LEGAL: Do you have a social media policy in place?

Millennials driving social media and technology challenges

With the influx of employees from a younger generation in the workforce, social media and technology are having a major impact. Millennials bring a new and fresh attitude which challenges the previous generation’s perceptions of the workplace. The advent of a wearable technology raises questions of employee privacy.

Social networking sites have already become a primary way for employees to express themselves, and it is becoming nearly impossible to find an employee or business who does not have a presence on at least one social networking site. This new environment profoundly affects decisions related to background checks, hiring, discipline, and litigation strategy. Employers are now forced to deal with and adapt to a changing culture in the workplace.

For legal and practical reasons, every company should implement a social media policy. There are a host of legal risks to consider when implementing a policy, such as defamation, off-duty conduct, copyright issues and contract law.

This policy can and should be in place regardless of whether an employee is accessing social media on company time and from company equipment, or on his own time with his own hardware. Because everyone potentially has access to these networks, the policy should be company-wide and cover all employees

It is important for the employer to remember that such policies cannot be so overly-broad that they improperly restrict employees from discussing their wages, hours and working conditions with coworkers. Employees cannot be disciplined or discharged for engaging in such discussions face-to-face, and this applies in the social media context as well.

Jeffrey G. Jones is a regional managing member for Wimberly Lawson Wright Daves & Jones PLLC. He can be reached at jjones@wimberlylawson.com.