Businesses of all types and sizes throughout the United States, Mexico and beyond bring their disputes to Gardere's litigation team and receive practical, responsive, boutique-style attention in return. Our clients have access to the firepower and value of a well-known and highly-regarded Firm's capabilities and interdisciplinary strengths.
Gardere has a national and international energy practice formed around our Energy Industry Team, which is a multidisciplinary group of approximately 60 attorneys with diverse backgrounds, experience and skills specific to the energy industry. Our team includes attorneys who have served as in-house counsel for major energy companies, providing a depth of insight into our clients' needs, issues and concerns. We understand and regularly practice in virtually every sector of the energy, and we represent a wide variety of industry participants from multinational corporations to individuals.
From our offices in the United States and Mexico, our International Practice helps clients operate in today’s global economy. We have more than 30 professionals operating as a boutique within an Am Law 200 law firm and are able to provide focused service with the resources of a large firm. We understand that clients who are engaged in the global marketplace need lawyers who can operate seamlessly across multiple jurisdictions. Our international experts are multi-lingual, are culturally fluent and intimately familiar with various legal systems across the world, especially those in Latin America. Whether you need help with commercial transactions, regulatory matters, customs and import regulations, immigration matters, M&A and joint ventures, international disputes, or international tax planning, Gardere’s international team is here to assist you.
We represent domestic and foreign private funds in all aspects of fund formation, fund operations, platform and add-on acquisitions, and portfolio company operations. Our team has a reputation for being the go-to-lawyers for private equity funds, hedge funds, venture capital funds and family offices. We are known for our vast deal experience, the efficient way we staff and manage our work, and the way we maintain our relationships. We get deals done with sophisticated, strategic, and practical advice tailored to the needs of our clients.
*Not admitted to practice law.
Whether it is through Facebook, texting, online chatting, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, or one of the many other channels available, people are flocking to social media in increasing numbers. As a result, social media’s reach has extended into the workplace, forcing employers to face a growin
g list of concerns stemming from employees’ use of these various outlets.
The Ethics & Workplace Survey compiled by Deloitte LLP in 2009 indicated that among the employees surveyed, 22 percent reported they regularly visited social networking sites five or more times per week, either at work or away from the office. An additional 23 percent said they visited such a site one to four times per week.
While the use of social media in the workplace is often a personal pursuit, it is frequently combined with professional purposes. This intermingling of the two worlds presents employers with new hazards, as well as opportunities as, ultimately, the degree of involvement in and control over an employee’s use of social networking vehicles is up to the employer.
Social networking sites can provide businesses with new avenues to market themselves, brand their products and services, and develop customer relationships. It also can help to foster internal networking among employees, improve applicant screening, and monitor employee conduct that may reflect positively or negatively on the company. Employers who find ways to use social media outlets as tools, instead of treating them merely as threats, are better able to position themselves to reap the benefits of both existing structures and new developments in social networking.
To that end, many businesses have taken affirmative steps to engage themselves in the social media universe; for example, Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh meshes his personal and professional lives to advance his company’s image and brand in his daily Twitter posts. He is not alone. According to one report, more than 1.5 million businesses have active Facebook pages that can be viewed by current and prospective clients.
Caveat Employer: Legal Risks Inherent in Social Media Use
The Internet, however, has long provided a ready and willing forum for disgruntled individuals to voice complaints and launch verbal attacks with immediacy. The ease with which a person can take action within a social networking environment – coupled with the sense of community found within a person’s network and the common misperception that the Internet is beyond the reach of traditional mores and existing rules – can often result in impulsive and ill-advised content that is posted with impunity and made available to the general public for immediate consumption.
This sort of behavior can yield a plethora of legal implications, including discrimination lawsuits, defamation claims, disclosure of the company’s confidential information and trade secrets, and damage to the company’s reputation. Moreover, courts are increasingly finding that content on social media sites is discoverable in litigation, which imposes additional burdens and costs on employers, especially those who do not already have mechanisms in place to address employee use of social media.
Employers attempting to regulate their employees’ social media content face numerous hurdles: monitoring can be time-consuming, regulation of off-hours conduct is fraught with concerns related to personal privacy, and the availability of social media applications on mobile devices renders “site blocking” futile. Additionally, employers must recognize situations in which the employees’ activity – while, perhaps distasteful – may constitute protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act, or whistleblower or retaliation statutes.
Managing Your Workforce: How A Social Media Policy Can Help
Employers and employees alike benefit from clear policies that delineate what conduct is acceptable, what conduct is prohibited and exactly what the latter means in terms of disciplinary consequences.
While some businesses may find it necessary to prohibit employees’ use of social media outlets altogether, companies that can derive benefits from appropriate use should consider adopting policies that accommodate their employees’ use of social networking accounts, while still discouraging inappropriate use that may harm the company. For example, an employer may find a clear prohibition on harassing, defamatory, or illicit content coupled with different access policies for on-the-job social media use versus off-the-job use creates a more flexible and positive environment for its employees.
For companies that operate in industries that necessitate social media use by employees, a more open policy – with restrictions imposed only on inappropriate content – would be favored in order to further the company’s goals. In concert with promulgating a policy, employers are well advised to train their employees in not only the terms of the policy, but also the rationales and company goals underlying the policy.
Regardless of how restrictive an employer wishes to be regarding employees’ use of social networking, a clear, understandable, written policy is fast becoming a business necessity. By crafting a company-specific policy and educating your workforce regarding its purposes and practical implications, your company can capitalize on the advantages offered by social media while avoiding its pitfalls.
Megan Batchelor, Associate in Gardere’s Labor and Employment group, assisted in the research and writing of this article.
The publications contained in this site do not constitute legal advice. Legal advice can only be given with knowledge of the client's specific facts. By putting these publications on our website we do not intend to create a lawyer-client relationship with the user. Materials may not reflect the most current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. This information should in no way be taken as an indication of future results.
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