DOHR’s Personal Use of Social Media policy, revised February 2015, has recently come up again especially as it relates to state employee’s posting their personal concerns about happenings in the Department of Correction on social media sites. TSEA has heard from members that their departments are reminding them of this policy or asking them again to sign the employee acknowledgement form included with the social media policy.
TSEA is simply encouraging employees to become familiar with this policy because it can directly impact their employment with state government.
Members conveyed to TSEA that they thought being cautioned or disciplined for their personal social media post was unconstitutional, so as a result TSEA had their Staff Attorney to look into the policy.
Staff Attorney Jonathan Stephens reviewed the policy in full and gave the opinion that with this policy “an employer has greater latitude to control an employee’s speech than the government would have over a private individual. It’s kind of a hybrid position between an unlimited 1st amendment right to say anything you so desire vs. a prohibition against “yelling fire in a crowded theatre.” Members, be sure to read the article in the November/December 2015 Coworker from the Legal Services Division, “The State Social Media Policy – What are your rights?”
Members have expressed concern that their departments are personally speaking with them about what is considered a negative post about their agency. Again, keep in mind that the Personal Use of Social Media policy states “…If you list the State of Tennessee as your employer on your personal social media profiles, any information you post will be held to a higher level of scrutiny.” And it further says, “Violation of any of these policies may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”
TSEA is simply encouraging members to be careful about their posts because state government is able to monitor many of the sites and able to see what you are saying. Also be very careful not to use your state work computer to connect to your social media sites. TSEA would not want any member or employee being disciplined because they are expressing him/herself about a matter at work that becomes viewed by the agency as outside of policy and subjects the employee to disciplinary action.
If you need clarification or have questions about this policy, please be sure to contact the TSEA Office or your department’s HR office.