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Business Law, Employer, Law Practice

Establishing A Policy Governing The Use Of Social Media: Think About It!

Sep 8th, 2014

By Nathalie Proulx

Most of us use blogs and social networks on a daily basis. Although this new reality holds great potential for certain employers, it also brings real concerns. Loss of employee productivity, threats to information confidentiality, damages to the business' image and to relationships with clients… these potential consequences should not be taken lightly. Protection may be obtained with a well-drafted policy governing the use of social media.

Employees are required to follow the rules and policies of their employer, including those relating to social media. In order to ensure adequate protection, your policy may include the following:

1.    A list of authorized and unauthorized uses in the workplace, whether for personal or professional reasons, as well as your right to revoke or limit Internet privileges and access to a Website;

2.    Times when the use of social media is authorized (for example during breaks);

3.   Your right to supervise employees' use of social media. Since your supervision may be subject to certain legal boundaries as regards privacy protection, employers that do not want their employees to have a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding the data located on the employer's computer and network must clearly indicate it;

4.    The employees' obligation not to imply on their blog or any other form of social media that they are expressing the views of their employer;

5.  The employees' prohibition from disclosing confidential information on their employer, its business, clients and suppliers;

6.   The employees' obligation not to damage the reputation of the company or its clients, and to ensure that they maintain respectful communications with their colleagues and management; and

7.    Disciplinary measures as a result of the non-compliance of the policy.

As with any other policies, your policy governing the use of social media should be revised periodically. Be sure to provide a copy to all your employees and have them acknowledge in writing that they read and understood it.

The foregoing provisions are general guidelines. Your policy must be carefully drafted to reflect the realities of your company. Be wary of samples found on the Internet as they may not be adapted to your needs and to Quebec legislation. In addition, your policy should be reviewed by a legal advisor to ensure the legality of its provisions, more specifically as regards disciplinary measures.

A well-drafted policy, informed employees and vigilant enforcement will help you maximize your chances of taking full advantage of the benefits offered by social media, rather than having to deal with the consequences.

Nathalie Proulx practices business law, concentrating on mergers and acquisitions and financing. She also provides advice to multiple enterprises on various legal issues they have in their daily business affairs.