Contact Us Today (712) 252-0020


Social Media in the Healthcare Workplace

Posted by Maureen B. Heffernan | Feb 15, 2016 | 0 Comments

On January 28, 2016, Partner Maureen B. Heffernan spoke to the WoodburMaureen Heffernany Medical Society on the topic of Social Media- Identifying Issues for Physician Practices.  Physicians, both as employers and as health care providers, need to be aware of the importance of social media policies for their employees.  Those policies need to comply with current legal standards both in the employment law arena and in the context of patient privacy laws.

From an employment law perspective, Maureen's presentation identified the tension between preserving the rights of employees to engage in protected activity in the workplace and allowing an employer to enforce reasonable workplace conduct policies.   The National Labor Relations Board has issued numerous opinions regarding whether an employer can be deemed to have interfered with employees' protected rights under the National Labor Relations Act by virtue of a broadly written social media policy.   Many employers do not realize that they are subject to the National Labor Relations Act even though they do not have a unionized workforce.  Social media policies must be carefully drafted in light of the NLRB's recent activity in this area.

In addition, the patient privacy laws that are set forth under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act /“HIPAA”, have a significant impact on the information that employees of a physician's practice may disclose.  Whether through the use, even “anonymously”, of social media posts or otherwise, improper disclosure of patient information must be addressed with appropriate internal disciplinary policies.

There are important legal compliance issues to consider when crafting a social media policy for an employee handbook or as part of your HIPAA Policies and Procedures manuals.  Policies that are overly broad may be found to be an unfair labor practice under federal labor law.  However, employees must be made aware of the proper and improper use of social media and the workplace consequences of violating an employer's properly framed policy.

Maureen Heffernan can be contacted with any questions regarding these issues at (712) 252-0020 or by email at: [email protected]


About the Author

Maureen B. Heffernan

Maureen has practiced law for the firm since 1985 and became a partner in 1992. Her practice is focused in the areas of education/school law (representing schools and institutions of higher education), employment law (representing employers and businesses), and health care practice law (representing physicians and group practices).


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Thank you for visiting our website!

Please be advised that access to information on this website does not create an attorney-client relationship, and any transmission or receipt of information on this website will not be privileged, does not constitute legal advice and does not create any duty of the firm to any person. An attorney-client relationship will not be established until we have entered into a written engagement agreement. Therefore, do not send us any confidential information about a matter until we have agreed to act as your lawyers.

The determination of legal services and the choice of a lawyer are extremely important decisions and we hope this website provides you with helpful information about the type of legal services we provide. A description of a lawyer’s areas of practice does not mean that any organization or agency has certified such lawyer as a specialist or expert.

If you are a potential client, you are urged to make your own independent investigation and evaluation of any lawyer being considered. In considering a lawyer’s results in published cases or other matters, please be aware that each legal matter is unique and that prior results may not be representative of all matters undertaken by the lawyer and you should not rely on prior results being indicative of future success in similar matters.