Last month in our Greenbelt Employment Law Blog, we discussed the termination of a retail CFO who was fired for allegedly posting company information on a social media website. More details of that case have now been revealed. It appears that accessories retailer Francesca's may have fired the CFO after he suggested to investors--via his Twitter account--a forthcoming positive earnings report.
While this issue could become broader than typical employment law cases, by involving Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, it is interesting to note that the National Labor Relations Board released a report today addressing similar workplace social media issues. The NLRB has found that many companies have over-reaching social media policies that infringe on the rights of their employees.
It is important to note that the NLRB report does not directly address the financial SEC issues involved in the Francesca's case.
The NLRB did, however, call out six employers who have unlawful and overbroad social media policies. Among them are General Motors, DISH Network and Target.
The NLRB memo is meant to guide employers into writing lawful social media policies, as many employers seem to be confused in this area. The report notes that employers want to discourage employees from posting unfavorable posts online, but nonetheless employees likely have rights to post these things if they so choose.
GM's policy appears to be the most over broad. The policy goes so far as to say employees could be disciplined if they post anything misleading about the company and it also discourages employees from befriending colleagues online. Additionally, it suggests employees ask their managers before posting things about GM.
The author of the NLRB memo explained that GM's policy breaches its employees' rights in more ways the one. For example, discouraging communication among co-workers infringes on workers' rights to organize under the National Labor Relations Act.
Employees who are disciplined for social media use, or are confused about their rights, are wise to discuss these issues with an employment law attorney. It is often prudent as well for employers to work with experienced attorneys in crafting such policies, to ensure that they do not overstep legal boundaries.
Source: Huffington Post, "Social Media Policies At GM, Target, DISH Network Deemed Unlawful By Labor Official," Dave Jamieson, May 31, 2012