What Can You Do If Your Employees Are Discussing Work Conditions on Social Media?


by Stephanie Conn, on November 09, 2017


Help!  My ungrateful employees are complaining on Facebook about the lousy wages I pay them.  How will I ever be able to get anyone to come work for me now? Can I fire them?

In short, please NO!

Understandably, you are not alone in your apprehension. A growing workplace concern is that of employee social media activity and the adverse effect that it may have on an employer’s business operations.

It’s important that every business owner and supervisor understand that the National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees to congregate together to address conditions at work, whether the organization is unionized or not. Historically, such protected conversations have occurred at the office “water cooler”.  However, with the introduction of the internet and social media into the workplace, this protection has been extended to certain work-related conversations that are conducted on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. Essentially, social media has evolved into the new office water cooler.

Employees have the right to openly discuss work related concerns such as pay, benefits and working conditions.  Yes, pay, too. These discussions may be considered protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act if they are initiated in an effort to improve employee pay, working conditions and even in preparation for employees to bring a complaint to management. As business leaders, while we may not like what employees are discussing, they do essentially have a right, especially if it is truthful information.

What Can Employers Do About This?
If they do not have one already, employers should create social media policies with the company’s culture in mind and most certainly include the involvement of departments such as human resources, legal, marketing and even IT. Most importantly, an employer needs to ensure that their social media policy properly aligns with policies that already exist in their Employee Handbook and includes common sense rules and realistic expectations.

While the National Labor Relations Board has social media policies on their radar and have found many of them to be unlawful, the good news for employers is that they have found at least one of them to be lawful. A copy of that policy that can be found at https://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/fact-sheets/nlrb-and-social-media. Please refer to pages 22-24 on the third report listed under General Counsel memos.
Your employees are on social media.

There’s no getting away from it. Embrace it as reality and keep these items in mind as you move to create your own policy:

  1. State that employees should not divulge confidential information and trade secrets and define what each of these items are (client lists, pending acquisitions, the top secret sauce recipe, etc.).
  2. Educate employees about the benefits and pitfalls of social media.
  3. Inform employees that unless they are an official spokesperson of the company, they should never present themselves as such. Employees should be conscientious that even though not an official spokesperson, they could still be perceived as a brand ambassador.
  4. Let employees know that they can be held accountable for their social media posts even if they may occur outside of the office, especially if they are posting material that may violate another company policy.
  5. Encourage employees to use the “grandmother rule” before posting on social media.  If grandma would not approve of the post, then maybe it’s something that shouldn’t be posted for the world to see.
  6. Remind employees that violations of the policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

Employers can also combat the negative PR they may receive as a result of their employees’ social media posts by creating a strong culture and work environment.

And to the leader complaining about seeing lousy wage comments on an employee’s Facebook post?  Maybe now is the time to take a long hard look at your pay practices.

Whether it’s helping you create a social media policy or helping you revise your compensation practices, LandrumHR has a team of professionals ready to help.

Sources:
https://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/fact-sheets/nlrb-and-social-media
https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/0813-social-media-policy.aspx

Note: This is general human resource advice; it is not intended to be legal advice.  

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If you'd like to speak with an HR Representative about creating or updating a social media policy for your business, message us below!

   







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Stephanie Conn

Stephanie is a Human Resources Manager out of our Panama City Office, and is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and as a Senior Certified Professional by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM-SCP). She holds a Masters in Human Resources Management from Troy University and is an active member of the Bay County Society for Human Resource Management. In her spare time, she enjoys watching Auburn football (War Eagle!) and snuggling on the couch with her Great Dane.

View more blogs by Stephanie Conn


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