We tend to focus on the regulatory requirements when writing social media policies and procedures at medical device, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. However, language that addresses ethics, confidentiality and both office and home social media behavior will help to protect the reputation of your business.
Thanks to the @ABAJournal blog, we are sharing a short and sweet social media policy from an unlikely source, the Delaware County Circuit Court of Indiana (PDF). Consider including these ideas or phrases:
1. Perception is reality. Make it clear that both are considered equally.
“Avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.”
2. Ethics. State it clearly. Leave room for flexibility. Note what constitutes inappropriate behavior.
Do not “engage in activities that would undermine [your] independence, integrity, or impartiality.”
“…because gossip and negative relationships between peers impairs productivity and security in the workplace, no comments shall be made about or to other employees that are negative about another employee or might be perceived as negative.”
“Posting hateful, discriminatory, and/or obscene material on a social network site may be grounds for terminating employment. Because the Company must maintain a high standard of conduct, an employee who reveals her or himself to be prejudiced and/or who reveals her or himself as a person who does not maintain a prudent and judicious lifestyle may give rise to an appearance of impropriety. For example, posting pictures of an employee in an intoxicated
condition is improper…”
3. Confidentiality In and Out of the Workplace. Explain how confidential information leaks unintentionally. Have separate sections for Home and Office Networking.
“Because social network sites allow linking to others, no employee can be assured that information provided on a social network site might not become accessible to unknown third parties. Further, an employee can never ascertain for a certainty what information may be useful to third parties and/or any information obtained through the employee’s observation of and/or work with the Company.”
“Therefore, even outside the workplace, no employee shall discuss or reveal on a social network site, any information related to … and/or any information obtained through the employee’s observation of and/or work with the Company.”
4. Broad Scope. Define your social media policy scope.
“Applies to all existing and future social network sites, including, but not limited to, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedln, and blogs.”
“After leaving employment, employees are still bound to uphold the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the Company.”
5. Clear Definitions. Define social media. Give examples.
“Any site accessed through the internet for the purpose of connecting one person to others with similar interests or background is a social network site, even if the common interest is as loose as enjoying watching funny or unusual film clips.”
Don’t forget to balance the above with your local and industry-specific legal requirements, including protected concerted activity. As explained by Kash Hill, “…all private employers must respect their workers’ right to ‘protected concerted activity’ — in other words, the right to talk among themselves about their working conditions.”
In the end, your social media policy will be stronger, clearer and more likely to protect the important company reputation while complying with the applicable laws.
Photo by victoriapeckham on Flickr.com
- Overreactive Guidance to Social Media du Jour–NRLB edition (Technology & Marketing Law Blog)
- When You Can and Can’t Fire Employees For Social Media Misbehavior (Kash Hill)
- National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Social Media Report on Recent Decisions
Editor’s Note: Some phrases were edited for broader applicability, e.g. by removing the word(s) such as “court”, “code of judicial conduct” or substituting “Company” for “Court”.