Social media and Postal Employees

social_mediaA Editorial

Social media and what employees can do and say is kind of a New Frontier. Basically, with the surge of Facebook, Twitter and all of the other social media websites out there, we are more or less, as a work force, stumbling in the dark. So what exactly are the rules concerning Postal employees and what they can and can’t say while using social media?

I asked the USPS law/ethics department what the regulations are regarding social media and postal employees.  Below is my question and their response:

My Question: Does the new revised social media policy restrict craft employees from engaging with each other on social media sites.. My understanding is that the new policies are that postal employees are not to speak on behalf of the USPS or act like they are in an official capacity.. Can you possibly shed more light on this?

Answer from USPS law/ethics dept: You are correct – the attached Social Media Policy mainly addresses the conduct of Postal Service employees who use social media in their official capacity to communicate with the public or Postal Service employees. However, it also notes that Postal Service employees who choose to use social media in their personal capacity must not speak for or act on behalf of the Postal Service.

Concerning your question about communications with craft employees on social media sites, the policy states, “[w]hether Postal Service employees chose to participate in social media on their own time is their decision.” However, the misuse provision of the Standards of Ethical Conduct still apply. Pursuant to the misuse provisions, employees may not use government property or time in an unauthorized manner. 5 C.F.R. Section 2635.704 and 705. You can use government equipment and be on official time to access social media sites if you are doing so for official duties, assuming such duties attach to your position. Otherwise, using social media sites for non-government purposes should be limited to off duty hours, using non-government equipment.

Clear as mud right?

Read More Here:  Social media and Postal Employees | Ruralinfo Postal News.

14 thoughts on “Social media and Postal Employees

  1. Hi Guys,

    Let me weigh in here please. First, thanks for participating at the site.
    By your comment exchanges you have demonstrated how easy it is to use this site for debate and discussion as well as the sharing of information to further empower and protect our brothers and sisters in the constant struggles with postal management’s corrupt, incompetent, malfeasance and non compliance to federal and contractual labor law.
    All I ask is that we try and focus on the issues and not make anything personal (if anyone needs clarification – please email me).

    As for the post on USPS social media policy that sparked this current debate – it was not done to “freak” anyone out or cause worry or distress, it was done as an FYI as many do not know of these policies. Many who are aware of these policies don’t have a clear understanding. I will share information whenever I see something new if it helps to educate the rank and file. We have old and new employees, especially many new PSEs, CCAs, MHAs who could benefit by this information. I encourage all rank and file workers to share information here too. My opinion: knowledge is power. Management is largely incompetent and we can begin to get a handle on things and hold them accountable by increasing our knowledge.

    It’s also my opinion that its very important to define the employer-employee relationship. We, as craft workers, are bargaining unit contracted employees and many times “official policies” from USPS HQ don’t apply across the board to ALL employees (despite nothing codified indicating otherwise).

    An excellent example of this is the statement by the USPS Law Department’s Mary Anne Gibbons, back in 2010:

    The Postal Service’s top attorney, Mary Anne Gibbons, told investigators she thought there were
    two sets of rules governing the so-called “de minimis” policies on the use of postal equipment for outside activities: one rule for hourly employees and another for executive employees such as Mr. Bernstock.

    “Gibbons said, for example, that Bernstock had the ability to conduct nonpostal activities from his office behind a closed door and would not encounter a perception problem because other employees would not know that he was engaged in activities not related to the Postal Service,” the report stated.

    If you are interested in more on this topic please check out the following links:

  2. Your continued defense of the policy is amusing. Classic management stance, deny then deflect. The tenor of your questions strike me as coming from someone who is a management apologist at a minimum.

    As to forgetting the exact reasons I have issues with the policy, when you’re involved in trying to prevent the closure of a facility, minor crap like a policy management could twist to fire someone gets swept away in the course of events. Try fighting to keep a facility open for 2-3 years. Anything that occurs in the interim that doesn’t impact the main fight gets brushed aside as minutiae.

  3. Thanks for proving my point, and admitting that you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. (And apparently don’t know how to access documents on the web either- are you sure you know what Facebook is?). Those “major issues” must have been pretty major, considering how you don’t remember any of them!

    Oh, and by the way- look up words in the dictionary if you’re not sure of their meaning. I NEVER “defended” the policy. I asked YOU what was wrong with it.

    You still haven’t answered- apparently because you forgot.

  4. I’m at home, I don’t have the policy in front of me, and don’t have it memorized. However, when they actually came out with their social media policy, I read it, and refused to sign the accompanying signature sheet. I had major issues with the policy, discussed them with my supervisor at the time, and moved on.

