By Kelly Charles-Collins, Esquire
“It’s all fun and games until somebody loses their job”
The use of social media has increased exponentially over the years as a primary means of communication for many people. I remember when all we had was a beeper. Remember you would put in “07734” to spell out “hello.” Or you would stand and “bitch” next to the company water cooler. Yes, I just dated myself; memories. But I digress.
Social Media in the workplace is a hot button issue and one that employers must be skilled at handling. Many employers use information they gather from social media in hiring, disciplinary and termination decisions. And while it may seem like a good idea at the time, there can be costly legal consequences for those decisions.
Here are examples of employer decisions based on social media courts have found to be appropriate:
- Manager terminated for publicly chastising her direct reports on Facebook instead of in person.
- Employee accused boss of unlawful and/or unethical behavior on her Facebook page.
- Child-protective-services caseworker ranted on her Facebook page about people on welfare having flat screen TV’s and BMW’s and made other inappropriate comments about clients of the agency.
- Police officer posted critical comments about another officer on her Facebook page.
Now, here are examples of what courts found to be inappropriate:
- Unlawful to fire employee who posted on Facebook after she was transferred to a less lucrative position that the employer had messed up and she was done being a good employee.
- Unlawful to fire employee for Facebook comments about a sexist remark that was made to her by a manager to which friends and co-workers voiced support, as well as comments about other employees being fired for asking for help.
- Unlawful to fire a supervisor who created a false Facebook page to investigate allegations that an employee was making inappropriate comments about the manager on his Facebook page.
So, what’s an employer to do? Here are 7 simple proactive steps employers can take:
- Adopt a social media policy;
- Implement clear procedures for social media use in hiring;
- Train supervisors and employees about the policy;
- Prevent creation of hostile work environments by monitor company social media sites;
- Do not take action based upon “concerted” activity;
- Implement an electronic media communications policy; and
- Do not improperly access your employees’ restricted social media
Kelly Charles-Collins is a Partner at Smoak, Chistolini & Barnett, PLLC. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow her on twitter @hrlawattorney. Also, visit the firm’s website www.flatrialcounsel.com and follow the firm on twitter @smoakchistolini.