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Do You Have a Weiner at Work?

Representative Anthony Weiner’s Internet indiscretions have become fodder for clever tabloid headlines and late night comedy sketches (even we have joined the fun).  With a couple of clicks on his smartphone, Representative Weiner posted a picture of his crotch (intended for a female fan) on the World Wide Web.  We can all chuckle and shake our heads, but what if you were Mr. Weiner’s employer?  What if one of your top salespeople or executives was caught in a string of embarrassing tweets, Facebook posts, or perhaps worse…YouTube videos?  Here are some tips to help you minimize the risk of a workplace Wienergate:

  1. Develop a social media policy.  Given the prevalence of social media, this is an absolute must.  But with the National Labor Relations Board scrutinizing policies in search of labor violations, employers should have their policies drafted or reviewed by qualified labor and employment counsel to ensure compliance.
  2. Train management to spot social media issues.  Often supervisors don’t know what to do when they hear about an employee’s embarrassing off-duty, on-line conduct.  Many may think, “it didn’t happen at the company, so it’s none of my business.”  Other supervisors, in an attempt to be a company hero, may engage in inappropriate (or even illegal) attempts to investigate the employee’s actions (e.g., impersonating a friend to gain access to the offending post).  Training supervisors and managers to be aware of what’s going on and to respond appropriately is crucial to minimizing a scandal and avoiding allegations of company misconduct.
  3. Consider contract language for high-profile employees.  Many executives and other high-profile employees have employment agreements which allow for termination or forfeiture of benefits in the event of workplace misconduct.  However, their agreements often don’t address off-duty, but equally damaging, activities.  Since many of the concerns applicable to company-wide social media policies don’t apply to agreements with management-level employees, you should consider including a provision addressing on-line or other off-duty misconduct.  Obviously, you should consult your labor and employment counsel to help draft such language.

While you may have a Weiner at work, by being proactive, you can keep him (or her) from embarrassing you and tarnishing your company’s image.

Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with state and federal employment laws including privacy laws.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.965.0560.