The challenge of social media in the workplace: across borders

Say you are a firm that operates in more than one state in the United States.

Or perhaps you have offices in other countries.

How do you institute social media policies that work for your business?

Well, good luck with that!  In the United States, of course, the Department of Labor does not dictate how businesses may or may not use social media, although some businesses are regulated about their use of advertising (and that may, through interpretation, extend to social media)  and businesses and individuals are also required to disclose endorsement and client relationships on social networks and blogs (Federal Trade Commission guidelines, 2009).

But say you wanted to research a potential candidate and you looked at their Facebook profile.  Would that violate any fair hiring practices?  It depends on where you live.  You’d better not try it in Italy.

And what if you wanted to monitor your employees’ usage of social media while at work?  Or after work hours?  Are there laws governing that?  Not in Virginia.  But in some other states, yes.

There are countries who have instituted regulations specifically regarding social media in the workplace.   The international law firm Proskauer has provided a summary of laws as apply to several countries.

Take the example of employee monitoring.  Everywhere, an employer may prohibit the use of social media in the workplace on company time, or block social media sites at work.  But how do you enforce that?  In Italy, an employer may not monitor the social media use of an employee at all.  In England, the company must demonstrate that the monitoring was warranted.  In France, an employee must be fully informed beforehand.  In Spain, employers may monitor the time spent on social networks, but not the content viewed (without consent).

Addressing the usage of social media in companies that operate across state lines or internationally requires the assistance of legal counsel and human resources experts.

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About Mary Fletcher Jones

Mary Fletcher Jones is a public relations and marketing consultant, and owns Fletcher Prince (www.FletcherPrince.com). Follow Mary on Twitter @FletcherPrince.

Posted on August 31, 2011, in Social Media in the Workplace and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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