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The Importance of Shop Social Media Policies

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Pat Callahan's Colorado shop boasts a sterling, 98-percent CSI score. And he'd like to keep it that way. 

That's why Callahan, who runs Hopp's Auto Body in Sheridan, Colo., has told his employees to be extremely careful about what they post on social media these days, specifically on the shop's Facebook page, for example. During a time of great divisiveness and civil unrest in America, businesses like body shops simply can't afford to offend current or potential customers. 

"Our employees, I've expressed that I don't want them doing anything racial or political on our Facebook," Callahan, a 30-year veteran of collision repair, told FenderBender. "I tell them that this is a place for people to come and look at what we're doing, and if you put something on there that's political or racial, I tell them don't do it; You're representing our company." 

In 2020, it's imperative for businesses to have a social media policy, as noted in a recent San Diego Union-Tribune article

The article notes that anything posted by a business's employee can spread like wildfire on the Internet. Next thing you know, your business could have some troubling reviews on websites like Yelp or Google. 

As noted in a recent National Law Review web post, although employees are generally posting on their personal social media pages and are often doing so outside of work time, coworkers and even community members are increasingly complaining about offensive comments employees are posting on various social media platforms. While sometimes the conduct is so severe that employers can easily determine the appropriate consequences, in other cases employers must balance a variety of legal requirements, employee and public relations concerns.

Consider the following legal issues—and the specific factors that must be considered and weighed by employers—regarding employee social media posts, as noted by the Union-Tribune

  • An at-will employee is at the greatest risk of losing their job, without legal recourse, when they send an offensive, legally unprotected message through their employer's electronic communications system during work hours
  • It is where an employer terminates an employee for posting comments on the employee's personal social media account—on the employee's own time, on a matter unrelated to work—that the employer faces the greatest legal risk. For example, California law prohibits employers from punishing an employee for engaging in lawful, off-duty conduct; hateful or otherwise offensive speech without more is not unlawful though it may be criminal conduct where the speaker intends to threaten or intimidate the target of the speech because of the target's race or other protected characteristic. 

The solution seems fairly clear: businesses like body shops need to have clear, detailed social media policies, now more than ever. 

John Terrizzi, Jr., who operates two Maaco facilities in Pennsylvania, says it pays, as a shop staff, to keep any social media posts moderate and largely supportive of your community. For example, his shops are providing discounts to first responders. 

"We don't want anything associated with our business other than positive messaging," Terrizzi, Jr. said. "We refuse to get involved with anything divisive." 

Everybody's entitled to their opinions, the veteran shop owner added, but most shops simply can't afford to have their staff make social media posts that shine their business in a negative light. Not in 2020, during a time of significant divisiveness throughout  much of the country. 

"If someone says anything negative and they've associated themselves with me, that's a problem with me," Terrizzi, Jr., said. "We're not playing that game. We're using (this time), as a company, to be kind of uplifting, and we're hoping that our employees follow suit." 

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