Social media has become an integral part of daily life for most individuals. As a result, it is seemingly impossible to go through the day without utilizing it for any given purpose. From employees to employers, social media affects everyone. This article discusses the use of social media as it relates to school transportation contractors.
Contractors and Social Media
Social media is a great platform to advertise your company, post job listings or advertise school buses/vans for sale. It is also a great way to showcase your company’s hard work and achievements. LinkedIn is one way to connect with other school transportation affiliates across the country. Instagram can display your bus fleet, or hardworking employees. Facebook can host your company’s webpage. Twitter can alert parents to any snow days, or bus run cancellations. These are just some of the ways businesses can benefit from utilizing social media.
Furthermore, social media can help you hire, or vet, new drivers. Contractors across the country have turned to social media to help grow their driver numbers. Many contractors are turning to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn as ways to advertise job openings within the company. In addition, contractors are utilizing social media platforms to screen candidates. Through appropriate measures, screening applicants’ social media posts can assist in finding the best candidate for the job.
Student-Passengers and Social Media
Students heavily utilize social media. They can easily capture videos of their surroundings on their phones and upload those videos online at the blink of an eye. This means if a driver is behaving inappropriately behind the wheel, it may easily be recorded and uploaded to the internet. Employers should ensure drivers are aware that their actions are often being scrutinized and critiqued by an unintended audience, and they should always conduct themselves with the utmost professionalism while on and off duty.
It is also common for students to “find” their bus driver and attempt to connect with them online. While seemingly innocent, contacting students through online forums is not appropriate under any circumstances. Drivers must be educated on the risks of cyberbaiting, or the taunting of authority figures to capture their reaction and then post it online. Students “bait” their drivers by teasing or mocking them in order to capture an angry reaction and then upload it to a social media platform. This is an ongoing issue throughout the education community and affects school administrators and school bus drivers alike.
School Bus Drivers and Social Media
Many school bus drivers have a Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram handle, or LinkedIn profile. Sometimes, drivers use these outlets to express feelings (good or bad) about their job, or the students and parents they come into contact with throughout the day. Venting frustrations on the internet is not professional. If employees have concerns about students or parents, it should be expressed to their supervisors. Contractors should maintain well documented, clear instructions for drivers to report student or parent incidents. This may help to curb any outbursts from drivers on social media.
Social Media in Employer’s Employee Handbooks
The inclusion of Social Media Policies in employee handbooks for drivers and aides is highly recommended. However, stipulating the content employees are allowed to post may cause violations with the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Additionally, limiting speech, even if it was for well-intended purposes, violates employees’ First Amendment rights. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which oversees the NLRA, recently ruled against employer Costco Wholesale for their too-broad social media policies within their employee handbook. NLRB v. Costco Wholesale Corp., No. 34-CA-012421. Costco’s employee handbook advised their employees:
[B]e aware that statements posted electronically (such as to online message boards or discussion groups) that damage the company, defame any individual or damage any person’s reputation or violate the policies outlined in the Costco Employee Agreement, may be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment.
The NLRB found the policy to inhibit Section 7 activity under the labor act which protects employees who choose to take part in grievances, on-the-job protests, picketing and strikes. As a result of the Costco and other cases, the NLRB posted several memos discussing employer’s social media policies noting two key points:
- “Employer policies should not be so sweeping that they prohibit the kinds of activity protected by federal labor law, such as the discussion of wages or working conditions among employees.”
- “An employee’s comments on social media are generally not protected if they are mere gripes not made in relation to group activity among employees.”
To access the memos or learn more about the NLRB’s position on social media protections, visit https://www.nlrb.gov/news-outreach/fact-sheets/nlrb-and-social-media.
What Should Contractors Do?
Don’t let the risks of social media deter you from using it! With cautious measures, social media can be a great tool to bring positive attention to the things contractors are doing for their community! Contractors should maintain clear social media standards in their employee handbook or manual, without attempting to limit the content employees post. In addition, employers should review current policies to ensure they do not infringe on employees’ freedom of speech.