December 2011

Policing the posts

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Be careful when responding to employees' gripes on social media sites

by Jason C. Kim and Gray I. Mateo-Harris
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Most employees use the Internet while at work whether on company-issued equipment or their own mobile devices. They probably update their LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter pages, and they may gripe (and even blog) about their bosses, co-workers and workplaces. Even human resources and supervisory staff may use social media sites to research job applicants, check on current employees, and recommend or provide an employment reference to former employees. They may even be monitoring employees' e-mails.

Unfortunately, this unregulated use of social media sites has landed employers in hot water. And now employers have a new authority to face regarding social media issues: the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency charged with protecting employees' rights to engage in union-related activity. The NLRB officially has taken a hardline stance toward matters concerning employers' responses to employees' use of social media sites.

Social media and the workplace

Numerous state and federal courts have weighed in on myriad issues relating to employees' use of social media sites. Courts have imposed liability on employers because employers use social media sites to evaluate applicants or make employment decisions with respect to current employees based on protected categories, such as race, color, religion, age, disability, sex (including pregnancy and identity), sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, ancestry and...

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