Legal Matters: The Dangers of Social Media for Your Nonprofit
What was found on my client’s executive director’s Facebook page was even more shocking. The executive director naively had been posting about how much money older employees cost companies in the U.S. and how he intended to do something about that for his company.
Needless to say, the case settled before discovery concluded.
The bottom line is what employees post on social media can impact the company in many ways. Here are some things to consider in our new social media world:
1. Employees’ social media posts can subject the company to liability. A false post about the company’s or a competitor’s product can lead to claims for deceptive trade practices and false advertising.
2. Employees’ social media posts can lead to a loss of trade secrets. As illustrated in the above example, employees’ posts may cause the company to disclose trade secrets or other confidential information. Such posting can be unintentional; an employee may issue a post about a new service or product that is premature.
3. Social media posts can provide useful information for hiring or a basis for firing. The social media posts of prospective employees can provide a host of information about the applicants, more information than that provided on a résumé. In fact, some companies ask job applicants to provide their passwords for their social media accounts prior to making the decision to hire the applicants. Be mindful, however, that employees’ posts on social media sites can be protected speech. Refusing to hire, or firing, employees based on this speech can lead to discrimination claims against the company. Deciding whether to use social media posts as a basis to hire or fire is like walking a tightrope — it requires balancing many factors, and given the potential liability, it should be discussed with legal counsel first.