Social media posting is here to stay, no matter what platform you use. However, remember that not all social media postings can legally result in disciplinary action or termination of employment.
Release of Trade Secrets, Formulas, Proprietary or Confidential Information
Any social media post of this nature, which releases confidential information or images, could violate your Company’s Confidentiality and Social Media Policy. Sometimes this information is leaked accidentally by taking a selfie at work with your computer screen or an open file in the shot, posting a photo of a client, releasing customer or vendor information, or releasing policy or procedure information to the public.
Releasing Information About Co-Workers
Posting gossip or rumors about co-workers may cross the boundaries of the Company’s harassment policy along with libel and slander, as seen in the recent Johnny Depp v Amanda Heard case.
Employment-Related Social Media Messages or Text
Sending a text message explaining why someone was dismissed, a job offer was rescinded, or an employee was disciplined could lead to legal problems, especially if that reason was a violation of any State or Federal law. There have been suits filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over social media messages received by applicants. One such posting from a recruiting company in 2019 informed a potential hire that the job offer was rescinded because the hiring manager did not know the applicant was pregnant. This post resulted in a penalty to the employer for violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Vague Complaints or Gripe Sessions About the Workplace
Vaguebooking is a relatively new term for making vague, general complaints or griping without being specific, naming the offender, or reason for the complaint. Some examples of Vaguebooking are “I guess I messed that up!”, “I am so frustrated!”, “I don’t feel comfortable here” or something about a work situation in vague detail.
These types of vague postings may not be a violation of your Company’s Social Media or Confidentiality policy, but they can be a good indication that something is off at work. The employee could have something they need to report to someone in management, or they may want some guidance on how to get back on track. An employer can use these opportunities to find out more information and have more of a coaching opportunity with their team member making those posts.
Harassment by Social Media
All forms of harassment and discrimination, including sexual harassment, can occur over Social Media, Messaging, and texting platforms. Keep in mind a 1-time event is not harassment.
What can employers do? Employers need to introduce policies that prohibit online harassment in the workplace. Encourage employees to report all social media harassment. Even if a Social Media post occurred after hours and off the clock, an employer would still have to thoroughly investigate and determine what is going on if it is brought to their attention. Click here to read more about social media harassment in the workplace.
Protected Concerted Activity
Employers should be aware and pay close attention to people who participate in online conversations about the terms and conditions of employment. Suppose there are a few employees talking about lack of raises, change in work schedule, or the latest benefits. In that case, these employees could have protection under the National Labor Relations Act. These types of conversations are protected concerted activity because they are working in a group to discuss, support, and advocate for better working conditions, even if it’s on their Social Media accounts.
When in doubt, grab a screenshot and check it out by calling My HR Professionals Compliance Team. We are here for you every step of the way.
Written By: Bethany Gaboury, Compliance Officer
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