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NLRB Invalidates Costco's Social Media Policy

By Andrew Lu on September 20, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) officially weighed in on corporate social media policies for the first time by invalidating Costco's policy.

The NLRB has issued several reports regarding the agency's thoughts on social media policies. But the Costco decision is the first time the board actually issued a decision, reports Inside Counsel.

And the decision may be bad news for many companies, as you may get sent back to the drawing board to develop a policy that would pass NLRB's muster.

The NLRB invalidated Costco's social media policy, because it found it to be overly broad, reports Inside Counsel. The policy prohibited Costco employees from making statements on social media that could damage the company or other employees' reputations. The board found that this policy could chill employees' free speech rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

However, the board's decision does not offer any guidance on how Costco could have properly drafted its policy.

Generally, the NLRA protects employees subject to a collective bargaining agreement and these employees' rights to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with each other. Costco apparently violated this protection with its social media policy that prohibited all potentially damaging statements on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.

So how can a company ensure compliance with the NLRB while posting a valid social media policy? That's going to be a difficult task you may have to outsource to an experienced employment attorney. Without an NLRB ruling upholding a social media policy, companies will be guessing as to which policies can withstand review and which can't.

Of course, it's important to remember that some employees not in a union are not affected by the NLRB's decision. So the NLRB's decision may have little bearing on your policymaking. Still, you may want to consult with an employment attorney to review your policies and see if you the NLRB's decision has any bearing on you.

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