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Updated Jun 10, 2013 - 8:41 am

Valley attorney: Companies need social media policies

We've all seen the photo of a California Taco Bell employee licking a stack of taco shells. It was posted online and quickly went viral.

Now the incident is raising questions over whether companies should have social media policies in place to prevent similar episodes in the future.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to complain about things like long hours and tedious tasks, which have the potential to become public embarrassments for the companies.

John Balitis, a Valley attorney with the law firm Fennemore Craig, said all companies should have a social media policy in place but they need to be careful about the wording they choose.

"The language needs to be constructive and written in a way that does not give a worker the impression that he can't say critical things about his or her employer or he can't engage in communications with his or her coworkers online," Balitis said.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees have the right to communicate with one another about wages, hours and working conditions.

"If the provisions in the social media policy are very specific and deal with illegal activity, bullying or disclosing trade secrets, that's OK," he said.

Balitis also recommended that employers address what will happen if an employee uses a social media account on behalf of the company.

"There's a clear understanding between the employer and the worker about who controls the social media account that's being used, who has the password and who it really belongs to if the worker were ever to leave," he said.

KTAR's Martha Maurer contributed to this report.

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