On May 30, 2012, The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) released a report with new guidelines for social media policies in the workplace. It is the NLRB’s position that numerous common clauses in social media policies violate the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
The report basically covers 3 areas:
Confidentiality Provisions – It is not OK for employers to prohibit employees from disclosing confidential information on social media websites. According to the NLRB, this could be seen as an attempt to prohibit employees from discussion and disclosure of information regarding their own conditions of employment or conditions of employment of employees other than themselves. This action according to the NLRB would be a clear violation of Section 7 of the NLRA which defines protected activity.
Topics and tone of online conversations – The NLRB’s position is that by warning employees to avoid “inflammatory” topics or to engage a “professional” tone when communicating through social media, an employer could be construed as trying to “prohibit robust but protected discussions” about topics such as working conditions or unionism.
Permitted Language – An employer may prohibit an employee from posting anything on the internet in the name of the employer or presenting a view or opinion on behalf of the employer. Employers may also enforce confidentiality policies that employees “maintain the confidentiality of employer trade secrets and private or confidential information.”