Social Media Policies

Monday, July 2, 2012
The NLRB has been the primary regulator of social media policies of employers.  According to recent cases from the NLRB, an employer violates Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA through the maintenance of a work rule if that rule “would reasonably tend to chill employees in the exercise of their Section 7 rights.” Lafayette Park Hotel, 326 NLRB 824, 825 (1998), enfd. 203 F.3d 52 (D.C. Cir. 1999). The Board uses a two-step inquiry to determine if a work rule would have such an effect. Lutheran Heritage Village–Livonia, 343 NLRB 646, 647 (2004).

A rule is clearly unlawful if it explicitly restricts Section 7 protected activities. If the rule does not explicitly restrict protected activities, it will only violate Section 8(a)(1) upon a showing that: (1) employees would reasonably construe the language to prohibit Section 7 activity; (2) the rule was promulgated in response to union activity; or (3) the rule has been applied to restrict the exercise of Section 7 rights.

Rules that are ambiguous as to their application to Section 7 activity, and contain no limiting language or context that would clarify to employees that the rule does not restrict Section 7 rights, are unlawful. See University Medical Center, 335 NLRB 1318, 1320-1322 (2001), enf. denied in pertinent part 335 F.3d 1079 (D.C. Cir. 2003). In contrast, rules that clarify and restrict their scope by including examples of clearly illegal or unprotected conduct, such that they would not reasonably be construed to cover protected activity, are not unlawful. See Tradesmen International, 338 NLRB 460, 460-462 (2002).

To read more extensively about Social Media Policies on the HR Care® site, go here

To see a sample social media policy that has been approved by the NLRB, go here
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