Social Media: What’s your Game Plan?

Recently, an employee for the Lacoste clothing company posted a picture of his paycheck on his private Instagram account and wrote, “Paycheck. Still silly to me. Ever since I was a kid I’ve thought it was completely insane that we have to work all our lives. I still feel that way. Especially when it’s only enough to live in a third world apartment….which for some reason in NYC is ok…I’m done with it.”
The employee was terminated after a “friend” of his showed a copy of the post to Lacoste. The company stated he violated confidentiality terms of his employment.  
Sure, the employee’s comments were negative and, by the transitive property, were associated with the Lacoste brand. But let’s consider the bigger picture, and perhaps, choose our battles more wisely. 
One, the employee had a private account, meaning he must choose who can view his pictures. Lacoste never would have never seen this comment without his “friend” bringing it to their attention. Two, the National Labor Relations Act protects wage discussions by employees. It doesn’t appear that Lacoste consulted the NLRA’s provisions before taking action. Three, the public might not know exact figures for job salaries, but most of us can guess the tax brackets certain jobs are in. I think I can speak for most people when I say that I wasn’t surprised to see the employee wished he’d earn a larger paycheck. 
Considering these notes, who really caused the negative press for Lacoste? The employee letting off some steam to a small group of hand-selected friends? Or, the company that fired its employee after seeing information from an employee’s private social media account that they didn’t have access to?
Companies must be aware of their perceived image from other businesses, their consumers and their employees. Although companies should monitor these perceptions, they should be proactive in educating employees about social media usage as well. You can’t expect employees to be effective ambassadors of your brand image if you don’t give them the tools to do so. 
A social media plan for employees is important for informing them about your brand and what is unacceptable information to share with people outside of your office. The NLRA protects speech about wages, working conditions and other types of employee information. The NLRA’s policies should be the foundation for a social media plan for employees that companies tailor to fit their business. 
Companies may form their own guidelines however they’d like, as long as their policies don’t infringe upon employee rights protected by state and federal governments.  The most important part of the plan is to make sure your employees know about it and that it is enforced fairly. 
Although, the Lacoste employee was unhappy with the amount of money in his paycheck, I’m sure he is worse off with no job at all. Chances are, he would not have risked his employment if he had known about his protected speech rights under the NLRA, and I’m sure Lacoste would have chosen to take action differently if there was already a social media plan in place.
Moral of the story: It is always best to be on the offense, rather than the defense, when handling social media.