A Guide to Navigating Social Media in the WorkplaceBased on the 2012 National Labor Relations Board Social Media Report photo credit: kdonovan_gaddy via Flickr cc
DISCLAIMER!The content in thisslideshow is not meant toencourage employees topush the boundaries oftheir employers’ rules.These guidelines will notnecessarily save youfrom getting fired. Butthey may aid you in apossible wrongfultermination suit. - Tyler McCarthy
Criticism amplified beyond the officeUnder what circumstances couldan employee be fired for Facebookcomments that reference his or heremployer? When might anemployers rules about Twitterpostings be unlawful and impedeupon free speech?As social media use grows morecommon in the modern businessworld, it is important for thoseengaged in private and publicdiscourse online to understandtheir rights.
Navigating the NLRB ReportIn January 2012, the NationalLabor Relations Board (NLRB)issued its second social mediareport, outlining recent conflictsarising from employee use of siteslike Facebook and Twitter. Thereport provides guidance to bothemployers and employees.The NLRB works to ensure thatworkers have rights to combatheavy-handed company policies. Itis an employee’s responsibility toknow what these rights are andhow to apply them.
Understanding Your RightsThe main element courts will look for in a wrongfultermination suit involving social media posts is the contextof the employee’s offending statements. Online postscould fall under what the National Labor Relations Acthas established as an employee’s “Section 7 rights.”
Understanding Section 7 Rights• An employee’s Section 7 rights extend to any conversation about the workplace that can reasonably be considered as sparking a discussion about conditions in the workplace.• Discussion about one’s work environment and conditions counts as a “protected” employee activity, according to the National Labor Relations Act .• In recent years, the NLRB has determined that Section 7 protections are extending to the realm of social media.
How Section 7 Applies To YouYou are allowed tocomplain about the yourworkplace online as long asyou can argue that whatyou were saying had to dowith your “work conditions.”You may also need to provethat you had an “intendedaudience” in mind whenyou publish comments onFacebook or Twitter. Beingfriends with otheremployees goes a longway.
Choosing your words, wisely? The language that you choose to use on social media does not really matter, as long as you stay within the parameters of your Section 7 rights, although inappropriate and offensive language is never a good idea for your professional reputation.photo credit: Spencer E Holtaway, Flickr cc
Understanding Your RightsAs social media goes mainstream, U.S. companies aretrying to stay ahead of the game by drafting social mediapolicies. By making standards known to employees, theassumption is employers have a right to enforce thecompany’s social media policies if a violation occurs.However, the NLRB says “Section 8 (a)(1) rights” maycome into play.
Understanding Section 8 (a)(1)RightsUnder “Section 8 (a)(1),” an employee could arguethat a social media policy drafted by a company wasunlawful under the National Labor Relations Act.Employers are prohibited from instituting rules thatquash discussion about working conditions.If it can be reasonably believed that an employer’ssocial media policy could, in any way, restrict anemployee’s established Section 7 rights, then the policyis unlawful and an employee cannot be held todisciplinary action for violating it. photo credit: Joe Gratz, via Flickr cc
How Section 8 (a)(1) Applies To You Section 8 (a)(1) exists so that employees do not have to fear the social media policy boogeyman created by their firm. As long as an employee understands and works within their NLRA Section 7 rights, they will know which parts of their employer’s social media policy holds up legally and which ones do not.