Published June 9, 2015, Dealer’s Voice – Whether we like it or not, social media is a part of all of our lives. As a dealer, social media can have a tremendous benefit: having consumers follow you on Facebook or Google+ is the new big thing. Social media eliminates postage costs and lag-time associated with traditional advertising. But there is a dark side.
As a dealer, you undoubtedly have scores of employees who are connected to social media, and therein lies the danger. The way a dealership interacts with its employees on topics of social media is regulated by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and policed by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the National Relations Labor Board (NRLB). Thus, just as a dealer needs to be careful to not discriminate in the workforce, it also needs to be careful of how it deals with employees and their social media behavior.
You may be surprised to learn that the EEOC and the NRLB have found the following acts unlawful:
- Disciplining an employee for the content of their social media posts.
- Disciplining an employee for creating posts that have a negative impact on the company, regardless of when or where the post was made.
- Prohibiting an employee from disclosing confidential or proprietary information about the company.
- Requesting that an employee confine social media activities to topics unrelated to the business.
- Requesting that an employee provide you access to their social media sites.
- Prohibiting an employee from posting photographs or videos taken in the workplace.
- Requiring an employee to contact management prior to making a media post about the company.
Given the pervasiveness of social media among employees, dealers need to be careful about limiting the activities of their employees. Labor law violations typically have statutory attorneys’ fees clauses with them, and a claim by a former (or current) employee could end up being very expensive.
To avoid a costly misstep, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the EEOC and NLRB guidelines regarding social media. The EEOC guidelines can be found at https://www.eeoc.gov/employers, and the NLRB guidelines can be found at https://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/fact-sheets/nlrb-and-social-media.