Employee Use of Social Networks to Talk About the Workplace

This is a guest post from Megan Smith, SPHR.  Megan is a founding partner and principal of SmithBarnas & Associates Human Resource Consultants.

Problems may arise when employees communicate about their workplace through social media.  Here are some things to consider:

According to recent statistics released by Facebook, there are more than 500 million active users on their social media website. Of those 500 million users, approximately 250 million log on to Facebook at least once on any given day. With users spending over 700 billion minutes on Facebook per month, users are given a platform to communicate and access potentially confidential information.  Traditionally, Employers have monitored the unauthorized disclosure of confidential information in employee communications; however, with the emergence of social media, the unauthorized disclosure of confidential information can take place with the click of a mouse.

  • In a recent study performed by Proofpoint, United States employers held internal investigations pertaining to confidential communication leakage through social media usage in the workplace. Employers reported that confidential communications were leaked through: email (43%); blogs/message boards (18%); video, such as YouTube (18%); Facebook and LinkedIn (17%) and Twitter/SMS text messages (13%). The same employers terminated 56 percent of employees who communicated confidential information regarding their workplace.
  • Employers who have employees in several different states will encounter inconsistent laws when trying to establish social media communication and usage policies uniformly for their employees. For example, there are laws that protect employees from being disciplined by their employers when the activity is not related to the employer or not on company time. Under the National Labor Relations Act, there are laws that protect concerted activity by employees, giving employees the protected right to discuss common issues related to the workplace.  Federal and state whistleblower laws also give employees the protection of voicing complaints that are related to the violation of workplace laws, such as gender and sexual discrimination.
  • Additionally, certain states have off-duty conduct laws that will prohibit employers from making decisions on employee’s activities outside of the workplace.  Georgia, however, does not have an off-duty employee conduct statute in place. Employees do not have the right to communicate or engage in activities that injure their employer that are not protected by legal exceptions. Communications that complain about the work environment, employers, co-workers, clients or work product can be grounds for disciplinary action up to and including termination.

Do you have questions about employee use of social media and texting in the workplace?

Join Ryan Williams (CTO of Nexxtep) and me for a free webinar: The Employer’s Guide to Social Media, on Wednesday, April 6th.

Details and Registration.

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