Ask the Experts: Can We Discipline Employees for Complaining About the Company on Social Media?

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Question: Can we discipline employees for complaining about the company on social media?

Answer: Probably not. Depending on what they said, and who responded to it, their speech may be protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. Section 7 protects concerted activity by employees relating to the terms or conditions of their employment. Concerted means “in concert,” so two or more employees must be involved, but this is easily achieved on social media if a co-worker even “likes” the post. Terms and conditions could include pay, hours, work environment, treatment from managers, benefits, or violations of labor and employment laws.

@RealThinkHR experts explain what to do if #employee #SocialMedia use is hurting your clients’ brand: Click To Tweet

We understand that this sort of social media use in the workplace can be frustrating. One way to reduce the likelihood that employees will air their grievances on social media is to establish a means for them to do so internally. Employee surveys, comment boxes, whether physical or online, stay interviews, and true “Open Door” policies are common ways to solicit this feedback.

The key is to be willing to listen and act on the information you gather. If employees believe that taking their complaints directly to a manager will end in retaliation, or that it simply won’t lead to any change, they’re more likely to keep complaining on the internet.

It can be tough to discern how far is too far, and what your clients can’t control when it comes to their team — even if it could affect the company negatively. People risk isn’t always cut and dry. With ThinkHR’s People Risk Management solution, your clients get access to the content, technology, and Live Advisors to stay informed of everyday risks. Request a consultation today.

Kyle Cupp

Kyle Cupp is an HR certified professional author, editor, and researcher specializing in workplace culture, retention strategies, and the employee experience. He has previously worked with book publishers, educational institutions, magazines, news and opinion websites, nationally-known business leaders, and non-profit organizations. His writing has appeared in The Daily Beast, The Week, and elsewhere.

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