In 2018, a young woman accepted to a NASA internship program posted a profanity-laden celebratory tweet on her Twitter account. Twitter user Homer Hickam responded by simply posting “Language.” That incensed the woman who again posted a profane tweet before being informed that Mr. Hickman is a former NASA engineer and member of the National Space Council. When other users responded with the hashtag “NASA,” it caught the attention of the space agency which then terminated the young woman’s internship.
The incident is a cautionary tale for how destructive social media can be to one’s employment prospects. Moreover, social media has the power to embarrass and tarnish the reputation of even the most revered companies. Given the pervasive nature of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites, and employees who regularly use them, the potential risk to employers is clear. If your business doesn’t already have a social media policy, or hasn’t updated it in a while, it’s time to talk to SederLaw.
What to Consider in a Social Media Policy
Social media policies can be included in employee handbooks, disseminated via email, or given directly to employees to read and sign. However you want to share your policy with your workers, there are a few items that should be included in it. They include:
- Representation of the company. When an employee uses a social media profile that includes their place of employment, they are representing your company – whether they know it or not. And while it’s difficult to govern what employees do in their time away from work, it is reasonable to expect them to conduct themselves professionally. An attorney can help you draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable representation of your business on social media.
- Use of social media at work. Cell phones and other mobile devices are everywhere, so your employees have ready access to social media at work. Your company needs to make it clear when social media can and cannot be accessed, including whether employees will be permitted to use business computers and cell phones for social media purposes. Curtailing social media use at work isn’t just about maintaining productivity. Your employees’ work responsibilities may require focus and concentration, which can easily be disrupted by constant social media use.
- Privacy and confidentiality. Your employees may be trusted with sensitive information from customers or clients. That could include attorney-client privileged communications, private medical records, and more. It’s easy to share this information with strangers on social media. Even naming a customer or client could inadvertently violate the trust they place in your business. Be sure your employees understand this risk and conduct themselves accordingly.
- Trade secrets. Of particular concern for many businesses is the possibility that trade secrets could get out. Sharing this information could do more harm than just putting your company at a competitive disadvantage. Your company may have contracts with third parties who rely on these secrets being protected. An employee who discusses this information on social media could unknowingly expose your business to legal liability.
- Sexual harassment and discrimination. These are two hot-button issues that can land a company in hot water immediately. Social media activity which comes across as harassing or discriminatory can expose your company to reputation loss and perhaps even liability. This includes interactions on social media between co-workers, which is common. Your social media policy must expressly forbid such conduct as contrary to your company’s values.
Contact Our Worcester Employment Law Attorney Today
Crafting a social media policy requires more than business acumen. It also implicates your employees’ privacy rights and other aspects of state and possibly federal law. The language you choose for your policy must not only meet certain legal standards but must adequately clarify your company’s right to discipline or terminate employees who violate it.
That’s where SederLaw comes in. Our employment law attorneys are skilled at crafting company policies that respect the rights of employees while protecting the best interests of employers. Give us a call today to learn more about how we can help.