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Your employer's social media policy may not be legal

Do you know what your rights are when it comes to posting on social media about your job? Your employer may have a social media policy in place that makes it clear that you can't say anything negative about your company, boss or job.

If so, that policy may be violating the law.

Drafting a policy that fits within the guidelines that the National Labor Relations Board finds acceptable is getting increasingly complex. In particular, that pesky Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act continues to foul up employers because it makes it illegal to prevent you and your fellow employees from participating in "concerted activities" that could mutually aid or protect you or help you band together to bargain.

What counts as a protected concerted activity? Generally, you and your fellow employees enjoy a fairly broad ability to discuss work-related issues, including:

— Your opinions about your working conditions, including the hours, safety and cleanliness of the building

— Your negative assessment of your manager's abilities to be effective

— Your pay, raises, bonuses (or lack thereof) and whatever else you see as unfair

On the other hand, you are not free to simply mock the company, managers, fellow employees or the customers. As an employee, you have the right to your own opinions, but the right to actively express those opinions is limited when it runs counter to your company's interests and could make you ineffective in your position.

For example, if you're a teacher in an expensive private school, referring to a Hispanic student as the "diversity token," could be enough to damage your ability to be an effective role model for your minority students. You may no longer be perceived as someone who gives all your students an equal level of interest and effort regardless of their race or social position.

Keep in mind that a social media policy doesn't have to be enforced to be in violation of the NLRB guidelines and against the law. If you have doubts about the validity of your employer's social media policy, you can seek clarification from an attorney before you post something. If you've already been retaliated against because of a social media post, you should seek the services of an attorney as soon as possible.

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