Law.com social networking article misleading

Law Technology News part of Law.com  is publishing a series of articles on social networking in the workplace and here is their second article in the series.  They claim the goal of the article is to, “discusses the laws that impact social networking in the workplace and provides guidance on developing a social networking and blogging policy.”

However, I think its real goal is to attempt to create a social networking policy in the workplace that shields employers from litigation and that is a very different thing than creating a effective social networking policy.  Here are my five objections to their recommendations.

1. “Cover all forms of online communication and conduct.”  So does this include what I write on my Amazon reviews or Yelp?  Does this include my online banking transactions?  What about bidding on eBay items?  The list goes on and on.  And the authors of this article want the social networking policy to cover not only on the job “social networking” but anytime use of social networking.

2.  There is no definition of social networking.  This is particularly problematic given that new technology emerges very rapidly and the separation between on the job and off hours maybe blurred beyond recognition.  How will employees have any idea what is covered and what isn’t?

3.  The use of catch-all provisions.  Twice the article recommends that the employer create catch-all provisions, one that covers all local, state and federal laws and another one focused on covering all conflict of interests or “otherwise harms the employer’s business interests.”  Is there any doubt that this article is simply focused on shielding employers from potential litigation not to assist employers in writing a workable social networking policy?

4.  No discussion of the need to constantly monitor the policy in the face of rapidly changing technology?  Five years ago, no one was seriously thinking about the dangers of social networking in the workplace.  What about five years from now?  Do the authors really think that social networking technology won’t evolve further?

5.  No discussion of an employee training program in the appropriate use of social networking.  Just because social networking is pervasive doesn’t mean that everyone is knowledgeable in all the various social networking websites and potential uses and misuses.  Employees don’t simply need to be “aware” of the policy, they need to understand what exactly the policy refers to which will require training.

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