Disclaimer: We are not attorneys and this is not legal advice. It would be a mistake to take any of this information as legal advice.
What did the NLRB do?
The National Labor Relations Board has been extremely busy since late 2010 reviewing a bevy of social media policies and putting the thumbscrews to companies who, in the NLRB’s opinion, are implementing overly broad policies and chilling concerted activity.
According to their website, “The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.”
The NLRB ensures that employees are protected, which is a good thing. However, in the increasingly wild world of social media, we have some concerns about protecting the employer, too. Unlike the past where a disgruntled employee complained to friends or wrote a letter, today’s disgruntled employee (whether rightly so or not) takes to Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube or a host of other outlets to air his or her dirty laundry. As you know, anything posted on the Internet should be considered public – forever. That’s a real issue for companies who have legitimate concerns about keeping a positive brand presence.
According to the NLRB.gov site, “In the first ruling of its kind, a National Labor Relations Board Administrative Law Judge has found that a Buffalo nonprofit organization unlawfully discharged five employees after they posted comments on Facebook concerning working conditions, including work load and staffing issues. In short, because the employees were engaging in concerted activity about the work load and other situations at the nonprofit the judge ruled it was a conversation among employees about the terms and conditions of their employment and, thus, protected. You can read more here.
How may it affect your business?
No one knows how this will ultimately affect organizations and their social media guidelines. We do believe, however, that protecting the integrity of your businesses’ brand is paramount and that common-sense guidelines should be in place. This should include having online communication “do’s” and “don’ts” as a part of your onboarding.
What does Professional Mojo recommend?
- Creating a brand document that encourages your employees to be evangelists for you, but to remember that everything they say about your organization is out there forever. Help them understand the gravity of their actions. This is their workplace, too. Show them when and how it’s appropriate to talk about the brand.
- Limiting the number of administrators on your accounts and ensuring you have corporate access to every online asset.
- Always keeping a transparent and open environment. Being available for complaints and taking care of concerns will decrease the likelihood that a disgruntled employee will take to the Internet.
- Finding innovative ways to empower those who want to help. Sometimes, a brand is damaged by having too many wayward profiles. A well-meaning employee may set up a rogue Facebook page. Then, the employee moves on, but the asset is still there. Help your employees know what to do and to whom they should speak if they’d like to be a part of your online communities or wish to set up additional assets.
- Monitoring your online presence. You are what the Internet says you are and catching any piece of info early is key to influencing the conversation and managing the message.
- Keeping abreast of rulings. One of the best resources we’ve found to help business folks make sense of all this is the Information Law Group website. There are other great resources, too, as well as your own legal counsel.