The Small-Business Owner's Guide to Advertising Injury

Chapter 5: Social Media Liabilities: Your Employees, Fans, & Enemies
Part 2: Personal Accounts and Social Media Lawsuits

When your employees use social media for personal use, your business could still be on the line for the damages they cause. For example, say your employee uses a personal Twitter account to sound off about a competitor. Even if they anonymously disparage a brand or company online, there's always the chance that they will be discovered as your company's employee. And that commercial entity could decide to sue your business for the defamation your employee caused.

The risks aren't limited to libel claims.

During the 2012 presidential election, an employee of Cold Stone Creamery tweeted racially inflammatory comments about President Obama's reelection. While the tweets were on her personal account, the story went viral and Cold Stone was mentioned over and over as her employer, tainting the ice cream store by association. The woman was fired shortly after the incident.

And a ding to your reputation isn't the worst that can happen when your employees take to social media. The case of Espinoza v. County of Orange involved an employer who didn't intervene when employees cyber-harassed a colleague in the comments section of a blog — outside work hours. The harassed employee reported the online incident, and the supervisor failed to take action against the perpetrators, asserting that it wasn't the company's responsibility.

But the courts disagreed, handing down $1.6 million verdict against the business, which was upheld by an appeals court. The case illustrates how an online situation that happens after regular work hours on personal accounts can still become your business's legal and financial responsibility.

Next: Part 3: Increase Productivity and Keep Your Business Protected

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