Federal and state policymakers have undertaken numerous efforts to restrict the use of social media for employment purposes in recent months. Two primary questions are at the heart of the social media debate in the employment arena: whether employers can access and consider information found on employee social media websites, and whether employers can prohibit employees from disclosing certain information on social media websites.
On May 30, the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon issued a third report on employer social media policies, describing six corporate policies that he alleged interfere with the rights of employees under the National Labor Relations Act. The report highlighted a seventh policy (Wal-Mart Stores Inc.) that was described as lawful. Two previous NLRB reports on the use of social media were issued in August 2011 and January 2012.
Congress has also taken notice of this emerging issue in the workplace. In April, Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) introduced the Social Networking Online Protection Act (H.R. 5050) to prohibit organizations from requiring or requesting that employees and job applicants disclose the log-in information necessary for accessing a personal social networking account.
In a related development on the state level, Maryland in April became the first state to enact a law (which takes effect Oct. 12, 2012) prohibiting employers from requiring employees and applicants to provide their user names and passwords to personal social media sites. A similar bill is awaiting the signature of Governor Pat Quinn (D) in Illinois.
For More Information: So how are HR professionals supposed to develop lawful employee social media policies? Be sure to check out the list of SHRM educational webcasts (upcoming and archived—available HERE) on avoiding the potential pitfalls for employers when dealing with social media in the workplace.