Free Speech and Social Media – Where Should Businesses and Schools Draw the Line?

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In response to the free-for-all environment that social media has harnessed, many companies and school districts are enacting what they dub “social media policies” to curtail the ramifications of employees’ and students’ behavior online.  However, fact of the matter is that few entities have gotten it right and most are violating state and federal laws in their attempts to restrict online activities. This means that your constitutional rights may be affected by your employer’s social media employment policy.

For example, companies seeking to maintain their reputation and quell PR nightmares by preventing employees from using social media to voice complaints and instead requiring that they first report their complaints to an employer could be violating the First Amendment, the Civil Rights Act, and Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, each of which address some of the limitations that a company might be able to impose on an employee’s social media participation.  Additionally, Los Angeles schools that have a good faith goal of reducing cyberbullying and the promotion of drug and alcohol abuse by requiring students (particularly athletes) to sign social media policies which restrict online activity outside of school may also be violating these students’ First Amendment rights.  As Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, etc… take over our daily lives and businesses seek to co-exist with this evolving medium, more and more litigation is spawning in an attempt to create bright line guidelines. Discuss your potential lawsuit with an experienced employment contract lawyer.

Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) stepped in to review numerous corporate social media policies and report on how they comply with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and it turns out that most were in flagrant violation.  Unfortunately, the NLRB’s input has turned out to be a deterrent to having a policy at all, since its limitations on what is acceptable employee and employer behavior makes boundaries even less clear — exposing both to potential employment-related litigation.  As the wave of school policies have come and gone, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has stood up as a voice for student’s constitutional rights, there is again a vortex of what can be done to solve the problems of social media for businesses and schools alike.

The bottom line is that social media restraints are ripe for litigation and if you believe that your employer or school is violating any of your legal rights, reach out to the aggressive trial lawyers at BIKLAW today.

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