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Can employers regulate employees’ social media profiles?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2018 | Employment Law

The advent of social media has made the world a little smaller, and it is easier than ever before for everyone to have an opinion. Employers may naturally worry about what their workers will post, and it has become common for people to lose their jobs over what goes onto Facebook. For example, one woman lost her job after a picture of her went viral. 

It has become a tricky area of law. Employees have protections under the First Amendment, but employers want to ensure everyone representing their companies appear mature. 

Businesses need to have a social media policy in place

Every company’s HR department needs to have a written social media policy in place which all employees must read so they know how to conduct themselves online. While this policy cannot infringe on people’s constitutional rights, it can lay out how the company will respond to online workplace harassment and violation of copyright policies. It is also acceptable for this agreement to state how and when employees can be on social media while on the job. 

How to use social media in the hiring process

When hiring someone new, it is reasonable for hiring managers to conduct online reviews of the person. It is normal to come across the person’s social media profiles, and this can lead to the discovery of protected information. For example, from a person’s posts, an employer can discover his or her political leanings. It is illegal to discriminate against new hires based on political affiliation, religion, age, gender or race. It is for this reason more companies have begun to outsource the hiring process to consultants. 

Employees can talk about certain subjects

United States labor laws state that employees can talk about wages and other work-related activities freely. It would be illegal for an employer to fire a worker for discussing possibly forming a union online, so in general, it is best for business owners to steer clear of their employees’ online activities.