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Brookhaven town proposes social media policy limiting employees' postings

Employee social media policies vary among towns across Long Island, from strict limits on use to having no policy.

The Brookhaven Town Planning Board has approved plans

The Brookhaven Town Planning Board has approved plans to build a $25 million affordable housing complex. Photo Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Brookhaven Town’s proposed social media policy would prohibit employees from posting town business on their personal accounts.

Employees would also be barred from posting on their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other accounts during work hours except during lunch or other breaks, under a draft policy to be discussed by the town board at its Thursday meeting.

“We just don’t want you to mix the town and personal activity,” Brookhaven Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto said in an interview. “Anything work-related can’t be used on their personal account.”

One exception would allow employees to repost public information or news releases issued by town officials through its Facebook or Twitter accounts.

Representatives of the town employees’ union did not respond to requests for comment.

The Brookhaven Town Board tabled a vote on its social media resolution at its July 12 meeting after a civic leader raised concerns about the timing.

A copy of the social media policy wasn’t posted on the town’s website 24 hours in advance, as required by the New York State Open Meeting Law requirement, said Jim Gleason, a member of the East Moriches Property Owners Association.

“It could be a perfect policy but I have no idea because I haven’t seen it,” he said of the social media restrictions.

Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright, who requested that the agenda item be tabled, said it wouldn’t have been fair to vote on the policy because residents hadn’t had a chance to look at it.

“It didn’t have anything to do with merit,” she said. “The policy wasn’t viewable.”

Brookhaven officials said their drafted policy combined elements of policies instituted by other municipalities.

Municipal social media policies for employees vary across Long Island, from restrictions on workday use to having no regulations.

The East Hampton Town Board recently adopted formal policies regulating employee social media use and protecting whistleblowers. The regulation prohibits employees from posting online during work hours unless it relates to town business or is authorized by a department head.

Babylon Town in 2017 formalized policies barring employees from disclosing town matters on social media. The municipality prohibits employees from disclosing government-related business on social media platforms during work or personal hours unless explicitly authorized.

The policy includes disciplinary action against employees who violate the rules, “including termination from work duties.”

Southampton Town has no employee social media policy. Neither does North Hempstead, but the town’s employee manual states that “all town information should be treated as confidential and cannot be shared with anyone except authorized recipients.”

Huntington does not “restrict what employees can say from their personal social media accounts,” spokeswoman Lauren Lembo said in an email.

Brookhaven officials said the idea to develop a policy came from town officials attending the annual New York State Association of Towns meeting in January in Manhattan.

“It was a big topic and a lecture,” Eaderesto said of developing social media use policies. “Every town should have one of these.”

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