This policy should state that the company expects employees, in their electronic communications, to abide by its policy against harassment and discrimination, as well as its policy relating to civil treatment of co-workers and appropriate workplace communication.
This policy also should require employees to respect the company's confidential and proprietary information in their electronic communications.
State in the policy that the company is not attempting to monitor private employee communications that are done on the employee's own time and/or on their own equipment; however, if a co-worker apprises management of such a communication, and it impacts company culture or exposes the company to legal liability, human resources will respond to that communication, if necessary.
Some employers vigilantly monitor communications among their employees to avoid the pitfalls associated with inappropriate communications. It is important for in-house counsel to know that, while the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been quick to file suit against employers in such cases, no court has yet to rule on the NLRB's interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act with respect to electronic communications of employees of private employers. In the meantime, general counsel should remind employees and managers that the convenience of electronic communication carries with it an increased level of responsibility.
Jay M. Wallace is a partner in Bell Nunnally & Martin in Dallas. He focuses his practice on representing companies in all phases of employment law, both state and federal.
This article originally appeared in Texas Lawyer.
See also: "More Employers Creating Social Media Policies for the Workplace," CorpCounsel, November 2012.