Dealing With Negative Social Media

You Asked.BlogQ: How do we handle employees who post negative comments about our company on Facebook?

A: This issue promises to vex HR managers for years to come.

Your natural inclination upon reading on Facebook that you are incompetent and your company is terrible is to fire the offending employee. However, all employees—union and non-union—have a right to engage in protected concerted activity under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act.

“Protected concerted activity” refers to group action to improve employees’ wages or working conditions, such as hours of work. Unfortunately, what strikes you as terminable conduct may, in fact, be protected activity. You should exercise extreme caution when considering discipline for social media posts, even when you find the content offensive or inappropriate, until you are certain the content does not meet the definition of protected concerted activity. The easiest way to make this determination is to call MSEC.

Employee conduct that tends to be over-the-line includes publishing company trade secret information, harassment, threats, and defaming coworkers or customers. Nonetheless, the simplest solution is to call MSEC before meting out discipline. 

To help set expectations, employers should publish a social media policy for the workplace in their employee handbooks. These are available in section 11 of our Employee Handbook Planning Guide, which you can access here

Send your questions to cgraves@msec.org. Please tell us if you would prefer your identity not be mentioned in our answer.