As the NLRB Cracks Down, It’s Time For a Refresh on Social-Media Policy

The National Labor Relations Board has been ordering some prominent brands to scale back social-media policies that limit what workers can say about their organizations online—which could put communicators who handle such policies on edge. The NLRB has instructed Costco, General Motors and Target, among others, to change the language in their social policies, and have issued the reinstatement of workers fired for posting negative comments about their work. Here’s an example of the NLRB’s handiwork, as it struck down the following passage in Costco’s social-media policy document: “Employees should be aware that statements posted electronically (such as [to] online message boards or discussion groups) that damage the company, defame any individual or damage any person’s reputation, or violate the policies outlined in the Costco Employee Agreement, may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.” This is how the NLRB interpreted the passage: “By its terms, the broad prohibition against making statements that ‘damage the company, defame any individual or damage any person’s reputation’ clearly encompasses concerted communications protesting [Costco’s] treatment of its employees.” Since protected communications were not excluded from Costco’s broad policy, the NLRB determined that employees would reasonably conclude that the policy required them to refrain from engaging in protected communications.

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