Are you coming to terms with social networking and your workforce?  Many companies are enacting policies regarding time spent surfing the internet, but very little is being done on what an employee can post on social networking sites.  

Some say it’s a personal issue and a freedom of speech and what someone posts on Facebook when they are away from work is none of your business.  Consider the following scenarios:

  • An employee of a health care organization posts malicious comments on elderly patients.
  • A restaurant server posts clever (but derogatory) comments about the sanitary conditions at her workplace. 
  • A disgruntled worker posts a “photo shopped” image of his supervisor in a compromising situation.

All of these posts can damage a businesses reputation; even good natured jokes can cause loss of business.

Employers have the right to make and enforce policies regarding what their employees may post on their sites.  Even though most networking sites are “private” and only seen by their “friends”,   what is seen by a few friends can be re-posted to other friends.  In my view, a post on a Facebook page is the same as placing a want ad in the newspaper.  In the age of “going viral”, any business has a right to protect itself. 

Of course enforcing such a policy is another thing, you probably would never find out about most of these posts and any aggressive investigation actions on your part may breech privacy rights.    So what can you do?

Going around spying or threatening is the worse thing you can do to promote employee engagement.  You have to trust your workforce.   The best bet is a well thought out policy regarding content on social networking sites.  Make it clear to the workforce that any content that could damage your businesses reputation can be grounds for discipline. 

Hopefully you will never have to fire someone for a Facebook post, but having a clear policy that is consistently enforced will help you deal with these issues and avoid wrongful termination lawsuits.