Prudent employers have known, for many years, the importance of Employee Handbooks in setting forth a company’s policies and operational procedures. However, the recent increase in the popularity of social media – Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the like – has taken many employers, and their Handbooks, by surprise.
Policies governing mobile phones, computers, Internet access and e-mail no longer suffice. With social media, every employee – for better or for worse, intentionally or unintentionally – can become a spokesperson for the company.
The following are some of the areas where Handbooks typically need updating to meet the social-media challenge:
- Defining what social media are
- Raising employees’ awareness that when they use social media, they may be representing the company, either explicitly or implicitly, to the entire world
- Reminding employees that the company has the right and the obligation to manage its public image and its intellectual property
- Providing examples of social-media activities that require management approval, and those that are prohibited
- Recognizing that there are personal activities that an employer should not and will not restrict
- Explaining when online promotional activities require that an employment relationship be disclosed (see Educate Employees about Online Endorsements – the FTC is Watching!)
Furthermore, as new social media policies are developed, they must integrate properly with a Handbook’s other policies (such as those pertaining to confidentiality, expectations of privacy, avoiding conflicts of interest, and discipline) and the employer’s Proprietary information and Inventions Agreement.
If your Employee Handbook does not yet address social media, the time to act is now, before your employees’ activities get too far out of hand.
Dana H. Shultz, Attorney at Law +1 510-547-0545 dana [at] danashultz [dot] com
This blog does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact a lawyer directly.