Social Media Policy Pointers

If you are reading this blog, you probably know how important and prevalent social media has become on many different levels.  For municipalities and governmental entities social media, while bringing a new level of awareness and interactivity with community members, also brings certain risks.  To avoid some of those inherent risks, it is important that municipalities adopt a social media policy.  Below are important components to include in your entity’s social media policy:

  1. Purpose – For each social media platform that the municipality uses, determine what the purpose is. Is it to disseminate information? Evaluate programs or services? Interact with citizens?  This should be clearly stated in the policy and on an entity’s blog, Twitter profile or Facebook wall, etc.
  2. Designated Public Information Officer – Ensure that one individual (or multiple individuals for larger organizations) monitor the site and post relevant information.  This individual should clearly understand the social media policy.
  3. Designated Security/Technical Support – Each entity should ensure there are appropriate firewalls on their computer systems to prevent unauthorized use of social media accounts.
  4. Employee Use of Social Media – Those employees who are eligible to post on social media sites should be clearly identified.  When participating in social media on their own personal time and speaking on entity-related issues, employees should state they are not acting/speaking in their official capacity.
  5. Terms of Use – Certain content should not be allowed on social media sites, particularly content that violates federal and state laws (i.e. copyright, political campaign issues, obscene or pornographic material, threatening or harassing behavior, etc).
  6. Disclaimer –Ensure an appropriate disclaimer is posted in a conspicuous place.
  7. Public Records – Determine what mechanism the entity will use to meet public records retention laws.
  8. Confidentiality – Protect confidential information and do not allow postings that violate public records disclosure laws.
  9. Employee Rights – Ensure that employees’ rights are not infringed (free speech, privacy, protected concerted activity, etc.).
  10. Evaluate and Revisit – Determine appropriate intervals where your policy is revisited and revised to ensure the policy is still consistent with rapidly evolving technology.

NRLB Settles Negative Facebook Comments Case

A settlement was reached last week between the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and American Medical Response of Connecticut concerning a complaint filed by NLRB after the company fired an employee.  The employee was discharged as a result of negative comments she posted about her supervisor on her Facebook page. The initial NLRB complaint targeted improper restrictions on employee discussion of working conditions, wages and hours online without fear of discharge or discipline.  In other words, employees cannot be prohibited from participating in protected concerted activity.  The company at issue in that case had a very broad policy that prohibited employees from making comments on their own time, away from work about work or the company.

While the NLRB did not issue on order, the complaint and subsequent settlement make it clear that employers should review their social media use policies to ensure they are not running afoul of the National Labor Relations Act, or their own state laws by prohibiting protected, concerted union activity.