Employers can require workers to post disclaimers on social media stating that their views are their own and not their employers’, if they have also identified themselves as working for a specific company, according to a new memorandum from the National Labor Relation Board’s Division of Advice. Employees who don’t disclose where they work can’t be required to post such a disclaimer.
The memorandum supported the policy of a company, U.S. Security Associates, Inc., stating that U.S. Security employees who identified themselves as such on social media “may create the impression of speaking on behalf of” the company. To avoid confusion U.S. Security required employees to include disclaimer stating, “The views expressed on this web site/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of my employer, U.S. Security Associates, Inc.”
The ruling (which has yet to be confirmed by the five-member NLRB board) is a tentative win for companies, following an early ruling by the Federal Trade Commission that anyone speaking about a company online must disclose any material connections with the company; in other words any time an employee talks about their employer on social media, they must also state openly they are employed by that entity.
Putting all the various rules, regulation, and advice together, a McDonalds fry cook who wishes to state on their social media profile that “McDonalds sucks,” must also append a statement reading, “I work for McDonalds” -- and anyone who wishes to say “I work for McDonalds” may now also be required by their employer to include a disclaimer to the effect that these views are their own, and not the views of the McDonalds Corporation.
This is all especially interesting in light of another recent NLRB ruling that “liking” someone else’s comment about your employer is protected speech. Now I guess the question is, if you merely “like” someone else’s comment about your employer (without making any sort of comment on your own social media profile) do you still have to disclose that you are an employee of that company on your own profile?
Of course it’s an open question whether the vast majority of social media users will be aware of, or choose to observe, these rules. At least until their boss tries to fire them.