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INSIGHT

Your office’s social media policy: dangerous if not done right

By Paul Edwards  bio

Many medical practices don’t realize their social media policy is a crisis waiting to happen. In three recent, real-life cases, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found employers’ actions to be unlawful when they disciplined or terminated employees who did the following:

  • Employee A: Used a social media account to accuse the boss of stealing money from employees, and launched into an expletive-laden rant when management later tried to discuss the situation.
  • Employee B: Cursed out another employee during a public Facebook argument over whether the office rigged a contest.
  • Employee C: While on break, used a business computer and email account to send every employee in their office a list of complaints about how the office is run.

In each case, the different employers pointed to their social media policy as the reason for disciplinary action or termination. Their policies prohibited employees from behaviors such as posting confidential information, slandering the company online, or using company email for personal matters.

“Wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “I would also have disciplined any of those employees. And that sounds like a perfectly reasonable social media policy.”

Not according to the NLRB. Instead of seeing these office social media policies as valid attempts to restrict harmful employee behavior, the NLRB found them overly broad and potentially infringing upon employees’ rights to organize and better their working conditions. These rights are also known as Protected Concerted Activity, or PCA.

In each situation above, the NLRB ruled that the employer’s social media policy was unlawful, as was any disciplinary action taken against the employee. In two of the three cases, the employer had to settle monetarily or reinstate a terminated employee with back pay.

And these cases weren’t unusual!

Unfortunately, even very small companies have been targeted by the NLRB in the last year. And if an employee brings a complaint against you, the NLRB will dissect your office policies as it considers the case, and punish you for anything it finds objectionable.

So what should you do? Not having any social media policy in your employee handbook leaves you completely unprotected – and yet it is nearly impossible for employers to determine exactly what the NLRB might find unreasonable.

Here’s your best course of action. Ensure that your policy:

  • Is limited in scope and gives specific examples;
  • Only prohibits truly egregious or malicious behavior (not protected by the NLRB);
  • States that you are supportive of your employees’ rights to PCA; and
  • Is written and regularly updated by a qualified HR or employment law expert.

Following these guidelines will help make sure the employee handbook is your practice’s best defense –not “Exhibit A” for your employee’s attorney.


Paul Edwards is the CEO of CEDR Solutions (www.cedrsolutions.com), the nation’s leading provider of customized medical employee handbooks and unlimited HR support for practices of all sizes and specialties. He can be reached at 866-414-6056 or pauledwards@cedrsolutions.com.


The above information is shared by a guest contributor and does not necessarily reflect the views of Medical Office Manager.

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