“Let’s go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday” is a quote made famous by Microsoft founder, Bill Gates. This type of thinking, while generating billions of dollars for Mr. Gates, is misguided for today’s employer.

We speak to a number of employers on a daily basis who are attempting to keep up with innovation, without considering the technological changes that have impacted its workplace already. Employers cannot look to tomorrow without protecting itself from the problems of yesterday. Specifically, over the past two decades, the proliferation of texting and social media in the workplace has created a number of problems for employers. Should an employer monitor an employee’s social media use at the office?  What about outside of the office?  Should text messaging be permitted within the workplace?  If problems arise, can an employer use text messages and/or social media posts to support its findings?

Social media and cell-phone usage policies are integral for employers today. Implementing these types of policies allows an employer to set the parameters of what is expected at the workplace while also providing employees with an understanding of what is expected during his or her employment. The policy should be reasonable and realistic. A policy banning texting and social media in the workplace is typically unreasonable in today’s business world. Similarly, prohibiting the usage of texting and social media in the workplace is hardly reasonable for individuals working in digital marketing and media.

An employer should assess its workplace and set reasonable limits on texting and social media usage (i.e. during breaks and lunch) so as to ensure that employees are not being distracted from the business of the company. Employers need to determine whether an employee’s private actions have a bearing on its operations.  If so, an employee’s after-hours texting and/or social media usage can be appropriately subject to discipline.

In addition to a texting and social media policy, an employer should also prepare a discipline policy setting out the various steps of discipline that an employee will be subject to should they violate the employer’s various policies. Having a policy is insufficient. An employer must monitor and enforce its policies. Texting and social media usage in the workplace is a growing concern in every industry and there is no blanket answer that resolves every issue. Employers require a texting and social media policy specific to their company. Similarly, employees need to understand whether these policies are unreasonable.

With years of experience in this ever-changing area of law, we at Whitten & Lublin are happy to provide insight and advice into your specific circumstances. If you’re looking for employment lawyers and would like more information about what Whitten & Lublin can do for you, please contact us online or by phone at (416) 640-2667 today.

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