The ability to publicly express opinions at the touch of a button, thanks
to social media tools such as Twitter, has blurred the lines between
office and out-of-office hours and where the workplace starts and stops.Discussing the associated risks of Twitter for employers and
employees, Norton Rose workplace relations partner Stuart
Kollmorgen warned twittering employees that they need to be aware their out-of-
office tweets could expose them to workplace rules.
“Employees are entitled to their opinions of course, but not to tell the world
their opinion when in doing so they are damaging their employer's interests,”
“There are risks here for employees and employers. Social networking sites
provide a great way for employees to blow off steam. But where does the
workplace start and stop? How the law will deal with this new area is as yet
unknown. I believe that an opinion can be considered work-related if an
employee is stating the opinion about other employees; to other employees; to
anyone in the virtual world who may be following or accessing their opinions,
which are connected to their work or what it is they do.”
Kollmorgen said employees have the option of exercising caution in their
privacy settings but if they do not, and make comments in the above categories,
they are placing their employment at risk.
“Employers should ensure that their current policies are adequate to manage
this new medium. I don't think it will be sustainable to require employees to
leave their devices at the door of the event or not discuss it at all. Rather,
employers should have effective policies that seek to clarify when and how an
employee's opinions, expressed in social networking, impact on the employer.
This will differ from business to business,” he said.
He suggested employers consider creating a policy that requests employees
observe responsibility and respect others when using social networking tools.
“They need to encourage transparency and that may extend to a policy that
requires employees who refer to their workplace in public forums - including
social networking forums - to identify themselves as an employee of the business
they refer to. The employer's policy could include a sanction that failure to
follow the policy guidelines may amount to misconduct,” Kollmorgen said.