Social Media FirestormSocial media issues in 2014 certainly had a significant impact when it came to employment law issues. And these issues will continue into 2015. But social media issues are not limited to front line employees. Instead, they need to be addressed at every level of the organization – including owners.

Take for example a Metro Detroit business owner and his company who ended up at the center of a social media firestorm. Here’s the cliff-note version: Following the shooting of New York police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, the owner of Detroit BBQ Company, Tim Idzikowski, posted on his personal Facebook page the following:

How many times did they think they were going to kick the hornets nest before they got stung? These guys ‘can’t breathe’ now either.

In doing so, Mr. Idzikowski drop-kicked his own hornets’ nest. It is being reported that following this post a Detroit police officer saw the message and then published Idzikowski’s phone number to a forum. Mr. Idzikowski has since received death threats and an onslaught of angry phone messages. And his business is allegedly facing a boycott and one business partner has since cut ties with Detroit BBQ – Kuhnhenn Brewing Company announced it will stop using it to cater at its Warren location.

Finally, Detroit BBQ is seeing a significant increase in negative Facebook and Yelp reviews since Mr. Idzikowski’s Facebook posting was made: In a span of 24 hours the Detroit BBQ Company’s Facebook page received over 50 negative reviews).

Social Media Take-Aways for Employers and Business Owners

“Traditionally” employee social media issues often arise in the following areas:

  • Drafting narrowly-tailored social media policy protecting your legitimate business interests that won’t run afoul of the NLRB’s concern about having an overbroad and undefined terms that may chill your employees from engaging in protected concerted activity; 
  • Leveraging the benefits of the publically available online information about applicants to get the best and brightest, while minimizing the chance your business doesn’t learn “too much” information that could open the doors for a discrimination claim; and
  • Balancing the need to monitor what goes on in your company’s workplace and employees’ privacy rights. 

And these issues will continue to play a significant role in employment law compliance and litigation. But business organizations need to make sure their social media risks management extend to all levels of the company – front line employees, managers – C-Suite executives, and owners. Otherwise you may find the business is trending for all the wrong reasons, which can threaten, or worse, your entire business.

As one who frequently makess it a point to enjoy the perks of being at the top of the food chain, Detroit BBQ’s social media missteps is unfortunate because it is very respectable BBQ. But whether that is enough to overcome the current social media firestorm it faces remains to be scene. 

For more information about protecting your business against social media legal risks, contact attorney Jason M. Shinn.