Discussions

Employee Social Media Policy

Posted by Angi Moore @angela_k_moore, Thu, Jun 20 7:20am

Yesterday we had a concerned FB user that reached out to us regarding something one of our employees posted on her personal page. The reason this person contacted me was that this person tagged us as her employer, and felt she posted something hateful toward the LGBT community. We as a team felt it was inappropriate, but more a political statement than hate speech. Our concern is that if she tagged us as her employer, does this represent us in a bad light, and do we have the right to have input into employee's posted opinions? What is your policy around this? We are having a discussion around free speech vs. representing our brand. I would love to hear more about how you handle this. If you would be willing to share your employee policy, please send it to me at angi.moore@cassialife.org. Thank you!

@LeeAase, I would like your opinion, please. I know you wrote the Mayo Clinic policy.

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Interesting issue, and thanks for tagging me @angela_k_moore. I think it's going to depend on the nature of the post. For example, Cleveland Clinic had a doctor who posted on Twitter that she was going to give Jewish patients "the wrong meds" https://www.cbsnews.com/news/lara-kollab-cleveland-clinic-doctor-fired-after-saying-she-would-give-jews-the-wrong-meds/ – Clearly that's antisemitic and unprofessional, related to her practice as a doctor. Easy call.

In your case, it sounds like it's not as clear. Will follow up via email if you'd like to send screen shots of the posts.

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Tagging a few others who may have experience with this @rmullins80 @robinmillernorthbay @jesslewis422 @ewhitmore. Any recommendations about how to manage these challenges?

Liked by Angi Moore

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We have a social media policy for employees that recognizes their right to participate in social media but also notes that they must adhere to our Code of Conduct when using or participating in social media. All the rules that apply to other communications apply here, specifically protecting confidentiality, privacy and security.

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Our social media policy is fairly liberal in terms of speech only — as of now, employees can't get on social media on a work computer unless it's for work purposes (practices running their own Facebook pages, for example), but that is a policy we are working to update. In terms of speech, employees are not permitted to speak on behalf of the organization, and obviously can't commit any HIPAA violations, but otherwise, there is a lot of freedom in what employees can say in their own social media posts. Obviously we discourage negative posts about the organization, but the only things that we could really say anything about are posts that are malicious, vindictive, threatening, or might constitute harassment, etc. @angela_k_moore, we've had a similar situation, but since the post was made from a personal account and not on company property, we really couldn't do anything about it.

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I am really glad you brought this up, @angela_k_moore. We are in the midst of re-evaluating this. We have a social media policy that speaks to many of the "extremes", but I would argue that there is still a lot of grey area in that since often the language and tone used can be subjective.
Recently, we've been asked by different departments within the organization to discuss with employees some important things to keep in mind when posting on social media (even on their personal profiles) when you hold a professional position where you are in the spotlight at times. I have considered creating a set of guidelines to serve as a supplement to the policy that could help with this. It is an evolving discussion for us right now, so thank you for bringing this up. Looking forward to reading the responses!
One question I am curious about is in reference to what @angela_k_moore mentioned in her post: When someone tags their employer as their place of work in their personal profile, does that change the way these issues should be handled? I know we are talking about Facebook here, but one thing I think about is: Does the disclaimer on Twitter (All views are my own) actually hold any weight?

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@DanHinmon

Tagging a few others who may have experience with this @rmullins80 @robinmillernorthbay @jesslewis422 @ewhitmore. Any recommendations about how to manage these challenges?

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Thank you, Dan! I look forward to also hearing from @rmullins80 and @ewhitmore

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As with the Cleveland Clinic doctor mentioned above, there are certain times when the language of the post relates to work (e.g. giving Jewish patients the wrong meds), but other times it's stating a political opinion. There's also a difference between a front-line employee stating an opinion and someone who is higher up in leadership.

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We do not interfere with employee's personal pages. The same applies to negative comments by anyone on local town pages etc. If someone is sharing their opinion, it is their right. If something slanderous is being stated, we will pursue an appropriate intervention. We have tight control of our SM accounts and only approved administrators can post, so our brand and social media plan is honored. We do have a corporate social media policy.

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@jesslewis422

Our social media policy is fairly liberal in terms of speech only — as of now, employees can't get on social media on a work computer unless it's for work purposes (practices running their own Facebook pages, for example), but that is a policy we are working to update. In terms of speech, employees are not permitted to speak on behalf of the organization, and obviously can't commit any HIPAA violations, but otherwise, there is a lot of freedom in what employees can say in their own social media posts. Obviously we discourage negative posts about the organization, but the only things that we could really say anything about are posts that are malicious, vindictive, threatening, or might constitute harassment, etc. @angela_k_moore, we've had a similar situation, but since the post was made from a personal account and not on company property, we really couldn't do anything about it.

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@jesslewis422 you said something re: employee use of work stations for social that intrigues me – "that is a policy we are working to update." What are you considering?

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I'm tagging @dharlow to join this conversation. David is a long-time MCSMN member and an attorney specializing in HIPAA law. David – what are the legal considerations here?

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@DanHinmon

@jesslewis422 you said something re: employee use of work stations for social that intrigues me – "that is a policy we are working to update." What are you considering?

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We're trying to get social media opened up to all employees so that they can more easily serve as brand ambassadors, and so that things like our Facebook Live Q&As and posts from the employee Facebook page can more easily be shared. And also, just to get caught up with the times — everyone's using social media on their phones anyway!

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Thanks for explaining that, @jesslewis422. Keep us posted on your progress. I look forward to hearing how you roll it out.

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@DanHinmon

I'm tagging @dharlow to join this conversation. David is a long-time MCSMN member and an attorney specializing in HIPAA law. David – what are the legal considerations here?

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Thanks for tagging me, Dan. As Lee noted, this is an extremely fact-sensitive sort of thing. The specific post needs to be reviewed in the context of the employee code of conduct – and the code may need to be revisited in light of this particular issue. We also need to be guided by thinking about how would react if this comment were made at a neighborhood weekend barbecue where everyone knows where the speaker works. The reaction doesn’t necessarily change just because the comment is made online.

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@jesslewis422

We're trying to get social media opened up to all employees so that they can more easily serve as brand ambassadors, and so that things like our Facebook Live Q&As and posts from the employee Facebook page can more easily be shared. And also, just to get caught up with the times — everyone's using social media on their phones anyway!

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My $0.02 from a security perspective – I hope that employee social accounts are accessed either on personal devices connected to a separate WiFi network set up for personal use (ie not the institution’s internal network) or on separate desktops/laptops (not institutional workstations). The malware etc risks are too high.

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