April 14, 2011
According to the National Labor Relations Board, the Thomson Reuters Corp. Social Media policy may be violating federal law. At issue is the company’s Twitter policy. The NLRB maintains that it improperly restricts an employee’s right to use Twitter to discuss working conditions with co-workers.
According to the Newspaper Guild, a labor union representing Reuters employees, Reuters publicly disciplined reporter Deborah Zabarenko for posting a Twitter message that said, “One way to make this the best place to work is to deal honestly with Guild members.” The NLRB is taking the position that Reuters policy impairs employees’ rights to discuss working conditions and that it applied the policy improperly.
This marks the second case initiated by the NLRB involving a company’s social media policy.
In the first case arising last October, American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc. allegedly violated labor law when it terminated an employee allegedly for criticizing her boss on Facebook.
The significance of these cases should be clear to any business. First, it is important to have a Social Media policy in place. More importantly, however, Social Media policies need to be written with legal and regulatory compliance in mind. An overly retractive Social Media policy or one that penalizes employees for expressing protected speech will result in legal liability.