Tags: tribal law

Most Tribal governments have workplace rules governing the conduct of employees of the Tribe.

Despite the fact that social media is playing an increasingly important role in the lives of tribal employees-many of whom are members of the tribe-and the way they interact with the on and off-reservation community, tribes often lack employee policies targeting the use of social media in the workplace. Having a clearly defined policy can establish expectations and mitigate risk to the Tribe.

No matter what the Tribes’ policy may be, there seems to be a common thread linking all circumstances: when an employee posts something to any social media outlet, on or off the clock, they should either make no references to the Tribe in any capacity, or if they do, make it known that the post is strictly their own personal view and has no connection to how the tribal government regards a topic.

 Policy Pointers

Items tribal governments as employers should consider when developing a social media policy include:

  • Tribal government guidelines should discuss social media etiquette and identify any restrictions such as limiting access to authorized employees.
  • Tribal governments also should clarify ownership of their social media accounts and restrict such accounts to business use only.
  • Employees should be informed that content, communications and connections created, sent, received or stored on the tribal governments' social media accounts are property of the tribal government.
  • Tribal governments should clarify acceptable personal use of employee-owned electronic communication systems and devices by, for example, deciding whether and how often employees can use these devices during work time.
  • Tribal governments should be clear that, while they protect their name and business-related assets, they do not retaliate or discriminate against employees for using such systems and devices to share personal opinions or participate in political, organizing or other lawful activities.
  • Tribal governments should decide whether, which and how employees can use personal electronic communication systems and devices for business purposes and address this dual use in relevant policies. If dual use is permitted, remind employees that all employer policies apply to business use of personal systems and devices.
  • Address off-duty business use of personal systems and devices to maintain compliance with tribal and federal overtime laws.
  • Tribal governments that require employees to use a personal device for work should reimburse a reasonable percentage of their expenses for this device based on how much they use the device for work.
  • Policies should require specialized software for dual-use devices to keep tribal government content (such as e-mail, contacts and calendars) separate from personal content and allow for enforcement of security measures (such as remotely locating and erasing tribal government content).
  • To protect sensitive data and systems, tribal governments also should consider creating a bring your own device (BYOD) agreement that employees review, sign and return to the Tribe. When employment is terminated, the Tribe’s Human Resource department should review these agreements with employees to account for all tribal government-owned content.
  • Tribal governments that enter into noncompetition agreements with employees should establish whether the Tribe or employees own social media connections (such as Twitter™ followers and LinkedIn® contacts) acquired by employees during their tenure with the Tribe.
  • Be sure to define Social Media in the policy; for example: “Social Media is defined as, but not limited to 1) Social Networking sites such as Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, MySpace, SnapChat; 2) Media Sharing sites such as YouTube, iTunes, Flickr; 3) Document and Data sharing sites such as Scribd or cloud computing sites; 3) Social Bookmarking sites such as Pinterest or Reddit; 4) Blogging sites such as WordPress or Blogger; 5) Functions of websites such as “liking” on Facebook, “re-tweeting” on Twitter, and Google Maps”.

If the Tribe puts solid effort towards crafting their social media policy, it may result in shaping tribal employees into tribal ambassadors. Include rules that guide them into good habits and emphasize the importance of upholding the image of the Tribe. If you need assistance in mitigating the Tribe’s risk by implementing a social media policy for employees of the Tribal government, call an experienced tribal attorney at our Sioux City, Iowa; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; or Omaha, Nebraska offices today! For more information on tribal law, visit our blog!


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