As social media use becomes an increasingly critical tool for business success, business owners need to increase their awareness of the potential unintended legal consequences of using social media. Business owners can find themselves and their employees inadvertently violating laws and regulations while using, or regulating the use of, social media.
Recent cases show how businesses may face a “catch 22” when coping with social media trends. A Colorado Bar Association business law posting discussed the tension employers face.
Recent cases involving social media run the gamut from employer liability for excessive regulation of employee social media use, to liability for FAILURE to regulate employees social media use. For example, Applebees Restaurant recently experienced negative publicity due to an employee posting a patron’s credit card slip on a social media website.
Lesson learned: businesses need to establish guidelines for employee social media use, to protect customer data and privacy.
By contrast, the National Labor Relations Board is warning employers that excessively strict regulation of employee social media use may violate federal law by citing a series of cases reinstating employees who were fired for social media postings. Commenting on these cases, the New York Times explains that “workers have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place at the office or on Facebook.”
Lesson learned: laws and regulations still apply in cyberspace.
As we discussed in a previous post, the risks of not having a social media policy is an area of increasing liability for corporations. But social media policies that violate state and federal laws can backfire and cause unintended consequences for your business. Having your lawyer draft, or at least review, your social media policy will help to identify pitfalls and reduce potential liability to your company.
If you have a social media policy that has not yet been reviewed by an attorney, or if you have questions about drafting a policy, please contact David Closson who leads our Business Law Group, at [email protected].