Social Media as one of the Ranking Factors

The significance of using social media in helping a company grow is not overstated. However, there could be grave legal ramifications for businesses when personnel or affiliates, as well as marketers utilize any of the most popular social media sites.

This is true when employees act for the benefit of your company and also when they are using social media for personal reasons. The smart business owners recognize the issues before they become a problem and devise a plan to minimize liability and mitigate risks as they become public. Of course, this strategy must begin with a suitable Social Media Policy. Many businesses write policies on social media that don’t address all possible issues that could arise and could, or even create policies that makes them illegal!

So, how do you be sure that your company’s media policy doesn’t come off as a flop? It’s first important to know the potential issues that could arise in social media.

Employees who share confidential or proprietary information on an article on a blog that can be read by millions of people who read it;

Employees who share negative or discriminatory comments on social media about your company or employees;

employees who share offensive material on their Facebook profiles that questions their credibility, which affects your business or

affiliates and other endorsers with sponsorship rights could expose employers to liability for advertising the company’s services or products without disclosing their relationship between them. This is otherwise called a sponsored endorsement in the legal jargon. The FTC has clarified that all “material connection” among endorsers and sponsor need to be disclosed with respect to the endorsement of a product or service that includes any kind of positive review. The endorsers who are sponsored by sponsors could also cause liability for your company through false claims they make about products or services provided by your company.

If you employ employees or utilize any kind of affiliates or marketers from third parties You should establish an official social media policy. While it’s not a guarantee from liability, companies must establish policies for social media usage that protect the employer in line with the corporate style of. These policies can not only provide a powerful dissuasion to employees, but they could be used as a basis for removing employees and affiliates as well as other third parties.

Your social media policies for your company will inform employees of what expectations the company has in relation to using social media both at work and off. This may differ for different businesses, but employers should be concerned about rules that prohibit conduct which could result in sexual harassment or any other liability regulations that prohibit the release of proprietary or confidential information, and policies of the company regarding the use of logos from corporate brands as well as other branding issues while engaging in social media usage. I’ll provide more specific details of what your company’s policy should be below.

The issue each employer should be aware of when it comes to the use of social media by employees is that the person’s actions might be legally protected. Certain States, for instance, are governed by statutes that safeguard employees’ off-duty activities as well as political affiliations or activities. On the Federal level there is it is the National Labor Relations Act protects employees who engage in “concerted activities,” that typically means discussions about the conditions and terms of their work with their co-workers as well as outsiders. If your policy on social media hasn’t been revised in the last two years, your policy could be not in conformity with the guidelines issued from the National Labor Relations Board recently. Additionally the state and federal whistle-blower laws provide protection to employees who speak out about (among others) possible violations of securities fraud in specific circumstances.

The most basic and practical guidelines that you must include in your Social Media policy can be described below. I use the word “employees” to mean employees, affiliates and any other endorsers who are sponsored by companies.

It is essential that employees follow the guidelines of their employment contract and employee handbook as well as any other code of conduct for the company in all instances when using the social networks (obviously this only applies only to staff members). The policy on social media will prohibit employees from breaking the terms of any company policy through using social media for private or professional reasons.

Broad Use Statement

The policy is applicable to all types of social media. This includes multi-media (videos posts, articles and audio files) and social networks blogs, podcasts, sharing websites and wikis. The policy is applicable to both personal and professional use.

Employees are not allowed to divulge any information that is proprietary or confidential to the company or any third-party. What happens if there is an exciting new product or application that you wish to keep secret? What happens to financial and other private information? There are many reasons to make rules against the disclosure of proprietary or confidential details on public social media websites. It is best to define what is “confidential” as well as proprietary data, as well as other trade secrets comparable to a non-disclosure agreement , and limit the disclosure. This should cover personal use and access to websites owned by the company. However, be specific. Instead of banning all divulging of confidential information, be specific on what information is not allowed to be divulged (such such as customer data and business strategies, etc. ).

If an employee makes comments about any aspect of the business they must clearly state that they are as an employee and provide an acknowledgement. Employees must not claim or suggest that they are speaking on behalf of the company unless they have been specifically permitted to do so. For instance, you can make sure that every employee uses the language “any opinions expressed are their own opinions that don’t necessarily reflect the opinions or views that are held by ABC Corp.”

All endorsers of sponsors should not use false or misleading advertisements or statements about your products. The content you post must be true and true. Because you are the same as any sponsor endorser and you must have a an unambiguous policy regarding the definition of deceitful advertising and be wary of these assertions. Actually, every employee, affiliate, etc. who you permit to publish and promote your company must be aware of what constitutes deceitful in the eyes of the FTC and the state laws protecting consumers. Your social media policies should prohibit your company’s bloggers and affiliates, product reviewers, and marketers from making this claims and the policy must be part of the separate agreements you sign by any affiliates or independent marketers.

Your employees are not allowed to use trademarks or logos belonging to your company on their personal blog or Facebook page unless they have permission to do so. In the same way, they shouldn’t be permitted to paste or upload the marks on any other online forum. Be clear about the expectations of the company and give examples of situations that are acceptable, and include an acceptable description for the company’s branding. Be clear about the fact that people who have online identities linked to the company and provide information about their job titles also include the language that is approved into their profiles on the internet. A policy that is positives can help in building the trust of those who are advocates for the company’s image. Rely on that your staff members drive with a sense of responsibility by establishing the guidelines for driving. It is important to prevent employees from distributing unauthorized “promos” that claim to represent your company without prior approval.

