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New guidance for employers’ social media policies

Employers trying to define social media policies for employees may want to look at a report that outlines recent government decisions about employee rights to use Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

The National Labor Relations Board’s Office of the General Counsel has released a 24-page summary of cases involving the legality of employers’ social media policies and rules.

Even non-union employees enjoy NLRB protection when they engage in certain “concerted activities.” Protected activity can include two or more employees talking about, or acting together, to address pay, safety concerns or improving workplace conditions.

Employers who faced challenges in the NLRB report included a nonprofit social services provider, an ambulance service, a sports bar, a newspaper, a retail store and a hospital.

In its recent cases, the NLRB has extended protection to employee blog posts and Facebook comments touching on workplace issues, but has found other postings were just “individual gripes” and were not protected. Several of the cited cases review specific social media policies and identify some provisions as too restrictive.

In one case, a salesman for a luxury automobile dealership posted photos and negative comments about the cheap food from a warehouse club the dealer served at the launch of a new car model. The board said the poster and other sales personnel already had complained to the general sales manager and among themselves that they should serve more substantial refreshments, a matter that related to their concerns over sales commissions.

In another case, although a newspaper encouraged its reporter to open a Twitter account, his tweet that criticized the paper’s copy editors about sports headlines was not “protected concerted activity,” the board said.
By Deborah Elkins

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