A service released earlier this week by Teneros, an online communication services company, makes it much easier for companies to keep tabs on their employees' social networking activities.
The software, called Social Sentry, will automatically monitor Facebook and Twitter accounts for $2 to $8 for each employee, depending on the size of the company and the level of activity being monitored.
I understand the concerns voiced by a number of the posters following the story. Additionally, our circumstance introduces another wrinkle. Specifically, we are the government. Thus, our employment practices implicate the lenses of the First Amendment and, to a somewhat lesser degree, the Fourth Amendment. Ultimately, policies aimed at controlling use of county resources -- including electronic resources -- probably will survive scrutiny. However, monitoring and disciplining employee social media conduct after hours should be carefully considered. It's a brave new world, but as Aristotle would caution, an excess of bravery is rashness, which is a vice.
With that said, we do not have a policy specifically targeting social media. Accessing and updating it from work computers would be subject to our computer and Internet use policy.
Posts: 1233 | Location: Amarillo, Texas, USA | Registered: March 15, 2001
Do not access or use social networking sites (e.g. Facebook, MySpace) during work hours or through county computers or property. Do not discuss work-related matters on social networking sites at any time.
[An exception to the above is for research of information for criminal cases and background information for defendants, witnesses and victims.]
The labor relations board announced last week that it had filed a complaint against an ambulance service, American Medical Response of Connecticut, that fired an emergency medical technician, accusing her, among other things, of violating a policy that bars employees from depicting the company �in any way� on Facebook or other social media sites in which they post pictures of themselves.
Lafe Solomon, the board�s acting general counsel, said, �This is a fairly straightforward case under the National Labor Relations Act � whether it takes place on Facebook or at the water cooler, it was employees talking jointly about working conditions, in this case about their supervisor, and they have a right to do that.�
That act gives workers a federally protected right to form unions, and it prohibits employers from punishing workers � whether union or nonunion � for discussing working conditions or unionization. The labor board said the company�s Facebook rule was �overly broad� and improperly limited employees� rights to discuss working conditions among themselves.
Moreover, the board faulted another company policy, one prohibiting employees from making �disparaging� or �discriminatory� �comments when discussing the company or the employee�s superiors� and �co-workers.�
So, this makes it appear that any restrictions that tell an employee what they can or can't comment using social media is an improper office policy.
If an employee is fired or demoted for having a blog, that's naughty too. (According to this fellow from the EEOC who's speaking on this topic at the College of the State Bar conference that I'm attending.)