“But it’s my Facebook, my boss doesn’t have a say of what I post.”
“I do my work, so why them complaining if I’m chatting online or emailing my family.”
Sentiments like these are often articulated by staff members, who believe that being disciplined for using their personal social media platforms is outrageous.
However according to Corey M. Dennis, Associate in the Boston Office of Morrison Mahoney LLP “Legal Implications of Employee Social Media Use” he states, “Employees’ use of the internet, particularly social media, has resulted in productivity problems in the workplace. For instance, employees often spend time reading and sending personal emails, bidding on auction sites, reading news and blogs, playing online games, and interacting with friends on social networking sites.”
As employers, we all know that at some point in time, our employees will use the internet for personal use. It is not so much the issue of the service being used, but more of a productivity and brand association issue. If you are spending half the day online and neglecting your task, your employer has every right to summons you to a meeting to speak about your productivity. If you are posting derogatory things about your job, coworkers, the company then you should be held responsible and disciplined accordingly. You may think, but who in their right mind would post their disgruntled feelings about their job online, especially when things can be shared, misconstrued, and have the ability to get back to your employers? Take your mind back to 2013 when Justine Sacco, a senior director of corporate communications at IAC, who only had a mere 170 twitter followers, decided to make random jokes and derogative statements on her flight to Africa. Her tweet: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” In bad taste yes, but innocent to her, after all, she only had 170 followers and she said nothing about her company. This tweet went viral! And by the time she landed her phone was blowing up with messages, “How did @JustineSacco get a PR job?! Her level of racist ignorance belongs on Fox News. #AIDS can affect anyone!” and “I’m an IAC employee and I don’t want @JustineSacco doing any communications on our behalf ever again. Ever.” And then one from her employer, IAC, the corporate owner of The Daily Beast, OKCupid and Vimeo: “This is an outrageous, offensive comment. Employee in question currently unreachable on an intl flight.”
Even closer to home, we had a situation with a local MP who was being charged with being in breach of her parties constitution, one of the areas spoke to posting defamatory statements on her Facebook page. A page which is not for public viewing, but because of the position she holds, will be up for scrutiny.
As an employer he/she has the right and duty to monitor an employee’s internet activity, especially if the company’s property is used. In most instances an Internet/social media policy is in place and employees are asked to sign off on the policy, noting if certain conditions are breached their liable for consequences as extreme as instant dismissal. The policy should state that computer access may be monitored, searched or blocked. In addition, the policy should also caution employees that the disclosure of confidential information regarding the company, its customers, logos, trademarks etc. are all breaches of contract. In Barbados, our laws are not as stringent. Yes we have a Computer Misuse Act, but hardly ever, do you see people being hauled before the courts for things that they wrote online.
What we as employers must expound, when we write our policies, is that although you are entitled to your opinion, you are a representation of your company, people, do not just see you as an individual, but they see you as a representative of your company, in or out of uniform as well as online. Put your policies in place and ensure that all new hires are briefed of what is acceptable use of company property. Don’t end up with a Justine Saccao in your workplace.
Contributed by Samantha Hazlewood, Mcomms
Communications & Administrative Coordinator