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Managing Your Employees’ Presence On Social Media Sites

We have repeatedly discussed how to handle social media to reach out to today’s restaurant market, but never have we discussed how to handle our employees’ handling of social media within the workplace.

Let’s say there’s one waiter who continuously tweets about whats going on in the restaurant on his Twitter account—can you stop him? What are the legal implications?

Kandessa Media, the group behind QSR website Quick Serve Leader had a talk with Beth Schroeder, a partner at Los Angeles-based Silver & Freedman Law Offices regarding the common practices that surround this topic.

“The rules and legal implications of employers controlling their employees’ presence on Twitter and Facebook, or any social media for that matter, is still continuously evolving” says Schroeder. “While employers can control what the staff can do and can’t do during company time, the issue is that they cannot control their employees’ actions during their own personal time.”

Companies, however, can bank on the same laws on trade libel and defamation to apply in social media. Employers can actually forbid, through company policies, any acts of defamation or trade libel by their employees. Employers should also be able to motivate their personnel enough to make them want to say good things about their company.

Shroeder, who focuses on employment law and has had an extensive experience working for several hospitality and foodservice establishments in the country, discussed some prevalent scenarios.

“Employees mostly complain on Twitter and Facebook about their immediate bosses, grumble about their work hours, or whine about their ‘unfair’ work and inadequate pay,” says Schroeder. “The thing is that these actions are protected and permitted under the National Labor Relations Act. They can do this during a drinking spree among friends, or through Facebook. “And employers cannot prohibit it, nor can they sanction or fire the staff.

The same right goes for managers who “fraternize” with their direct reports on social media, and employees becoming social media buddies with restaurant diners. But how about those who bad mouth the restaurant or their work supervisors on their personal sharing sites?

“An employer can control this if the negative or disparaging post is about the company’s services or products. But it ends there. They cannot anymore control what their staff says about the conditions and terms of their jobs,” Schroeder adds.

What’s supposed to be an internal HR matter becomes a public relations issue.

When this happens, Schroeder’s advice is for restaurant operators to manage this public relations dilemma by opening wide their doors of communication with their employees, and not illegally closing it. Restaurants employees in cool aprons are often very young, and they are easy to lead through good example. When they gripe, managers should take time out to deal with it.

The presence of employees on social media could be a daunting reality for today’s employers. But when handled well, a satisfied employee could be the company’s best public relations stint.