Many media and tech companies are requiring disclaimers on their employees' Twitter accounts, possibly in the hope that it will shield the company from future lawsuits.
The benefits of requiring such disclaimers may seem obvious. After all, if your employee goes on a politically incorrect Twitter rant that gets retweeted around the world, you probably don't want it associated with your company.
But will requiring a disclaimer for your employees' tweets really protect your business?
Legal Effect of Twitter Disclaimers
Let's start out by dispelling the myth that the average Twitter disclaimers (e.g., "My views do not reflect those of my employer") has next to no legal impact.
These sorts of disclaimers won't shield employees from being fired by a business owner when they tweet unfavorable things about the company. And they certainly don't erase the employer's liability if they're sent on company time, or if the tweets somehow contribute to a hostile work environment, for example.
At most, this disclaimer may inform the public that a company wants to insulate itself from an employee's actions on Twitter. But the damage of associating the employer with those tweets cannot be disclaimed away.
Liability for Employee Tweets
Whether it is an employee posting pictures of unsanitary work conditions or tweeting something unsavory about a co-worker, a business owner can be held liable for employee misconduct.
So if an employee uses Twitter to make inappropriate comments about other employees, then that business may be liable for future harassment suits if proper action is not taken, regardless of what the employee's Twitter disclaimer may say.
Keep in mind also that business owners can be sued for negligent hiring or training of an employee, even when all parties are aware that the employee acted outside of her scope of employment.
Social Media Policy
Having a strong social media policy can help your business avoid lawsuits related to Twitter in ways that a simple disclaimer can't.
A good social media policy will regulate how a business' employees use company property such as computers, mobile devices, and even the Internet, and notify workers that all social media use on company time or property must comply.
Some businesses need their employees to use Twitter, and their policies should reflect that employer Twitter use is limited to work-related activities, so that discipline can be meted out if an employee is inappropriately tweeting on company time. To make sure your policy adequately protects your business, you may want to consult an experienced lawyer near you.
Follow FindLaw for Consumers on Google+.
- With Twitter Disclaimer, You Can Still Get Fired (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Crafting a Social Media Policy for Your Workplace (FindLaw's In House)
- That Disclaimer at Bottom of Your Email is Unenforceable, Lawyers Say (FindLaw's Strategist)
- Is Your Social Media Policy Valid? (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)