News Column

County Approves Social Media Guidelines for Employees

October 24, 2012

Mike Prager

Spokane County commissioners on Tuesday approved a new policy regarding the use of social media by county employees. County officials said they are not attempting to crack down on employee use of social media. Rather, they are setting up guidelines for appropriate use, especially when it involves county business, employees or policies.

"Ultimately, you are solely responsible for what you post online," the policy says.

Any online content regarding the county must be done in a professional manner, the policy says.

In addition, online communication has to be fair and courteous and must not create a hostile working environment, officials said.

The social media policy is an addition to previously approved policies regarding use of county computers, harassment and violence. Those policies are being extended to the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter. The county has blocked access to Facebook and other social networking sites from most of its computers since 2002.

"Inappropriate postings that may include discriminatory remarks, harassment, and threats of violence or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct will not be tolerated and may subject you to disciplinary action up to and including termination," the policy says.

On the flip side, the policy acknowledges that employees have protected rights of free speech, including communication involving hours, working conditions and wages.

Bargaining units were consulted in developing the policy.

The new policy also sets standards for social media use by departments and agencies, such as the Spokane County Sheriff's Office. It includes standards for maintaining public records. It prohibits endorsements or recommendations that are part of social media.

Source: (c)2012 The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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