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Your organization needs a social media policy

More than 19 million Canadians check Facebook at least once per month and 14 million check every day. There are more than 200 million active users of Twitter, and around 400 million tweets sent daily. LinkedIn boasts 8 million Canadian users. These stats confirm what you probably already know: your employees are on social media. They are likely on social media multiple times a day, which means that they are likely using social media at work.

There have been recent reports of employees, to say the least, acting contrary to their employers’ best interests on social media. A Mr. Lube employee recently tweeted the following: “Any dealers in Vaughan wanna make a 20sac chop? Come to Keele/Langstaff Mr. Lube, need a spliff or two to help me last this open to close.” The York Regional Police tweeted, in response, “Awesome, can we come too?” The employee was fired. In a case I wrote about in this post, an employee filed a complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal over another employee’s Facebook post, calling him a “dirty Mexican”. The employee who made the post was ordered to undergo human rights training. The Tribunal noted that Facebook postings can constitute workplace-related harassment (for which an employer may be liable).

It is clear that it is time for your organization to implement a social media policy. A social media policy allows employers to clearly communicate to employees what constitutes appropriate use of social media. This not only increases productivity, but it also protects the employer from postings that can harm the employer’s reputation or expose the employer to liability.

What should you include in such a policy? Here are some suggestions:

  • A definition of social media (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.)
  • The scope of the policy (e.g., it applies to personal use and use on behalf of the employer)
  • Whether work-based or personal social media use is permissible in the workplace
  • A description of acceptable and unacceptable use of social media
  • A procedure for employees to be able to request that they use social media on behalf of the employer
  • Appropriate reference to other policies that will apply (e.g., harassment policy)
  • Strong language that the use of social media should not harm the employer’s reputation or reflect poorly on the employer, and that employees are expected to use good judgement and be respectful and professional while using social media
  • A statement that individuals are to be held accountable and may be personaly responsible for their posts (see above!)
  • A clear statement that the IT department monitors use of social media in the workplace; consequently, employees do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the use of their corporate social media account (or their own personal account while using the employer’s computers/network)
  • A warning that employees are not to diclose confidential/proprietary information on social media
  • A clear statement that the employer owns social media sites used on behalf of the company, including any customer information stored, for example, on an employee’s LinkedIn account
  • The consequences for not abiding by the policy should be clearly spelled out (e.g., discipline up to and including termination of employment for cause)
  • Employees should sign off on the policy and be trained on it

This is far from an exhaustive list, but I hope the above provides you with a good launching pad to create your own social media policy. The policy should be reviewed by HR and legal prior to implementation.

Daniel Pugen
Ontario Employer Advisor
Published with permission from McCarthy Tétrault LLP

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Employer Advisor, McCarthy Tétrault LLP

Employment and labour lawyers at McCarthy Tétrault LLP
McCarthy Tétrault through their Employer Advisor blogs offers their perspectives on the latest legal developments applicable to the workplace. It provides their insights on legislative and regulatory developments, as well as new case law, while providing practical tips for employers and their human resources professionals when managing the workforce. McCarthy Tétrault is a Canadian law firm that delivers integrated business law, litigation services, tax law, real property law, labour and employment law nationally and globally. Several of their blog posts will be republished with permission on First Reference Talks. Read more
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