The Ethics of Social Media in the Workplace

An issue that has been surfacing in many different companies is whether or not employees should be able to voice their opinions about their employer and company on social media along with whether or not their should be a social media policy present in these companies. Based on my research, I do believe that companies should have a social media policy for their employees. I believe that this policy should be very straightforward and specific. If it is too general, there is too much room for confusion and unfairness when looking at different situations. In an article written by Steven Greenhouse, he quotes the National Labor Relations Board, which states, “Workers have a right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place at the office or on Facebook.” He goes on to state, The labor board’s rulings, which apply to virtually all private sector employers, generally tell companies that it is illegal to adopt broad social media policies — like bans on ‘disrespectful’ comments or posts that criticize the employer — if those policies discourage workers from exercising their right to communicate with one another with the aim of improving wages, benefits or working conditions” (Greenhouse). We learn here that broad social media policies in an office are illegal. The policy needs to be specific and clear for its employees. We further learn that it is legal for workers to post their opinions about their employers or companies when they do it with an objective to improve their wages, benefits, or the condition of their work.

In another article entitled, “The Latest Social Media Concern for Employers,” Jacob Gershman, brings up the issue of employees posting disrespectful material on the social media channel, Vine, “the new six-second video app developed by Twitter.” He gives examples of an employee sharing a video of herself looking through “confidential business plans” and other videos of “employees venting about how much they hate their jobs, including one person who makes an obscene gesture at a grocery store where the person apparently works” (Gershman). One of the risks that these employees face by posting this kind of material on their blog is, quite frankly, the risk of being fired. In the previous article I mentioned, I talked of some guidelines that the National Labor Relations Board provides. We can see that in all of these videos, the employee looking through the confidential business material, the angry venting from employees, and the obscene gestures may, in fact, go against what the National Labor Relations Board has stated as acceptable. Employees are allowed to exercise their right to communicate when they are seeking to improve their wages or benefits. One can see that this has to be dealt with on a very case-by-case basis. In the videos of the employees venting about their job, if they were doing it with an objective to improve their wages or working conditions, the company cannot proceed with consequences such as termination. As far as the employee who used an obscene gesture, if he had no intent to better his wages or working conditions, he can legally be given negative consequences from his employer. In the previously mentioned article by Steven Greenhouse, he gives us a couple examples of employees using social media in the workplace in an illegal way. One of these examples is a police reporter at the Arizona Daily Star. The reporter was frustrated there was nothing to report on and tweeted, “What?!?!?!? No overnight homicide…You’re slacking Tucson” (Greenhouse). This reporter was fired, and the National Labor Relations Board upheld this decision. This reporter was not posting with the intent to better his wages or working conditions. He was blatantly disrespectful and crude.

As my research came to a close, I reached the conclusion that I do believe that employees should be able to voice their opinions about work on social media but only when those opinions seek the objective to better their wages or work conditions. When employees abuse this privilege, I fully support measures being taken to stop this kind of behavior, even if that involves termination.


Greenhouse, Steven. “Even If It Enrages Your Boss, Social Net Speech Is Protected.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 Jan. 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2015.

Gershman, Jacob. “The Latest Social Media Concern for Employers.” Law Blog RSS. The Wall Street Journal, 21 May 2013. Web. 26 Sept. 2015.


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