As we all know, employees have their own opinions and often express them through various social media channels. However, one thing they may not consider is who will see the posts. Oftentimes, their social media “friends” are coworkers and clients who would then see any offensive posts they may make.
An offensive post can be shared by the employee’s “friends” to thousands of people and have a negative affect on the company and the employee. While employers would like to limit social medial activity of their employees, they must be careful when creating their policies.
What Are the Legal Considerations?
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) gives both union and nonunion employees the right to discuss terms and conditions of employment with each other. These rights also extend to social media postings. However, they do not extend to personal opinions about non-work matters.
Many times employees believe their social media posts are protected by the First Amendment. However, this is not the case. Freedom of speech protects an individual’s right from being targeted by the government. It does not protect them from consequences imposed by their employers for their personal expressions.
What to Consider When Developing A Policy
Employers should not prohibit their employees from posting on social media or state certain topics are “off limits”. However, employers should remind their employees that there could be employment consequences for their online activity. The employees should also think about the reach that social media posts can obtain. One post can be seen by hundreds or thousands of people, some of which could be customers or coworkers. These posts expressing their personal non-work-related opinions could result in angry customers or negative publicity and may result in disciplinary action or termination.