The HR and Social Media Mashup
HR & Social Media Go Hand in Hand
Social media policies are becoming the norm in many companies. Businesses are utilizing the benefits of social media posting to increase their reach. As a result, HR and Social Media are dancing together a lot more. So how do you know where to draw the line with your employees?
Rhonda Lee, an African-American meteorologist in Shreveport, LA was fired from station KTBS after defending her ethnicity on Facebook. A viewer posted a comment on the station’s Facebook page directed at Lee, stating he had issues with Lee’s short and natural hairstyle:
“The black lady that does the news is a very nice lady. The only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. I’m not sure if she is a cancer patient. But still its not something myself that I think looks good on TV. What about letting someone, a male, have waist long hair do the news. What about that?”
After waiting several days to see if the station itself would take action, Lee decided to comment back to the viewer, “I am the ‘black lady’ to which you are referring…I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer.” Lee commented further on the matter, which led to the viewer apologizing for his comment.
After another Facebook incident several weeks later with the same viewer, Lee was fired from her job. KTBS stated that she was not fired due to her hairstyle, but “for the repeated violation of the company policy.” This incident has sparked much controversy over whether the station was right to fire Lee or if she was wrongfully dismissed. It comes down to company policy.
Deciding What’s Right for Your Company
Social media policies will vary from business to business, depending on the type of business you conduct and how social media can help grow your relationships. There are sample policies available which can serve as a starting point or you can consult a certified HR professional for language. APS Payroll is very active in certain social networks that are important for B2B relationship building. We have a social media policy that addresses particular concerns and needs of our business.
Spilman, Thomas & Battle, PLLC Member Eric E. Kinder further discusses how employers should address the growing use of the social media in this informative video.
On the other side of the coin, make sure your company’s social media policy does not contain provisions that could be considered unlawful. According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), these would include:
- Policies concerning an employer’s attempt to protect confidential information may be unlawful.
- Example: A policy prohibiting employees from online discussions regarding “confidential guests, team members or company information” is unlawful because the policy could be shown as the employer prohibiting employees from disclosing information regarding their own terms and conditions of employment (which is a protected activity).
- Policies that aim to show peaceful relations amongst staff may be unlawful.
- Example: A policy intended to reduce conflicts amongst employees (that may include controversial issues) can be unlawful depending on the topic. If the topic is about working conditions, it can be interpreted as inhibiting Section 7 rights, if employees are prohibited from discussing such matters (either verbally or in an online format).
- Policies about employer image protections may be unlawful.
- Example: If the employer enforces a policy suggesting that employees are prohibited from commenting on legal matters, including pending litigation or disputes, the company may be unlawfully restricting employee communications. In addition, if an employer restricts which employees are permitted to discuss company information with the media, it may be unlawful. The NLRB stated that: “[e]mployees have a protected right to seek help from third parties regarding their working conditions,” so employers may not restrict social media comments to non-public forums only.
It is important to have your company’s social media policy reviewed by your HR Professional, or if you are the HR Professional, by your company’s legal counsel. This will ensure it does not violate an employee’s Section 7 rights.
Effective Tracking of Company Policies with Technology
Once you have your social media policy in place, the next step is to ensure you have a definitive record of employee signatures showing the policy has been viewed and acknowledged. Through the use of HR software that includes document management, you can effectively track policy compliance across your entire organization.
The trend in the HR industry is toward a unified software that is delivered through the cloud. For more information about how to put a solution like this in place for your company, contact an APS sales representative.
Source for Rhonda Lee story - Washington Post