It is essential that all of your employees be granted approval before making or posting content on company blogs, Facebook fan pages, Twitter accounts and so on. You should also put in place a system to keep track of and remove the content in all instances.

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According to the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) An employee is not dismissed based on “protected or concerted action” that is in connection with the conditions and terms of job or involves coming together with colleagues in matters pertaining to the employment. According to the NLRB employees have the legal right to speak about the “terms and condition” of their employment. This covers a wide range of discussions, including concerns about pay, working hours as well as supervisors and different aspects of the employee’s work conditions.

This can include discussions on a social media sites. Although the laws of employment in each state vary , and could safeguard your employees’ right to freedom of speech, you may retain the right to demand that employees refrain from talking about certain topics, removing certain types of posts, eliminate unsuitable comments, and generally prohibit employees from posting any type of remarks or videos that could harm your company’s reputation. But generally speaking complaints relating to work conditions are covered. This is because the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) applies to union employees and non-union workers alike.

A policy regarding social media violates federal law if an honest employee is able to consider the policy to restrict discussions about the conditions and terms of their work. If a policy on social media was not updated in the last two years, it could be out of line with the rules that have been provided from the National Labor Relations Board over this period as well as the recent NLRB rulings pertaining to social policies on media.

However, comments that are inappropriate to the public are not related to work conditions and therefore are not protected. In the case of social media there is a National Labor Relations Board has issued an advice Memorandum that every company must review prior to drafting a Social Media Policy. For example, if you were to dismiss one employee for making insensitive and inappropriate comments about victims of crime on Twitter is not considered to be in violation of the law.

 

On November 5 the 5th of November, 2013 on November 5th, 2013, an NLRB Administrative Law Judge decided that the decision to terminate 2 employees for the following Facebook posts was not a violation of employees’ rights within the NLRA:

“I do not feel like being their b*tch or making it all fun and happy middle school cute. Let’s go out and do some awesome stuff and let them work out the cash. Don’t bother anymore Sean. Let’s just f*ck it up.”

“You right. They don’t care about”stuff.”

“[H]ahaha! F*ck em. Field trips every day to where the f*ck we’d like!”

“[W]on’t be in town on Wednesday. I’m outta town. However, I’ll return to make a fuss with you. Don’t worry. No matter what happens, I’ll get your back.”

However it was found that a New York City tour guide’s posts on Facebook constituted protected union-related organizing actions (New York Party Shuttle LLC as well as Fred Pflantzer (CN: 02-CA-73340). The NLRB found that the company had erred in its discharge of the bus driver who was employed by it when it did not grant him new work after he had posted Facebook posts criticizing the employer’s policies regarding employment. The posts by the employee described the former employers as an “worker’s paradise” as compared to his current employer, stating the fact that “there are no workers’ unions that can protect you” as well as complained about the fact that the paychecks of his new employer often bounced. The posts also noted that after he began to call for an union and stopped being booked for work. The postings were protected as per the NLRB.

Conduct that is concerted is not always covered by the Act regardless of whether it is conducted in person or via social media. The key point to remember is that if the conduct can be proven to affect the employer’s business, or is so threatening that it renders the employee ineligible for further employment and the NLRA does not cover the employee.

The following Facebook posts posted by employees in relation to their employer were recently found to not be an act of conduct that is protected under the law The following are the most common: 1. posts with profanity 2. posts that hurl insults at the employer, and 3. posts that express the disdain for employers. The policy of your company’s social media will be able to limit this type of behavior. However, employees who voice complaints about treatment at work based on their social media activities could be protected by the NLRA even if the posts use rude or vulgar or offensive language!

The termination of employees based on policies on social media that are in violation of the NLRA can expose employers to legal liability. This could include re-instating the employee in full pay and other benefits. Therefore, you shouldn’t include any clauses in your company’s policies on social media which the NLRB has found to be unlawful.Your company should adhere to the general guidelines set by the latest NLRB decision and include specific examples of postings that are not allowed.

Your company should be aware of issues with geo-location. There are situations where the employees’ location might be private for instance, in the office of a company that could be purchased by your company. Accordingly the policy on social media must address the geo-location capabilities that are available on platforms for social networks, and perhaps prohibit the use of such features during those periods.

What makes social media policies fall short according to numerous lawyers is the fact that they’re lacking examples. To ensure compliance with the NLRA your firm’s social media policies must define or provide examples of examples of phrases in the policy that NLRB have identified as being problematic.

Avoid broad and vague outright bans! As an example, instead of restricting disclosure of company’s private information the policy should define exactly what information is not to be released (such such as customer data as well as business strategies and development of products). In addition, using language that prohibits “any negative comments” is not an effective option. The point is that employees are entitled to voice their grievances about their employer, and imposing limitations on posting complaints isn’t legally permissible.

Keep in mind that your business must be able to monitor all content posted on social media pages owned by your company pages to ensure compliance with the law. The ultimate goal of complying in accordance with law, and staying out of responsibility is the responsibility of every business manager! There isn’t a social media cookie-cutter policy. Each policy for social media at a company should be unique to the company’s culture and the expectations of its employees.

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