A recent study found that 71% of companies in the Americas do not have a “formal policy regarding employee use of social networking sites.” That being the case, it’s likely your company is in need of a social media policy, but even if it has one, a recent court case creates a new twist to consider regarding what you can and cannot control.
CNBC reports that the government has settled a lawsuit against a Connecticut ambulance company that fired an employee after she went on Facebook to criticize her boss from her home computer, hours after her supervisor said a customer had complained about her work.
This isn’t the first example of an employer firing an employee for what they said online. Inc.com cites others of a nonprofit firing an employee over a sex blog, a waitress being fired for Facebook, and a prospective Cisco employee losing their job offer due to a tweet. This is one of the first examples of an employee’s social media postings from their own computers on their own time being protected speech.
A proactive company has a social media policy that ensures that the right people are saying the right thing online about the company while tweeting, blogging, etc. on company time. It outlines what the company’s strategy and purpose online is and who is and who is not responsible for executing that strategy.
Need examples of a social media policy? Check out these resources:
- Online Database of Social Media Policies, Social Media Governance
- How to Write a Social Media Policy, Inc.com
- 10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy, Mashable.com
In light of this settlement, you may want to rethink how you write your policy for what employees say on their own time from their own computers. Obviously, you want to protect confidential business information, but you may not be able to control what they say off the job. When it comes to personal opinions, you may want to simply want to make sure that they are clear that their opinions are their own, that they do not speak for the company in any way.
On the job is different. A Ketchum employee found this out the hard way when he tweeted “True confession but I’m in one of those towns where I scratch my head and say ‘I would die if I had to live here!'” Problem was he was in Memphis to visit his client FedEx, and FedEx saw the tweet. They were less than amused.