In the era of social media, the boundaries between public and private information seem less clear. Corporate giants like Google save and track the most personal information in the name of profitability. Meanwhile, individual users share more and more information with the general public—including everything from the inane to the profane.
With so much information within easy access of anyone with an internet connection, what interests does the employee have in their privacy and speech; what interest does the employer have in preserving the integrity of their business? Where the interests of the employee and employer collide, who prevails?
In a recent NLRB decision, an administrative law judge addressed the social media policy of G4S Secure Solutions Inc. The policy proscribed employees from commenting on work-related matters without approval and from posting images or videos of employees at work or in uniform. The judge found the rule regarding commenting on work-related matters to be overly restrictive, while finding the provision regarding images and videos to be lawful.
With regard to the provision proscribing employees from commenting on work-related matters, the judge noted that this provision was too restrictive because it prevented employees from discussing working conditions and terms of employment, including messages sent between employees about issues at work. The judge, however, was not convinced that the image provision was too restrictive even though it could potentially prevent employees from sharing photos of working conditions in the same way that they would share textual accounts of working conditions. Instead, the judge concluded that G4S had the right to protect their clients and prevent the dissemination of images portraying unprofessional behavior by employees.
The decision addresses a relatively broad social media policy. Another policy more limitedly circumscribed may pass NLRB muster where G4S didn’t. If anything, this decision leaves the social media conflict between employees and employers largely unresolved.
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