There are things in business that are absolutely black or white. For example, having Orlando & Central Florida General Liability Insurance isn’t something that should up for debate. Companies that want to stay in business absolutely need this protection. Other things are far more ambiguous. For example, what is the appropriate course of action when you discover an employee badmouthing your company on social media? Is this automatic grounds for dismissal? Is it a disciplinary issue? Are you prevented by free speech laws from doing anything at all? How do you handle when an employee violates your social media policy?
First Things First: Create and Publicize Your Social Media Policy
When your employees are on the clock, you have every right to implement a policy prohibiting or restricting the use of social media during work hours. The problem is, most employee social media postings about their employer, salary, working conditions, etc. are posted when employees are off duty. The National Labor Relations Act and laws in individual states prohibit employers from penalizing employees for what they do when they’re off the clock. To a degree, this includes social media posts. Are these posts protected by free speech laws? The answer is, usually but not always.
Under the law, online postings between coworkers that discuss work conditions or salaries typically are protected. These types of posts fall under the umbrella of “concerted” online activity. Basically, free speech laws allow employees to complain about work without fear of retribution. Social media posts that go beyond complaining and grumbling, and are meant to drive business away from an employer, are considered to be “disloyal” in the eyes of the law. Employers may be able to legally discipline or dismiss employees who are seeking to damage their businesses by unflattering social media posts.
Every case is different. If an employee violates your social media policy, talk to them about it. Maybe they weren’t aware of the policy and it was an honest mistake. Maybe they are feeling marginalized or unhappy at work. At the very least, when you discover that employees have posted unflattering social media posts about your business, that’s a red flag and symptomatic of workplace discontent. It may be an opportunity to change things you may not even be aware of.
When you’re a business owner, it’s easier to protect yourself against some risks than it is to protect yourself against others (including what employees say about your company online.) To make sure you’re protected against general liability issues, contact us at Newman Crane & Associates Insurance, (407) 859-3691.