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EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK ALERT: Take Note of New NLRB Social Media Rulings

Posted on: October 10th, 2012 | Category: Employee Handbooks, Employee Relations, Government Regulatory & Compliance Issues, HR Support & Project Work, Human Resources, Our Blog

social media policy and employee handbooksWe’ve blogged about having a clear social media policy in your company handbook before, but two recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rulings have made the issue important to revisit.

In a case involving Costco Wholesale Corporation’s policy prohibiting employees from damaging the company’s or an individual’s reputation via social media outlets, NLRB ruled that “overly broad” policies are unlawful if they restrict employees’ right to engage in “concerted activities” for the purpose of collective bargaining or for the purposes of mutual aid or protection.

Don’t forget good ol’ section 7, folks!

Not long after the Costco ruling, the NLRB ruled on a similar case against Knauz BMW of Chicago where the company had included its employee handbook a policy that stated that, as part of it’s courtesy policy, all employees are expected to be courteous, polite and friendly to our customers, vendors and suppliers, or fellow workers, as well as refrain from the use of profanity or any other language which injures the image or reputation of the Dealership.

Sounds pretty clearly stated, right? Well, the NLRB didn’t think so. Seems that the policy did not specifically state that the rule didn’t apply to Section 7 activity under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects the rights of workers to engage in concerted activities to discuss their wages and working conditions with each other, and the right to collectively bargain.

What does this mean for business owners and HR managers?

Generally speaking, the NLRB ruled that companies cannot inhibit employees from criticizing the working conditions or management via social media, but that they can still prohibit activity that is damaging, offensive, threatening, intimidating, coercing, interfering with other workers, or that are slanderous or detrimental to the company or any of the company’s employees. Cases of defamation, where employees publish or make spoken statements that are intentionally false and injure another’s reputation or good name, are not protected by the NLRB rulings and can still be brought to court. Employees do, however, have a right to use social media sites to discuss their wages and working conditions with each other and to join together to try to improve them.

“Unfortunately, the NLRB rulings still leave many employers struggling to find a way to create social media policies that comply and still protect the name and reputation of their businesses,” says Kelly Coblentz, PHR, hireVision’s Director of HR Partnering Services. “What these cases do show is that your employee handbook is now even more important. The key is developing and updating your policies to incorporate guidance received from case law and regulatory changes. Plus, you will have employee signatures showing that they have received and are aware of these policies.”

How about some handbook help?

hireVision creates customized employee handbooks as one of our many HR DirectLink services. These are not your grandfather’s handbooks—we know yours must be a clear representation of your unique organization. We are experts at putting together well-written, up-to-date handbooks that you will be proud to distribute and that will go a long way in improving employee relations. We comprehensibly outline your expectations, policies and legal obligations as an employer, and we also make certain your employees’ commitments and rights are spelled out in clear and easy to read terms.

Contact us today for more information about our employee handbook services, or any of our hr service outsourcing.

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