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Social Media Policy Dos and Don’ts

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It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have or what industry you are in: if you have employees, they are likely on some kind of social media. And because of that, your company needs a social media policy.

But what to put into, or exclude, from that policy, is an important question, and one that can get you in legal trouble, if not done the right way.

Avoid Doing These Things

One thing you should avoid doing, is anything that may restrict someone’s right to say or do something on social media that does not affect your work or your business. For example, excluding someone’s right to support a political candidate, or to speak out on a social issue, are all dangerous things to include in your policy.

You should avoid restricting employees from just general complaints about work. So long as there is no sensitive information, you usually cannot restrict someone from complaining about their work.

You could, however, restrict them from saying things that would specifically hurt your business. Saying or posting “my job stinks and I’m bored” is generally OK, but you have more leeway to prevent an employee from posting “my company’s products always break and are overpriced.”

It should go without saying that you should avoid any policy that restricts employees from contacting the media, or the government, or police, through social media; this can be seen as retaliation, in the event the employee is reporting something that is worthy of legal protections.

So What Can You Restrict?

You can require that employees who speak about work on social media, make it clear that they are speaking on behalf of themselves, and not the company.

You also can say that employees are subject to discipline for anything that is objectively offensive or hurtful, such as racist or discriminatory speech. You can also prohibit the posting of anything lewd, illegal (like drug use), obscene or offensive—although that needs to be objectively offensive, not something that just offends you, or your company.

Not Good, But Not Offensive Things

You may have difficulty with things that are not objectively offensive, but which may not fit the image of your business. It is generally difficult for businesses to prevent employees from posting things that, objectively, are not lewd,illegal or offensive, but which “don’t fit the image” of your business.

For example, if you have a family breakfast restaurant you may not want one of your waitresses putting a picture of herself in a bikini on social media, or your cook with 3 beers in his hands, even though objectively, there is nothing wrong or illegal with doing such things.

Note that this is all for employees’ personal social media accounts. When it comes to your business’ “official” social media account, you have much more flexibility to restrict things that you couldn’t restrict when it comes to employees’ personal social media accounts.

Remember that if your employees are union, the collective bargaining agreement may have provisions on what you can and cannot restrict.

Let us craft a social media policy that works for you. Call our West Palm Beach business litigation lawyers at Pike & Lustig today for help and advice.




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