Home > Enterprise 2.0 > The legal side of enterprise 2.0

The legal side of enterprise 2.0

The internet has created a new channel for many damaging events to occur to businesses. Some of these risks include the businesses reputation being in jeopardy and “secrets” being leaked. Many of these risks are mitigated via policies and contracts. However there are occasions when the boundary is crossed.

There are currently laws that protect employees from employers punishing them for actions outside of working hours. The exception to this is if the worker is somehow representing the company.

In the past this was fairly easily controlled, and there were rarely issues regarding this. However with the high popularity of social networking sites, employees are “more” likely to cross these boundaries.

Using a supermarket as an example, at first glance you would not identify many issues surrounding social network systems. However, the grocery industry is extremely competitive these days and the weekly specials are ultimately what gets the customers in the doors. These specials are obviously finalised weeks before so that stock can be ordered and advertising media produced. This leads to the risk of the specials being leaked, and therefore giving competitors an advantage. [1]

Although most employees would obviously not release these details intentionally, it is possible that they simply post something similar to this on Facebook: “OMG! I am so getting some Tim Tams at the end of the month, $1 each at IGA!!!”. Although it is not aimed at helping the competitor, they are simply letting their friends know that they should wait to get a treat. However it is possible for the competitor to gain this information and therefore counter the offer. It is questionable what the employer should do in this situation. There would of course be disciplining involved, however is this something they should be dismissed over?

Another issue faced by employers is employees publishing information that bad mouths other employees, the business or even customers. It has been reported that there have been many facebook groups setup that set out to specifically target bad customers. These actions are indeed damaging to a company and should be acted upon by business [2].

When it comes to facebook groups, to what extent does a business have the right to discipline and dismiss its employees? For example, there was a group title “I work at Woolworths and it’s hurting my mental health” that had 1294 members. Obviously Woolworths would do all in its power to remove the group, however who do you punish? Obviously the person who made it (most likely a past employee), they can be sued for damaging allegations against the business. However, do you discipline everyone in the group … all 1294 members? In most cases I would believe that only the dominant group members will be directly dealt with, and a general notice sent out warning others that it is unacceptable behaviour. [2]

Realistically it is hard for companies to actively monitor and control such events as above. However policies are put forward to employees to outline the consequences of their actions if they do participate in such activities. These policies give companies the power to dismiss their employees for unacceptable behaviour, however in many cases it doesn’t stop them from doing it.

[1] http://www.headshift.com/blog/2010/01/how-to-sell-social-media-in-yo.php

[2] http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/shoppers-off-their-trolley/story-e6frf7kx-1111118619675

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Categories: Enterprise 2.0
  1. August 22, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    A grey area it is, especially when you start considering where to start prosecution or disciplinary action in cases where violations occurred outside work hours. Like you said even with policies we still see it happening and it’s extremely difficult to monitor, so where does it leave the enterprise?

  2. August 23, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    Indeed, it is a very interesting subject. Realistically businesses can’t monitor all their employees facebook pages (by law they don’t have special access) nor can they monitor all social media channels. So, that leaves them with the power of word of mouth. If someone does something against the companies policies, the boss will eventually find out if it is that “good” (or bad for the company). When I say good, I mean it is something to talk about because it is so rebellious. Which therefore means it will most probably be punishable.

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