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Labor & Employment Law: Drafting a Social-Media Policy That Protects Your Business

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October 01, 2010
Legal Corner
Michael Carrouth - mcarrouth@laborlawyers.com

Develop and Communicate Governing Policies for Online Behavior

Almost every business today relies on the Internet to help improve its operations. Social networking sites are playing an increasingly important role in how companies communicate with their customers and other interested parties. Social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are rapidly gaining new users.

While these technologies can be helpful, they can also be disruptive in the workplace and have the potential to hurt a company’s business. To help limit this risk, companies should take steps to ensure that their employees are properly using social networking sites as they relate to the company. A properly drafted and comprehensive social-media policy can help a company mange the potential risk.

What’s In Your Policy?
Here are some policies to consider. It is important to note that a well-crafted “Blogging and Social Networking” policy should make company policies very clear.

Online social networking and blogging activities are subject to all of the company’s policies and procedures, including, for example, the company’s policies (i) protecting the confidentiality of company information, (ii) safeguarding company property, (iii) prohibiting any type of employment discrimination or harassment, and (iv) governing use of the company’s communication and computer systems.

Employees are prohibited from disclosing or discussing any of the company’s confidential or proprietary information, or any information regarding the company’s clients or business partners, or details of a particular client engagement, in any online social networking and blogging activities. Employees must be made to understand that even the fact that a particular entity or person is a client or business partner of the company must be treated as confidential, and should not be mentioned in any online social networking and blogging activities.

Employees are prohibited from using the name, trademarks, logos, other identifying marks or copyright-protected material of the company or its clients in any online social networking and blogging activities.

Employees also are prohibited from including their company email address in their personal profiles on social networking sites.

Employees engaging in online social networking and blogging activities are expected to remain respectful of the company, its employees, its products and services, its clients, its partners, its affiliates, its vendors and suppliers, and its competitors (and their products and services). Material should not be posted that is obscene, vulgar, defamatory, threatening, discriminatory, harassing, abusive, hateful or embarrassing to another person or entity. Further, employees should not engage in activity that reflects or may reflect negatively on the company, its affiliates, employees, clients, partners, vendors and suppliers, or contains any content prohibited by the company’s policies and procedures.

Employees must make it clear in any online social networking and blogging activities that the views and opinions they express about work-related matters are their own, have not been reviewed or approved by their employer, and do not necessarily represent the views and opinions of their employer.

Employees are personally responsible for the commentary they express and the material they post while engaging in online social networking and blogging activities.

See You Online–Or Maybe In Court
As the laws in this area continue to evolve, employers can reasonably expect to face lawsuits either because of their employees’ online activities, or for taking adverse employment actions based on what employees say and do online. In the meantime, manage the legal risks presented by employee social media use by developing and emphasizing to your staff a policy governing online statements that might affect the company. Much of the suggested policies are based on common sense principles – principles that sometimes don’t find their way into the virtual world.

Michael Carrouth is a lawyer with Fisher & Phillips LLP, a nationally recognized firm representing management in labor and employment matters.?He can be reached at mcarrouth@laborlawyers.com or at (803) 255-0000.

This information is general and informational and is not legal advice.  For more information, please visit www.hospitalitylawyer.com.

©2010 Hospitality Upgrade
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