Hashtags and Headaches – How Employers Can Best Protect Themselves From Viral TikTok Trends
Person on their phone at work

What’s your social media of choice? Are you into the short form videos on TikTok, or would you rather just post a picture on Instagram? Maybe you prefer old reliable Facebook to keep you informed of what’s happening in your loved ones’ lives. Regardless of your preferred platform, it’s no secret the widespread use and popularity of social media imposes unique challenges for employers.

The increase in influencers, and the desire by younger generations to go “viral” (we’re looking at you, Gen Z!), has completely muddled the line between personal and professional lives. People are documenting every part of their lives, including their workday, for all of the internet to see in daily vlogs. Creators of these “A Day in the Life of…” vlogs risk inadvertently disclosing confidential employer information. Often, these videos contain snippets of workplace meetings or projects. Some employees are going a step further and posting videos doing the latest viral trends while on the clock, with their employer’s name or logo visible or even the unblurred faces of customers and clients.

Another trend, called #QuitTok (or “loud quitting”), involves employees either secretly recording themselves while being terminated by their employer or recording their interactions with their employers while quitting. Other videos under the hashtag involve former employees berating and bashing their former employer while reflecting on their time at the company and publicly airing their grievances.

You may be thinking, “how can employers best protect themselves from the overexposure social media creates?” Here are some ways to protect yourself:

  1. Create and maintain a comprehensive social media policy. The best way for employers to protect themselves is by having a social media policy in place. If the social media portion of your handbook has not been updated since 2013, or even in the past 2-3 years, it’s time to make some changes. Policies should include language that any social media used to harass, discriminate, or bully other employees can result in termination of employment. Clearly define what is considered confidential information or trade secrets, and prohibit the spread of sensitive information on any public platform including on social media.
  2. Limit social media use at work. Limiting social media use in the workplace can help increase employee productivity and decrease potential security risks such as posting confidential information. This can be achieved by banning social media on company issued devices, or preventing access to social media platforms while on company Wi-Fi.
  3. Require the use of disclaimers. Posts should include a disclaimer that the employee is not speaking on behalf of their employer, unless they are expressly authorized to do so.
  4. Have an internal complaint procedure. Having an efficient and accessible internal complaint system and clear procedures to encourage employees to go through internal means instead of taking to the internet to voice work-related complaints.

If you have questions on whether an employee can be reprimanded for content created at the workplace or would like guidance on creating a comprehensive social media policy that adheres to federal and state rules and regulations, contact Bricker Graydon’s Labor and Employment team.

*Mikayla Howard is not yet licensed to practice law.

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