Implication Of Social Media Labor Law

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Implication Of Social Media Labor Law

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Implication Of Social Media Labor Law

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Discus about social media policies, labour law and employment relations.

This qualitative study deals with the implications of social media policies with which employers regulate the employees’ online behavior when on off duty. The increasing use of web-based technologies is posing challenges for employers with regards to employees’ voice, resistance, discipline, privacy and surveillance.  This paper discusses the implications of human resource management and social media’s labor laws.  Employers are increasingly using social media policies and monitoring the employee’s presence on social media.  This attitude is posing challenges of employee and employer relationship.
Social media (SM) has opened new challenges and frontiers of expression amongst the employees.  SM has drastically changed the mode of communication, interactions and expressions.  All the tweets, likes or dislikes are uncensored, unedited and are increasingly visual discussing work and employment related issues or matters.  SM has opened new avenues through which employers virtually control their employee’s private life and conduct and may use their misconduct as allegations and take disciplinary actions and even termination.
With the explosion of technologies, SM policies have become a standard element in the HRM policy in any organization.  The basic SM policies include misconduct or behavior within the organization or outside workplace which includes damage to the reputation, image and business of the company.  Arguably this provision of SM policies enhance the employer’s interference and indulgence in the private life of employees and is similar to the practice adopted previously in the post-master and servant era.  This paper sheds highlight on two related issues with regards to the impact of SM policies.

The potentiality of these policies to suppress the voice pertaining to issues related to work and working conditions.
Another issue is whether the policies are a means by which employers are expanding their employee’s behavior and work outside workplace and the way in which national labor laws impose on this encroachment especially with the focus on USA and Australia. 

To understand these two issues, 15 policies were considered for study of employee’s off-duty behavior.  This article uses the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) reasoning for understanding the challenges.  The NLRB has determined certain standards and set guidelines of permissiveness to protect the individuals.  NLRB has identified many clauses as unlawful like privacy, contact information, confidentiality, using of company logos, tone of online postings, false or misleading communication, inappropriate discussions, etc.  The main purpose behind this is to maintain the employer and employee relationship.
The findings of this research study reveal that 14/15 policies directly have the potential chilling effect on the employee’s expression and voice.  The analysis of this study indicates that employers are expanding their regulations and monitoring the activities of employees through the SM policies.  They are indulging and regulating the personal lives of the employees and are establishing avenues for lawfully terminating an employee.  The greater regulation of employees’ lives speaks of the master-servant era.  It curtails the scope of freedom of expression of employees.  Of course organizations must protect themselves from the threats caused by SM but this should not be attained at the expense of employees’ rights to freedom of speech, expression and private life.
Hence, there is a need to amend laws to protect the privacy of employees’ and in countries like Australia and USA three laws and policy are especially being considered.  First is the development of privacy law of employees in order to provide them protection when using SM off-duty.  Second is that the employees have the freedom of communication like discussing about working conditions or management treatment without fear of retaliation.  Third is limiting the language usage.  In a nutshell as the HR policy is being developed in this area, the employers and employees must consider the risks associated with implementation of SM policies on their healthy relationship.
Discussion Questions

Do you think employer have right to regulate employees’ online behavior outside the workplace? Why oy why not?
What according to you are some of the factors that an organization should keep in mind while developing SM policies?
What amendments are needed in Australian Law and policy in context of this issue? 

Thornthwaite, L., 2016. Chilling times: social media policies, labour law and employment relations. Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, 54, pp.332–51


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