Five questions to ask before you discipline for blogging

Social media is everywhere. Even if your business isn’t on Facebook, your employees certainly are. So, how should you deal with employees who express frustration or anger about your business on the Internet? Do you discipline them or just let it go?

Two Jackson-Lewis attorneys offered some advice in August at the SHRM Annual Conference and Exhibition in Las Vegas. Here are five questions they suggest you ask yourself when deciding whether or how to discipline an employee:

  1. Was the employee engaging in protected “concerted activity” under the National Labor Relations Act?
  2. Is the employee protected under a “whistleblower” statute?
  3. Was the communication related to political activities or affiliations?
  4. Was the employee engaging in “legal off-duty activity” protected by state law or illegal activity?
  5. Does the employee have a potential discrimination claim?

The NLRA states the following regarding social media use: “Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities (that’s the piece that trips us up as employers) for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection…”

Remember, act cautiously AND take the emotion out of your decision – they may have hurt your feelings but… Be sure that your policies and decisions do not have a “chilling effect” on employee expression, and weigh all of your options before terminating an employee based on online postings. (And, when in doubt, be sure to make a quick consult with legal counsel if you think you MAY be crossing the line!)

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