In recent years, social media has become the new normal of how we interact
with friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances. There are many benefits
of using social media as but at times these sites can backfire on the
user if the user is not careful as to what they make available to the
public. Many employers struggle with the decision to allow employees use
social media sites within the workplace. The use of social media sites
can vary depending on the culture of the workplace.
The benefits of using social media in the workplace are that it can boost
business in the means of fostering interoffice communication. It can also
be an effective and inexpensive tool for mass marketing. Some businesses
have found social media sites help bring positive awareness to their company.
The cons of social media usage in the workplace are when employees use
them for personal reasons which can be a distraction which can lead to
a decrease in productivity and performance. People need to be weary about
what you share on social media because it can sometimes be misinterpreted
and used against oneself.
A good example of an online backfire is Sal Perricone, assistant U.S. Attorney
in Jim Letten’s office who was forced to resign amid a scandal over
hundreds of online posts he authored on NOLA.com under at least one alias,
“Henry L. Mencken1951.” Some of the comments bashed landfill
owner Fred Heebe who was under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s
office. Perricone also posted highly inflammatory statements about Federal
judges, the police chief, defense attorneys, mayors, and even his boss,
Jim Letten himself. Although, he was not posting on his personal social
media page, his statements via his alias were uncovered.
At-will employees of private companies can be fired for any reason, including
their political statements on social media or elsewhere online. The only
limitation on terminations of at-will employees are protections from discrimination,
such as age, race, sex or other protected class status. However, the National
Labor Relations Board (NLRB) takes the position that certain employee
views may be “concerted activity” which is protected by the
National Labor Relations Act. Specifically, employees have the right to
discuss wages and working conditions with co-workers.
Whether your company is permissive or restrictive concerning social media
usage, it is good to have a written policy which is distributed to all
employees to let them be familiar with the guidelines.
To develop a social media policy here are some basic guidelines;
- Limit blogging that interferes with work commitments or prohibit blogging
during work hours.
- Prohibit employees from disclosing any information that’s confidential
or proprietary to the company or any third party that has disclosed information
to the company, including concepts or developments that the employees
produce related to the company’s business. Refer employees to your
company’s policy for guidance on what constitutes confidential information.
- Inform employees that the company may request that they temporarily confine
their website or blog commentary to topics unrelated to the company if
you believe that it’s advisable or necessary to comply with securities
regulations or other laws.
- Caution employees that a breach of the blogging policy could result in
discipline up to and including termination.
If you are a business owner or a business administrator and need assistance
in drafting a social media policy please contact Patricia Pannell at