Some companies, like on-line retailer Zappos.com, are sponsoring corporate twitter sites. What is “twitter”? According to Twitter.com, “Twitter” is “a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: “What are you doing?” A review of Zappos’ twitter site suggests the answer to that question rarely is “working.” Are Zappos employees unwittingly creating the justification for terminating their employment, or has Zappos—in an effort to foster unrestrained twittering—assured its employees that their “twittering” would not be used against them in a court of law?
We don’t know the answer to those questions, but we do know that any employer seeking to cater to the “Twitterites” in its workforce should first consider some tough legal issues. How will the company react when an employee twitters that she is “organizing a union” or “complaining to her buddies about all that overtime”? Would a Twitterite ever be so frank or uncool? How does a business respond to a Twitter record that, in fact, does show that an employee seems always to be doing something other than work during working hours? Twitter actually is quite good for identifying slackers because each Twitter post includes the date and time of posting. Yet this begs another question: How will the company extend a “litigation hold” to Twitter after receiving a preservation demand from a sophisticated plaintiff’s lawyer who specifically identifies "Twitter" as one category of information that purportedly must be preserved?
The point of this post is not to provide answers, but rather to highlight that each new generation of “cool corporate communications tools” brings some tough legal issues to the forefront. Those issues should be thoroughly discussed before an employer rushes headlong into an embrace of the next new thing.