What To Do When Employees Gripe Online

Last year, the National Labor Relations Boared ruled that it was ok for employees to complain about management through social media without retribution, however a ruling in January by the U.S. Court of Appeals could swing the pendulum back toward organizations.

The Appeals Court decision will likely reach the US Supreme court, but what should employers do about workers who trash the brand, complain about perceived injustices at work, or simply fire off an ill-considered or boozy tweet?

1. Sit tight and stay tuned.
Organizations itching to fire the sourpusses may be in for a letdown. The NLRB Facebook decision was first issued in 2011 and would be unaffected, says Donna M. Ballman, an employee-side employment attorney. The same goes for the board’s stance that employees cannot be fired for discussing working conditions on social media.


2. Create a social media policy—with the help of a lawyer.
Some organizations don’t consult an attorney in advance, and their chief concern is protecting their reputation and this can create problems.

“This is an area of law that is still evolving,” Lawer Ruth Carter says, “so organizations should regularly review their policy with their attorney to ensure that it is in compliance with the most recent rulings. ”


3. Get your own house in order.
Employers, he says, should address these “pressure points for employees”:
-Do you hold managers accountable for supporting employee development?
-Is your pay competitive?
-Do you reward good work and show appreciation?
-Do you give your staff members clear expectations and remove any barriers in their way?
-Do you reward employees for client satisfaction through profit sharing or other measures?


4. Educate your employees.
There’s no reason to throw up your hands and accept social media as simply another Wild West and conclude that your organization is helpless.

Better to educate your staff and help them see where your interests coincide, Carter says. After all, when employee-critics apply for a new job, their next employer will no doubt search the Internet and won’t be eager to hire people who undermine their current brand.


5. Review other policies.
Don’t stop at Facebook and Twitter – first examine all personnel policies that potentially relate to protected, concerted activities. Such policies may include email, confidentiality, privacy, and business ethics policies, as well as codes of conduct.

Learn to protect your business. You don’t need an unruly employee ruining your company’s good name! It could have detrimental effects on your business and could very well be undeserved.


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