Social media policies

Having to fire an employee for something written on their website, Facebook page or blog is terrible for morale. While there is no substitution for good judgment, this situation can sometimes be avoided with a good social media policy.

What are some of the risks that you face from wayward employees?

Companies can experience many bad consequences when employees inappropriately communicate online, including: (i) unauthorized disclosure of company confidential information, (ii) online workplace gossip, and (iii) posting of harassing, discriminatory, or disparaging content about your company and its employees, customers and suppliers. In turn, these incidents can lead to anything from court actions and human rights complaints to lost contracts or withdrawn financings or acquisitions.

How can the risks of inappropriate social media communications be mitigated?

The key to being able to monitor technology use by your employees and to quickly bring offending behavior to a halt is a well-drafted employment agreement which confirms that employees have read and understand that they are bound by company policies (including social media policies). As well, a good employment agreement will contain a properly drafted termination clause so that if an employee has to be dooced, it will not cost the company a fortune. Well drafted confidentiality and intellectual property agreements–IP Agreements–are also critical.

Among other things, company policies should remind employees that the computers, networks and PDAs (personal digital assistants) that they use are the property of your company and therefore there is no reasonable expectation of privacy. Permitted uses and improper uses should be outlined, together with the consequences of improper use (examples include termination for cause in the event that the company’s hardware or networks are used to harass, disparage or engage in illegal conduct). Company expectations in relation to the use or non-use of open source software and maintaining confidential information should also be addressed. Finally, employees need to be expressly told that their online personal activities cannot interfere with their work commitments.

A good social media policy should also require workplace bloggers to:

  • Identify themselves by name rather than a pseudonym
  • Use a stand-alone work-dedicated account rather than a personal account
  • Tell the truth–provided that truth is not harmful to anyone, in which case they should instead bring that information to the attention of the company through proper channels
  • Make it clear that the views which they express are theirs alone and not necessarily those of the company


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