Employees’ social media use is a hot topic in law. As the definition of social media is warping and expanding, it is hard to know what you can and cannot restrict when it comes to your employees.
Employees’ Social Media Use
Social media use by your employees can be broken down into the following categories:
- For Work
- Strictly Personal Browsing
- Working Conditions
Bear with me, as I’m not a social media expert. However, I’ve established these categories for ease and clarity.
At Work Versus at Home
You can regulate 100% of your employees’ at work internet usage. However, you generally cannot force your employees to use their personal accounts for your benefit. You have less power when your employee is posting at home. Absent a good business reason, your employees are free to post and share any stance, any post, and anything they want on their own time.
Trade Secrets & Confidentiality
The biggest and clearest category of employer restrictions is for trade secrets and confidential information. You can, and should, have a policy that forbids your employees from posting confidential information or trade secrets anywhere on the internet.
Branding & Goodwill
As branding is a valuable asset to a company, businesses may restrict employees’ use of the brand. For example, an employer may require disclaimers by their officers and higher-level employees when posting political content. They may only do this if a third-party could believe the employee was talking on behalf of the company. The key is reasonableness. Additionally, employers may absolutely place reasonable commercial restrictions on the use of their brand. For example, a business may require an employee get permission before placing their logo in a profile picture featuring negative imagery.
To a lesser extent, businesses may restrict employees’ speech when it involves disparagement of the company. Unfortunately, there is no clear rule on what is allowed. For example, an employee saying, “my job sucks” will likely always be allowed. However, saying “the worst part of my job is harming all those mice” may be safe to restrict.
No matter what the employee handbook says, employers cannot prevent an employee from discussing working conditions. Additionally, any policies that make an employee afraid to speak about the working conditions may be a violation of labor laws.
Additionally, employees are always allowed to blow the whistle on their employers. As was true with working conditions, any policy that makes en employee afraid to blow the whistle may be a violation of labor laws.
How to Restrict Employees’ Social Media Use
No matter what you choose to restrict, you would outline them in the employee handbook or a separate social media policy. You employee should review and sign this policy so that you can be sure they have received and understand it.
If you’d like to setup your social media policy, please feel free to contact us using the form below. Additionally, we can be reached by email at email@example.com or by calling 919-912-9640.