Reconsider Your Social Media Policy

Employers can obtain reports on new hires’ online presence through a new service called Social Intelligence. The screening company offers searches of a candidate’s postings on sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Craigslist, and even personal blogs. The service will also monitor existing employees’ social media activity.

Social Intelligence only reports on activity that the employer can use to deny employment, such as evidence of drug use or racist comments. Employers must have candidates’ or employees’ consent to obtain the reports. The Federal Trade Commission has approved the service.

Although many companies are concerned about employee activity on the Web, there are reasons to limit searches and other rules related to using social media sites. A recent article by Heather Bussing on HR Examiner lists the following considerations:

  1. Employees own their social media accounts. Even if the account is used for business purposes, the employee’s name is on it. Employers who try to control personal social media accounts run the risk of infringing on free speech rights.

  2. Exercising control places liability on the company. If the company places requirements on how and when employees use social media sites, the employer is also responsible for monitoring and ensuring its policies are followed.

  3. Various laws protect employees’ communications at work. The National Labor Relations Act prohibits retaliation by an employer toward workers who discuss working conditions. So if you try to limit discussions about your workplace on social media sites, you may find yourself in trouble with the National Labor Relations Board.