NLRB’s Social Media Policies

by | Oct 23, 2014 | General

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is continuing its war against non-union employer policies it feels prevent workers from discussing work conditions and organizing.

And what’s been really troubling lately: Many of the policies the NLRB’s now deeming illegal don’t even explicitly ban workers from discussing work conditions.

This is especially true when it comes to social media policies.

Phrases you must avoid … 

The following are examples provided by the NLRB of language social media policies must avoid:

Mistake No. 1: Overly broad policies

A lot of mistakes employers make in developing social media policies come from good intentions. However, if policy terms are too broad, employees could reasonably think the policy bans them from discussing work issues. For example, prohibiting workers from revealing “confidential” business info or having “inappropriate discussions about the company, management or co-workers” online is too broad of a policy.

Mistake No. 2: Vague definitions

Vague definitions about prohibited social media activity will also put you in the NLRB’s crosshairs. If a policy does not spell out definitions, it could be ruled illegal. For example, policies should define what constitutes “insubordination” or “lack of respect”.

Mistake No. 3: No exceptions

One way to keep your policies from being considered too broad or vague is to add specific exceptions describing what employees can do. Include exceptions to policies to explain what workers may and may not discuss. Keep in mind: Recently, the NLRB ruled employees must also be able to discuss disciplinary action, like when and why they got a written warning.

Specificity is key

The NLRB says the key to a legal, enforceable policy is specificity about what actions are prohibited and why.

Some examples of online activity you can legally prohibit include:

  • posting customers’ financial info that could hurt business relations
  • posting threats of violence and bullying comments that could create a hostile work environment, and
  • posting discriminatory remarks about race, gender or religion that might lower morale.