United States: Navigating Employee Use Of Social Media In The Workplace

Social media is here to stay. Employers constantly struggle with 1) how to manage employee use of social media and 2) how to address information learned about employees through the Internet. Below are some hot topics that employers regularly face and a few insights into how they can manage social media in the workplace.

Pre-employment screening

It is tempting for employers to search social media when hiring candidates. However, doing so can create some unexpected issues, such as discrimination in hiring claims. Of course, the best defense is that you have no knowledge of applicant information on social media because you did not run a search. However, if you must search, make sure you are consistent and search everyone. You may also want to give notice in writing that you search applicants' social media. Most importantly, make sure the person searching is not the same person who is making the hiring decision – only job-related information should be considered.

Discipline

Social media is a goldmine for employers looking to manage their workforce. But, enforcing discipline against employees based on social media information can cause many problems for employers, often related to privacy and protected leaves. Employers need to make sure to 1) be consistent when disciplining employees; 2) not coerce employees to provide their login information; 3) not retaliate against protected speech; and 4) not discipline for lawful off-duty conduct.

Social networkingas harassment

Employees may offend each other with social media posts. This is off-duty conduct but should be addressed to the extent it 1) interferes with the workplace and/or 2) violates company policies prohibiting discriminatory or harassing behavior towards co-workers. Make sure to train employees on ways they can get in trouble for social media posts.

Digital addiction andmodern accommodations

A digital addiction is more than a mindless, but incessant checking of a cell phone. A digital addiction creates a complete disruption of an individual's daily life and should be treated as a disability. If an employee has a digital addiction, employers must engage in an interactive process to reasonably accommodate the employee's disability. Employers should also update their handbooks to address digital addictions and train managers to treat these addictions as a disability.

Managing performancein the digital world

All is not lost - employers have the ability to control cell phone use in the workplace. Employers should consider drafting a cell phone policy, which includes usage restrictions and cell phone etiquette.

Digital wageand hour issues

Smart phones clearly encourage work outside of normal business hours. Sporadic worktime outside of the workplace is difficult to track.

This creates issues for nonexempt employees who are technically working "off the clock" when responding to text messages or emails. Non-exempt employees are not allowed to "volunteer" to work for free and their time needs to be carefully monitored.

Though employers struggle with managing employees' use of social media, there are a multitude of options at their disposal. However, an employer should consult with an attorney before implementing new social media policies and procedures to ensure that they comply with state and federal law.

Originally Publish by Carlsbad Business Journal.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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