With use of social networking sites becoming more and more common, employers that do not yet have a social media policy should consider implementing one. A social media policy permits effective monitoring of employee use (or misuse) of social media and establishes guidelines for that use.

A social media policy should generally advise employees that if there is a legitimate business purpose, the company may monitor employee postings within the workplace and, subject to certain limitations, outside of the workplace as well. Unless authorized by the company, the policy should state that employees may not use the company’s name when posting online, make statements attributable to the company, use the company’s logos or symbols, or divulge confidential or trade secret information. Employers should also consider including a mechanism through which employees can report harassing or inappropriate comments they believe may be work-related. If it is discovered that an employee has been posting or using social media that is in violation of the policy, the employee can be disciplined or terminated from employment.

Employers should be careful, however, not to establish a policy that prohibits an employee from discussing the terms and conditions of employment. This means that an employee may criticize his or her employer or supervisor. Indeed, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is normally associated with only union activity, has taken the position that union and non-union employees should not be restricted in discussing wages, hours and working conditions with fellow employees.

Thus, as use of social media expands, evolves, and sometimes lurches forward, employers that want to monitor employee postings or have the ability to review employee social media use should first implement a social media policy. Such a policy will place employees on notice that the employer may take action if the policy is violated and, more importantly, perhaps prevent a troublesome situation from arising in the first place. Nonetheless, employers should be careful that the policy is not too restrictive such that it prevents workplace discussions.