Employers Need Social Media Rules

As the use of social networking continues to increase, companies should consider developing clear, written policies to protect themselves from increasing liability related to the sites.

Unfortunately, much of the law in this area is ambiguous or undefined, so companies with reasonable and specific written policies are often viewed favorably by the courts.

More specifically, employers “should spell out how employees are permitted to use social media sites during work hours, how the firm will train employees and monitor compliance, and what the consequences of violating the policy will be.”

Both courts and regulators are working to resolve several questions which have resulted from the “use of social networking sites, including:

· “Who is responsible for defamatory posts from an anonymous user of a public site?

· “Is a company liable for misinformation posted on its social media site by an outside user?

· “How can companies fulfill disclosure requirements given the space constraints of sites like Facebook or Twitter?”

Companies should monitor their own social media sites, and respond to/counter negative comments rather than take legal action.

Due to the lack of complete control over the internet from outside hackers, or inside disgruntled current or former  employees, even with safeguards and precautions, employers should consider relatively inexpensive Medial Liability insurance coverage to cover legal defense and damages or penalties levied against the employer.

From Business Insurance, July 26, 2010 issue, pp. 4 and 21.