Have you heard about the Facebook firing case?
In October, 2010, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a complaint against American Medical Response (AMR), a Connecticut ambulance service, claiming that AMR violated federal labor law when it fired Dawnmarie Souza, an employee who had posted derogatory remarks about AMR and her supervisor on her Facebook page. According to the complaint, AMR first violated Souza’s rights when it refused to let her union rep accompany her to an internal investigation. When Souza reacted by posting her criticisms, she was fired for violating AMR’s internet and communications policies, which provided in part:
Employees are prohibited from posting pictures of themselves in any media, including but not limited to the Internet, which depicts the Company in any way, including but not limited to a Company uniform, corporate logo or an ambulance, unless the employee receives written approval from the Vice President of Corporate Communications in advance of the posting.
Employees are prohibited from making disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments when discussing the Company or the employee’s superiors, co-workers and/or competitors.
The NLRB charged AMR with violating Souza’s federal right to union representation, as well as interfering with her federal right to discuss the terms and conditions of her employment.
On February 7, 2011, the NLRB announced that the case had been settled. Although the settlement agreement is confidential, we do know that AMR agreed to revise what the NLRB termed “its overly-broad rules” to ensure that they do not improperly restrict employees from discussing their wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers. The company also promised that it would not deny future employee requests for union representation.
What this means to you:
Managers, supervisors, and human resources professionals should all know that the National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of workers to communicate with each other about wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and that those rights exist in both union and non-union companies.
So, if you haven’t reviewed your electronic communications policies in a while, now would be an excellent time to do so. Make sure that they are not overly broad and do not chill employees’ rights. As part of the NLRB settlement, AMR agreed to revise its social media policy which had prohibited employees from discussing the company without management permission and from making disparaging remarks when discussing the company or supervisors.
Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.