Your Social Media Policy Can't Be Too Restrictive, Says NLRB

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on July 31, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When it comes to your social media policy, the NLRB wants you to remember to respect concerted activity -- even in the digital world. A recent NLRB memo reminds companies that enforcing highly restrictive social media rules in the workplace may be a violation of federal labor laws.

The memo came about after a lawsuit involving supermarket chain Giant, in which the company implemented a policy against employees making posts on social media that included the store's logo or any information about the workplace, reports Fox Business. Essentially, it was a blanket ban.

Keep It Tight and Tailored

In invalidating the policy, the NLRB found that the policy was overly broad and vague and violated Giant's employees' free speech rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

The memo reiterated that employees are allowed to, on their personal social media accounts, discuss "concerted activity" under Section 7 of the NLRB. Generally speaking, concerted activity refers to anything between employees that's related to improving the terms, conditions, and details of their employment. This includes factors like their working conditions and even their wages.

So, if your social media policy is worded loosely, know that the NLRB could invalidate it. You certainly wouldn't be alone. Other giants like Costco have also had their social media policies axed by the NLRB for chilling employees' free speech rights.

Keep a Policy

The NLRB's cautionary tale doesn't mean any and all social media restrictions are a no-go, of course. While there may be a fair amount of guesswork involved in knowing how far is too far, it's safe to assume you can, and certainly should, still prohibit certain social media activity.

Your company still has free reign to prohibit employees from bad-mouthing bosses or the company's products. Complaints about the work cafeteria is a closer call, since that could technically count as a comment on workplace conditions.

When crafting your company's social media policy, remember: Free and protected speech must be protected. Blanket policies are a nonstarter. Stay with that tight and tailored.

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