For the first time ever, the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) issued a complaint that an employer engaged in unfair labor practices for firing an employee who made derogatory posts about her supervisor on Facebook, on her own computer during off-work hours.
The NLRB issued the complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut, an ambulance company, for firing medical technician Dawnmarie Souza after she criticized her supervisor online. It also stated that the company’s blogging and internet posting policy in its employee handbook was too broad. The handbook stated that “[e]mployees are prohibited from making disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments when discussing the Company or the employee’s superior, co-workers and/or competitors.” The NLRB stated that fundamental labor laws allow an employee to criticize supervisors and talk with other employees.
The NLRB is an independent federal agency with authority over most private sector employers. Therefore, the outcome of this case could have significant implications for employment and privacy laws and employers should look to see if they need to amend their policies.
We would still caution employees to be careful about what they post on their Facebook and other social media sites. There have been several recent cases where employers have successfully asked a court to force employees to reveal what they have on their personal websites. This is an area of the law that is constantly changing so if you have any questions on whether you are in compliance, you should consult an employment attorney.