Today's Veterinary Business

DEC 2018

Today’s Veterinary Business provides information and resources designed to help veterinarians and office management improve the financial performance of their practices, allowing them to increase the level of patient care and client service.

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55 December 2018/January 2019 • TODAYSVETERINARYBUSINESS.COM Because social media users tend to openly share thoughts and opinions, many experts believe that job terminations based on inappropriate posts will increase. The issue can be a challenge for a hospital's human resources team, but finding the right approach is crucial given that a single post has the potential to blow up into a public relations disaster. So, how do you respond to, say, a sexist post on an employee's personal page? Although you don't want to overreact or react emotion- ally in the moment, and you don't want to micromanage, here's the crux of the situation distilled into one sentence: How much damage could a particular post have on your hospital's reputation? What's important is that you respond fairly and not give one person who, say, has a knack for humorous posts more leeway for material that another employee posts in a more serious manner. And if you choose not to respond, be aware that you're still respond- ing by sending the idea that you are fine with the post or you aren't concerned with the messaging. Although a non-response is some- times the right choice, in today's business environment a passive approach could harm your practice. What You Can and Cannot Do At a minimum, you should create a policy covering employee use of social media while at work. Make clear what a team member can and cannot do, and then adhere to the policy. You have the option of banning on-the-job social media use. If, of course, someone's job in- cludes posting for the practice, you have to delineate what is and isn't permissible during work hours. You cannot ban employees from talking about work issues online when they aren't at work, and they are legally permitted to discuss topics with one another on social media that fall within certain guidelines. For example, employ- ees can discuss on Facebook or Twitter their dissatisfaction with the hospital's management style or how much they're paid. Employees are not protected and can be fired, though, when they discuss these issues online with someone outside of the practice as this no longer falls into the category of co-worker dialogue about the workplace. They also can be terminated for sharing confidential information, including, but not limited to, trade secrets. Team members aren't protected if they post about a workplace topic unrelated to employment terms. If someone calls a manager "lazy," the communication might be protected. If the employee posts, though, that the manager is "fat," the statement might expose the employee to ter- mination. Or if the employee says, "My office is full of ugly people," the opinion leaves the realm of employ- ment-related discussions. When a social media post cross- es the line can be difficult to discern, so your practice might want to con- sult with an attorney experienced in this type of law. Note that laws can differ by state, so if your company has clinics in more than one state, a blanket social media policy might not work. Employee protection is especially strong in California, Colorado, Louisiana, New York and North Dakota. Also be aware that worker protections over social me- dia postings apply to unionized and non-unionized employees. The use of social media can be a double-edged sword, especially in the workplace. On the plus side, social media is a wonderful vehicle for marketing a veterinary practice and connecting with current or potential clients. On the darker side, what happens when an employee posts content that reflects negatively on your prac- tice? Should you respond? If so, how? If the post is offensive, should you discipline or even fire the team member? Leadership H.R. HUDDLE By Charlotte Lacroix, DVM, JD No social media policy? Get one posthaste Your hospital's reputation could be at stake if a team member's online remark goes too far, so be sure to craft clear, legally defensible guidelines. Continued on Page 57

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