Q. An employee has brought to my attention that another employee seems to be spending much of the workday posting to a social media site, to the point where he could conceivably be spending at least three to four hours a day doing something other than work. Apparently, the website doesn’t require being someone’s “friend” to see their social media activity. Is it OK if I sign up with the site to monitor his use?
A. You should refer to your social media policy to determine whether the employee’s suspected activity is a violation of company policy. If it is, you have a legitimate business reason to monitor the employee’s use of computer time during working hours for purposes of determining whether an employee is spending work time on personal business.
You should refrain from reading any content that is clearly personal, and focus on the amount of time that the employee is spending on nonwork-related activity. Be mindful to administer any discipline you might decide to impose in a way that is consistent and equal with how you have treated other employees in the past.
If the employee’s postings are work-related—such as complaints about her job, working conditions, pay, etc.—this may constitute “protected activity” under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Any discipline because of these postings could be considered a violation of the NLRA. In that case, you should consult with your attorney before taking any disciplinary action against this employee.