Heather Bussing (@HeatherBussing), an employment lawyer for Bussing Law and blogger for HR Examiner, advises companies not to write a social media policy – and if they currently have one, to get rid of it.
Wh…wh…what? Aren’t we supposed to have a social media policy?
Bussing understands that companies create social media policies in an effort to stop people from saying things that will make the company look bad. The problem is a social media policy won’t prevent people from saying things they shouldn’t. For example, your company probably doesn’t have a telephone policy to control what people say on the phone.
“People who say dumb things say them no matter what the policy is,” says Bussing.
Think about the state of those people who post detrimental content. They’re usually mad, sad, or in some type of mental or emotional strain. That will usually prevent them from getting out your company’s social manual and rationalizing, “Maybe I shouldn’t be doing this…”
Ok…but don’t we need a social policy for legal reasons?
Bussing says no. Employees’ ability to talk to each other or post about their wages, hours, and working conditions is controlled by section 8 of the National Labor Relations Act.
“The more you try to control what people say, the more likely it is your policy will violate section 8 of the NLRA,” says Bussing.
Be careful trying to control employees’ off-duty conduct online. Many states have laws that prevent disciplinary action for behavior outside of work, even if it relates to the company. Bussing says the action has to be criminal or severely detrimental to allow for at-work discipline.
“[Regardless,] it’s perfectly legal to fire someone for being an idiot,” said Bussing. “If that’s what you want to do, you don’t need a policy to do that.”
If you MUST have a social media policy, Bussing recommends Jay Shepherd’s two-word version: