Review Internet Policy Before Losing Your Shirt

Former U.S. Representative Christopher Lee

Former U.S. Representative Christopher Lee (via Gawker)

Thankfully for him, U.S. Representative Christopher Lee (pictured to the right via Gawker) had the good sense to resign within just a few hours of his shirtless photo/response earlier this week to a personal ad becoming the lead story in both gossip pages and major media outlets.  Lee may just have meant to send a simple, flirty email.  But he wound up being embarrassed and losing his job.  
What does this have to do with strategic public relations or investor relations, you may be asking?
The incident serves as another cautionary tale about  how easily personal information can find itself in unintended hands due to the power and immediacy of electronic media.  In our world, this incident and others should serve as reminders for companies to review their social networking and Internet posting policies.
In one recent lawsuit between the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and American Medical Response (AMR) of Connecticut, NLRB alleged that AMR illegally fired an employee for posting critical remarks about her boss on Facebook.  The NLRB said AMR’s Internet policy, which prohibited employees from, among other things, making disparaging comments when discussing the company or superiors, was overly broad and interfered with employees’ right to free speech.
AMR settled the case, agreeing to relax its rules.  But companies should review their policies to determine whether they interfere with employees’ protected first amendment rights, including the right to discuss wages, hours and working conditions with fellow employees or others.



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