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Monday, April 7, 2014

Know Your Workplace Social Media Policy

We've reported on a number of "employees behaving badly" on social media, resulting in the employee being disciplined and even terminated.  You would think that people would learn from others' mistakes - yet, the examples keep coming in.  Here are a couple of new ones for you to ponder on a Monday morning:
  • A 22-year old paramedic in Florida tweeted at work:  "Although everyone's asleep while I work around the clock, I absolutely love my job." 
  • A Georgia high school teacher posted pictures on Facebook of her holding a beer in one hand and a glass of wine in another while on vacation in Ireland.
  • A South Carolina firefighter posted a cartoon video "spoof" of an exchange between a doctor and paramedic at a hospital on Facebook that showed the doctor telling the paramedic to transport a patient ASAP to another hospital because he had a cold and a runny nose.
  • A public relations director tweeted "Going to Africa. Hope I don't get AIDS. Just kidding. I'm white!" shortly before a flight to South Africa.

What do all of these examples have in common?  All of these employees were terminated from their jobs for their social media activities.   Many of you may be thinking - "what's so bad about some of these posts?" Some of you are probably saying "doesn't sound so different from what I posted this morning/over the weekend/during my work day."  The key factor is that each of these employees violated their workplace social media policies.  

Employees need to read and understand the social media and electronic communication policies.  The policies may not be restricted to regulating social media conduct at the office, at least for some employees like public safety officers, teachers, and others in certain employment fields.  So long as the policy does not restrict "protected speech," whether protected by the First Amendment or labor laws, an employer can regulate it.

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