In the face of the ever-evolving world of social media, employers face a myriad of challenging ‎issues relating to their employees’ use of their own, personal sites, such as Facebook and blogs. ‎These issues include how to handle employees who post information about the employer, how to ‎deal with employees who use sites to harass other employees, and how to address employees ‎who use social media to post complaints relating to their employment. Though these, and other ‎issues, have faced employers for several years, the legal system still only offers a somewhat ‎haphazard set of laws which regulate what employers can and cannot do to address employees’ ‎use of social media.‎

Currently, more than a majority of states have laws which address these issues. Minnesota, ‎however, is not one of them. Several states have current legislation pending. And the laws of ‎states which already have such laws in place offer greatly varied protections. Most of these laws ‎serve to protect employees, however, as opposed to the rights of employers. These laws generally ‎prohibit employers from requesting or requiring passwords or user names to their employees’ ‎personal, social media accounts. Others prohibit employers from “friending” employees on social ‎media or requiring employees to divulge posted information. Many of these laws also prohibit ‎employers from retaliating against employees who act to enforce their rights under these social ‎media laws. While current state laws either provide little guidance, or only protection for ‎employees, many of the state laws do allow employers to prevent employees from posting ‎confidential or trade secret information about their business, and to monitor (and prohibit) ‎employees’ use of social media on employer-owned or issued devices, and/or during work hours. ‎

At the federal level, no law currently regulates private employers’ use of, or access to employees’ ‎social media, in any direct manner. The National Labor Relations Act has been interpreted to ‎prevent employers from disciplining employees who engage in “concerted activity” through ‎social media communications about working conditions with other employees, however. But the ‎NLRB seems to be loosening these restrictions, which were largely promulgated in decisions ‎issued during the Obama presidency. And any use of social media to discriminate against ‎employees and applicants in protected classes such as race, gender, religion, etc. would be illegal ‎under Title VII.‎

At the end of the day, it is imperative that all employers have a good working knowledge of the ‎social media laws, if any, in their state. Policies should also be prepared and reviewed, and ‎supervisory staff trained to be able to address these issues. ‎