Blog Posts: Social Media
All is still not quiet on the social media front, where a host of conflicting laws and regulations continue to leave many employers between a rock and a hard place.
Netflix inadvertently prompted the SEC to update and clarify its regulations as they relate to the use of social media by public companies. This update was issued following an SEC investigation of Netflix chief executive officer Reed Hastings after a July 3, 2012 post on his personal Facebook page stating "Congrats to Ted Sarados, and his amazing content licensing team. Netflix monthly viewing exceeded 1 billion hours for the first time ever in June."
Some analysts employed by Standard & Poor's (S&P) have recently seen their internal e-mails and instant messages printed in the newspapers, read aloud on TV and passed around on blogs and social media. Their messages figure prominently in a $5 billion lawsuit that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed against S&P alleging that the company deliberately inflated its ratings of risky mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations before the financial crisis of 2008. Public revelations of internal messages sent between S&P employees will likely increase as the case unfolds. Some analysts could also be called upon as deposition and trial witnesses in the case.
It is becoming more difficult for employers to control use of social media by employees, while at the same time it is increasingly important for every company to educate employees in the appropriate use of social media. Three states have introduced legislation limiting an employer’s ability to access employees’ social-media accounts.
Back in July, Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, tweeted: “Netflix monthly viewing exceeded 1 billion hours for the first time ever in June.” While this might seem like an innocent posting on a social-media website, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) believes it may have violated Regulation FD, which requires public companies to disclose material, nonpublic information to all investors when that information is given to securities market professionals and shareholders. Prior to Regulation FD, companies would slowly leak out information to select analysts in order to keep a degree of confidentiality.
What rights do employers have to limit the social-media use of their employees? The law addressing that question is rapidly evolving. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently published a report on employers’ social-media policies, the third report on the subject in less than a year.
Employers are increasingly turning to Facebook and other social-networking sites to pre-screen new hires. A survey conducted by CareerBuilder in 2009 found that 45 percent of employers were looking at applicants’ social-networking pages during the hiring process. The percentage of employers using social media sites for screening is almost certainly even higher in 2012.
With social media reigning online communication, are you prepared for the possibility that anything — good or bad — that your employees type online will reflect on your company? If you're not, you should be.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) is designed to protect patients from unwanted intrusion into the intimate details of their medical conditions. But that same protection may be hindering caregivers from using modern technology to gain the information they need to give the best care possible. While professionals in other fields may easily consult with each other over Internet social networks like Facebook, HIPAA regulations prevent doctors from using such unsecured platforms. Ironically, in the Internet age the medical profession is still heavily reliant on FAX machines.
Imagine a situation where an employee is transferred to another department because of lack of work. The employee, furious about the move, posts a curse-laden rant about the company on her Facebook page, and some of her coworkers gleefully respond in kind in comments to the Facebook post, bad-mouthing the employer and calling for a class-action suit. The company has a policy that explicitly prohibits employees from making disparaging comments in any media. Does the company have the legal right to fire the worker for violating its policy?