How Social Media Is Affecting Workplace Policies

by Employment Blawg on January 31, 2013

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(Guest post from a US author regarding social media and its impact on workplace policies)

New technologies are rapidly changing our world and that includes our workspaces as well. Not only have computers allowed workers to telecommute, they have also affected how people socialize in and out of work. Employers have struggled to keep up and maintain current policies because the culture of technology is changing so quickly. Many have been forced to change employee handbooks. Meanwhile employees are increasingly being judged by their social media presence as much as the qualifications on their resume. Indeed, it’s a wild west world out there for employees and employers alike. Read on to learn about some of the biggest changes happening now:

Hired and Fired By The Social Media Sword

In older days a resume with references was all an employer had to go off of when making a decision to hire somebody. These days large companies employ dedicated staff to review the social media profiles of everyone who applies for a position at their company. What does this mean for employees?

The boundaries between personal and public life continue to blur as social media permeates our culture. Even in the workplace employees have access to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, the most-utilized social networks used for inter-work chatter.

If you think you can avoid the hubbub by simply not having a Facebook profile, think again. Many employers see it as a warning sign if someone does not have a presence online. At the least, it doesn’t reflect favorably on the candidate. “If you don’t know how to network online how much other necessary internet-related knowledge will you need to be taught,” an employer may reason. Keeping a profile that is too squeaky clean can be seen as a word of warning as well. As you can see, there is a fine line,which isn’t entirely clear yet.

Employer Policies Being Challenged Daily

A recent trend of consequences has been during employment-related lawsuits the employer is made to comply with changing their workplace handbooks to be in compliance with the law. While many companies have portions of their policies dedicated to the handling of electronic information many address this in a way many courts have found to be illegal. An employer cannot restrict employee’s rights to discuss wages or workplace conditions. These kinds of topics often get hashed out over social media. Many employees connect with each other over social media so it becomes clear how this can cause a conflict.

Be Careful To Post About Work

With legal areas so poorly defined these days it is important for employees to exercise caution when posting that next work-related status or photo. While courts have upheld the rights of employees to talk about issues that affect them directly (such as work conditions and wages) other types of sharing are not protected.

In a recent case a BMW salesman was fired from his job for posting sarcastic comments in regards to an accident that occurred at another dealership. The other dealership was owned by the same company that employed the salesman. Surprisingly, he was fired for posting rude comments about an accident that did not occur at work and not for the criticisms he posted just a week prior involving a “cheap” promotion happening at work. This means that because the cheap promotion the BMW dealership could have affected his commissions he was legally protected and could post his comments online, even though they were negative. However, his other sarcastic comments about an accident occurring elsewhere were not protected.

It is very important to be judicious in deciding the kinds of data to broadcast on your public internet persona. A good safeguard would be to only post information about your work in a way that you would be willing to share with a potential client. Keep it personal, but leave out the nitty gritty details. A good way to think about it would be to consider how a radio DJ will talk about his personal life on-air while leaving out key details. The personality still comes across but the details do not pose any threat, they are simply informative.

Summary

Consider the above the next time you find yourself posting a tweet or discussing work with anyone other than your co-workers or family. Definitely do not post any detailed confidential information about your work online. This might just be grounds for termination. If you feel like you might have been wronged consider speaking with an employment attorney. They will be more versed in current laws and trends in this area.

Author Bio:

John Barrett is a professional writer who often writes about employment lawyers in Los Angeles. When he is not writing you can find him playing tennis or hanging out with his wife.

Employment Blawg

Employment Blawg

Employment law blogger at LabourBlawg
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