HR and employers crafting social media employee use policies need to ensure such policies are precise and timely, or else they will open themselves up to National Labor Relations Act-based compliance missteps and penalties, according to SHRM.
In a recent decision, the NLRB ruled that Chipotle Mexican Grill violated the NLRA by disseminating an outdated social media policy when an up-to-date policy existed. Chipotle's outdated policy banned workers from using their private social media sites to "post incomplete, confidential or inaccurate information about their workplace, or from making disparaging, false or misleading statements about the company."
In the case, early in 2015, a Chipotle area manager in Pennsylvania gave an outdated social media policy to an employee who tweeted on the issue of snow day denials and tweeting about the restaurant's guacamole costing extra. While asking the employee to remove the tweets was not a NLRA violation, providing the outdated social media policy did cross the NLRA line — especially because the worker was fired.
"Employers should consider keeping a written record of all policy revisions and apply effective dates to their policies," Ken Yerkes, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis, told SHRM.
Joseph Bryan, an attorney at Taylor English in Atlanta, said that even with their "best efforts," HR professionals can be blindsided by managers and supervisors who follow outdated policies. One solution might be to post the policies electronically as an effective way to ensure only current policies are available, but Bryan does concede that electronic-only policy storage is not an option. Chipotle and other employers will need to find a way to ensure that field locations are all on the same page when it comes to employee policy.
Earlier this month, Chipotle lost a $550,000 lawsuit involving the firing of a pregnant worker and in late 2015 ran into a data theft issue that could have affected employees. On the other hand, it did garner praise for its training program (as a result to its food contamination outbreak) and also boosted employee benefits in mid-2015.