Adopt a Social Media Policy

Posted on January 4, 2019 in Compliance, Consulting

In November, Hilton Grand Vacations fired an employee who posted a picture on a Facebook group page that depicted lynching Florida State head coach Willie Taggart following FSU’s 41-14 loss to Florida. The administrator of the Facebook page determined the individual worked for Hilton off his LinkedIn profile and filed a report with his employer. Hilton determined – in a public statement – the conduct violated a number of its policies and exited the employee.

Experiences I have had with clients demonstrates justice is not always so efficient or swift. Some years ago a client called me when it received an internal complaint that an employee had extremely bigoted images and statements on his Facebook page. I saw the page and will refrain from describing images that were so bad I have not forgotten them. The client went a different direction than what I recommended: they gave the employee a second chance. I preferred he be fired. The decision not to terminate was influenced largely because the person in large part because they never adopted a social media policy. Thus, the obvious lesson: implement a social media policy.

While there are many good form policies available from public sources (e.g., attendance, EEO, wage and hour), the nuances of a social media policy must navigate the muddy waters created by the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB has brought legal action against many employers contending that their social media policies interfere with an employee’s right to engage in concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act. More specifically, employers cannot adopt any language in a social media policy that might suggest an employee will be punished for making comments about the terms and conditions of their employment. On the other hand, employers can advise employees that they may be reprimanded for posting on social media that constitutes bullying, harassment, or is otherwise offensive based on race, religions, disability, age, gender or national origin (or other status protected by law. An employer should retain a lawyer to help draft a robust social media policy that avoids attention from the NLRB.

For those who like reading government position statements, you may find a summary of the NLRB’s position and links to more detailed case rulings at: I hope you enjoyed this newsletter and look forward to seeing you at my lunch and learn (see side panel). I promise it will be enlightening and fun.

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