While social media is a useful medium for smaller businesses, it does bring with it certain issues that a business should bear in mind. If you do not have a social media policy you should seriously consider incorporating this into your workplace policies. Your business should have a policy on social media use within the workplace and consider how you will monitor this. At the very least, your handbook should state that employees may face disciplinary action if they post any comments that might damage the company’s reputation.
The answer to this is quite possibly. Just because a post is made on the internet it does not mean that you will not face action in the Jersey Royal Court for defamation or other claims. While the internet is seen by some as a lawless frontier, where they can post whatever they want and about who they want, it is simply not true to assume there will not be legal ramifications. Jersey law (actual not virtual!) may bite notwithstanding you have published something on Facebook.
What if an employee were to publish confidential information about your company or information that could damage your reputation? If there is any risk at all, you should at least have a policy on how employees interact with social media and the like. In any event, it is probably a good idea for a policy requiring all employees to use a disclaimer on any blogs, comments on social networking sites or tweets, if it relates directly or indirectly to your business.
As in many areas of work life, it is far better to forewarn employees as to what is acceptable or not. As such, make it clear by having a written social media policy to inform employees what conduct online is acceptable and what is not. The employer should set out what might be classed as ‘defamation’ and the penalties it would impose. Further, the employer should be clear in outlining what is regarded as confidential in the organisation, so as to avoid any misunderstandings.
In general terms, a breach of a policy on social media should be treated like any other breach of an employment policy. The speed and permanence of many social media interactions can lead some employers to wrongly abandon how they would normally handle a disciplinary issue. Instead, in the heat of the moment, they may make the mistake of responding suddenly to one involving social media. An employer should stick with its proper disciplinary procedures.
Christopher Austin | Head| Employment Law
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