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EPLI: Putting a Social Media Policy in Place


EPLI: Putting a Social Media Policy in PlaceSocial Media Policy, Swift Action Helps Mitigate Employment Practices Exposures

No doubt social media provides effective communication platforms to connect and engage with friends, customers, colleagues and potential clients. But when an employee posts something off color or insulting on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, the reaction can be swift and damage a company’s reputation along with impacting its bottom line. If the posts are racists, homophobic, sexist or against a religious group, tolerating discriminatory comments also puts an employer at risk for employee lawsuits if they are the target of the posts – as well as the potential for lost customers.

Unfortunately, smaller and mid-size companies often don’t have social media policies and are not prepared to deal with the fallout. But not having a policy in place is playing with fire and opening firms to potential litigation.

Putting Measures in Place

Have a written social media policy in place if you don’t already have one. Included in your policy, which should be part of your Employee Handbook, is that all employees must read the firm’s Statement of Ethics Policy and the firm’s Information Policy and Discrimination & Harassment Prevention Policy to ensure that postings are consistent with these policies. The policy should clearly state that any inappropriate postings that may include discriminatory remarks, harassment, and threats of violence or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct will not be tolerated and may subject you to disciplinary action up to and including termination.

The social media policy should also clearly state that employees are not to publish, post or release any information that is considered confidential or not public. The policy should indicate that if there are questions about what is considered confidential, employees should check with the HR and/or supervisor.

Other provisions in a social media policy should include the following:

  • If employees encounter a situation while using social media that threatens to become antagonistic, employees should disengage from the dialogue in a polite manner and seek the advice of a supervisor.
  • Employees should get appropriate permission before referring to or posting images of current or former employees, members, vendors or suppliers. Additionally, employees should get appropriate permission to use a third party’s copyrights, copyrighted material, trademarks, service marks or other intellectual property.
  • Social media use shouldn’t interfere with an employee’s responsibilities at the company. Computer systems are to be used for business purposes only. When using a company computer systems, use of social media for business purposes is allowed (ex: Facebook, Twitter, [Company] blogs and LinkedIn), but personal use of social media networks or personal blogging of online content is discouraged and could result in disciplinary action.
  • It is highly recommended that employees keep company-related social media accounts separate from personal accounts, if practical.

Of course, it’s best to have an HR professional and employment law attorney review all written social media policies. Be sure to run the policy past a professional to make sure it would hold up in court.

In addition, make sure to take disciplinary action when you learn about posts containing language that attacks people for their race, sexual orientation, gender or religion. If the worker isn’t fired, employers can be sued under federal and state anti-discrimination laws for allowing a hostile environment to exist in their companies. However, prior to taking any actions make sure you are on solid ground by speaking to an HR provider or an employment law attorney. Lawsuits brought by fired employees are expensive, and if a court determines a termination was wrongful, the costs could be crippling.

These are just some of the steps to be taken to help mitigate potential litigation that can arise from social media posts at the hands of your employees. Axis Insurance Services provides companies across diverse industries with Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI), and can assist you with your coverage to help protect you in the event of a lawsuit alleging discriminatory and other unlawful practices in the workplace. Give us a call at (877) 787-5258.

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Blogged on: February 23, 2015 by Mike Smith
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