The NLRB was not joking – complaints about your boss on Facebook could be protected speech in the employment context.
On April 27, 2011 the NLRB publicized settlement of a charge brought by a former employee of a web-based home improvement retailer operating out of Chico, California discharged after posting comments about the company to her Facebook page. The April 27, 2011 press release does not provide details of the employee’s comments. However, it quotes Regional Director Joseph Frankl, who expressed satisfaction that “the employer has recognized the rights of its employees to use social networking sites to comment about their working conditions.” The release also describes settlement terms and explicitly notes that the employees in this case were not represented by a union.1
The settlement was announced on the heels of the highly publicized unfair practices settlement with ambulance service provider American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc. (“AMR”). The AMR complaint alleged that AMR illegally terminated an employee who called her employer a mental patient in a Facebook post in violation of the company’s social media policy. On February 8, 2011 the NLRB issued a press release highlighting the terms of the settlement protecting the employee’s right to Facebook gripes about her employer.