Workplace Social Media in 2016 and Beyond

Workplace Social Media in 2016 and Beyond

As 2016 hurdles through its second half, we have seen yet another year with massive technological advances integrated into the workforce. Nearly every employee now carries a smartphone, and more and more people still are signing up for and using new and existing social media sites as a means of accessing the news and connecting with friends and colleagues.

Understandably, businesses have a level of concern about productivity issues being impacted by social media usage.  But as more millennial employees enter and remain in the workforce businesses are also realizing they need to balance their concerns with productivity with the amount of social media activity that is woven into the cultural fabric of employees, young and old.  

Recent Trends in Social Media Restriction

A recent study by a global law firm revealed that although nearly 90% of businesses use social media for business purposes, 70% of businesses also have policies restricting employee’s use of social media at work.  Although training employees on proper use of social media has proven effective, shockingly few companies have taken this pro-active approach.  However, those that have done so have seen an increase in compliance with employer policy and compliance with the law governing employer restriction on social media usage.

Although 43% of employers still block access to all social media sites (at a risk discussed below), this number has fallen by 10% over the past two years, which signals a shift in management views toward social media that is consistent with increased public usage.   In short, employees want to remain connected while at work but are willing to follow reasonable rules and restrictions as long as those rules do not infringe on their rights.

Laws Governing Social Media Policies

While there is no formal federal law governing an employer’s right to restrict employee access to social media either on company owned or “bring your own device” situations, any restrictions on social media use (and associated policies) must take into consideration the rights of employees to engage in concerted activities while on the job.  Simply stated, employees must have unfettered ability to discuss their wages, hours, and working conditions with one another as required by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”).  

Most people think of the NLRA as applying to unionized settings, but in this context the law applies to all employers.  This means that policies must be carefully crafted to ensure that employers are not monitoring employee social media activity and must narrowly tailor their policies around the clearly articulated legitimate business interests they are seeking to protect.  In short, it is best to have a narrow policy that clearly states that employees are not restricted from engaging in concerted activity as provided by the NLRA yet should use reason with respect to maintaining productivity in the workplace.  

Syntrio Can Assist with Social Media Compliance

We understand that there is a fine line between maintaining your business interests and complying with your employees’ right to engage in concerted activity.  Therefore, we can help train your managers on the nuances of the law that will help formulate an effective and compliant policy.  Contact for more information and remember to follow us on Facebook,  Twitter, Google Plus and LinkedIn for daily updates on employment law and compliance that impact your business!

Written by Jonathan Gonzalez, Chief Counsel for Syntrio.

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