November 12, 2010

NLRB challenges Facebook firing

Posted in Collective Bargaining, Employee Handbooks, Internet Policies, National Labor Relations Act, Social Media in the Workplace, Social Networking tagged , , , , at 1:17 am by Tom Jacobson

In a case to be watched, the National Labor Relations Board claims that an employer illegally fired an employee who criticized her supervisor on Facebook.  The case involves Dawnmarie Souza who was a paramedic for  American Medical Response.  Souza posted her negative commentary from her home computer, and this prompted her co-worker Facebook friends to respond with their own comments supporting Souza.  That, in turn, lead Souza to post more criticism of her supervisor.  American Medical Response then fired Souza because her posts violated the company’s Internet policies.

The NLRB has now stepped into this Facebook firing fray.  The NLRB is a federal agency charged with safeguarding employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.

According to the NLRB, Souza’s firing violated the National Labor Relations Act.  The NLRA is a federal law that gives employees the right to form unions, and it prohibits employers, whether unionized or not, from interfering with their employees’ right to discuss working conditions or unionization.  In Souza’s case, the NLRB claims that American Medical Response’s Facebook rules are overbroad and improperly limit the employees’ right to discuss working conditions.

This is the first case where the NLRB has made the argument that employees engage in protected activity when they use social networking sites to criticize their employers or supervisors.  The outcome of the case could have a significant impact on how employers implement and enforce their Internet and social networking policies.  A hearing on the case is scheduled to begin on January 25, 2011.

For more detail on the story, see NLRB: Workers’ rights extend to Facebook, http://bit.ly/cl9BbX.

The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

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4 Comments »

  1. Pete Pfeffer said,

    It probably isn’t fair that the employer used FB to terminate this employee, but it is certainly not very bright to think there is any privacy on FB.

    • Tom Jacobson said,

      Fair or not, the case raises some pretty significant issues, such as: When does an employee’s FB post cross the line from personal commentary to a discussion with co-workers about terms and conditions of employment which is protected by the NLRA? To what extent can an employer establish policies that prohibit or restrict employees’ work-related comments on FB? If the NLRB takes an expansive view of the Act, it would seem that employers would have relatively little they can do to regulate employees’ work-related discussions on FB.

      The comments posted in this blog are for general informational purposes only. They are not to be considered as legal advice, and they do not establish an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice regarding your specific situation, please consult your attorney.

  2. […] rights to discuss terms and conditions of employment violate the NLRA (see my previous posts, NLRB challenges Facebook firing and Facebook firing case settled).  What’s significant about the Hispanics United case is […]

  3. […] poorly drafted use polices have been held to violate the National Labor Relations Act (see NLRB challenges Facebook firing, Facebook firings revisited – NLRB extends its reach, Facebook firing case […]


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