Employees who also have profiles on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, myspace and any business networking or hobby and craft social networks as well as blogs, should ensure they have checked their employer’s code of conduct or employee handbooks and ensure they comply.
Even if an employer does not include social media as part of their code of conduct or employee handbooks, employees should take care when making comments about their employer or other employees when updating their status on social media sites. Employers do not need to be a member of Twitter to see what tweets mention them. Similarly, depending on privacy settings, Facebook status updates, wall postings and photos can be seen by employers. Facebook’s privacy settings allow users to create lists of friends so employees can create a ‘work list’ that includes their employer and colleagues who are also friends and check that status updates complaining about a bad day at work are only seen by friends who are not also colleagues.
Openly criticising your employer in a letter to a local newspaper or magazine or bringing your employer into disrepute by bad behaviour at an after-work party, can result in disciplinary proceedings being brought against an employee. So can blog articles, status updates or tweets criticising an employer. There have been instances of employees being sacked after criticising their employer or complaining about their job on-line where the employee did not realise their employer could see their updates.
Search companies such as Google and Bing can now include social media updates as part of their ‘real time’ search features. This means that employee’s tweets or Facebook status updates aren’t just visible to other Twitter or Facebook users, but also to browsers making a search via a search engine. Search engines see this as a valuable addition to their services because news stories are surfacing on social networking sites before they appear on more traditional news sites.
This means employees need to take care about what they say about their employer or job before updating their social status or tweeting. Employers should have policies in place regarding the use of social media or extending their code of conduct to include on-line activity.
However, employers need to take care when monitoring their company name on-line and ensure their monitoring is not discriminatory.
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