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SHRM Seminar On Social Networking In The Workplace

This morning, I presented a seminar for SHRM Hawaii on Social Networking in the Workplace.  I was a co-presenter with Jared Kuroiwa from ProService Hawaii.  Jared explained the different types of social media sites to the attendees, and I covered the legal issues regarding social networking in the workplace.

I think the seminar was quite successful:  the room was pretty full (there were about 100 people in attendance), and the crowd was very knowledgeable in Human Resources matters.  Therefore, they asked really good questions, and to me, that always makes the seminar better because you know you are addressing the specific issues that the attendees want to learn about.

One thing that I wanted to emphasize on social networking is the importance of adopting a social networking policy.  It is surprising how many companies do not currently have a workplace policy that addresses social networking specifically.   However, I expect companies will respond to social networking the same way they responded to email and the internet; some companies will be ahead of the game and develop social networking policies early, and others may be a little late, but eventually, all companies will have – or at least should have – some sort of social networking policy in place.

That being said, not all companies will need a comprehensive policy, but the majority of companies will need to develop some sort of policy to address social networking in the workplace.  Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all policy that can be applied to all companies.  Rather, companies need to develop a social networking policy that is most-suitable for their work environment.  In addition, most companies also need to train their managers and supervisors on the “do’s and dont’s” of social networking in order to avoid the pitfalls and problems that can be associated with social networking. Finally, employers should also keep up-to-date with the changes in the law regarding social networking, as the courts are now starting to provide employers with guidance on how to handle social networking in the workplace.

Honolulu Advertiser Article On Social Networking In The Workplace

Today, the Honolulu Advertiser published an article that I wrote for SHRM Hawaii on Social Networking in the Workplace.  The article discusses the benefits and pitfalls social networking can have in the workplace, as well as whether employers should implement a policy to address the use of social networking sites.

I was asked by SHRM to write this article because social networking in the workplace is a very hot topic at the moment.  As the article discusses, the use of social networking sites has exploded over the past couple years, and employers are now scrambling to figure out how to deal with social networking issues that affect the workplace.  At the same time, because social networking is relatively new – at least for the legal community – the courts have not fully addressed the legal issues dealing with social networking and the workplace.  Therefore, employers have been constantly asking for guidance on how to deal with social networking issues.

On March 16, 2010, I will be presenting a seminar for SHRM Hawaii on social networking in the workplace.  Whereas my article provided just a cursory overview of the issues involved with social networking in the workplace, the seminar will go into greater detail of the legal issues involved and how the courts have addressed such issues thus far.  In addition, I will also be discussing how employers can figure out whether they need to implement a social networking policy for their workplace.

The article can only be seen in the hard-copy version of the Advertiser, on page B8.  If you want to view the article online, you can see a PDF version of it here:  Advertiser Article on Social Networking

Social Media and Social Networking in the Workplace

“What happens on Facebook doesn’t stay on Facebook…”

Currently, a very hot topic among Human Resources professionals is how to deal with social media (or social networking) in the workplace.  Social media includes the use of online services such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, and various internet chatrooms and messageboards.  Social media has been dubbed by some as the “next generation of water cooler chat.”

Social media has posed a modern day catch-22:  it provides benefits and it provides problems.  Whereas social media – and modern technology in general – has fostered productivity and increased marketing opportunities for companies, it has also created more potential for employee abuse and increased exposure for employer liability.

I have presented numerous seminars on this topic, and the two questions I get asked the most are (1) whether employers should regulate their employees’ use of social media in the workplace and (2) whether employers should use social networking sites to either conduct background checks for prospective employees or to check-up on their current employees.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to either of these questions.   Rather, just as various employers have needed to tailor-fit their email and internet policies to their workforce, employers will also have to tailor-fit their policies on social media to their work environment.  At the same time, it appears that social media is here to stay, and in fact, will become an integral part of the workforce – just as emails and the internet have become a part of our everyday worklives.  Therefore, companies need to learn to adapt to the use of social media in their workplaces and I recommend that employers seek some legal consultation on determining whether a social media policy is right, or even necessary, for your workplace.

SHRM – “Ask a Lawyer” Seminar

This morning, I was one of the  speakers at SHRM’s annual “Ask a Lawyer” seminar, which provides attendees with three intimate 20 minute sessions with some of the top labor and employment attorneys in the State of Hawaii.   I was very honored to be included with this esteemed group of attorneys, and my topic dealt with Social Networking and its impact on the workforce.

I spoke about the pros and cons Social Networking can have on the workplace.   During my round table discussions, we discussed some of the benefits Social Networking can provide for a company, such as increased exposure, expanded networks, and virtually free marketing that allows a company to connect to the world through their fingertips.  We also discussed the challenges many employers face when dealing with issues such as (a) whether they can monitor employees’ use of Social Networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace, (b) whether they can do background checks of employees by using Facebook and Myspace, (c) whether they should control or limit their employees’ use of Social Networking sites, at least while at work, and (d) whether their company should develop an employment policy to cover Social Networking.

Overall, the seminar was  huge success.   Although, I wish each session could have been a little longer than 20 minutes; I found there wasn’t enough time to answer all the questions everybody had or to explain everything that needed to be explained.   In any event, if your company has any questions regarding Social Networking in the workplace or you are wondering whether your company can or even should implement a Social Networking policy, I strongly recommend that you contact your labor and employment attorney.

US Supreme Court To Rule On “Police Text Messaging” Case

Earlier today, the US Supreme Court accepted certiorari in Quon v. Arch Wireless, a case which could have a significant impact on private employers.  Specifically, in Quon, the issue on appeal is whether the Ontario, California police deparment (the employer) violated the Constitutional rights of its employees when it inspected personal text messages sent and received on government-issued pagers.

In Quon, the employer had a policy reserving its right to monitor email and internet use and stating that employees had no expectation of privacy in their use of such equipment.  The police department did not have a a policy directing addressing text messages.  The lieutenant in charge of the pagers, however, had an informal policy that the text messages would not be audited, as long as the employees paid for any overage charges.  (The lieutenant eventually changed his mind and inspected the text messages of a particular employee.)  Based on this informal policy, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the employees had a reasonable expectation of privacy in their text messages.

Though the Quon case involves text-messages specifically, the High Court’s decision may provide some guidance about its position on whether employers can monitor employee usage of the internet, cell phones, and other employer equipment provided by an employer.

The High Court has scheduled oral arguments for Spring of 2010.