New York. In what is seen as a ground-breaking case involving workers and social media, the US National Labor Relations Board has accused a company of illegally firing a worker after she criticized her supervisor on her Facebook page.
This is the first case in which the labor board has stepped in to argue that workers’ criticisms of their bosses or companies on a social networking site are generally a protected activity and that employers would be violating the law by punishing workers for such statements.
The board has filed a complaint against an ambulance service in Connecticut that fired an emergency medical technician, accusing her, among other things, of violating a policy that bars employees from depicting the company “in any way” on Facebook or other social media sites in which they post pictures of themselves.
Lafe Solomon, the board’s counsel, said: “This is a fairly straightforward case under the National Labor Relations Act — whether it takes place on Facebook or at the water cooler, it was employees talking jointly about working conditions, in this case about their supervisor, and they have a right to do that.”
That act gives workers a federally protected right to form unions, and it prohibits employers from punishing workers — whether union or nonunion — for discussing working conditions or unionization.
The labor board said the company’s Facebook rule was “overly broad” and improperly limited employees’ rights to discuss working conditions among themselves.
Moreover, the board faulted another company policy, one prohibiting employees from making “disparaging” or “discriminatory” “comments when discussing the company or the employee’s superiors and fellow workers.”
The Connecticut company denied the allegations, saying they were without merit. “The employee in question was discharged based on multiple, serious complaints about her behavior,” it said.
The New York Times