You’ve probably heard this “fact”: if Facebook was a country, it would be the fourth largest country in the world! Web 2.0 has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, including the workplace. As a result, most lawsuits in which employers become mired are fraught with electronic data issues. To guard against a wide range of legal claims, as well as reap the benefits of a global marketplace, many employers are instituting social networking policies. But, as with any policy, a social networking policy must be carefully drafted to meet your business needs. With that, I introduce to you the 10 Commandments of drafting a social networking policy:
NUMBER ONE: Thou shalt NOT use a sample policy pulled willy-nilly from the Internet.

While your search results will pull up dozens of fine looking policies, you won’t know who wrote them, the legal jurisdiction from which they hale, or the business interests the policy seeks to promote. Many times, a bad policy is worse than no policy at all.

NUMBER TWO: Thou SHALT work in harmony to craft a policy appropriate for your business.

If you decide that a social networking policy is appropriate for your business (and it may not be), the combined cooperation of your IT department, human resources, legal, and company decision-makers is necessary to formulate an effective policy.

NUMBER THREE: Thou SHALT know the risks and guard against them.

Employee use of social networking media can have wide-ranging legal ramifications for employers. Possible claims include: harassment, discrimination, defamation, invasion of privacy, and a variety of statutory violations.

NUMBER FOUR: Thou SHALT proclaim that the eye of the employer sees all.

Notify employees that they have no expectation of privacy in their use of company technology, that their activities should be work related only, and that their communications may be accessed at any time.

NUMBER FIVE: Thou shalt NOT take the name of the employer in vain.

The policy should require disclaimers be used indicating that the opinions stated therein are those of the employee and not the employer.

NUMBER SIX: Thou SHALT respect thy co-workers, customers, competitors, and employer.

Require employees to act respectfully in their social networking/blogging activities. Provide guidance on what is and what is not appropriate behavior.

NUMBER SEVEN: Thou shalt NOT steal or do other really bad things with your employer’s computer.

The policy should prohibit disclosure of confidential information, the use of legally-protected/copyrighted information, and the dissemination of personal information of co-workers.

NUMBER EIGHT: Thou SHALT know the consequences of thy actions.

Inform your employees that their social networking activities on the job are subject to all company policies and explain the consequences of violating your social networking policy.

NUMBER NINE: Thou SHALT spread the word throughout the masses.

Distribute the policy. Have your employees sign off on their receipt and understanding of the policy. Provide training on the policy.

NUMBER TEN: Thou shalt NOT commit random acts of destruction.

You MUST ensure that your litigation hold policy incorporates procedures and methodologies to capture and preserve social networking data in the event of litigation.

Vanessa Towarnicky's primary focus is in the area of labor and employment law. She has been involved in representing clients in various employment cases, including sexual harassment; deliberate intent; age, race, and disability discrimination; wrongful discharge; and various other employment-related torts. She is admitted to various state and federal courts as well as the Third Circuit Court of Appeals and Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
» See more articles by Vanessa L. Towarnicky
» Read the full biography of Vanessa L. Towarnicky at Steptoe & Johnson


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