Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and a private employer settled a case involving social media and employment law, one that may begin to define the rules for what employees can say online and how employers may or may not restrict that speech. The case settled last week involved a woman who was fired from an ambulance company after she posted negative comments about her boss on the social networking website, Facebook.
The NLRB sued the company on the woman’s behalf, claiming that the company had wrongfully fired the woman for exercising federally-protected speech. Employees are allowed by federal labor laws to discuss working conditions, wages and hours with fellow employees. The employee vented online about her supervisor after a reprimand stemming from a customer complaint. Some of her co-workers responded on Facebook in support of her position.
According to The Associated Press, the NLRB said that the company had overly restricted employees’ use of social networking sites. The NLRB said that the company has to revise its policy that prohibits employees from saying negative things about supervisors or the company. The company also cannot insist that employees ask for permission before talking about the company online.
The relatively new intersection of social media and employment law will continue to be hammered out and defined with each new case heard by the courts. There will still be limits to what employees can post online, such as statements regarding confidential or sensitive information, but the NLRB said in this case that employers could not restrict an employee from complaining about work conditions online. It is important to note, however, that this case was settled, so it is still not known if the case would have been resolved this way if it had made it to trial.
Feds settle case of woman fired over Facebook site (The Associated Press)