A New Jersey labor attorney says a National Labor Relations Board report out this week reinforces the need for companies to be precise in crafting their social media policies.
“Employers need to choose their words carefully,” said John P. Quirke, a partner in the labor and employment law practice at Haddonfield-based law firm Archer & Greiner P.C. “They have to have a clear understanding of what an employee’s rights are under the National Labor Relations Act and to narrowly tailor, as much as possible, their policies so as not to appear as if they are infringing on those rights.”
The NLRB report detailed six cases in which employers established policies that, at least in part, unlawfully interfered with employee rights in the use of social media.
Quirke, a management-side employment attorney, said businesses have legitimate concerns over employee posts of derogatory, demeaning or discriminatory comments about coworkers, and the release of confidential business information.
Even though the NLRB’s decisions hinge on the “wordsmithing” of companies’ social media policies, employers need to remember their legal obligations to protect employees from discrimination, bullying and harassment, Quirke said.
“All of those things that can go on in the workplace are equally inappropriate when employees engage in those activities online,” Quirke said.
Quirke said he expects a legal pushback from companies whose social media policies don’t pass muster with the NLRB.
“Eventually, some employer is going to decide that the NLRB’s objection to its policy is too much, and is going to challenge that decision in court, but that may take some time,” Quirke said.