Fired for Facebooking: Beware for Potential NLRB Action

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The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently filed a complaint against a company that fired an employee for criticizing her supervisor on Facebook. This is the first case in which the NLRB has argued employees’ criticisms of their supervisors or companies on a social networking site are generally a protected activity under the National Labor Relations Act (the Act).

The employee in question, an emergency technician, was required to prepare a response to a customer complaint. When she asked her supervisor for permission to have her Teamsters representative help prepare her response, this request was denied. The technician’s employer, American Medical Response of Connecticut (AMR), fired her after she criticized her supervisor in a posting on Facebook. The company argued she was fired for violating its social media policy, which prohibited employees from using social media sites to depict the company "in any way." A key fact, from the NLRB’s perspective, was that several of the employee’s co-workers posted supportive comments on her Facebook page. The NLRB’s position is that an employee is allowed to discuss her supervisor with her co-workers, and this activity is no less protected online than it is face-to-face.

The NLRB alleges AMR’s policy was overly broad and violated the Act by preventing employees from discussing working conditions. The New York Times quoted NLRB general counsel Lafe Solomon as saying, "this is a fairly straightforward case under the National Labor Relations Act -- 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." When evaluating similar facts or cases, multiple employees engaging in the discussion or activity will be a factor suggesting an NLRA violation.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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