I recently learned a former employee is on Facebook and other social media sites pushing an animal rights agenda. This individual no longer works for us (they worked for us two years ago), but their page lists our dairy as a former employer.

So far, we haven’t been drawn into the conversation, but I don’t want to be associated with their activity or message. What should I do in this situation? Is there anything I can do with future hires as it relates to their off-hours social media activity? Should I have them sign something? Can I even ask them to do something like that (freedom of speech)?

Nothing to worry about … yet

miltner ryan


Ryan Miltner
Miltner Law Firm

You haven’t been drawn into the situation – that is good news. Your instinct not to engage this former employee is correct, especially since you are not part of the conversation. If this former employee begins to post false information about your farm, then the story changes.

As far as future hires and existing employees, having a social media policy is a good practice. Clearly defined social media policies set forth the expectations for employee conduct. Common points in these polices include an expectation of honesty when posting, decorum, maintaining company confidentiality, addressing employee activities when off the clock and consequences for not adhering to the policy.


Each social media policy should be tailored to your operation. I strongly recommend against simply adopting another company’s policy or using a form policy. My recommendation isn’t aimed at drumming up business for attorneys. Rather, the simple truth is: A policy poorly drafted can raise its own legal issues.

While First Amendment freedom of speech rights only prohibit the government (not businesses) from restricting speech, poorly drafted policies can be written too broadly, too narrowly or too ambiguously to be effective. In addition, depending on the situation, state laws and labor laws could bear on what your policy should include.

Perhaps as importantly, you should recognize that having a social media policy is only one part of the equation. You already know your employees are critical to your success. Make sure you take time to educate your employees about the proper use of social media and engage them in your farm beyond their day-to-day work.

Help them appreciate the integrated whole of your farm. Good animal care and operations, good policies and good training are a comprehensive recipe for protecting your reputation. 

Make sure you monitor, then move on

schindler don


Don Schindler
Senior Vice President of Digital Innovations
Dairy Management Inc. 


The problem with social media is: Sometimes you learn too much about people (their interests, off-hand comments, quirky humor, etc.) without context, and you start to worry how their views can impact your brand. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about it.

Even with a social media policy in place for your employees (which I recommend), it’s hard to police. And I believe you don’t have the time with all of your farming demands.

So what should you do with this situation? To not be tagged in a post, you can block the former employee from tagging your page, but only if they have “liked” the page in the first place. Is there a benefit? Not that I see – because this employee could still talk about your page and not tag it. At least if you get tagged, you’ll be notified by Facebook about the post.

I also recommend you use free services such as Google Alerts and Talkwalker Alerts to monitor for people talking about your farm business on the web or Facebook Search. You can use Hootsuite to see if someone is talking about your brand on social media.

Is there anything you can do with future hires as it relates to their social media activity? Yes, you can provide them training about the benefits of promoting agriculture and the problems with being negative on social media. Your national and state and regional checkoff staffs can provide assistance. A list of local contacts can be found online (Local Dairy Checkoff).

 My advice is to not worry about past employees and focus on your current ones – making sure they understand the importance of promoting agriculture online. They can help show consumers your farm takes great care of your animals and the environment to produce safe, nutritious food people can trust.  end mark