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Drafting a Social Media Handbook Policy for Developers
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Drafting a Social Media Handbook Policy for Developers

February 19, 2013 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

Do not restrict employees from using the company's name, address, or other information on their online profiles (e.g., Facebook) because such profiles serve as a way for employees to find one another online and possibly communicate about unionization activities.

Do not restrict employees from posting pictures of your company's logo, uniforms, etc. because this also restricts employees from posting about their union activity (e.g., posting pictures of coworkers at a union rally wearing pro-union T-shirts that depict the company's logo).

Do not restrict employees' communication with the public and press via social media because federal labor law protects these kinds of communications.

Do not require employees to explicitly state that whatever they post is their personal opinion every time that they post anything about the company (e.g., "Company XYZ doesn't provide us proper benefits. This is my personal opinion, not that of the company").

Do not require an employee to get approval before they can identify themselves as an employee online.

But you may require employees to get the company's permission before they post something on behalf of the company or post something that people could think came from the company directly.

Do not restrict employees from becoming Facebook friends with one another or communicating with one another via social media.

But you may have a policy that prevents employees from pressuring their coworkers into connecting or communicating with them via social media. Just be sure that the policy clearly applies only to harassing conduct and does not restrict employees from contacting one another for the purpose of engaging in unionization activities.

Do not require employees to discuss work-related concerns with their supervisors or managers before they air their frustrations online.

But you may suggest that employees should first try to resolve their work-related concerns using internal company procedures.

Do not rely on a disclaimer to fix an overly broad social media policy that lacks appropriate definitions and context. For example, one company had a disclaimer in their policy stating, "This policy will not be interpreted or applied so as to interfere with employee rights to self-organize, form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their choosing, or to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection." The NLRB says that this may still conflict with federal labor law because employees may not understand what this statement means and will nonetheless think that they are not allowed to engage in unionization activities. In other words, err on the side of being more specific.

That is a lot to take in, so how do you begin? The NLRB has graciously included a full sample of a social media policy in its third report ("It's dangerous to go alone! Take this!"), which is available for free on its website. Search for the Operations Memorandum 12-59 published on May 30, 2012; the sample is on pages 22-24. Use this sample as a starting point and remember to also keep in mind the FTC's guidelines that I mentioned earlier. Happy drafting!

The views expressed in this article are that of the author personally, and should not be attributed to the National Labor Relations Board or the U.S. government. Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship exists between the author and any reader.

Article Start Previous Page 3 of 3

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