We found ourselves fascinated by this great Sunday New York Times piece on an issue of vital importance to PR and HR departments: monitoring employees’ work-related social media activities.
A few companies have received very bad press thanks to conversations that their own employees initiated via social media. We understand why most companies’ policies seek to “discourage comments that paint them in a negative light”– no one likes unflattering attention, and Facebook has the potential to turn insider “water cooler” conversations into public debates.
But the National Labor Relations Board recently complicated the picture by ruling that some employees who were fired for Facebook conversations should be reinstated and that a company’s ability to regulate its team members’ “social” lives should be limited. For example, companies cannot adopt broad policies prohibiting negative comments if said policies “discourage workers from exercising their right to communicate with one another with the aim of improving wages, benefits or working conditions.”
That is very confusing! So what does the shift mean for public relations? Does complaining about work on Facebook or Twitter qualify as “protected speech?”