Lafe Solomon, chief counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, recently issued an opinion regarding several companies’ social media policies at their request. The ruling does not carry any force of law or regulation, but does provide some guidance regarding the legal issues involved with social media policies.
Social media presents a challenge to companies. They want to control their public image and keep a lid on rumors, speculation, and leaks. On the other hand, workers not only have first amendment rights but also a right to communicate regarding organizing. Social media is inherently organizational in nature.
If the companies were expecting blanket approval of their policies by asking that they be reviewed by the NLRB counsel, they did not get it. Many provisions of the reviewed policies were considered either vague or possibly infringing on employee rights.
Interestingly the one sample policy that was deemed entirely lawful was Walmart’s, which was the shortest and simplest. It could almost fit in a Twitter message. Primarily it prohibits inappropriate messages by banning:
inappropriate postings that may include discriminatory remarks, harassment, and threats of violence or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct.
So the overall message seems to be keep it simple and obvious. Focus on clearly unacceptable behaviors, and do not try to micromanage your employee’s activities. It might also be a good idea to provide the following Twitter-length admonition:
Because the ultimate number & identity of viewers is unknown, treat ALL social media communication as if it were occurring loudly in a public location.