Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Nonprofit Employers - Beware a Social Media Mine Field

I am a huge fan of LinkedIn. It is the social media I utilize the most. I also use many others for these blogs and other social meeting about nonprofits. Tax exempt nonprofit organizations are businesses. Many are using social media for funding, publicity, and for general information. It is natural for a nonprofit business to place glowing things about themselves when posting for a job notice or simply describing the organization at LinkedIn, for instance, their own web site or elsewhere. Here are some reasons why that may be a really bad idea:

Publicizing the great things about a nonprofit as an employer or for seeking funding, volunteers and support on LinkedIn could come back to haunt you. Attorneys in an article in the National Law Journal suggest the following:

  • Avoid glowing remarks about employees - this may be used against the organization in a discrimination or harassment law suit
  • Plaintiff's lawyers are searching the internet for evidence in any alleged unlawful firing or harassment case
  • LinkedIn is the number one place for employment managers to look for information about candidates along with other social media. However, information found on the Internet about a candidate cannot be used by the nonprofit in a discriminatory manner.
  • Potential candidates for employment also search LinkedIn, other social media and other Internet resources for information about the nonprofit and any known employees.
  • Avoid show casing existing employees. If you say something that could be construed as negative or positive, either way there could be a law suit.
  • Limit the listing of employees on a web site or social media site using only the employee's name, job title and dates of employment, most particularly if you are supporting that person in search for employment.
  • If a supervisor indicates glowing remarks about a current employee, such as a recommendation in LinkedIn and elsewhere, and the employee is eventually fired by the CEO, the information could backfire in a discrimination suit.

I suggest you consider a written policy, procedure and recordkeeping about the use of the social media specifically about the organization or current or former employees. Middle and upper management and supervisors should understand the policy and adhere to it.

I also suggest you Google the name of the organization, your own name and other supervisors to see if anything is being written about any of you by a former employee, a former customer or anyone else. .

Anyone can sue anyone at any time about anything. You do not want to lose that law suit. Prepare by understanding the risks and risk management. Talk to your attorney about these issues.

See the article from the National Law Journal:

Lawyers warn employers against giving glowing reviews on LinkedIn by Tresa Baldas July 6, 2009



How to Find a Lawyer for Your Nonprofit Organization -


Insurance Questions for Nonprofits -



1 comment:

Susan Detwiler said...

Good points, Don. They may be out in the ether, but electronic print can carry the same weight as any other kind. Thanks.


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