More and More Municipalities Develop Social Media Policies for Employees: What’s Effective?

When social media platforms initially came out, they were meant to promote communication online. Essentially, they were a digital supplement for our everyday chats with friends, classmates, workmates, old school buddies, and family. But as they developed into real-time apps, social media companies turned into everything from news outlets to job boards, connecting our lives to a digital landscape in practically every way.

While social media has plenty of benefits and has been revolutionary, it also comes with its own dark side. More than 85% of young adults between the age of 18 and 29 use social media, according to AdWeek, compared to just 7% back in 2005. Due to this drastic increase, there have been lots of questions brought up about the extent of which public employers can monitor the use of social media in public employment.

Your public-facing clients will have to create a strategy behind social media policies, but it’s important to see what is most effective.

Things to Consider

New laws are being discussed to address social media in the workplace, especially in public services like schools. For employers, social media can be used to research job applicants and find information related to a candidate’s qualifications. It can also be used to monitor the pages of current employees to check things like absenteeism (i.e. an employee says they’re sick, but in reality they’re on a day trip).

Social media has made it hard to not judge someone by their personal postings on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, among other platforms. Should an employee’s weekend party posts affect their status at work? If employees become connected on Facebook, for instance, what risks are posed? One thing employers need to be aware of is if social media is used as a way to harass. But in general, the lines are indeed blurred as far as overall social media use and how to go about navigating through it. There needs to be a strategic approach to crafting policies that are effective and reasonable.

Policy Tips

Social media won’t be going away anytime soon. In fact, it’s projected to continue to make its way into our daily lives in a more sophisticated way through e-commerce and technology like augmented reality. This is the same truth for social media in the workplace. It’s important for public employers to create sound policies to protect themselves and provide the guidance their employees need.

  • Employers need to use specificity when outlining policies and stay away from vague generalities. A broad policy leaves the door open to liability issues.
  • Employers need to also keep in mind both state and federal laws and comply with things like the National Labor Relations Act, which protects employees against unfair employer retaliation, say for things like social media use.
  • Also, make sure to remember that the U.S. Constitution and state and federal statutes, like the NLRA listed above, protect public employees with a wide range of freedom of speech protections in terms of regulation.
  • Finally, municipalities need to keep their employees up to date on workplace social media policies and enforce them when violated. Having a fluctuating policy or set of policies in place that change up on employees will only open the door to frustration as well as possible legal issues.

About PGUI

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