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Facebook Sets New Rules for Workplace Communication to Ease Social, Political Debates

Facebook, with the support of the Office of Government Ethics and the U.S. General Services Administration, recently announced a new guidance document to employers regarding the use of its Workplace platform as a way to address concerns regarding work-life conflict and conversations about work-related matters.

As a second-party Workplace platform platform, Facebook’s social and community tools have helped millions of people — including employees at thousands of employers — connect with others, make connections, and share knowledge and experiences.

While the tool has been used to create bonds between colleagues and build confidence, the company has been challenged with these scenarios: one of my coworkers asked about how to remove a life-size portrait of the president and another asked if someone can sue Trump after she got fired for refusing to accept her pink slip.

These conversations may have fostered healthy conversations, but Facebook has established some guidelines that help administrators address them without having to break the law. The examples in the guidelines are by no means exhaustive, but illustrate how Facebook could help employers and employees reduce the risk of violating federal laws.

“Employers have an important interest in the integrity of the workplace environment and we encourage them to use the resources provided in this guidance,” said Shantanu Kuvadia, Facebook Workplace product manager. “This is an important step in our shared efforts to help people maintain workplace trust and encourage productive communications across organizations.”

The new guidelines emphasize the importance of engaging employees in workplace discussions consistent with the responsibilities of employers. Employees should be asked permission to discuss work-related matters with other Facebook employees or outside partners if they have access to data on Facebook and if they are deemed to have informal contact with Facebook information, tools, or servers. Workers should not disclose, share, promote, post, or disseminate information or facilitate discussion relating to their work without approval from their employer.

Employers should support employees with anonymous questions and concerns that require an action to respond in a timely manner. Employees should only use the platform for work-related conversations and ensure that work-related content is produced and published in a manner consistent with appropriate work-related conduct.

Employers should consider the complete context of the question or issue before responding. Examples include looking for work that can be moved to hours or days later and asking your employees to revise their schedules or asking your employees to remove information in the workplace.

Like Facebook’s Social Help pages, Workplace Platform Profiles offer employees tools to manage and archive information, experiences, or concerns about how Facebook and Workplace work or the company’s policies surrounding work-related communications.

“Employers need clear communication about the use of our work-sharing platform and what happens to employee content unless employees consent to sharing it,” said Jorge Aguilar, director of public policy, Workplace. “Employers can now use these guidance to provide consistent, secure ways for employees to question, share, collaborate, and connect around the workplace, while protecting our community and the safety of our employees.”

Facebook also helped OGE promulgate the Employee Statement of Rights and Responsibilities.

The Federal Employees Information Privacy Act (FEIPA) prohibits employers from using restricted or non-permissible communications of the federal employee and prohibits employers from placing restrictions on an employee’s use of the federal employee information technology system unless other employer conduct would reasonably be expected to cause a reasonably substantial risk of a serious harm to the employee’s employment, including, but not limited to, privacy rights.

The General Services Administration issued guidance for federal employees that outlines the practices and privacy expectations applicable to social media accounts of federal employees and their families, including access for national security purposes.

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