By Tyler T. Ray | Companies have gone to great lengths over the past several years to update employment handbooks and include provisions covering social media. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has taken a strong interest in regulating social media activity which impacts both union and non-union workers alike, perhaps as a new way to maintain its presence in the workplace as labor union membership diminishes. The NLRB has issued several recent decisions alerting employers that commonly used social media policies should be revised for being overly broad and stifling free speech.
For example, in the case of Costco Wholesale Corp, the company’s social media policy instructed employees to “be aware that statements posted electronically (such as to online message boards or discussion groups) that damage the company, defame any individual or damage any person’s reputation or violate the policies outlined in the Costco Employee Agreement, may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.” Although this does not seem unreasonable on its face, the court reasoned that this goes to the heart of the National Labor Relations Act, which enables employees to organize, join unions and engage in “other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”
Without specifying which use may cause “damage” to the company, such as on Facebook or Twitter, and what kind of activity a company is trying to prevent, these common or “catch-all” social media policies are being rejected by the NLRB as they may limit or discourage non-union employees from discussing conditions in the workplace, wages, or organizing into unions. A review of your social media policy may be in order as to discover if it is in violation of the latest NLRB rulings.
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