Social media such as Twitter, blogs, Facebook and LinkedIn have become a part of many people’s personal lives.
The public nature of these communications can have an effect on both employers and employees where an employee makes a negative or disparaging comment on-line about an employer.
In E V Logistics v. Retail Wholesale Union , an employer terminated an employee after it discovered that his blog contained racist and offensive comments glorifying Nazi Germany. The employee had mentioned his employer and had posted pictures of himself at work. Since the blog postings were not directed at his employer or co-workers, and since the employee had apologized and removed the hateful comments, the termination which had been initially instituted by the company was substituted for a temporary suspension.
In another case, the termination of a government employee for cause who had made negative comments about her employer and co-worker, including posting confidential information and referring to her co-workers as “aliens” and her workplace as “a lunatic asylum” was upheld.
Employers are well advised to have specific policies that directly address social networking and blogs.
Such policies should include provisions that:
- Expressly warn employees that any breach of the policy may result in discipline up to and including termination
- Advise employees that if they refer to any aspect of a company’s business, they must clearly identify themselves as an employee of the company, and include a disclaimer that their views are their own and not their employers
Prohibit employees from:
- Using company-owned resources for social networking or blog activities at work
- Disclosing any confidential information, including information relating to other employees or customers
- Posting information that may violate the privacy rights of other employees, including photographs or videos taken at work or company social events
- Publishing any negative comments about the employer or other employees, or any comments that may negatively affect the employer’s reputation
Reiterate the employee’s duty of loyalty to the employer, and applicable policies concerning harassment, IT computer use, conflicts of interest and privacy
Remind employees that on-line communications can be read by anyone (including their employer and co-workers)
If you are an employee, remember that anything you post on a public website can be read and used as a basis for termination – even if an employer has not issued such a policy. Given the extraordinary breadth of the Internet, an employer is able to argue that significant and immediate damage to an employer’s reputation as a result of inappropriate postings can result.
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