Employer Social Media Policy

In today's world, practically everybody--from children to grandparents--use some form of social media in their daily lives. As the use of social media grows, some employees are blurring the lines between their personal and professional lives.

To protect their reputations and as a preemptive strike to legal claims, employers should consider adopting a written Social Media Policy which prohibits employees from making disparaging social media remarks about the employer.

A recent Delaware case illustrates why an employer should consider adopting a written Social Media Policy. In Christian v. New Castle County Head Start, et al. (February 18, 2018), the employer had a written Social Media Policy which provided:

"Any employee who uses a personal website or other form of social media to disparage the name or reputation of [employer], its practices, its governing bodies, officers, employees, volunteers or partners will be subject to serious disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment."

In the Christian case, the employee had a personal Facebook page on which she identified herself as a teacher employed by the employer. The employer received a report that the employee had posted a negative message on her Facebook page regarding the employer and her co-workers. The employer investigated. During the investigation, the employer discovered additional disparaging statements about the employer on the employee's Facebook page. The employer terminated the employee for violating its Social Media Policy. When the employee applied for unemployment benefits, she was denied on grounds that her violation of the employer's Social Media Policy constituted disqualilfying misconduct.

In Oregon, an employee who is discharged is not eligible to receive unemployment benefits, if the employee is discharged for misconduct connected with work. Unemployment benefit "misconduct" is defined as "a willful or wantonly negligent violation of the standards of behavior which an employer has the right to expect of an employee, or an act or series of actions that amount to a willful or wantonly negligent disregard of an employer's interest."

Having a written Social Media Policy sets the table not only for disciplinary action, up to and including termination, but also unemployment benefit disqualification.

If you have any questions or need assistance with creating a Social Media Policy for your company, please contact our office.