November 9, 2010
NLRB Files Complaint Backing Employee Terminated Because of Facebook Posts Criticizing Supervisor
In a case which bears watching, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a Complaint on October 27, 2010 based upon an employee's termination after she posted critical remarks about her supervisor on Facebook (TM). The case, styled American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 443, NLRB Case No. 34-CA-12576, is set for hearing on January 25, 2011.
This will be an interesting case to follow, even for employers in non-union settings.
The employee, Dawnmarie Souza, allegedly made nagative remarks about a supervisor on her personal Facebook page, which led to a number of supportive responses from co-workers. The employer had internet posting policies in its handbook prohibiting employees from "making disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments when discussing the Company or the employee's superiors, co-workers and/or competitors." The employee was suspended, and later terminated, for violations of the internet posting policies.
The NLRB Complaint alleges that the internet policies in this case constituted interference with employees in the exercise of their right to engage in protected "concerted activity" for the purpose of "mutual aid and protection," thus interfering with and restraining employees' rights under the National Labor Relations Act to communicate with each other about working conditions and the terms of employment.
The NLRB's general legal counsel has said that "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."
The NLRB restriction against policies which interfere with or restrain employees from protected "concerted activities," such as discussing working conditions, generally apply to all employers, and not just to employers with a union workforce. Therefore, all employers should monitor the results of this pending case, and they may need to review and revise their internet policies.