Social Media – An Occasional HR Nightmare

Social Media provides practices with a cost-free method of distributing information. Practices use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus to highlight their expertise and to develop clear brand personalities. In recent years, the importance of maintaining a positive online reputation has grown exponentially. Negative social media posts and commentary, especially from an employee, can produce devastating blows to a practice’s hard-earned positive online presence.

After hearing that an employee posted a negative status or comment involving the practice in which he/ she is currently employed, practice owners make two common mistakes:

1. Requesting the immediate removal of the post without documentation

2. Terminating the employee immediately without examining legal stipulations

The National Labor Relations Board and Social Media

The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees to address work conditions with or without a union, and the protection provided extends to social media. The National Labor Relations Board determines whether or not speech is protected under the National Labor Relations Act, thus deciding the legalityof disciplinary actions issued by employers. Before making the decision to terminate an employee due to a negative post, practice owners should ask the following questions:

1. Was the employee complaining about compensation, work conditions, or other terms and conditions of employment?

2. Was the employee criticizing a new  policy?

3. Could the post be interpreted as protected concerted activity?

If a practice owner answers “yes” to any of the questions above, then the social media post is most likely protected under the National Labor Relations Act, and disciplinary action, such as employee termination, would be unlawful.

The National Labor Relations Act does not protect an employee’s complaints if they are not related to group activity among other employees.
 

Employees May Be Terminated If Their Social Media Posts:

1. Reveal sensitive patient information


2. Complain and/ or threaten patients

3. Reveal confidential information about the practice that may damage the practice’s reputation in the marketplace

4. Convey proof of the employee deceiving the company or clearly violating the company’s rules (ex: calling in sick then posting a picture at a concert event)