I came across a post on the Delaware Employment Law Blog entitled 3 Reasons Why Employers Don’t Have a Social-Networking Policy. Molly DiBianca elaborate on three reasons an employer might not: (1) ignorance; (2) committee approval delays; and (3) hopes that the social networking phenomenon will simply go away.
I’m not one to argue with any of those reasons why a SBO might think a social networking policy is not important, but let me offer a few reasons why it is.
Liability to Third Parties. What is your employee writing about your competitors? Business associates? Friends? Business disparagement, tortious interference with contract, and libel could all be possible claims to arise out of a rogue employee causing trouble on the Internet. And these claims could include you or your business as Defendants. Having a written policy on social networking provides a starting point in preventing liability because such activities are clearly outside the scope of the employee’s job.
Employment Claims. You don’t want to hear this, “Well John Doe has been doing it for weeks/months/years so why are you firing me because you caught me on Facebook/Twitter/Myspace at work? Clearly you are firing me for some other reason, perhaps discrimination.” Having a written policy in place clearly tells every employee what is allowed and what is not allowed. This provides a sound basis to prevent a discrimination claim.
Trade Secrets. Your employee thinks he is doing a good deed and networking with a friend at another company, but shares details of what he is working on for you. And next week that other company takes your product/code/design and beats you to market. Having a policy in place emphasises the importance of taking the time to consider the content of your employees communications with the outside world. This just might save your next big idea from becoming your next just missed opportunity.
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