#WorkingSocial for Businesses: Managing Social Media in the Workplace

Social media has become an essential tool for businesses. Using social media can enhance employee recruitment, foster community engagement and even make for a more productive workplace. As an employer or manager, it’s important to know the rules and laws specific to social media use in recruiting and hiring as well as employee rights concerning social media use in the workplace. Here are some tips for managing social media in the workplace:

Social Media Law – Educate Yourself. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRB) governs employee social media use in the workplace and applies to private companies and nonprofits. The act protects “concerted activity,” or the right of employees to discuss wages, terms of employment and working conditions.

Understand Rules are Different for Public Employers. While the National Labor Relations Act does not apply, public employers should educate themselves on legal social media use in the context of the First Amendment, which covers any social and political posts public employees make off duty, outside their official capacity and not directly connected to the workplace.

Account Ownership – Outline account ownership of all your social media platforms in your social media policy. Make it clear your social media managers will need to enter into account ownership agreements so company ownership is defined and in writing. Make sure you spell out what positions are responsible for maintaining and storing user IDs and passwords for all your social media accounts. Make it clear all accounts are to be set up with your company email addresses, contact info and use two factor authentication.

Hiring Practices & Social Media UseIf your company searches for job candidates on social media as a screening step, avoid revealing protected information (race, religion, gender, etc) to the hiring manager. Make sure your policy makes it clear the social media searcher needs to be separate from the hiring manager. Limit the scope to relevant, publicly available information. Never allow anyone to “friend” an applicant in order to seek private information. Never ask an employee for social media account access and/or passwords. Document social media search results, removing any protected information. Process all applicants consistently and document all decisions to reject an applicant. Make sure a social media search is necessary based on the nature of the position. Make sure applicants are notified a background check is necessary. Consider using a social media background consent form.

Read Each Platform’s Terms of Use. While the law may not prohibit you from limiting certain employee posts and behaviors on social media, terms of use, in some cases, may. For instance, it is against Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Practices to solicit and share passwords. This means you are violating Facebook’s terms if you ask for an employee’s password. Terms of use can also limit the use of social media for promotions, advertising and contests. Be sure you are using proper disclaimers on any promotions.

Develop, Implement a Social Media Policy. Make your social media policy one your employees can understand and follow. Review it annually with your attorney and – along with your other policies on data security and privacy, productivity, computer use, and safety and sanitation – be sure it is current and well understood by all. Make sure your policy is about more than social media etiquette and addresses issues often overlooked like:

  • Appropriate References to Laws Governing Your Industry. Don’t forget to include references to industry regulations like HIPPA for healthcare, FCC for the media and communications industry and the SEC for the financial trades.
  • Examples of Proper and Improper Use.

Train, Train & Train Again. Companies that don’t train their employees on social media policies and account ownership put themselves at risk. Social media training is about more than articulating your social media goals and objectives for establishing relationships with and communicating with your customers. It’s about making sure employees are aware of, understand and know how to follow your policies. It’s about making sure they know what they can and cannot do. Answer as many employee questions as possible beforehand and provide concrete examples for when, where and why they can find themselves in trouble.

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The information contained in this blog is intended as educational and is not intended or offered as legal advice. Information for this article was compiled from multiple sources, including Idaho Department of Labor workshops on using social media to look for work with speakers Lisa McGrath, new media attorney, and Justin Foster, social media business consultant.

Stay up to date on social media use for businesses by following @IdahoLabor on Twitter or liking the Idaho Department of Labor on Facebook. You also can join the agency’s LinkedIn group.