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What to Do Before Your Employees' Gossip Goes Viral

"By banning social media, the company is keeping its employees stuck in 20th century ways of working that may not benefit the company long term," she adds.

I've heard that laws and perceptions on social media in the workplace are changing. What's on the horizon?

"The law is shifting rapidly on employer options when employees slam their boss, workplace or product service," Clarke says. "Generally speaking, employers have more flexibility to prohibit and punish product and service criticism, but less ability to prevent claims of perceived mistreatment, low pay or a bad manager."

In the past couple of years, the National Labor Relations Board has issued three reports on employee use of social media and the potential for an employer to commit an unfair labor practice by relying on information from the employee's social media account, Rainone says.

"For example, if one employee uses her Facebook account to post negative comments about working conditions, and another employee simply "likes" the posting, the two employees are arguably engaged in protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act," he says.

If you were to discipline or terminate the employees for such an activity, you might be committing an unfair labor practice and be issued an administrative charge for such action by the NLRB, Rainone cautions.

"Like most other employment issues, the law is unsettled and it is on the radar of administrative agencies like the NLRB," Rainone says.

But no matter what laws take shape in future, employers should have a policy in place addressing social media usage. That policy should be reviewed by an employment attorney that understands not only the law, but also the mechanics of how different social media platforms work.