In recent years, Slack, a popular instant-messaging team collaboration tool, has seen huge growth with 6 million U.S. workers reported using the service in 2018. Its popularity comes from the ease at which employees can communicate with others and its seamless integration with popular online services like Google Suite and Dropbox.

Slack offers multiple features designed to stimulate productivity and collaboration in the office. The platform offers three types of communication channels: direct messages, private group channels, and public group channels. With these different channels, departments and teams can create designated chains for themselves and certain topics to keep all information centralized. Users can communicate with emojis, GIFS, mentions, reactions, and video conference calls, providing an array of communication styles.

All these features have changed the way employees and teams collaborate in the workplace for the better. However, the platform has presented a new frontier for potential legal issues to arise. It is imperative for employers to ensure that employees are using Slack in compliance with the law.

Companies using Slack may face the following employment claims:

Inappropriate Conduct Complaints

Inappropriate messages sent within Slack may lead to complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Due to the real-time nature of the platform, employees are more likely to send messages without thinking about how the recipient may react to it. The option to include GIFs and emojis also creates a casual atmosphere and may facilitate unwanted playful exchanges some employees may not find comfortable.

The option to create private group channels can also lead to the creation of channels that purposefully exclude certain employees. These channels can end up being malicious with some material and messages being inappropriate in the workplace

Wage & Hour Claims

Although Slack’s ability to sync conversations across devices is a key feature, this can ultimately give rise to wage and hour claims. For example, employees constantly connected to Slack on their mobile devices may receive work-related messages after hours. By just reading these work messages, employees can claim that they worked off the clock and raise a legal complaint for compensation.

Slack iPhonePrivacy Concerns

Private group messages and direct messages are not actually private. The Slack workspace owner can view all conversations in private channels through a corporate export after being approved by Slack under the “as needed and permitted by law” policy. A privacy policy update from April 20, 2019 states that employers can decide whether users will be told their conversations are being exported. Knowing this, employees may feel their privacy is violated, resulting in an invasion of privacy claim against the company.

So, Should Your Company Use Slack?

The answer depends on you and your company. When used correctly and appropriately, Slack can become a productive tool for your entire team. Slack messages are even encrypted, meaning third party companies cannot access confidential and important data sent in the channels. If your company does decide to integrate Slack into the workplace, following these two practices can ensure a positive use of Slack.

Update Employee Policies

Update your anti-harassment, timekeeping, and privacy policies to include the proper uses of Slack. Being transparent and laying it out for your employees will go a long way in decreasing potential legal claims.

Train Employees on Slack Etiquette

Informing employees and supervisors on the appropriate uses of Slack can go a long way in preventing the rise of legal claims. Setting ground rules like using Slack for work-related purposes only, creating private group channels only with prior permission, and prohibiting inappropriate comments may help.

If you don’t want your company to use Slack, it is important to make it clear that the use of Slack in and for the workplace is not permitted. Creating a policy that prohibits the use of personal Slack accounts on company-owned devices during work hours is a great way to set boundaries.

With this in mind, make sure to let your employees understand that Slack is a work collaboration tool, not a private messaging platform.

For more information or assistance, feel free to contact us.

DISCLAIMER: Content within this post should not be considered legal advice and is for informational purposes only. Communications made through this post do not create an attorney-client relationship. Hackler Flynn & Associates is not responsible for any content that you may access from third-party resources that may be accessed through or linked to this post. Hackler Flynn & Associates is only licensed to practice in California.

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