Think employers have problems with employees posting nasty stuff about them on Facebook? Wait ’til you hear about this.
There’s a new iPhone app available called Memo — and while it’s certainly not the first anonymous messaging app out there, it’s got one major difference: It’s aimed at the workplace.
It’s sort of like Glassdoor — only mobile.
It works like this: Users have to verify their affiliation with an organization through a company e-mail or their LinkedIn account.
Then Memo deletes their information while allowing them to access their company group. Basically, it’s a private message board for a single company’s employees to post whatever it is that’s on their minds.
And — surprise! — what’s on their minds isn’t exactly complimentary to their employers.
A recent story in the Wall Street Journal says Memo, which is still in beta mode, claims about 10,000 users. Founder Ryan Janssen told the website Quartz, “Memo is supposed to be a release for office workers: ‘We walk into the office with a largely constructed facade. That’s exhausting and we’re giving people a place to just be their real selves.'”
Janssen told Quartz the new app’s already gotten some negative reaction from companies — he’s received two cease-and-desist letters, two companies have blocked emails from Memo hitting their servers, and three companies have written memos to employees about the app.
Most employers’ first reaction would be to bar employees from using the app. But employment attorney Jon Hyman makes it clear that’s a really bad idea:
As you should know, federal labor law gives employees the right to engage in protected, concerted activity — that is, discussions between or among employees about wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. …
Federal labor law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for engaging in protected concerted activity. Retaliation isn’t Memo’s biggest risk because its posts are (supposedly) anonymous. However, federal labor law also prohibits employers from maintaining or enforcing policies that could chill employees’ right to speak about terms and conditions of employment.
Thus, if you think you can legislate Memo (or other similar apps) out of your workplace, you might want to think again. The National Labor Relations Board will likely hold a very different opinion about the rights of your employees to talk about your company, anonymously or otherwise.