Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Facebook At Work: What's The Worst That Could Happen?

So Facebook came out with a yuge announcement that it has a brand new social platform in beta testing called "Facebook At Work." I know, huh? I gasped when I saw this announcement and if you've been doing employment law as long as I have (since dinosaurs roamed), you probably gasped too.

What the heck is Facebook thinking? Well, I know what they're thinking. They're thinking $$$$$. I'm thinking potential disaster. But there's more. Here's what Facebook says about this app:
Workplace gives users access to familiar features like Facebook Live video, Groups, Messenger, and a News Feed, but these Workplace accounts are separate from traditional personal Facebook accounts. The service is meant to help facilitate productive workplace discussion – similar to the popular communications tool Slack – rather than offering a chance zone out at your desk.

Workplace also offers a separate Work Chat app that can be downloaded for iOS and Android devices.

For those looking to connect with contacts in other companies, the service will also offer Multi-Company Groups, which are being called “shared spaces that allow employees from different organizations to work together.” These groups will be rolling out over the course of the next few weeks.
I just have to laugh so I won't bang my head against a wall, which my doctors would definitely frown on. I've written about how Facebook firings are rampant. Let's just talk about some possible disasters that could come from this before your company jumps on this bandwagon to hell:

  • Sexual harassment: How many cases have there been of social media sexual harassment? Too many to count. Yes, you can get accused of sexual harassment for posting museum photos of nude statues, passing on "funny" cartoons or making jokes about politics this season. And yes, employers, if this activity occurs on your social media platform guess who will be responsible? (Hint: it's you). On the other hand, social media can be used against sexual harassment victims too.
  • Race, national origin and other discrimination: Jokes about Bin Laden, Obama and Canadians abound on social media. What do you think will happen when they start circulating on your company social media platform? Who is going to police that? Because someone had better be watching carefully. As to employees, you can't treat Facebook At Work like your regular social media. 
  • Disability discrimination: Social media is a great way to find out more about your employees. Like whether they have a disability or a family member with a disability. And once you find out, what will happen when you try to fire them for poor performance? Nothing good.
  • NLRA: If employees criticize their workplace, working conditions or boss on this or any other social media, they are probably protected. Office gossip? Possibly protected. But there are some posts that can get you fired, so there's a fine line. And if you try to prohibit such discussions in the handbook, you may get slapped by NLRB.
There are lots of ways social media can go wrong already. And with millennials entering the workforce, we have workers who put their entire lives on display.

I'd think long and hard and consult with a management-side employment lawyer before using this new app in a workplace.

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I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.