Social Media Guidance to Members
Monday, April 25, 2011
NATCA members should be aware that their public communications including using social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogging, etc.) could lead to serious legal and employment risks for themselves as well as other members and could reflect badly upon the profession and the union. Please take these things into consideration when making statements publicly or publishing contents on the internet.
Only NATCA representatives may speak to the media regarding questions related to the workplace and the issues raised over the past few weeks. If you are contacted, please forward the name of the reporter and any contact information to NATCA Communications Director Doug Church, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can call Doug at 301-346-8245. We want to continue to have a consistent message that flows from the National Office.
All statements you make publicly about events that occur within the FAA could lead to personal liability. Statements and publications about particular individuals, both those who are named specifically and those who can be identified by the context of a statement, may lead to defamation suits by that individual against the speaker/writer. Doctors don’t publicly say that other doctors have engaged in malpractice because they can be sued. While truth is the ultimate defense to defamation suit, that doesn’t eliminate the costs of defending a suit. Defamation suits can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend.
Also, your statements may involve you in a workplace investigation that you otherwise have no connection. Additionally, your statement may harm another member who is subject to an investigation.
You may be making an admission against the interest of a fellow member or contrary to the position the union is taking in the member’s defense.
Not only may it harm the individual member, but it may reflect poorly on the union, the profession, and undermine public confidence in the FAA and ATC. We are trying to rebuild public confidence in our professionalism. We will do that one interview at a time, but soon we will be taking advantage of opportunities to tell our story.
Current employees are covered by ER 4.1 Standards of Conduct. The Standards speak for themselves. Retired members should also consider the harm they could be doing to those who have followed them into the profession as well as their union.
ER 4.1 provides that:
“Employees are also expected to conduct themselves off duty in a manner which will not adversely reflect on the agency’s ability to carry out its mission, cause embarrassment to the agency by the employee’s activity or behave in a manner that will cause the public and/or managers to question their reliability, judgment and trustworthiness in carrying out their responsibilities as employees of the federal government.
“While FAA encourages freedom of expression, employees are accountable for the statements they make and the views they express. Employees shall not make irresponsible, false, disparaging, disrespectful or defamatory statements which attack the integrity of individuals or organizations, or disrupt the orderly conduct of official business, nor may they make statements urging or encouraging other employees to act or speak irresponsibly, or to commit unlawful acts.”
Significant suspensions and removal from federal service are potential penalties for violations.