Board: Give workers more social media freedom

Published On: Jan 30 2013 04:35:18 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 22 2013 06:45:17 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Whether it's on a computer or a phone, it's pretty safe to say countless people check social media websites like Facebook and Twitter several times a day.

But when it comes to posting about work, the water gets muddy. There have been several reports nationally of employees getting fired for posting about their jobs, which leads to the bigger question -- should what people post online be held against them?

"It's very blurry right now," labor and employment lawyer Kevin Hyde said. "That's why we're seeing each case providing a little more clarity, but there really hasn't been a defined set of standards really evolve in the law."

However, new mandates say blanket restrictions about postings online are illegal, and workers have a right to talk about job-related issues freely and without fear of backlash.

Hyde said many labor laws are decades old -- from before the Internet existed -- leaving employers and employees in no man's land.

"The law's far behind. It just doesn't recognize yet different ways that people communicate, messages that are being communicated, how employees and employers are going to deal with these challenges," Hyde said.

Now the National Labor Relations Board, a government-run committee, is ordering bosses to scale back rules that limit what workers can say online. According to an article in the New York Times, labor regulators have declared many restrictions on what a person can or cannot post on their private page illegal.

"I think what everyone wants both employees and employers to have a clear understanding of what the rules actually are," Hyde said.

There are exceptions to every rule, and Hyde said everything's evaluated on a case-by-case basis right now.

Channel 4's social media followers offered their thoughts on what they think about social media and how it should affect their job.

"What business is of my job to know of my private life. It's private and its my choice! Leave it alone," Indy Moran wrote.

"None of my co-workers are Facebook friends, and my page is locked down, so my external exposure is extremely limited," Gary Lambert added.

"My sister got fired from a job because of a post that was taken way out of context," Susie Wilder wrote.

Hyde said despite the new rules, for now, employees should just be careful.

"Best thing an employee can do is step back, and before they hit the send button, think about the messages being communicated," he said. "And if it truly is a disagreement with the employer, speak to the employer first rather than posting it on some type of social media board."

According to the new rulings and regulations, some companies are being forced to rehire workers they fired for what they posted on social media.