Kabrina Chang’s Research on Social Business Featured in MIT Sloan Management Review

in Emerging Research, Faculty, Faculty in the News, News
December 2nd, 2013

Engaging in social business means you’re damned if you do, and damned if you don’t

Should managers friend employees on Facebook or connect with them on LinkedIn? What are the legal implications of making these connections—or not? Boston University School of Management assistant professor of business law and ethics Kabrina Chang, along with Gerald C. Kane, associate professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College, poses these questions in a piece for MIT Sloan Management Review, in which she and Kane outline several key legal considerations for managers. Social business is a rapidly emerging and expanding phenomenon, creating unique situations unforeseen by our current legal system, the pair writes. Is your company prepared?

Excerpts from MIT Sloan Management Review:

Damned if you don’t.

One potential risk involves “negligent hiring.” An injured third party could sue a company for hiring a dysfunctional employee if that dysfunction was evident on social media platforms and would have been readily apparent through a cursory search. In fact, the easier it is to search, the greater the legal burden to do so. Although there is no case law on this issue yet, it is a real business risk.

Damned if you do.

Even when managers legitimately access information on social media sites, they must be careful about how they act on that information. For example, managers open themselves up for discrimination lawsuits if they discover protected information about their employees. In TerVeer v Library of Congress (2012), an employee filed suit against his employer, claiming a manager harassed and ultimately fired him after surmising the employee was gay when the employee “liked” a pro-gay parenting page online (the case is still pending).

What’s a manager to do?

One solution is to develop an official online policy for employees. Only 33% of businesses have such a policy, but they can provide valuable guidance for employees and managers regarding acceptable online behaviors. These policies must be crafted carefully, however, as the NLRB found that one such policy established by Costco was overly broad and placed unreasonable restrictions on employee behavior. And, as the survey pointed out, employees must be trained in how to follow the policy.

Hire a third-party vendor to assist with legal issues raised by social business. Companies such as Social Intelligence and Reppify search online information and provide reports on job applicants that are scrubbed of any protected information. Others, like Hearsay Social, assist with compliance issues raised by social business in regulated industries, such as finance and healthcare.

Read the full piece here.