It is popular for employers to check the Facebook and MySpace pages of current employees and/or potential employees. However, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has taken action to limit an employer’s ability to make decisions based on an employee’s social network site posts. Recently, the NLRB charged a company for illegally firing an employee for criticizing her supervisor on her Facebook page. The company, American Medical Response of Connecticut, maintained a policy prohibiting employees from depicting the company “in any way” on social networking sites in which the employee posts pictures of themselves. As a result of the employee’s criticisms of her supervisor on Facebook, her employer terminated her employment.
The NLRB is taking the position that the employee’s criticisms constitute “protected activity.” The NLRB argues that employees have a right to discuss working conditions and form unions under the National Labor Relations Act. Thus, the employee should not have been terminated for discussing her boss on a social networking site. The NLRB argues that her post on Facebook was no different than having a discussion with other employees around the water cooler… if employees can discuss these items in person, why should they be prohibited from doing so on a social networking site.
Ultimately, this matter is far from resolved. It pits the employers’ right to set guidelines and standards for employees against an employee’s right to organize. This matter should be near and dear to the hearts of both employers and employees as it effects the rights of both. Until this matter is decided by the court, employees will need to be careful what they post on social networking sites and employers will need to be careful with the information that they obtain about their employees (and potential employees) from social networking sites.
If you would like to find out more about this case, you can go to www.nlrb.gov.
Feel free to ask us if you have any legal questions regarding Employment Law.