Social Media Law: Keep Office Dirt Offline (Or Risk A Lawsuit)!

HR employment social media
It’s rarely a good idea to post about HR issues on social media.

A few weeks back, Yelp! (“Yelp”) had an online spat with an ex-employee. The incident got messy — and history will probably remember it as a Yelp social media faux pas. But right now, the incident serves as a reminder to startups and businesses:

Be careful what you post online about internal events — both financial- and HR-related.

Keep HR Matters OFF Social Media

In recent months, Yelp employees have clocked the company with a few PR blows. Some punches backfired on the would-be whistleblowers, but recently, Yelp may have miscalculated its response to a disgruntled ex-employee over social media.

The Incident: Employee Trashes Yelp After Being Let Go

A single mother — recently hired then fired from Yelp — took to Medium.com and vented her frustrations. According to the former Yelper, her pink slip was payback for requesting unpaid leave to be with her ICU-suffering, brain-injured partner who was hanging on to life by a thread after a serious accident.

Yelp, however, had a different story. According to them:

“Yelp employs thousands of people and provides new job opportunities to hundreds each year. We provide extensive training and significant benefits to our employees, as well as guidance for those with performance issues.

“Unfortunately, we had to part ways with [Name Redacted] due to repeated absences (10 of her 59 workdays with Yelp) despite many exceptions to accommodate her needs. We provided multiple, documented warnings and ongoing performance counseling specifically related to reliability and attendance issues. Sadly, this role was not a good fit. We wish her the best.”

How do we know this is Yelp’s official version? Like many millions, we read it on the company’s Twitter feed.

Did Yelp Mess Up By Airing HR Issues On Social Media?

Since the former Yelp employee submitted a digital mountaintop to tell the world about her termination, Yelp probably has very little to worry about, legally speaking. Some pundits hypothesize that Yelp may have violated California’s privacy law, but it’s a stretch.

The consensus? Yelp may have leapt over a decorum boundary, but probably not a legal one.

Are You Staying Within Social Media Marketing Bounds?

As of now, this dustup seems to have dissipated (though the employee has since challenged the accuracy of Yelp’s statement — so a potential defamation lawsuit may be on the horizon). But for now, this incident should serve as a warning.

A warning for what, you ask?

A warning to keep HR discussions off social media.

It’s just not wise. No matter how unjustified the accusations, businesses should strive to take the high road — for reasons both PR-related and practical. Not only is employment law complicated, and airing dirty laundry could get you into trouble in some instances, but in situations like this Yelp incident, the optics veer towards a Goliath trying to beat up a beleaguered, but righteous, David.

Make Sure You’re In the Social Media Marketing Clear

Are you absolutely, positively, 100% sure your online marketing efforts are above the regulatory board? Do you properly hashtag your promotional tweets and ‘grams? Do your affiliates (because believe it or not, you may be responsible for their actions, too)?

Our team has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs, startups and established businesses reach their sales goals by ensuring they could push the limits without crossing the legal line. Let’s chat about your social media marketing campaign; we may be able to help protect assets and boost profits.

Article Sources

Townsend, Tess. “Yelp’s Tweet About Fired Employee Could Spell Legal Trouble.” Inc.com. Web. 18 Apr. 2016. <http://www.inc.com/tess-townsend/yelp-tweet-raises-concerns-privacy-defamation.html>.

“An Open Letter To My CEO.” Medium. 2016. Web. 18 Apr. 2016. <https://medium.com/@taliajane/an-open-letter-to-my-ceo-fb73df021e7a#.1tmd3gsdr>.

Bariso, Justin. “Another Disgruntled Yelp Employee Took to Medium to Complain. And Then This Happened.” Inc.com. 3 Mar. 2016. Web. 18 Apr. 2016. <http://www.inc.com/justin-bariso/another-open-letter-to-yelp-reveals-the-companys-biggest-problem.html>.

Townsend, Tess. “Yelp’s Tweet About Fired Employee Could Spell Legal Trouble.” Inc.com. 2 Mar. 2016. Web. 18 Apr. 2016. <http://www.inc.com/tess-townsend/yelp-tweet-raises-concerns-privacy-defamation.html>.

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