Case Law Is Still Catching Up with Social Media Technology

Author: Stephen D. Hans

As case law catches up with social media technology, more information becomes available to develop sound business practices. A recent report by Bloomberg BNA  unveils worthwhile policies described by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Acting General Counsel, Lafe E. Solomon. The report focused on unfair labor practices that limit employees’ abilities to exercise their federal labor law guaranteed rights.

Mr. Solomon addressed large company business practices ─ Target, Walmart, and General Motors, to name a few. When reviewing the language used in employee handbooks and policies, he found:

  • Overbroad confidentiality rules
  • Unlawful reporting requirements
  • Unlawful attempts to monitor tone or online communications content
  • Legitimate bullying bans
  • Vague rules that violated rights
  • Valid rules restricting statements made in the employer’s name
  • Rules that violated employees’ rights to seek help from third parties regarding their working conditions
  • Valid rules prohibiting discrimination

Walmart had a favorable outcome by revising its policy after a former employee had filed a complaint with the NLRB. Because Walmart’s new policy was lawful, the NLRB found it unnecessary to address the legality of the previous policy. The NLRB found that the employee’s online comments were not NLRB or work-related, which resulted in dismissing the claim. Successful aspects of Walmart’s revised policies included prohibiting discriminatory remarks, harassment, threats of violence, and similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct. The revised policy provided guidelines of being fair and courteous to other employees and encouraged direct open communication to co-workers rather than communicating complaints through social media postings.

If you have questions about employment policy for social media, contact Stephen Hans at Hans & Associates, P.C. . Stephen is an accomplished New York employment defense law attorney with more than 30 years of legal experience. He can help you with small and middle-sized business issues.

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