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January 31, 2016

Social Media and Your Employees – The Risks

Gareth Cliff, etc, and the recent social media storm.

What does Social Media mean?

Wikipedia defines Social media as "interactive platforms via which individuals and communities create and share user-generated content”. Essentially, people interact with each other through Facebook or Twitter (and other networking platforms) and convert text communications into active dialog.

Social networking is pervasive and ubiquitous. Facebook has over 1 billion, and Twitter some 595 million users.

Employees’ Use of Social Networks
Facebook (and other social media) users connect with their “friends” and hundreds or thousands of people view posts or read tweets.

The problem is that your employees may innocently or deliberately post communications concerning their fellow employees, your business practices or even confidential information about your business.

Whether their intention is innocent or malicious, the information may be read by a rival business. The potential risk is obvious.

There are many labour cases which confirm the fairness of dismissals of employees who made disparaging comments about their employers or colleagues on social media. Rather than take evasive action, employers should be proactive about preventing employees from making inappropriate remarks on social media even if the remark is not related to his or her employment.
Rather than having to resort to disciplinary action, after the event, it is far better to have a social media policy in place, which your employees know about and must adhere to, or face the consequences. You really need to emphasise the confidentiality obligations of employees, to minimise business risk and exposure to claims for, say defamation, if, for example, an employee posts a racist or untrue remark that thousands read.

You need to educate your staff and control risks. It is essential to revisit your employment contracts, dealing with such things as whether or not you allow the use of social media in the first place and, if so, what may or may not be communicated.

Ask your attorney to devise a social media policy for your company.

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