It’s understandable, perhaps, that some companies would want to cut down on the amount of time that employees spend on social media during work hours, especially if the amount of time spent playing Words with Friends or Avengers Assemble is impacting productivity overall for the business as a whole. But when it comes to trying to limit social media access because of the subject matter of Tweets or Facebook status updates, that’s an entirely different thing altogether – and one that, thankfully, is being challenged and pushed back upon by authorities.
The National Labor Relations Board has ordered Dish Network to reverse its Social Media policy as it appears in the current version of its employee handbook, in the process signalling that it will be more active in monitoring and combating similar corporate policies in future. As it stands, Dish’s policy prohibits employees from sharing any message that could be considered either disparaging or defamatory towards the company on social media. It was one of a number of companies named in a May statement from the NLRB as having social media policies that went “overboard” in their reach and may be in breach of federal law protecting the right of workers to self-organize, join or assist labor organizations to collectively bargain for better working conditions and wages – others included General Motors and Target – but really moved into the NLRB’s targets following the dismissal of a technician later in the year.
The technician in question was fired for violating safety protocol by not wearing either his safety harness nor protective eyewear when installing a satellite dish; when the technician approached the NLRB protesting his dismissal, the organization began looking into Dish’s attitude towards collective bargaining and unionizing, and discovered the company’s social media policy. What was particularly worrying to the NLRB was that said policy prohibited employees from commenting publicly electronically about the company even on their own time, as well as the company’s “Contact with Government Agencies” policy which, somewhat amazingly, requires employees to get management permission before speaking to anyone from the authorities regarding Dish policies.
In his ruling, Administrative Law Judge Robert Ringler ordered the company to immediately stop enforcing both the social media and government agencies policies, and provide employees with new guidelines in both areas, as well as ensure that staff is given appropriate notifications about the changes. In a statement issued in response, Dish said that “although DISH agrees with the Judge’s decision upholding the termination of an employee for violation of DISH’s safety rule, DISH disagrees with his statement regarding its Social Media policy. DISH is in the process of evaluating its legal options.”
Expect an appeal sooner rather than later, in other words. For now, however: Tweet without fear, Dish employees.