Can companies restrict employees use of social media?
Maybe not. It is probably a case to be taken to limit the use of social networks by employees while they are at work. But Paris is opened when the employee returns home. In fact, it is likely that U.S. companies can not prevent employees from discussing their jobs, their bosses or even their working conditions on social networks at all. At least that seems to be the result of a lawsuit in U.S. government’s recent.
The National Labor Relations Board has pursued an ambulance company in Connecticut after a worker fired for criticizing her boss on Facebook. The NLRB argued that the ambulance company the right to freedom of speech of its employee when it fired him for comments.
The case was settled out of court when the company agreed to change its policy of banning social media workers to disparage the company or its officers online. The company also eliminated a provision in the policy that prohibits employees from speaking to all of the company on social networks without the authorization of the company.
The NLRB said such policies violate federal laws that protect employees against disciplinary action by their companies to discuss wages, hours and working conditions with colleagues.
In this case, the female employee engaged in a profanity-laced tirade against his boss on his Facebook page of his house. Updating the status received support from others. The company fired him shortly afterward, but argued that it was not for the comments on Facebook, but because of his poor job performance. The NLRB did not buy it.
This is one lawsuit so it is difficult to make general determinations based thereon. But many companies have policies that prohibit employees from discussing their work on social networks. These companies may soon have to reconsider.
We are in new territory here. Companies that have a history of mistreatment of employees or those of companies with bullying work environments aggressive discover that social networks are their own worst enemies. But on the other hand, companies should be able to prohibit employees from sharing trade secrets, financial information, customer data and other important documents online.