Employees or contractors and social media.

Employees or contractors and social media.

Social media and employees or contractors, what can you do? What should you do in regards to

limiting what your employees or contractors post on social media, and why should you care?

The dreamworld tragedy that happened where some people were killed on one of the rides, brought out a very nasty side of people. One person who was working for dreamworld, straight after the tragedy happened, started posting extremely graphic, disturbing, and inappropriate material. It was really quite disturbing, and he was posting this on his own personal Facebook page. This of course reflected really badly on Dreamworld because the media got hold of it, and they were saying, a Dreamworld employee said all these terrible things. 

The question then arose, was he entitled to do that? The employee of dreamworld said, “That’s my sick sense of humor, my mind is twisted, and people who know me will understand that that’s how the kind of thing that I post, I enjoy it.” So at that time, there was nothing that Dreamworld could do about it, but to prevent that kind of thing in your own business, and obviously that dreaded tragedy is a one-off, but there could be other things that might happen in your business that could reflect badly on you. 

For example with the marriage postal survey in Australia, There was a case recently that made the newspapers where an employee had changed their Facebook profile, their profile picture to say vote no. The business that employed her was very concerned about this, they said that this was damaging to their reputation because she had said vote no, and they had clients from the gay community, so this was bad for their business’s reputation. So they fired her, and that case hasn’t been resolved yet, but it would be open to her to apply to Fair Work Australia to claim that she’d been unfairly dismissed. 

So the question is, where do you draw the line with social media? When I’ve discussed this with other business owners, very often they say what employees do on social media is their business, and that they don’t care. The problem is that if on their social media profile they have it listed that they work for you, they got your business name or maybe they’ve got your website up there, then anything that they post can be seen as a reflection of your business. So if people for example are posting photographs of them taking drugs on their social media, that’s not the kind of thing your business wants to be associated with. 

Here is another example of employee posts that could be embarrassing and potentially damaging to business reputation, my husband, who’s my business partner, needed to speak to somebody at one of our clients. This is by far our largest client, it’s a multimillion dollar business, we do a lot of patent work for them and a lot of trademark protection for them. My husband normally deals with the same person every time, but that person was on leave, so he was dealing with another person. So to check them out and to see who he’d be talking to, he went on to this lady’s Facebook page to see what she was interested in so that he could incorporate that into part of the conversation. 

Turned out her Facebook page had some naked photos of herself, I’m not sure how they hadn’t been taken down, it was not restricted viewing, it was actually public. There were also some quite lewd sexual comments, which if that’s the person’s preference, that’s for them to decide. But in addition to that, they had their employer’s name all over their Facebook page, so it was very clear that this was an employee of our client, who was a quite conservative and well-established business, who certainly would not want to be associated with those kinds of images and comments. 

So what your staff does online definitely can impact the image of your business, so it’s important to have social media policies to give your staff and contractors guidance as to what you expect, because social media is now an extension of a person, and that can reflect on your business. Policies such as, if you are going to post extreme views, or views that might not be compatible with the ethics of this company, then do not post that you work for us, don’t post our business name, and don’t post our website on your page. 

I think that’s really as far as employers can go, you can’t tell people not to post things on their personal page, but you can certainly tell them not to publicize the fact that they work for you, especially if what they’re posting might be damaging to your business reputation. So having a set of social media policies that can help you avoid those kinds of situations is probably a really good idea. It is even important to have social media policies in regards to what you should be posting, if something happens, the social media policy helps you decide what you should be posting and how you should be responding. 

So your social media policy could include a process on how to deal with a bad review. For example if somebody posts a bad review on social media, are your staff allowed to respond to it? Do you want to respond to it? And do you have a process whereby perhaps you check with a mentor before you go back all guns blazing? or perhaps you don’t respond for 24 hours just so that you can calm down if the review has upset you? So social media policy is something that I recommend in every business, even if you’re a sole trader. Good luck with your business, my name is Cathryn Warburton, I am The Legal Lioness.

Cathryn Warburton About the author

The Legal Lioness. Overcoming severe bullying as a child instilled in her a passion to protect others. As a skilled litigator, she indulges in her dream to push-back against business-bullies who target her clients. She is an international award-winning lawyer and patent attorney and 5-time published author. Cathryn bullet-proofs her client’s businesses and protects them like a mama lioness protecting her cubs. She makes sure that no business is left without access to affordable, easy-to-understand legal information. She does this through her books, proactive legal workshops and 1-2-1 legal services.