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5 Key Laws Every Employer Should Know When Engaging In Social Media

Social media is a double faceted blade – it is powerful for engaging with your customers and becoming their trusted advisor, but it is also a dangerous tool when used without a second thought.

Consumers are powerful and a single comment or image they share can ruin your business reputation. Employees’ social media behaviour, on the other hand has even greater impact on your business. And to top that off, what you do as a business on social media can bring you a bunch of legal headaches.

We have identified the 5 Key Laws Every Employer Should Know When Engaging In Social Media to prevent unlawful behaviour and unwanted lawsuits:

 1.    Harassment

Employers must be aware that they are responsible for the behaviours of employees that interact with customers and partners on social media and blogs. If a customer has been harassed by an employee on Facebook for example, you as their employer, are responsible if the customer decides to file a claim against you.

 2.    Discrimination

Discrimination based on gender, ethnic origin, sexual orientation and age is against the law. You might not even request such information because it is readily available on your employee’s social media accounts. However, if you decide to base your employment decisions on that you might still be discriminating. “Spying” on employees on social media can be used only for information purposes, not for decision making.

 3.    Hostile work environment

Behaviour that is provoked by social media posts on employees’ private social media accounts can be deemed “hostile work environment”. Jokes from colleagues, comments and remarks can turn into harassment lawsuits. Posts on your company social media accounts about employees’ termination and behaviours before termination is unlawful.

 4.    Confidential information

Employees have access to a lot of confidential information you should protect from leaking on social media. They should sign confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from posting about the company on their private social media accounts. Blogs are platforms where confidential information is exposed sometimes unintentionally. There is nothing you can do unless you have specifically instructed employees not to share certain information. Make it clear from the start what is considered as sensitive or confidential.

 5.    Employee privacy

Employers can set restrictions to employees’ behaviour off-duty and on social media. Not posting certain images or comments should be a part of their employment agreement. Of course, there is a limit to that and an employer should not violate employees’ privacy by stalking them on social media. Such behaviour can be deemed invasion of privacy and take you to court.

If you want to make sure that your employees are adhering to the law regarding social media, its best that you draft a company social media policy and include it in your employee contracts. Your business lawyer can help you design social media policies that protect you, your employees and your customers alike.

Have a social media policy that is always a work in progress and reflects the ever-changing online environment.

Sharing is caring! But be careful what you share – nothing goes away once online. Knowing social media laws that affect you can make or break a business.