Q&A with Vic Albert
Employers may limit workers' comments on social media sites
Q: Tate Publishing in Mustang last week fired workers for their statements about the company online. May a private employer ban its employees from using social media outlets altogether?
A: No. Employees have the right to participate in social media and, in some situations or contexts, they may comment on their workplace or job in a way that is protected speech.
Q: Are there any limits to what employees may say on social media sites?
A: Yes. Employers have rights to make sure employees participating in social media do not disclose the employer's confidential information and trade secrets; are not discriminatory or derogatory; do not commit threats of violence; defamation; do not post illegal content; do not participate in unlawful conduct, invasion of privacy or copyright infringement.
Q: How may an employer address these areas of concern?
A: Many employers are developing formal written policies for electronic communication and use of electronic devices. These policies help address business use of the employer's information and reference, while also reminding employees that social media is not private and that misuse may result in disciplinary action. Without a formal policy, employers are taking a large risk to discipline or fire employees for things that are said on social media sites.