September 29, 2011 by Robert Tharp at 3:12:41 pm
More than once, employees have found themselves holding pink slips because of something they said about their work life on Facebook, Twitter or other social media outlets. But Audrey Mross of Munck Carter in Dallas says employers should be very careful with such terminations. Earlier this month, for the first time, an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board ruled that a Buffalo, N.Y., company wrongfully fired five employees because of what they said on Facebook.
Writes the Wall Street Journal:
The NLRB complaint against Hispanics United of Buffalo reaffirms the agency's position in an earlier case that labor law allows employees to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with co-workers and others—including postings on social-media sites.
In the latest complaint, an employee of Hispanics United who was scheduled to meet with management about working conditions posted on Facebook a co-worker's allegation that employees didn't help the nonprofit's clients enough, the NLRB said. That post drew responses from other employees who defended their work and blamed conditions such as work loads and staffing issues.
When Hispanics United learned about the postings, it discharged the five employees who participated, claiming their comments were harassment of the employee originally mentioned in the post, the NLRB said. The NLRB said the Facebook discussion was "protected concerted activity" under the National Labor Relations Act.
"Basically, the NLRB is saying even disparaging comments about terms and conditions of employment among co-workers can be protected speech, whether it happens at work or after hours, via Facebook," Mross says. The NLRB reports an increasing number of charges related to employees' use of social media to discuss their employer and each other.
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