A Social Media Nightmare?
The CU Times recently reported on the misfortunes of $1 billion Max Credit Union in Alabama. An employee is suspected of posting information about a members’ negative balance to a social media site accompanied by the hashtag “perks of my job.”
The credit union’s misfortune underscores just how important it is to have a comprehensive social media policy that not only clearly explains appropriate employee conduct but addresses the amount of public access your credit union wants to grant to its own website.
As regular readers of this blog know, the National Labor Relations Board has been on a crusade for several years now to protect the rights of employees, be they unionized or not, to utilize social media to engage in concerted activity to discuss workplace concerns. Earlier this year the NLRB ruled that the same type of protections also applied to employees discussing workplace issues using a company’s email system.
Would you be prepared if what happened to Max happened at your credit union?
How would you go about disciplining the employee? The good news is that even the NLRB recognizes that the disclosure of confidential member information is not a concerted activity for which employees are protected, For example, in a 2012 memorandum opinion it upheld a pharmaceutical company’s policy prohibiting discussion of proprietary issues by employees using social media because an employee “ would reasonably understand that this rule was intended to protect the privacy interests of the Employer’s customers and not to restrict Section 7 protected communications. ” Similarly your credit union should have a narrowly drawn policy prohibiting the dissemination of member information.
This is obvious enough but let’s say your credit union is victimized by an employee disclosure and one of your loan officers responds with a post on his Facebook page saying that “while the disclosure of personal information is foolish, Let’s face it, the credit union’s standards are so low now that anyone who breathes can get a loan or open an account.” An irate member brings the post to the credit union’s attention saying it’s disparaging and demands the credit union discipline the employee.
This is the type of concerted activity that you better hold your fire on and talk to your attorney about before taking any action. On the one hand deteriorating underwriting standards are clearly a matter of workplace concern. On the other hand, the post does suggest that many members at the credit union have bad credit. Is it protected speech? In my hypothetical you are going to want to know the context in which the comments were made and whether other people responded by expressing similar concerns. When it comes to disciplining someone based on social media comments these are the types of questions you should be asking yourself.
So far I have been talking about your ability to regulate employee conduct when they are using their own social media. In the case of the Alabama credit union more than 60 comments have been posted to the credit union’s website some of them defending it. Has your credit union ever discussed the parameters of public access to its website or Facebook page? Remember you don’t have to give anyone the authority to post comments and you certainly can screen comments before publication. Conversely pretending an event hasn’t happened is a lousy PR strategy in an age when news about any credit union can make national headlines within hours. Regardless of the size of your credit union I would personally discuss what your social media strategy is and will be should you be faced with an embarrassing disclosure.
Here is a link to the article and the NLRB ruling to which I was referring.