With so many people working and playing at home, it is no wonder that many of them are utilizing some form of social media to keep in touch with others. That includes your managers.
Why should you care about what your managers are doing on social media? Because what they say and do can reflect upon your company. And because to a plaintiff’s lawyer, your manager’s social media posts or activity can be considered evidence. To be used against your company.
Which means that your managers need to understand that whatever they post, share, or follow can be reflection on them and the company they work for, especially if their profile includes the name of their employer. That post that a manager “shares” that expresses disdain for the Black Lives Matter movement? Do you want to see that as evidence in a lawsuit for race discrimination filed by one of your employees? Or that video denouncing gay marriage? That may also show up as evidence in a discrimination lawsuit. Even if they do not become evidence, they may cause some people to stop doing business with your company.
Even more dangerous are the posts where a manager threatens or harasses an employee online. Your policy against harassment should make it clear that emails, texts, and social media posts that harass another employee (or third party) are prohibited. And it is usually not a good idea for managers and supervisors to be “friends” with their subordinate employees.
The manager’s position and industry also matter. It just doesn’t look good for a male teacher to be “following” hundreds of very young women on TikTok. Or for a safety coordinator to follow pages dedicated to the love of illegal drugs. Optics, people.
So what is an employer to do? The first step is to have a comprehensive written Social Media Policy. You should revisit and modify that policy as social media evolves. The policy should provide guidelines for social media use, both professionally and personally. A competent employment lawyer can draft a policy that will fits the needs of your organization.
In addition, the company should regularly communicate to its supervisors and managers that they should not post, share, or do anything on social media that would violate any company policies, such as:
- the policy against harassment,
- the company’s ethics policy,
- the policy against violence, or
- the EEO policy.
And that there will be consequences if they violate this policy.
Finally, it is also a good idea to have a computer and internet policy that spells out the types of sites employees can and cannot visit, and that advises all employees that they have no expectation of privacy in any company owned computers or internet use. Even when such a policy is in place, I am always amazed at how many employees download porn on their company owned computers. Which just makes my job as defense counsel more difficult.
Kathleen J. Jennings is an attorney licensed to practice law in Georgia and New York. She graduated from Cornell University, College of Arts & Sciences, with distinction and New York University School of Law. She is a principal in the Atlanta office of Wimberly, Lawson, Steckel, Schneider, & Stine, P.C. and defends employers in employment matters, such as sexual harassment, discrimination, Wage and Hour, OSHA, restrictive covenants, and other employment litigation and provides training and counseling to employers in employment matters. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©2020 Kathleen J. Jennings
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