Employment Law, Oddstuff

Social Media in the workplace – here and there

Social media is currently the ‘in’ word among employers in New Zealand and Australia, probably more for a lack of knowledge than for the actual problems it causes.  Which, if we are honest, are nothing new. There is no legal difference between disparaging remarks about your employer made in the pub or on facebook. What is different now is the level of control we have over such comments.  Your rant in the pub probably stays there because your friends have it all heard before and have their own problems. But once you post it on the net, it takes off and can not be retrieved or taken back. It might even survive out there forever, in one form or the other.  It is at that point that employers start to get a bit nervous and become anxious to limit ‘this social media thing’. So its all about prevention and damage control and most of it is common sense – have proper policies in place, limit access to certain sites, educate your staff etc.

For organisations operating across a number of jurisdictions, limiting these risks can be a challenging exercise as different jurisdictions require different approaches. Below is a link to great resource (156 pages!),  a guide to Social Media in the workplace for pretty much all Asia-Pacific, covering Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Vietnam, China (!), Hong Kong, Malaysia, Pakistan (!) and many more. Like the Dispute Resolution guide I linked to in a previous post, this is an incredible useful tool and makes for fascinating reading as well:

http://www.simpsongrierson.com/the-use-of-social-media-in-the-workplace/ 

Update:  This comes from the US, Minneapolis to be precise, but might be useful nontheless. There, the National Labour Relations Board issued a report about the use of social media in the workplace. It appears that it seems to be quite difficult for employers to draft a social media policy which complies with the National Labour Relations Act, which stipulates for instance that employees can form unions and are alloed to undertake collective bargaining. The report refers to a couple of cases where the employer apparently breached the Act, but also and quite helpfully attaches an actual employer policy which the Board says is legal and complies with the Act.

Again, although we are talking about the US here where unfair always equals discrimination, there might be some useful pointers in the policy – check it out:

http://otslawyers.com/2012/05/nlrb%E2%80%99s-acting-general-counsel-issues-third-report-on-social-media-policies-including-a-template-for-a-lawful-social-media-policy/?goback=%2Egde_783587_member_120346810