11/15/2011 05:16:00 PM EST
This Is What a Social-Media Policy in a Unionized Workplace Looks Like?
Do you have a unionized workforce? If you have a
social-media policy, it should not expressly restrict employees' rights to
discuss terms and conditions of employment. Otherwise, you may be violating the
National Labor Relations Act.
And to those non-union employers who have social-media
policies, don't think for a second that you have carte blanche to control what
employees say and do online. The National Labor Relations Act covers you as
So how can you draft a
social-media policy that won't run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act?
Looks like somebody is reading The Employer
Back in April, I discussed a situation at Thomson Reuters in which the
National Labor Relations Board had threatened to take action against Thomson
Reuters, a unionized employer, because it allegedly reprimanded a reporter for
tweeting this. I added that "if I were to read the tea leaves,
I suspect that the NLRB will take the position that Thomson Reuters has an
overly broad social media policy -- I have never seen the policy -- that chills
the rights of employees to discuss working conditions."
Well, damn, am I good!
The Sunday Times reports here
that the union and Thomson Reuters have agreed on a social-media policy that
preserves employees' rights to discuss wages, hours and working conditions on
Facebook, Twitter and similar networks. The new social media policy underscores
rights workers have under the National Labor Relations Act to publicly discuss
working conditions. In fact, the policy specifically states that "nothing
in it should be interpreted as inhibiting the exchange of ideas about matters
that deal with employees' common welfare. Nor is there any prohibition on using
social media for speech protected by the National Labor Relations Act, such as
candidly discussing wages, hours and working conditions." However, the
policy does not give employees a license to make personal attacks against
colleagues or managers, or against individual Thomson Reuters stories or
products on social media.
Ultimately, it's a balancing act.
As I have noted before, businesses should tailor their
social-media policies (as they should any other policy) to serve a legitimate
business interest which, at the same time, is not intended to chill the right
to organize should work. I imagine that a catchall provision may do the trick;
something like, "Notwithstanding the foregoing, nothing in this policy
shall be construed to limit, in any way, your rights under any applicable
federal, state or local laws." Or go one step further and reference rights
under the National Labor Relations Act specifically.
Keep in mind that this is still a developing
area. But before you do anything, consult an attorney. Each situation has its
own unique facts and none of this is intended to be legal advice.
This article was originally published on Eric B. Meyer's blog, The Employer
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