It is no secret that social media technology has advanced quicker than most people’s social skills and common sense. The popular website Failbook is full of people who didn’t take a minute to think before posting on Facebook, and now they find themselves out of a job. Today, an online rant or a stupid Facebook post can get someone fired, but employers, including car dealerships, need to be clear on the laws of employee social media use or they could end up in trouble themselves.
According to a recent article by Michael Gifford over on WardsAuto, several states have laws on the books that offer some protection for employees on social media. For example, it is against the law in California, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, and New Jersey for employers to require employees to disclose their Facebook account and login password. Employers can view an employee’s Facebook profile if it is openly available to the public, but if the employee has adjusted their privacy settings to hide this information, an employer cannot require an employee to show their Facebook page.
In Gifford’s article, he brings up a real-life example that shows these laws do allow for shades of grey. A hospital employee was suspended for posting disparaging comments on their Facebook page regarding a patient and the paramedics treating the patient. The hospital was taken to court, but ultimately the hospital was not found at fault because the hospital had not sought out the employee’s Facebook page. Another employee who had access to the Facebook profile saw the comment and brought it to the hospital’s attention.
Do you know what to do if an employee makes inappropriate comments online? If not, we recommend reading up on the Stored Communications Act and any other applicable state laws regarding employee social media rights. Keep in mind that many states have passed new laws addressing this issue, so if you have a potential problem with an employee, get all the facts first and don’t make any rash decisions. Dealerships can also avoid problems by establishing social media guidelines for employees and making sure that employees understand them.
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