What Goes Into a Social Media Policy? 5 Essentials

Social media policies are essential to every workplace manual. But what to include in your policy (which we bet you haven’t written yet)? Five recommendations from lawyers who know what they’re talking about:

1. Establish “ownership” of work-related social media accounts:

“…these cases illustrate the importance of creating clear policies regarding the treatment of business-related social media accounts, and making sure that employees are aware of these policies. Other measures an employer can take include being certain to control the passwords of the company’s own social media accounts, and making sure that the name of the account does not include an individual employee’s name. At the same time, employers need to be mindful of new laws in California restricting an employer’s ability to gain access to its employees’ personal social media accounts, laws on which we have reported previously. And of course, in light of these developments, it remains particularly important to maintain a clear distinction between company and personal social media accounts.” (Morrison Foerster)

2. Define confidential company information:

“[E]mployers should be careful when setting limits on the types of information they bar employees from discussing. Employees can be required to keep many work-related topics confidential, including trade secrets, personal health information, credit card numbers, social security numbers and other business information. But employers may not prevent employees from discussing issues that relate to the terms and conditions of their employment, including job performance and wage and benefit information.” (Patterson Belknap)

3. Be upfront about monitoring on-the-job social media use:

“Employers who choose to monitor their employees’ social media use at work must have clear, express and well-communicated policies about the extent and nature of this monitoring. Employers must also comply with and implement their policies in accordance with local requirements.” (Cecile Martin, Proskauer)

4. Avoid broad descriptions of prohibited activities:

“A policy against harassing language or discriminatory conduct based on race, sex, national origin, or other protected categories will remain lawful so long as it does not contain overbroad language that strays from the purpose of the policy. For example, a policy that prohibits verbal or physical harassment based on enumerated protected categories will be safe. A policy that prohibits ‘all forms of harassing, annoying or disrespectful language and conduct’ is too broad and will be vulnerable to attack.” (James McDonald, Fisher & Phillips)

5. Provide plenty of examples:

“The NLRB has repeatedly indicated that a particular policy might have been lawful if it had included specific examples of prohibited conduct. Thus, instead of stating that the policy prohibits ‘inappropriate behavior,’ consider providing examples such as harassment, bullying, etc.” (Fenwick & West)

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