The proliferation of technology use and communication through the use of social media has resulted in an overabundance of distractions for your small business' employees. The growth of these new forms of media and communication have also raised a number of interesting work place privacy legal issues as well. These technologies and the growth of online communication have threatened to significantly decrease the productivity of your work force.
You don't want your employees posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and their personal blog when they should be working, do you? Due to all of these new issues and considerations raised by the growth of technology in virtually every aspect of our daily lives, every small business in this day and age would be well advised to implement policies (usually contained in an Employee Handbook) on the use of this technology and social media in the workplace. In this blog article, we suggest the top five social media and internet use policies:
Your Employee Handbook should address the issue of employee privacy and put your employees on notice that when they use Company Provided Technology, they should not expect those communications to remain private. For example, you could put the following language in your Employee Handbook on the issue of privacy: "Employees should have no anticipation of privacy with respect to Company-provided voice mail, e-mail, text-messages, instant messages, or any other computer or electronically based communications – regardless of whether such information is stored on the Company's systems or by an outside provider."
Internet Use Policy: Your Employee Handbook should warn your employees that you may monitor their use of the Internet at work. It should also state that employees should not visit inappropriate or other offensive websites while using the Internet on the job. A good Internet Use Policy will require that employees not use Company-provided internet access for illegal activities such as to commit fraud or to otherwise infringe on the legitimate copyrights or other protected intellectual property rights of others. For example, for those of you who remember Napster, a free online music-sharing program, that was shut down for rampant copyright infringement, you don't want your employees using that kind of piracy software at your place of business, thereby possibly exposing you and your company to legal liability for copyright infringement.
Anti-Blogging Policy: Like we said, you don't want your employees wasting your valuable time and money by posting on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. or by blogging when they should be working. Moreover, you also want to make sure that your employees do not post information on these websites that will put the confidentiality of your business' trade secrets and/or other protected proprietary information at risk. You worked hard to develop the trade secrets, client lists, and other confidential business assets, which comprise much of the value of your small business. Make sure your employees know (as if it weren't obvious) that you don't want them posting that kind of sensitive information on their Twitter account. We suggest including language similar to the following in your Employee Handbook:
"Employees are prohibited from engaging in web logging or "blogging" during work hours or while using Company-provided equipment, technology, smartphone, tablet device, or any other technology provided to the employee for use during the employee's employment. Employees "blogging" (including but not limited to use of Myspace, Facebook, Blogspot, Friendster, Linked In, Instagram, Blogger, Tumblr, or any other blog or website of any kind whatsoever) while not on working time and while not using Company equipment should be aware that they must adhere to the Company's confidentiality policy and that they must avoid the disclosure of trade secrets or other information regarding the Company of any kind whatsoever. When you post something on the internet even after work hours, assume that everyone you know including the Company, its management, and your colleagues at work will view it. Use common sense and your professional judgment."
"Non-exempt employees are not permitted to check their email or perform any work outside of the workplace. This includes, but is not limited to:
"Regardless of the circumstances, employees whose job responsibilities include regular or occasional driving may not use, send or read or review text messages or e-mails while driving. Employees who are charged with traffic violations resulting from texting or e-mailing while driving will be solely responsible for all liabilities that result from such actions. Violations of this policy will result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment."