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What's the deal with social media and the workplace?

Discussion in 'Social Networking Sites' started by nuf-ced, Dec 4, 2015.

  1. nuf-ced

    nuf-ced Administrator Staff Member Moderator Jr. VIP

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    Companies in the United States are revising their employee handbooks following instances in which the National Labor Relations Board went to bat for employees sanctioned and fired for posting about their jobs on social media.

    As the Chicago Tribune detailed, workers are still prohibited from committing major no-nos like sharing company secrets. However, federal labor laws give them the right to discuss their working conditions with each other and third parties, regardless of what employee handbooks and policies say about the practice, NLRB general counsel Richard Griffin explained in a 30-page memo released earlier this year.

    According to the memo, the law protects employees who:


    • Criticize company policy
    • Discuss striking and unionization
    • Complain about their hours, their wages and how their employers treat them
    • Talk to government agencies and the media

    As NLRB spokesperson Jessica Kahanek put it in a statement quoted by the Tribune, "Workers' rights are the same at the water cooler as they are on the Web."

    OK vs not OK

    The news source highlighted two examples of social media behavior from the same Lake Bluff, Illinois, BMW dealership employee, one of which was protected while the other wasn't.

    OK: The salesman criticized the dealership for serving hot dogs at a BMW event, expressing the opinion that the low-budget snack was at odds with the brand's luxury image.
    Why? The comment was about working conditions, discussion of which is protected by the NLRB, and echoed in-person discussions the salesman had with colleagues.

    Not OK: The salesman posted a photo of a car that a customer had crashed at a nearby dealership also owned by his employer, and captioned the post with a witty comment that made fun of the incident.
    Why? The salesman made the post without discussing it with other workers, and the content wasn't related to employment terms and conditions.


    Jokes, rants and rule-breaking

    The NLRB protects certain types of social media posts, but some things are always a bad idea to publish on your Twitter timeline, Facebook news feed or the like. In a post for the PayScale Career News blog, contributor Peter Swanson broke these down into three categories: jokes, rants and rule-breaking caught on camera.

    "As an American, you're absolutely entitled to hold horrifyingly offensive opinions in your heart - but that by no stretch of the imagination means your employer has to hold you in theirs," Swanson wrote in response to the case of a Regal Cinemas employee who posted a racist Twitter rant and was summarily fired by the company.

    The same applies to off-color jokes that companies deem offensive. As for photo and video evidence of employees breaking the rules, workers really don't have a leg to stand on.

    Remember the taco shell-licking Taco Bell employee from back in 2013 who, as the New York Daily News phrased it, "slobbered his way to Internet infamy"? The photo went viral, and despite claims that the shells were part of a training exercise and never intended for customer consumption, the worker was fired.

    Do you agree with the line drawn in the sand by the NLRB? What's your employer's social media policy?