Nov 30, 2010

NLRB Complaint Alleges Company Illegally Fired Employee Over Facebook Comments

The National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB”) Hartford regional office recently issued a complaint alleging that an employer illegally terminated an employee who posted negative comments about her supervisor on her personal Facebook page. The complaint also alleges that the company, American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc., illegally denied the employee union representation during a company investigation and maintained and enforced an overly broad Internet posting and blogging policy.

The incident began when the employee’s supervisor asked her to prepare a report concerning a customer’s complaint about her work. When the employee requested representation from her union regarding the customer complaint, the employer denied the employee’s request. After leaving work, the employee posted negative remarks about her supervisor on her personal Facebook page from her home computer. The negative remarks drew responses from others, including co-workers, that led to further negative comments about the supervisor. The company learned of the Facebook comments and terminated the employee for her Facebook comments and because such postings violated the company’s Internet policies.

Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) gives employees the right to form, join or assist a union and to engage in other concerted activity for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection. An NLRB investigation found that the employee’s Facebook postings constituted protected, concerted activity under Section 7 of the Act, and that the company’s Internet posting and blogging policy contained unlawful provisions, including one that prohibited employees from making disparaging remarks about the company or supervisors and another that barred employees from depicting the company “in any way” on the Internet without company permission.

Although the NLRB’s complaint involves a union employee, non-union employees are covered by the Act. The protections of the Act, including Section 7, apply regardless of the certification of a union at the workplace. Therefore, firing a non-union employee for engaging in protected concerted activity may violate the Act.

The case is currently scheduled for a hearing in January 2011. Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP will continue to monitor the progress of the case and will report on any decisions as they develop.

To learn more about how this case may affect your company or if you have any questions regarding these issues, be sure to contact your employment counsel at Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP.

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