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Social Media Policy

Author: Jason Habinsky, Haynes & Boone and XpertHR Editorial Team

When to Use

Prospective, current and former employees, customers, and vendors all use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

There are many reasons for an employer to develop a social media policy, including curbing harassing, discriminatory and defamatory postings, as well as warning employees of disciplinary consequences for releasing confidential and proprietary information and employer trade secrets.

An employer must determine who will be responsible for managing the social media policy. The individual or department chosen to be responsible for implementing and enforcing it should know the employer's goals and reasons for establishing these rules.

When drafting and enforcing any social media policy, an employer must be cautious and avoid infringing on the rights of both union and nonunion employees to engage in protected concerted activity under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which includes discussing wages, hours and working conditions on social media sites such as Facebook.

In fact, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been particularly active, invalidating numerous social media policies that could be reasonably interpreted to prevent employees from engaging in protected activity and finding that employers unlawfully disciplined employees for exercising their protected rights via social media.

The law in this field is dynamic and complex. Therefore, it is best practice to consult with legal counsel to make sure that a social media policy meets an employer's requirements and complies with the law. Further, an employer should make sure that the social media policy is tailored to its specific needs.