Overview: Social media in the workplace is one of HR's greatest challenges at the moment, given the almost daily changing legal and technological landscape. First, there is the issue of whether and when an employer may monitor employee use of social media. It is critical for employers to develop and implement a social media policy which guides employees with respect to proper use of social media. Employers should aim to strike a balance between monitoring employee activity and respecting employee privacy rights as well as the right of union and non-union employees under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to engage in protected concerted activity.
Social media policies should clearly articulate the legitimate business interests the employer seeks to protect as well as provide clear definitions of prohibited conduct and private and confidential information and specify the consequences for violations of the policy. While employers have a valid interest in prohibiting the disclosure of confidential information and trade secrets over social media and prohibiting discriminatory and obscene conduct, employers should avoid interfering with the employee right to improve their wages, hours and working conditions and engage in protected activity.
Further, employers may be interested in using social media in the workplace as a tool in recruiting and hiring and management in order to gain more information about job applicants and employees.
Trends: There is a growing movement among state and federal lawmakers to pass legislation that would prevent employers from requiring that employees and applicants provide their user names and passwords to social media networks. This would essentially prohibit employers from seeking personal and private information about employees and applicants which could then be used as a basis for an adverse employment action.
In addition, the National Labor Relations Board has shown a clear willingness strike down social media policies that could be reasonably interpreted to chill the right of union and non-union employees to engage in protected concerted activity under Section 7 of the NLRA. Further, employers should be cautious about disciplining employees for social media use when they are engaging in protected concerted activity.
Author: Beth P. Zoller, JD, Legal Editor
Rhode Island has enacted the 2014 Student and Employee Social Media Privacy Acts.
Rhode Island has passed legislation protecting the social media privacy of employees and applicants.
Use this workflow to determine whether a non-union employee's activity, including speech or organizational activities, is protected under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The new regulations establish definitions within Arkansas' 2013 social media law and clarify certain activities from which employers are not prohibited.
Under a new Oklahoma law, an employer will be prohibited from requiring that an employee or applicant allow access to his or her personal online social media account.
Louisiana recently enacted the Personal Online Account Privacy Protection Act prohibiting an employer from requesting or requiring an employee or applicant to disclose information that would allow the employer to access or observe the individuals' personal online accounts.
Tennessee has enacted the Employee Online Privacy Act of 2014 prohibiting private employers from accessing employees' and job applicants' social media information and accounts. The new law takes effect on January 1, 2015.
HR guidance on creating policies on social media in the workplace. Support on creating enforceable, useful policies on social media at work.