A recent survey by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) estimates that only 40 percent of employers surveyed have adopted a social media policy. Yet the social media websites of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and Twitter are four of the five most universally blocked websites. While seventy-nine percent of U.S. employers have an email policy, only 20 percent have written rules on instant messaging and ten percent have policies for blog use. SHRM estimates that close to 75 percent of organizations do not even train employees who engage in social media activities on behalf of their organizations.
Considerable thought and care must be given to adopting a broadly inclusive computer and social media policy. First, as a practical matter, one may be able to generate a policy by merely revising old policies to include computer usage and social media language. Employers should review policies every year to keep up with technology. Second, an employer must determine its approach to the use of social media in the workplace: should it completely prohibit the use of social media on company resources, encourage it, or find middle ground by laying ground rules for participation if employees choose? Third, as with any other policy, make sure that the computer and social media policy is appropriately disseminated to all and consistently enforced. Fourth, in union settings, such a policy is likely an “other term and condition of employment” and thus a mandatory subject of bargaining.
Excerpted from the Michigan Chamber’s 2014 Employment Law Handbook authored by attorneys from the Miller Canfield law firm.