Over the past several weeks, you may have read about the murder of a young girl in Birmingham at a fight that was arranged through Facebook; or the fight in Birmingham’s Railroad Park that was posted on Facebook; or the fight in Green County at a school bus stop where shots were fired that was posted on Facebook; or Wisconsin Governor and Presidential hopeful Scott Walker’s Director of Social Media who resigned after inappropriate tweets. It seems as if every day or two, there is another instance of social media activity that makes you shake your head and wonder what is going on.
Employers often face the same predicament. Recently in Montgomery, an employee at Max Credit Union was placed on leave after being accused of commenting on a customer’s account on a local Facebook page. According to the report, “a MAX employee posted a couple’s account information claiming they had a negative balance in their account on the Prattville-Millbrook Montgomery Black List Facebook page. Max Credit Union is investigating the claim.”
Any employer faces the risk of having inappropriate information posted on Social Media by an employee that should not be posted. The information can be trade secrets or confidential information, such as customer lists, pricing information or a secret formula. It can be personal identifying information such as social security numbers, addresses or dates of birth. Medical practices have patient information that if posted on social media can be a violation of HIPAA. Social media posting by attorneys or their clients can waive the Attorney-Client privilege or breach settlement agreements that have confidentiality provisions. Unlawful harassment, be it based on race, sex, pregnancy, disability or other protected classifications can occur on social media. Every Employer has information that it does not want posted on Social Media.
Employers should be proactive in addressing the improper dissemination of information through social media by implementing a social media Policy, educating and training the workforce on the policy, and enforcing the Policy. Although the implementation of a social media policy may not prevent improper postings, the policy can be the basis for disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Such a policy may also provide some measure of protection for the Employer should the Employer be sued as the result of an improper posting on social media.
Practice pointer: Employees are constantly acting inappropriately on social media. Oftentimes, the inappropriate conduct centers on work issues. It is important for Employers to implement a social media policy, which is in compliance with the National Labor Relations Act, educate and train their employees on the policy, and enforce it.