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Be Careful: Your Boss May Be Reading Your Social Media Posts

Professor Elizabeth Cameron warns that employees who post disparaging comments on social media may be at risk for workplace discipline.

Social media has infiltrated every aspect of modern life, including the workplace. But workers cannot engage in social media activities free from the risk of employment consequences, warns Elizabeth Cameron, professor of business administration at Alma College.

In fact, Cameron concludes in a recent award-winning research paper that since the advent of the Internet, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the courts have adopted a narrow interpretation of the concept of “concerted activity” — the legal term that defines the activities workers may partake in without fear of employer retaliation.

<em>The NLRB has adopted a narrow interpretation of "concerted activity."</em>The NLRB has adopted a narrow interpretation of "concerted activity."“Be careful of what you say on social media,” says Cameron. “Social media posts that constitute unmitigated and unwarranted disparagement of an employer is a valid basis for termination.”

In her study, Cameron cites recent cases that have upheld sanctions imposed on employees for social media posts that customers could find offensive, disparage the employer, reveal client details or ridicule clients, or simply complain about the work itself.

‘Distinguished Paper’ Award

“This narrow interpretation of concerted activity leaves employees at risk for discipline or termination for any social media postings that are not interpreted to be within the definition of concerted activity,” states Cameron. “Employees are advised to use caution and to consider the possibility that their Facebook posts will be noticed by their employers.

“Contrarily, when imposing discipline on employees for social media conduct, the courts have ruled that employers must exercise restraint to avoid sanctioning subtle expressions of protected concerted activity, such as the ‘like’ election on a Facebook page.”

Cameron’s research received the 2017 MBAA Distinguished Paper Award from the Midwest Academy of Legal Studies in Business (MALSB). The award was presented in March 2017 at the MBAA International Conference, attended by 800 business faculty from around the world.

Her paper, “How the NLRB’s Decisions Involving Social Media Cases Are Narrowing the Definition of Concerted Activity … Whether We ‘Like’ It or Not,” was co-authored with Jessica A. Magaldi and Jonathan Sales from Pace University. The papers submitted for the competition were double blind reviewed. This was the second time that Cameron has received this award.

The paper has been accepted for publication in the University of Toledo Law Review, Vol. 49, Winter 2018.

‘Master Teacher’ Designation

Also at the MBAA International Conference, Cameron was named the 2017 MALSB Master Teacher for her presentation on “Engaging Techniques for Teaching Millennials Business Law—The Impact of Using Diverse Learning Strategies.”

Assisting with the presentation were Alma College business administration students Elizabeth Blasius, Roscommon junior; Olivia Connors, Bay City junior; Ben Feliczak, Manistee junior; Kylie Hamilton, Grand Rapids senior; Brooks Hyble, Mount Pleasant junior; and Mika Obrecht, Howell junior.

“I brought along six students so that I could demonstrate a real classroom and what I really do,” says Cameron. “The presentation addressed the question of how students learn, suggested teaching ideas for varied learning styles and emphasized the importance of reaching every kind of learning style in the classroom.”

Learning styles include aural (auditory-musical), visual (spatial), verbal (linguistic), physical (kinesthetic), logical (mathematical), social (interpersonal) and solitary (intrapersonal).

“Faculty who incorporate diverse learning styles through the semester will find that fewer students will be left behind,” says Cameron.

This is the second time that Cameron has received the MALSP Master Teacher recognition.

Story published on May 05, 2017