    The more adamant you get about defending the policy, the more you’re appearing to be a management ally. I don’t understand why you’re defending mismanagement’s policies unless you’re a friend of theirs, again, I appear to have hit a nerve.

    I’m not paranoid about management. However, I have a well-earned distrust for management policies which encompass more than the immediate operations on the workroom floor.

  5. It was a simple question- what would you change about the policy? You can’t seem to come up with anything, can you?

  6. Poke a little close to the quick? There was nothing snide in the remark whatsoever. I’m normally not subtle if I’m actually questioning the loyalties of a member.

    Telephone usage is specifically covered contractually. I never said anything about this being a new policy, as a maintenance employee who uses the ALAN I’m well aware of postal policies. I’m also well aware of regulation creep and how management constantly abuses regulations to go after employees who are troublesome to management but follow the rules.

  7. If you want to have a discussion, keep the snide remarks to yourself. I don’t take crap from anyone about my loyalty to my union and my fellow employees, so if you’re going to act like a jerk just because someone disagrees with you, consider this discussion closed.

    How is your example any different than a steward discussing a grievance via telephone? If “they could decide to make it an issue” on Facebook, “they could decide to make it an issue” on the telephone too- the rules on both are exactly the same- you aren’t supposed to use government equipment and government time for personal communications. Discussing a grievance when you’re a steward is obviously not personal communications. And the policy isn’t a new “social media” policy- USPS person quoted above referenced the code of ethical conduct, which has been around longer than I have been. All he said was that it applies to social media as well as other media- so what?

    If you’re so worried about these rules, what exactly is it that you want changed?

  8. You must be really friendly with management if you can’t see the issues with the policy.

    Just to toss one out there, a steward is in the Union office discussing a grievance through FB on Union time. He’s on the clock…….

    Would it be a violation? Not likely, as the steward hopefully has the request for Union time approved, but they could decide to make it an issue.

  9. No, my comparison is totally accurate. The only potential problem you’ve come up with is that the rules might be applied in a discriminatory fashion. My response was that any rule might be applied in a discriminatory fashion, but that doesn’t mean that the rule shouldn’t exist. Are you saying that safety rules are always applied in a non-discriminatory fashion? That is incredibly naive!

    The policy explicitly defines “social media”: “For the purpose of this policy, “social media” is defined as any form of online publishing or discussion, including but not limited to: Blogs, Wikis, YouTube, Podcasts, Social Networking – Social sites (such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn), Twitter/Microblogs, and Web 2.0.”

    What’s vague about that?

    And unless you “use social media in your official capacity”, there is NOTHING new in the policy! All it says is that all of the existing rules governing postal worker conduct (i.e. the Hatch Act, code of ethics, etc.) also apply to social media.

    So tell me again what it is I’m supposed to be freaking out about?

  10. Safety regulations are an inherent part of an industrial operation. You’re comparing apples to oranges. I’ve seen too many policies morphed into ways to fire workers who wander into a gray area. The definition of “social media” itself is a moving target.

  11. Nope, I’ve spent 31 years in the USPS. The fact that people can be stupid, whether management or craft, isn’t exactly news to me. But you didn’t answer my question- why am I supposed to be concerned about an old social media policy that’s been around for a couple of years now, and that has absolutely nothing in it that isn’t obvious?

    Managers have abused safety regulations, too, haven’t they? So does that mean there shouldn’t be any safety rules? Are you saying that the USPS should have no policy on social media? If not, what is it specifically that you’re worried about? There is nothing in the original post or your comment that explains what it is about this policy that concerns you.

  12. You must be new to dealing with postal management. They can and have twisted many, many policies and memos which seem innocuous on the surface into weapons to use against craft employees. Selective enforcement of policies is their specialty. Ignore the PSE using the cell phone on the floor while running a machine, write up the ET using a cell phone to contact OK or another tech to help fix a machine. Ignore the clerk posting to facebook while on the clock, hammer someone else for doing the same thing.

  13. What am I supposed to be concerned about? There isn’t anything scary about this policy- and it’s been in effect for a couple years now. It mainly talks about the responsibilities of postal employees who are authorized to use social media on behalf of the USPS. That’s a pretty small group of people, that I’m certainly not a member of! It also says you’re not supposed to do do your personal social media activities on the clock. Kind of a no-brainer, don’t you think? And it says you shouldn’t pretend to speak for the USPS online if you’re not authorized to do so. Again- what is scary about that? Seems to me there are a hell of a lot of things postal workers should be worried about- this ain’t one of them!

  14. This is a classic of bureaucracy. Yet another way of ensuring that no matter who you are, at some point during the day you will have done something that breaks the rules for your continued employment so they can get rid of whoever they want to, whenever they want to.

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