App is reminder to employers

Patricia Nemeth, an attorney with Nemeth Burwell, P.C., a Detroit-based law firm exclusively serving employers in the areas of labor and employment law, says Twitter's new social media app, Vine, should put social media policies back on employers' radar.

Introduced in January and gaining popularity ever since, Vine allows users to create and post six second videos which can be shared or embedded on social networking services such as Twitter and Facebook. While the basic functionality of the new app is no different than other video and social media tools previously available, the simplicity of the video is.

The Vine app uses a smart phone camera to record the six second video simply by capturing picture images and the audio file. The ability to record and post a video for the world to see through an incredibly simple application like this raises numerous issues in the workplace; a quick search using Vine's search engine populates a multitude of videos of employees at work either griping about their boss, their job or just being bored.

Nemeth warns that workplace footage could include sound or images that negatively impact employers.

"Imagine an employee posting a short video they took while at work that accidentally reveals a trade secret or confidential business information in the background," said Nemeth. "In addition to the obvious issues, this seemingly innocent footage could impact everything from the company's sexual harassment and anti-discrimination policies to raising privacy concerns for those people who do not wish to share their work experience with the world."

While social media policies are not one size fits all, periodic and full review of employment policies and protocols is necessary to keep up with the ever changing social media landscape, according to Nemeth.

"It's important to make sure the social media policy, as with any policy, is communicated to every employee and supervisor, and also provides notice to employees that certain behaviors will not be tolerated," said Nemeth.

While implementation, review and revision of social media policies may not offer absolute protection, social media policies that are expansive enough to encompass changing technology and software, while not running afoul of the law, are critical.

"In an era of increasingly pervasive social media use, employers must be mindful of the balancing act required between protecting the company and the employee's individual right to engage in certain workplace discussions on social media," said Nemeth.

Published: Thu, Jun 27, 2013