The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a report addressing social media policies that employers create for employees to follow. The report gives examples of employer restrictions that run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), as well as those that are valid. The content of the report applies to both union and non-union employers.
According to the NLRB, whether a social media policy is valid turns on whether the policy “would reasonably be construed to chill the exercise” of rights under the NLRA. For example, the NLRB considers a policy prohibiting employees from disclosing “confidential guest, team member or company information” on social networking sites like Facebook to be unlawful. The NLRB felt that such a policy could “reasonably be interpreted as prohibiting employees from discussing and disclosing information regarding their own conditions of employment, as well as the conditions of employment of employees other than themselves.” Such activities are protected by the NLRA, however, and cannot be prohibited.
The report noted other policy provisions that would violate the law. They include:
- Policies telling employees to ensure their posts are “completely accurate and not misleading and that they do not reveal non-public information on any public site.” The “completely accurate and not misleading” could be construed to apply to discussions about or criticism of an employer’s labor policies and its treatment of employees.
- Policies telling employees to not post “offensive, demeaning, abusive or inappropriate remarks.” This could include protected criticism of the employer’s labor policies and treatment of employees.
- Policies telling employees to “think carefully” about friending colleagues. This could discourage communication among co-workers.
- Policies telling employees not to comment on legal matters. This would prohibit employees from discussing the protected subject of potential claims against an employer.
What is permissible? The report does give examples of some acceptable policy language. To access the report, click here and then click on “Operations Management Memo,” which will open a .pdf version of the report. All employers considering adopting social medial guidelines for their employers should review this report.