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4 Considerations for Michigan Townships when Managing Employee Tweets, Facebook Live, and Snapchats

March 2019

69% of U.S. adults use at least one social media site, with 88% of all adults under 30 using some form of social media. The advent of social media has done wonders for improving connections and sharing information in an instant. But that has come with a price tag, especially for townships that seek to regulate their employees’ usage of social media.

To equip you with the information you need to know, we’ve outlined 4 considerations for Michigan townships when managing employee tweets, Facebook Live, and Snapchats.

1. Ramifications of disciplinary action

Social media is the new watercooler, and townships need to be prepared to address associated issues. What an employee posts on social media, even if offensive, could be protected by law, and disciplining that employee could expose townships to liability.

2. Social media and unions

77% of workers have reported using social media regardless of workplace policy. Townships who discipline employees for social media activity must be careful that their actions are not motivated by, or appear to be motivated by, an anti-union animus. Employees engaged in protected, concerted activity are protected, even in townships that are not unionized.

3. Employees’ right to talk

Both Federal and Michigan law protect an employee’s right to talk (or complain) about work-related issues with fellow employees, even in the public forum of social media. These laws have different tests for evaluating if conduct is protected, with each test involving multiple factors that need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

4. Free speech and First Amendment rights

Employees also have First Amendment protections for what they post. This right is not unlimited, but townships should not discipline employees unless a specific standard can be met for each instance where the township intends to take action. Social media bans are not acceptable. A social media policy must not overregulate, and should be narrowly tailored to avoid violating employee rights.

While the advent of social media has done wonders for improving connections and sharing information in an instant, townships that seek to regulate their employees’ usage of social media need to be aware of potential legal ramifications. To learn more, join Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes PLC attorneys Helen "Lizzie" Mills for Managing Employee Tweets, Facebook Live and Snapchats on Wednesday, April 3, 2019, 10:15 to 11:30 a.m. at the 2019 Michigan Township Association Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


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