Policy restricts what employees in Ontario municipality can and can’t say online
By Rocco Frangione/The North Bay Nugget
Employees with the Municipality of Powassan in Ontario now have a social media policy that governs their work behaviour.
Coun. Debbie Piekarski created the document along with staff and was approved by the town council.
The policy applies to full and part-time employees, contract workers for the municipality, temporary employees, and anyone who volunteers or interns for the municipality or is a student employee.
At the suggestion of Coun. Markus Wand, the policy will also apply to all members of council.
Under the policy, the Mayor is the only official spokesperson for the municipality.
Employees cannot claim to represent the municipality on behalf of the Mayor unless the Mayor approves that representation in writing.
Although personal internet browsing is not being discouraged, including social media use, excessive use of this type of behaviour won’t be allowed.
Monitoring web browsing
The policy states the municipality reserves the right to monitor web browsing involving municipal-owned equipment including computers and cellphones.
The policy forbids employees from using social media to make vulgar, obscene, or threatening comments about any member of council, the municipality, co-workers, supervisors or management.
The prohibition regarding these comments also apply to the municipal employees’ personal accounts.
Employees are also not allowed to disclose confidential or proprietary information about the municipality or its employees on social media and this includes not releasing information about individual taxpayers, business partners of the municipality, professionals or other members of the public.
Employees who are authorized by the municipality to post on social media should refrain from posting political views or personal opinions.
Rather they should only post matters related to the town hall and municipality of Powassan as a whole.These include postings of upcoming local events, job postings and announcements.
The policy also restricts what municipal employees can say on their own personal social media account if it involves the municipality in some way.
For example, a municipal worker can’t use their Facebook account to post, comment or disclose confidential information they learned about during their employment with the municipality.
They also can’t comment or engage with others on their personal account about the affairs of the municipality, the contents of council meetings or other matters involving the workplace that portrays the municipality in a negative light.
‘Shine light on the positive’
During the debate to approve the social media policy Mayor Peter McIsaac said “we want to shine a light on the positive .”
McIsaac said the municipality is not restricting employees from social media adding “people are allowed to say what they want as long as it’s true”, something the policy reinforces.
But the Mayor noted this doesn’t mean employees should be speaking about other workers or management in obscene or vulgar ways.
The policy tells employees to be mindful of what they say because their comments will remain public for a long time whenever they post on the Municipal social networking site or their own.
Employees remain responsible for what they post online and the policy states even adding a disclaimer that the “opinions are my own” doesn’t absolve them of that responsibility.
Municipal employees cannot mislead anyone about their identity when posting online.
Employees are encouraged to share information online that is not confidential, but rather public like achievements and team activities.
Failure to follow the Social Networking Policy could result in disciplinary action including being fired.
Coun. Markus Wand noted it’s hard to fire a member of council for violations of the policy so it’s up to every member of council to “bite our tongue” when they don’t like what they read in a posting and should resist engaging in those kinds of conversations.
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