The National Labor Relations Board case against Costco and its social-media policy sends a warning to other employers about their policies.
Costco’s policy in question:
“Be aware that statements posted electronically … that damage the company, defame any individual or damage any person’s reputation or violate the policies … may be subject to discipline up to and including termination.”
Costco’s “electronic posting rule” sounds like a reasonable request, considering how damaging and costly a social-media snafu can be for a company.
But the National Labor Relations Board thought differently. It found the electronic posting rule to be too broad, and without specific accompanying language, workers could interpret the policy as allowing punishment of protected activities, like organizing or joining a union.
Amend your social media policy
To avoid legal hassles and ambiguity, you’ll want to make sure your company’s social media use policy is detailed and not overly broad. Here are some steps you can take right away:
• See their examples. The NLRB website has several companies’ policies available for employers to reference. It also shows how to fix policies that don’t meet the criteria.
• Follow up with marketing. The Marketing department may be using different social networks for work like Facebook or Twitter. Find out which, if any, are being utilized and make sure those networks are spelled out in the policy.
• Say what’s “damaging.” Employees must be aware of what’s considered “damaging to the company.” Spell out terms like “personal insults about staff members” or “vulgar language” to protect the company.