Creating Community Guidelines for Union Social Media Groups

Does your Local have a Facebook page? Perhaps a small group of workers have created a closed group where they hope they can chat more freely in a private setting?

It is very important that the group or page administrators create and enforce community conduct guidelines for everyone’s protection.  Nothing on Facebook (or anywhere online) is truly private or safe from sharing, no matter how tightly you try to regulate the participants or the posts of its members.

How can something posted in a private, closed group make its way outside the group? Screenshots are the most common, but even photos with closed sharing restrictions can be downloaded or saved, and shared as easily as any other picture. Online activity may be grounds for dismissal so guidelines and their consistent enforcement are critical.

Here are some considerations when creating your guidelines:

  • Define the purpose of the page or group clearly in a post pinned to the top of the feed.
  • Make sure everyone knows who the page administrators are: provide easy contact info and be quick to respond to private messages flagging risky content. Ask members of the group or page to look out for each other online; if someone sees a questionable post, privately communicating with the poster (if possible) quickly can help minimize risk.
  • Make sure all group/page members know what to expect. If you intend to remove posts, make sure you’re clear in the guidelines about what would trigger the deletion of problem content.

What is problem content?

  • Profanity, offensive or violent language, defamatory comments about individuals or the employer.
  • Trolling; intentionally disrupting or hijacking conversations with abusive talk or off-topic comments.
  • Threats, threatening language, harassing or attacking comments directed at individuals or groups (again, including the employer or manager).
  • Discriminatory statements relating to gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or political beliefs, ability etc.
  • Sexually explicit material or links to sexually explicit material, sexual comments or innuendo.
  • Discussion of illegal activity.
  • Spam etc.
  • Discussion of confidential information relating to a client, patient, co-worker, student etc.
  • Disclosure of business information you should reasonably expect to be confidential or proprietary relating to your employer or place of employment.

Consider who will take over management of the group or page if the original administrators leave, move away etc. An unmonitored page is both a wasted opportunity to communicate and a risk. No matter what guidelines are in place, some people will not play nicely. Be prepared to take action in case of inappropriate activity on the page or within the group. It’s a matter of protection for all who participate in the online community.

 

Community Guideline Examples:

YEU Shop Steward’s Network is a closed Facebook group for our elected Stewards. Here are the guidelines we have posted for that group:

COMMUNITY GUIDELINES; PLEASE READ

This group allows YEU/PSAC Shop Stewards an opportunity to access information specific to the Steward role. This is a good place to share ideas and thoughts with your fellow Stewards to strengthen and support the work.

NOTE: This is not the place to post specific details of ANY grievance or member conversation, confidential information etc. Please make sure you maintain your Oath of Confidentiality in all communications, online and in person.

2 Questions to ask yourself before you post:

  • Does it build Solidarity?
  • Is it respectful?

If the answer to either question is ‘No’, please think of another way to phrase your post that supports the above 2 questions.

Posts may be removed if they are contrary to the spirit of these guidelines.

Members may be removed from the group if they consistently post in such a way.

If you have any questions about the administration of this private group, please contact YEU’s Communications Officer or Shop Steward Coordinator at 867-667-2331.

 

 

Straight Talk: Off Duty Online Harassment may cost your JOB!

cloud-2“OMG – did you see Sarah’s outfit today?  Looks like she got dressed in the dark again!”

“Office romance alert:  it looks like Mr. Shiny-Shoes is cheating on his wife with Ms. Short-Skirts!!”

“All women are cheaters!”

We’ve all heard of cyber-bullying and online harassment through social media.  Did you know that if you engage in harassing behaviour online, you can be disciplined at work?  The rules of your employment don’t end when you go home for the day.  With the rise of social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, what we say online can really affect our working lives.

It doesn’t matter if you’re posting from your home computer long after your work day ends;  if your online behaviour can be linked to your workplace,  your employer may have a legal obligation to make sure you are not harassing your co-workers.  The law says employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe and harassment-free workplace.  That includes ensuring protection from after-hours cyber-bullying.

Ask yourself the following questions to consider whether your online activities may be inviting discipline:

1. Is what you are saying online harassing? Is it critical, mean or overtly personal?
The first thing an employer would have to consider is whether what you said was actually a problem.

~Were your comments about a specific person or could they be reasonably interpreted to be about a specific person?
~Were your comments offensive or bullying in nature (the argument that you were making a joke won’t fly here)?
~Were they discriminatory (were they about a protected ground in the Yukon Human Rights Act)?
~Were your comments objectively inappropriate?

2. Were your comments made in a public forum?
We tend to think of some arenas as private: your kitchen, your car, your Facebook wall….?!

Although there are different levels of privacy on social media, Facebook & Twitter are NOT private.  Even if you post in a private message, your comments could be shared using screen capture or other tools.

If you have made offensive comments that you intended to be seen by a private audience (through a private message on Facebook,  or to a select few followers on Twitter), you could argue that your comments were not made in a public forum.  Proving that your comments were not public would help any argument you would make if your employer disciplines you for online comments. The reality is that once you put something out on the web you lose control of it.

3. Were your comments reasonably connected to work?
If your comments were about a specific person in your workplace, whether you named them or just made it clear who you were talking about, your employer (and co-workers and friends and community members) could reasonably conclude that your comments were connected to the workplace, and therefore have an obligation to act.

If you identify yourself on social media as working in that specific workplace, then your employer may also conclude that any comments you make are related to work and reflect poorly on the employer.  Therefore, they may act to discipline you.

If the answer to any of these questions is YES, your employer may have a legal obligation to discipline you.

It is a complicated issue and there is not enough room here to go into the complexities. In the end, the best thing to remember is DON’T BE MEAN ONLINE!   Not only does it hurt other people, but it could come back to hurt you at work too!

Christie Harper, YEU Union Advisor

Straight Talk: That Facebook status is FOREVER!

What happens on Facebook never stays on Facebook, and the internet is forever. If you beak off on Facebook or Twitter (or any public forum) about your boss, your coworkers, your employer or your workplace you may have broken your contract with your employer. If you are fired (and there’s a strong chance you will be), your union can’t do much for you. More and more frequently in recent years, online “off-gassing” has landed irate employees amongst the ranks of the unemployed.

We hear of more and more cases of workers in Canada being fired for online rants & comments unrelated to their employment but offensive in nature and contrary to the  values of their employer.  While this is a fairly new reality, there are a growing number of cases in which employees have lost their jobs for online comments in public forums. A simple first step is ensuring you don’t have your employer listed anywhere in your social media profiles, but that’s not going to be enough if you post or share confidential workplace information online or share racist, homophobic, misogynistic or otherwise offensive posts.

We are a small community in the Yukon; there are few degrees of separation and the comment you make online anonymously or with a made up name is often far less anonymous than you might wish. 

Closed groups on Facebook are not watertight either;  comments made in a closed online group can be copied, shared, printed, screen shot saved and so on.  The best advice is to avoid mentioning your work or clients online and to be very careful of both your privacy settings and of who you have as Facebook friends. When did you last review your Facebook friends list or your Likes? How about Twitter – who follows you there? With so many new social media platforms it’s easy to lose track of the potential impact your posts could have.

Keep in mind that potential employers can find you on social media just as easily as your 4th grade crush. If you haven’t reviewed your privacy settings lately, you might want to take a few minutes to do just that.

There are lots of places to turn when you have a genuine problem in the workplace. Don’t identify your employer in your profile, keep your work issues OFF your social media pages & out of the press, and keep your privacy settings locked down.

Curious about your employer’s social media policy? Contact your HR department. Call your Union if you need help at work; 667-2331