NLRB Weighs in on Social Media Policies

What should companies include in their social media policies? The topic is still debatable; again, the National Labor Relations Board is taking issue with several restrictions identified in corporate policies and guidelines.

In a 24-page memo, the general counsel of the NLRB calls out General Motors, DISH Network, and Target as having policies that either too severely restrict employees' online activities or go so far as violate the National Labor Relations Act. The Act protects employees' right to collective bargaining and concerted activity to achieve their demands in the workplace.

The memo provides examples from GM's policy, which the NLRB believes are overly restrictive:

"If you engage in discussion related to [GM], in addition to disclosing that you work for [GM] and that your views are personal, you must also be sure that your posts are completely accurate and not misleading and that they do not reveal non-public company information on any public site."

The NLRB believes that "completely accurate and not misleading" is overly broad and may restrict employees' communication with each other. Similarly, GM's warning that employees should "[t]hink carefully about 'friending' co-workers" discourages employee communication.

DISH and Target have other problems in their policies, according to the NLRB, for example, restricting employees from speaking with reporters and bloggers, and "releas[ing] confidential guest, team member, or company information, respectively. These guidelines prevent employees from sharing information about their working conditions, a provision of the Act. 

The memo highlights Walmart's social media guidelines as a lawful model. Walmart's guidelines broadly discourage "inappropriate postings that may include discriminatory remarks, harassment, and threats of violence or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct."

NLRB on social media

Discussion Starters:

  • Assess the NLRB memo. How well is it organized? Is the writing style effective? Is the content clear?
  • If you were the head of corporate communication for GM, what, if any, changes would you make to the social media policy, which has been in place since 2007, according to GM spokesperson Mary Henige?