The information technology services firm 3C Network Consultants (3CNC), with collaboration from the Romano Law Group, helped local business leaders understand the legal implications of social media at a seminar Sept. 27.
Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogs, along with other popular social media, are all forms of technology gateways woven into the business environment. However, they introduce liability and expose companies to new and evolving risks.
To bring awareness to our community, the Sept. 27 “Lunch & Learn” provided a broad overview of the legal implications of social media.
Social media is a great communication tool, but for a business, it can affect human resources, be used as evidence in litigation and, in some situations, criminal liability can arise from the use of it.
“Business leaders can face legal ramifications if employees illegally download copyrighted material at work, post inappropriate or offensive content from a company-linked username, badmouth a company or clients on personal blogs, or use other forms of social media to discriminate against or harass fellow employees or clients,” attorney Dustin Herman explained.
Employees’ expectations of privacy on their office computers, phones or in their e-mail and social media profiles create exposure for a business.
“Employers need to have company policies and procedures in place that are written specifically for e-mail, Internet and other social media usage,” Herman said. “They should be constantly updated to accommodate changes in technology and reinforced on a consistent basis.”
Employees should be clear on what is permissible in social media and what is not. Companies should also address the ramifications if employees do not comply. Reviews of policies and procedures should occur once or twice a year to ensure due diligence. Herman cited several case examples. “People often post things online without thinking it through,” he said. “Responsible online behavior should be emphasized as much as responsible e-mailing. All that information is discoverable and can lead to liability.”
Misuse of social media by employees can make companies liable, added attorney Corey Friedman.
“As a general rule, employers are vicariously liable for the acts of their employees so long as the employee’s act was committed during the course and scope of employment,” he said. “Having filters or blockers on the company’s network, as well as examining the activity of employees online to assess for abuse, will minimize a company’s exposure.”
Another consideration for employers is to closely monitor networks to avoid leaks, spam, client privacy violations or inappropriate messages. “This could be monitored through the information technology services that are offered by 3CNC,” Friedman noted.
The attorneys also recommended counseling employees on appropriate and inappropriate use or behavior while affiliated with the company. Employees should recognize that any affiliation adds culpability to the company. This extends to computer use, cell phones and company logo apparel.
The attorneys said the key is to have, and enforce, an acceptable Internet use and e-mail policy. The law does not make employers the insurers for every action of their employees, but a company can be held responsible for their employees’ misconduct — even if it is outside the course and scope of employment — if the company had a duty to supervise the employee and it knew or should have known about the behavior. The attorneys urged employers to protect themselves by being proactive.
Chick-Fil-A and Edmund James Salon, both in Wellington, helped sponsor the seminar.
ABOVE: (L-R) 3CNC owner and CEO Sergio Fernandez, 3CNC Vice President Maria Fernandez, Romano Law Group attorneys Corey Friedman and Dustin Herman, 3CNC Business Development Manager Berta Ebersole and 3CNC Marketing Director Jack Hernandez.