Another Facebook Firing Enforcement Action Brought by NLRB
We previously reported on our blog that a Connecticut ambulance company settled the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB's) allegations that the company violated an employee’s federal rights by firing her for criticizing a manager on Facebook. The NLRB continues its enforcement blitz with another Facebook firing complaint.
On May 18, 2011 NLRB announced that it filed similar allegations against Hispanics United of Buffalo, a nonprofit organization that provides social services to low income clients. The NLRB alleged that the nonprofit unlawfully discharged five employees after they criticized working conditions, including work load and staffing issues, on Facebook.
According to the NLRB, one employee, in advance of a meeting with management about working conditions, posted to her Facebook page a coworker’s allegation that the organization's employees did not do enough to help clients. Other employees responded on Facebook, defending their job performance and criticizing working conditions, including work load and staffing. After learning of the posts, the employer discharged the five employees who participated in the Facebook exchange. The organization claimed that the employees' comments constituted harassment of the employee originally mentioned in the post.
The NLRB alleged that the Facebook discussion was protected concerted activity within the meaning of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act because it involved a conversation among coworkers about their terms and conditions of employment, including their job performance and staffing levels.
The complaint will be the subject of a hearing before an administrative law judge on June 22, 2011, in the Buffalo office of the NLRB.
The action item for employers is to carefully review and, as appropriate, revise their social media and employee conduct policies to ensure that the policies balance business needs and employees' rights consistently with federal law and NLRB guidance.