Local law firm Gray Plant Mooty (GPM) recently created a guide to address social media use in the workplace.
The guide, available for free on GPM’s website, informs businesses about the legal ramifications of using social media websites—including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn, among others—to connect with clients, advertisers, and customers.
GPM Principal Michael Cohen, who joined the firm’s intellectual property, technology, and privacy division two years ago and who has advised businesses on IP and tech security for 25 years, authored the guide.
Cohen told Twin Cities Business that GPM partnered with The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) to release the guide amid a relatively new and challenging legal environment surrounding social media use. He pointed out that many business owners might be unaware of the risks and repercussions of online social networking—as well as the importance of regulating what their employees post.
“A business owner needs to be aware that they could be liable for the actions of their employees,” Cohen said. “An employee’s actions, even without using the company’s social media, could expose the businessperson to a potential liability,” which he said can include “infringement claims, defamation, and violation of privacy matters.”
The guide outlines what business owners should be wary of when using social media, including the potential harm of its reputation and brands, theft of confidential information and trade secrets, and liabilities for employees’ online behavior.
For example, the Federal Trade Commission requires an advertising firm to disclose its relationship to a client when endorsing that client’s products or services. If the advertiser fails to comply with these standards, the firm may be liable.
“Employers may find themselves liable if employees offer online endorsements or testimonials of the company’s products or services without disclosing their connection to the company,” the guide states.
Cohen told TCB that the guide is intended to help businesses navigate social media legal issues and includes sections dedicated to privacy, disclosure, and ownership considerations, as well as applicable electronic communication and trademark laws. The guide also encourages business owners to become familiar with how their companies and employees engage in social media activities.
“We suggest businesses update their policies for social media use, specific to their own business,” Cohen said, adding that employee training on these policies is key to a company averting legal problems.
To provide business owners with further insight into social media legal issues and to offer guidance on best practices, GPM and DEED are hosting a workshop on August 28 at the IDS Center in Minneapolis. Interested individuals can RSVP via GPM’s website by August 20.
Founded in 1866, GPM provides legal aid to a variety of industries, including advertising and promotions, energy, health care, and software and technology. The firm employs 332 attorneys and staff members—307 of whom work in Minnesota. GPM, which operates out of Minneapolis, St. Cloud, and Washington, D.C., is among the 10-largest law firms in Minnesota based on licensed Minnesota attorneys.
This article is reprinted in partnership with Twin Cities Business.