Twitter Nightmares: Mitigating Social Media Risk & Compliance For Employers

This week, Bloomberg reported that Snapchat’s daily active users, at 150 million, had surpassed that of Twitter. Twitter doesn’t disclose its number of daily active users (which is estimated at around 140 million daily active users by external surveyors), so it has yet to confirm the metric. Nevertheless, major business headlines seem concerned; Forbes wrote today, “Is Snapchat Threatening Twitter?”

And, it’s enough for litigators to realize that Twitter, with a whopping 310 million monthly users, like other social media sites, makes up an important market.

From safety to theft to libel, social media is hotbed of lawsuits.

Just today it was announced that social media mogul Mark Zuckerberg’s Twitter and Pinterest pages were compromised after a hacker or hacking group named “OurMine Team” temporarily pirated Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s accounts.

Zuckerberg, who hasn’t tweeted since 2012, apparently sent a tweet today reading, “Hey, [Mark Zuckerberg], You were in [the] Linkedin Database with the password ‘dadada’! DM for proof.”

LinkedIn settled a consolidated class action lawsuit stemming from a June 2012 data breach that compromised 6.5 million hashed passwords in 2014, for which we can only assume Zuckerberg was victim. It has since been required to implement data security protocols using the industry standard encryption methods of salting and hashing for at least five years.

This is not the first time Twitter has made the news (or the docket).

Back in 2009, Amanda Bonnen took part in the first ever twitter-related lawsuit. In it, Horizon Realty Group contended that Bonnen defamed Horizon by tweeting to her friends about the apartment she rented from them, “You should just come anyway. Who said sleeping in a moldy apartment was bad for you? Horizon realty thinks it’s ok.” Horizon alleged this was libel and demanded at least $50,000. Eventually Horizon’s suit was dismissed on the grounds the tweet was too vague to meet the definition of libel.

Since then, tweets have made up a major concern for companies. Reputation and revenue are on the line in 40 characters or less.

In a similar incident, Chipotle was recently sued for firing employee, James Kenney. The 38-year-old war veteran sent a negative comment about the restaurant via Twitter. According to Philadelphia Magazine, Kennedy’s tweet read, “@ChipotleTweets, nothing is free, only cheap #labor. Crew members make only $8.50hr how much is that steak bowl really?”

Unfortunately for the food chain, U.S. Labor Laws protect employees’ rights to free speech, and a Philadelphia judge ruled that Chipotle needed to rehire Kennedy—with back pay.

Employees’ social media activities frequently play an important role in workplace investigations. Yet, when investigating harassment, discrimination or other employee-related claims employers must be aware of specific laws that restrict employers’ requests (and access to) an employee’s social media accounts and posts.

Fifteen states have passed laws that limit the employer’s authority over employees’ social media accounts, and many more are not far behind. No matter how serious the investigation, one peek at an employee’s social media account could become a costly, non-compliance nightmare.

If your firm doesn’t already know best practice solutions for conducting workplace investigations legally and effectively, now is the time.

Attend the Center for Competitive Management’s audio conference, “Workplace Investigations: Using Social Media Legally & Effectively while Limiting Risk” on Tuesday, June 7, 2016 from 2:00 PM to 3:15 PM Eastern and learn: 

  • Key restrictions under state social media laws
  • Legal pitfalls to avoid when conducting discrimination investigations in the workplace
  • How to conduct compliant discrimination/harassment/threat/defamation investigations
  • When you can and cannot ask for an employee’s passwords
  • What employee conduct the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) protects and the finer points of the guidelines it has provided.
  • Employee privacy dangers and what defines a ‘Reasonable Expectation of Privacy’
  • Discussion of cases where social media was misused
  • Broader implications for using social media in applicant screening/hiring
  • What multi-state employers must consider when drafting social media policies for investigations
  • Steps to take right away to be sure your current social media and investigation practices and policies are compliant 

And afterward, go ahead and tweet about it. You’re covered.




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