Sewickley Borough staffers given social media policy

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:09 p.m.

Sewickley Borough staffers now are required to follow social-media guidelines after council members approved the policy addition last month.

All borough employees and Village Green Partners, a Sewickley-based nonprofit that markets the borough — are covered under the policy, which suggests ways to be respectful and to resolve work-related complaints, such as speaking directly to co-workers.

Manager Kevin Flannery said the social-media policy outlines what borough officials expect of employees.

“All we did was provide some guidelines,” Flannery said.

The policy states that using social media can be fun and rewarding but can present risks and carries with it certain responsibilities.

Posts such as discriminatory remarks, harassment, threats of violence and disclosing confidential information could result in disciplinary action, including termination.

“Inappropriate or unlawful conduct will not be tolerated,” the policy states.

The popularity of blogs; forums; and social-media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, have many companies taking precautions by instituting new policies.

“It's the prudent thing to do,” said Sewickley Mayor Brian Jeffe, whose added that his company has its own social-media policy.

Jeffe said the borough's policy teaches people how to use social media to his or her advantage while protecting the private nature of a public entity.

The policy asks employees to refrain from using social media on work time or equipment and never to express opinions on behalf of the borough.

Flannery said there haven't been any specific incidents with borough employees. He said the borough's employee committee looked at the policy and suggested adopting one.

“Most places don't want you trashing the place where you are employed,” Flannery said.

A study released Friday shows that misuse of social media in the workplace has increased. The 2014 global survey on social media in the workplace by Proskauer Rose found the number of businesses with policies increased from 60 percent last year to 80 percent.

Other local municipalities, such as Leetsdale, have adopted similar policies.

Leetsdale Solicitor Megan Ott said many of these policies began popping up over the past two years, mainly to address employee use of social media and public forums that are maintained by municipalities.

“What most of these policies will say is if you're going to make a comment about the employer or the municipality, you need to be clear that it's your personal opinion, as opposed to you making a statement on behalf of the municipality.”

Ott said there have been two National Labor Relations Board decisions in the past two years related to social media. The instances were related to an employee putting out inappropriate material on social media.

In many cases, municipal officials are spelling out their expectations for standard conduct, she said.

Larissa Dudkiewicz is a freelance reporter for Trib Total Media.

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