Employees at one state agency should think twice before chatting away on their blogs, Facebook pages and other forms of social networking because the boss is watching - - even on your off time
Wyman Winston, the Executive Director at the Wisconsin Housing Economic Development Authority, (WHEDA, or "the Authority"), sent employees a "Dear Colleagues" memo on March 2nd, at 4:57 PM, about WHEDA's two-page "Social Media and Communications Policy."
The memo does not explicitly say whether it's a new policy, but does not reference an earlier one.
The policy is full of common sense tips and guidelines about how and why social media formats and sites should be respectfully and professionally used to further the agency mission.
But as early as the third paragraph, Winston lets employees know that Big Brother is watching, even during off-work hours "at any time and for any reason" with wide latitude about topics.
"All electronic communications and postings via social media channels that discuss the Authority or Authority-related matters will be subject to monitoring or search by WHEDA at any time and for any reason, regardless of whether created during or outside work time."The policy warns employees not to post information that violates agency confidentiality requirements, or could be construed as "offensive or harassing" regarding a person's racial, sexual orientation, religion, gender, age and "other characteristics protected by law."
But the next section makes clear that monitored and forbidden postings are very broadly defined, with wiggle room about relevancy on management's side:
When communicating or posting online about WHEDA or Authority-related matters it is unacceptable to communicate or post information that defames WHEDA, its employees or customers or casts WHEDA in a negative light. While your activities outside of work are generally your business, public comments that negatively affect the Authority, its employees or customers will not be tolerated.At the end, after more prohibitions and suggestions, such as "Don't pick fights"...don't alter previous posts without indicating that you have done so...Respect your audience and your coworkers...Be thoughtful about how you present yourself in online social networks..."[the bold facing is WHEDA's] the policy reinforces the hammer:
All electronic communications and postings via social media channels that discuss the Authority or Authority-related matters will be subject to monitoring and/or search by WHEDA at any time and for any reason, regardless of whether created during or outside work time. When online networking affects an employee's job performance, the performance of others or the Authority's business interests, the Authority will respond as necessary, regardless of whether the information was posted during or outside of work. Therefore, employees may not maintain an expectation of privacy with respect to public, online communications involving the Authority or Authority-related matters.Now I'm not a lawyer, but I would think that free-speech protections in the State and US constitutions, the National Labor Relations Act and whistle-blower statutes would limit the out-of-office, off-working time reach in the policy.
Violation of this policy may result in discipline up to and including termination of employment.
A cursory Internet search yields one legal discussion that mentions Wisconsin's strengths in these areas.