Today's New York Times is reporting on a Federal labor relations board decision last week to proceed with a complaint against a Connecticut ambulance service, American Medical Response, that canned an emergency medical technician for breaching a company policy that bars employees from depicting the company “in any way” on Facebook or other social media sites in which they post pictures of themselves.
This is the first case in which the US board has stepped in to argue that employees’ criticisms of their companies or bosses on a social networking site will be a protected activity and that employers would violate US labour law by punishing workers for such statements.
The employee said that her supervisor asked her to prepare an investigative report after a customer complained about her work. After work, the employee logged on to her home computer, and posted a negative comment about the supervisor on her personal Facebook page. The remark drew supportive responses from her colleagues, and the employee responded by posting additional negative comments about the supervisor. She was suspended and later terminated for her remarks on Facebook and because such postings violated the company’s internet policies.
The initial NLRB investigation found that:
* The employee’s Facebook postings constituted protected concerted activity
* The company’s blogging and internet posting policy contained unlawful provisions, for example:
o Prohibiting employees from making disparaging remarks when discussing the company or supervisors
o Prohibiting employees from depicting the company in any way over the internet without company permission.
This case is a significant one for posing the issues so starkly.
Here is the press release:
Complaint alleges Connecticut company illegally fired employee over Facebook comments
Employee posted remarks about supervisor following work-related incident A complaint issued by the NLRB’s Hartford regional office on October 27 alleges that an ambulance service illegally terminated an employee who posted negative remarks about
her supervisor on her personal Facebook page. The complaint also alleges that the company, American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc., illegally denied union representation to the employee during an investigatory interview, and maintained and
enforced an overly broad blogging and internet posting policy.
When asked by her supervisor to prepare an investigative report concerning a customer complaint about her work, the employee requested and was denied representation from her union, Teamsters Local 443. Later that day from her home computer, the employee posted a negative remark about the supervisor on her personal Facebook page, which drew supportive responses from her co-workers, and led to further negative comments about the supervisor from the employee. The employee was suspended and later terminated for her Facebook postings and because such postings violated the company’s internet policies.
An NLRB investigation found that the employee’s Facebook postings constituted protected concerted activity, and that the company’s blogging and internet posting policy contained unlawful provisions, including one that prohibited employees from making
disparaging remarks when discussing the company or supervisors and another that prohibited employees from depicting the company in any way over the internet without company permission. Such provisions constitute interference with employees in the
exercise of their right to engage in protected concerted activity.
A hearing on the case is scheduled for January 25, 2011.