of social media? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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