CPBO’s Clinic in a Box® Program Tackles Social Media Policies for Nonprofits

In October, CPBO co-hosted a Clinic in a Box® Program in partnership with the Association of Corporate Counsel National Capital Region, D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center, and Womble Carlyle*† at the 2017 Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) Annual Meeting.

Every Clinic in a Box® Program – Select Topic introduces and trains volunteers on an issue of importance to nonprofits before pairing them with nonprofits to provide legal advice. This clinic took a deep dive into social media policies and online marketing compliance, subjects that concern many nonprofits and employers in general.

For example, in a recent and especially high-profile case, Juli Briskman was fired by her employer (a government contractor) for giving President Trump’s motorcade the finger and then posting a photo of the act to her social media accounts. Although it was on her own time and her social media accounts did not reference her employer, her photo was grounds for dismissal for what they deemed “obscene” content. This case demonstrates it’s important for organizations to have a social media policy that protects their brand and also to have an understanding of employee rights in relation to social media use.

Womble Carlyle attorneys John E. Pueschel, Orla M. O’Hannaidh, and Rebecca C. Fleishman led the training for 31 volunteers that covered other high-profile examples of employees being fired for social media posts deemed damaging by the company but were ultimately protected activities according to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). In one case, an employee was fired for tweeting about wages and circulating a petition about working conditions. NLRB held that the company’s social media policy was overly broad and that employees cannot be restricted from discussing working conditions with the public. Ultimately, the employer was ordered to pay lost wages and benefits.

Pueschel advised that restrictions on discussing “confidential” information about an employer – without specific examples – were overly broad and that social media policies should be treated the same as other work rules. Additionally, O’Hannaidh and Fleishman shared best practices for developing a social media policy, contents of an effective policy, restrictions on online marketing, and disclosures around marketing.

D.C. Bar President Patrick McGlone attended the clinic as did attorneys from many CPBO Challenge® signatories including: American International Group, Inc.**, AT&T Inc.**, Crown Canyon Capital, LLC**, Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (Freddie Mac)**, Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae)**, and Willis Towers Watson**. Once trained, the volunteers broke into teams and met with representatives from nine D.C. nonprofits to draft or revise their social media policy (applicable to employees and volunteers) and advise them on complying with laws governing marketing and advertising online.

The nonprofit organizations that attended the clinic offer a wide range of services in the District, including: delivering archaeology enrichment programs to students and providing bilingual and multicultural services to marginalized members of the LGBT community.

To read more about past CPBO Clinic in a Box® programs, click here. To learn more about hosting a Clinic in a Box® program or about in-house pro bono, please contact CPBO at cpbo@probonoinst.org.

Photos by Scott Dressel-Martin.

* denotes a Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® signatory 
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project

** denotes a Corporate Pro Bono Challenge® signatory