Social Media For Employers – The Legal Pitfalls

Social media is a minefield for employers. Sure, it has the potential to drive your business. But it can also, in an instant, ruin your reputation if you are not very careful.

Its influence is felt by the overwhelming majority of businesses, whether the internet represents their primary line of contact with their clients, or simply a complement to their brick-and-mortar establishments. It is, in essence, growing increasingly difficult to justify a decision (whether conscious or unconscious) to overlook the various social media that hold so much sway over our day-to-day lives.

Still, while social media represents a highly lucrative avenue for any business to explore, it is not without its pitfalls. As the face of your business – one which has the potential to reach millions of pairs of eyes each and every day – it must be treated with a great deal more caution and care than we would typically lend to our own, personal accounts.

For this reason, anyone operating a company that utilises social media (to any extent) should ensure that they are always keenly aware of the legal pitfalls that lie in wait of businesses that grow complacent toward their social media strategies and policies.

A Lack of Training

Our use of social media is, for the most part, fairly casual – particularly in our private lives. It is no wonder, then, that many companies fall into the trap of taking a somewhat spontaneous, informal approach to social media.

Still, it is important to remember quite how prominent these platforms are – and how easy it can be for a single post to derail your reputation among thousands of followers.

Damages to your reputation are, of course, only one side of the story, and a lack of training could easily land your business in legal trouble. For instance, if an employee is not educated properly on avoiding discriminatory language/practices, you may find yourself in legal trouble.

Vicarious liability, or liability on behalf of another, is a very real risk when employees are given access to corporate social media accounts, and could have devastating consequences for your business.

It is for this reason that the legal specialist advises: “It is best practice to require employees to confirm in writing that they have participated in the training.” That way, a level playing field can be established and, hopefully, adhered to at all times.

And the Business’s GDPR Privacy Standard?

For many years now, prospective job-searchers have been warned about the potential pitfalls of oversharing certain aspects of our lives on social media, and why employers are growing increasingly interested in ‘checking in’ on their accounts prior to and during employment.

Now, however, the introduction of GDPR has turned the tables, so to speak, on the role private social media accounts are able to hold for employers. The potentially sensitive information available on private social media accounts may, at times, be cause for concern as an employer – but your ability to act on it depends entirely on your ability to adhere to GDPR regulations.

This is a highly complex and delicate area of law – one that requires a great deal of expertise in order to avoid potentially devastating mistakes.

And Your Anti-Harassment Policy?

These days, your duty to your employees extends beyond the 9-5, in-office hours, and onto the world wide web. On social media, where a more casual line of contact between employees is growing increasingly common, harassment has been known to cause serious issues between two or more colleagues.

For this reason, it should be made clear within your company’s anti-harassment policy what social actions on social media can fall under this document, and what consequences an individual can expect following a direct violation.

The bottom line is that social media can be both a great boon and a terrible hazard for any business. Be prepared: put in place a thorough social media policy, train staff in what it means, and get them to confirm their understanding.