Along with a fresh near year, we are seeing a fresh new protection on the formerly precarious practice of employees posting their comments about their employers’ activities on social media sites – under certain conditions.
Over the past two years I’ve made a couple of blog posts on the topic of employer/employee issues in social media. Why? Well, many employers took a hard line stance about (usually negative) social media mentions by their employees, and many individuals were naïve about the ability of their employers to determine exactly what they were saying about them. It was not unusual to hear of cases where employers were even requesting passwords to their employees’ social media accounts. With jobs being hard to come by, this was important information to impart.
Now, employees in the U.S. who wish to discuss working conditions in social media platforms may do so without fear of backlash. The reason for this turnabout is that they have found an advocate in the form of the National Labor Relations Board.
According to a recent article in the New York Times “Federal regulators are ordering employers to scale back policies that limit what workers can say online. The labor board’s rulings, which apply to virtually all private sector employers, generally tell companies that it is illegal to adopt broad social media policies — like bans on “disrespectful” comments or posts that criticize the employer — if those policies discourage workers from exercising their right to communicate with one another with the aim of improving wages, benefits or working conditions. The NLRB chairman, Mark G. Pearce, explained the support saying “Many view social media as the new water cooler. All we’re doing is applying traditional rules to a new technology.”
Although this is a great step forward, I think employees still need to be careful about what they post. Those releasing confidential information, or who are ranting and raving about their employers will receive a rude awakening if they believe their “free speech” will be defended. No one is going to step up and save their jobs.
As I’ve said before, assume anything you post on the internet is permanent and may be viewed by anyone, and that your online activities may come to the attention of your employers or potential employers.