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HR Tip: Social media policies

Even companies with social media policies recognize that the COVID-19 crisis, social unrest, and the recent election add to the high-stakes reputational and employee morale risks of managing social media. In recent days there have been many high-profile stories of employees being terminated after a social media post came to their employer's attention. It's a good time to revisit your policy, establish one, or remind employees to review the expectations for their personal social media use.

A social media policy is a document that outlines how an organization and its employees should conduct themselves online. Even if your company does not use social media, it's a crucial tool because your employees almost certainly use it.

A key component of any policy is guidance on how employees should behave on their personal social media accounts and consequences for violating the policy. They can be required to make it clear they are not speaking on behalf of the company or as an official company representative and prohibited from posting anything discriminatory, harassing, bullying, threatening, defamatory, or unlawful and posting content, images, or photos that the employee doesn't have the right to use.

East Coast Risk Management, a member of the Institute of WorkComp Professionals, reminds employers the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is very particular about these policies. "Avoid any language that could be interpreted as an attempt to limit an employee's protected right to 'concerted activity.' In other words, avoid broad language that is too restrictive. It also helps to include a disclaimer stating that the policy is not intended to restrict communications or actions protected or required by state or federal law."

It's also important to understand state laws and to be careful that your actions cannot be considered discriminatory or retaliatory if you have allowed other employees to get away with similar comments or activities. It's a complicated, sensitive area, and guidance from an experienced employment counsel is recommended.

Tips on how to create a social media policy are offered here.