A company that fired a unionized employee, Dawnmarie Souza, after she posted negative remarks about her boss on Facebook settled a complaint last week brought by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The case focused on how much freedom employees enjoy when posting comments about employment issues from their home computers on the Internet.
The NLRB alleged the firing was illegal because the online posting constituted “protected concerted activity” under the National Labor Relations Act. That law allows employees to discuss working conditions with co-workers and others while Souza (a Teamsters member) had posted comments about her supervisor and responded to further comments from her co-workers about the boss.
The NLRB also alleged the company maintained and enforced overly broad rules in its employee handbook about blogging and other Internet postings between employees by prohibiting its employees from saying negative things about the company and supervisors. An attorney for American Medical Response, the employer-defendant, told CBS news that the company agreed in the settlement to give Souza back pay in exchange for her agreement never to return to work. The employer also agreed to revise its handbook to allow employees freedom to post things about work on the Internet.
While the NLRB complaint protects unionized employees, it is important to remember that non-unionized employees do not enjoy the same free speech rights on the Internet. So if you are not a member of a union, don’t write something on the Internet that you would not want to whole world to see because you might get fired for trashing the boss.
February 12, 2011 – Paul Castronovo – Castronovo & McKinney