Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites have been a fact of life for nearly a decade. Everyone from high-school students to retirees use the sites to keep in touch with friends, network with colleagues, and talk about their personal lives. Even as social media became an integral part of finding new customers, interacting with clients, and marketing products and services, many legal departments lagged behind in considering how it could impact their clients' risk profiles.
But with a series of aggressive actions over the past several years, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) shone a spotlight on the need for legal departments to catch up to the changing times. Following the NLRB's 2010 decision in In re: Hispanics United of Buffalo, which established that employees’ chatter on Facebook about dissatisfaction at work could be a protected activity, the board’s acting general counsel set a sweeping agenda with a series of actions aimed squarely at challenging companies’ social media policies. And the board isn’t waiting for companies to use the policies to terminate or discipline workers. It is proactively challenging employers’ policies even before they’re put into effect.