Monday, February 7, 2011

NLRB Settles Facebook Case

Remember Case of the Week #15, Is Facebook a Protected Activity? The NLRB issued a complaint alleging that an ambulance service employee was terminated for posting negative comments about her supervisor on Facebook, and responding to comments from her co-workers. According to the NLRB, that was protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Today, the NLRB announced that it has reached a settlement agreement with the employer:
[T]he company agreed to revise its overly-broad rules (regarding blogging, Internet posting, and communications between employees) to ensure that they do not improperly restrict employees from discussing their wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers and others while not at work, and that they would not discipline or discharge employees for engaging in such discussions.
A separate, private agreement was reached with the individual employee in question.

This was not really the best test case for NLRA social media protections in my opinion. The "protected activity" was, frankly, juvenile (and possibly defamatory) name-calling instead of legitimate workplace grievances. That said, employers should be mindful that Facebook posts (and other Internet postings) could be protected activity.

Also, note that the settlement takes aim at the employer's "overly-broad" policies. It may be time for employers to examine their policies regarding social media and disparagement of co-workers. It's a tough line to walk between protecting civility and infringing on protected activity.

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.