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Social Media Spotlight

The NLRB recently summarized its position on employee use of social media. A recent post by labor attorney Robin E. Shea neatly summarizes the NLRB summary.

Here’s the gist (quoting HR Morning’s presentation of the post):


Protected activity:

  • Employee of non-profit was scheduled for a meeting with her executive director to discuss a dispute about her job performance. She posted about it on Facebook and got feedback from her co-workers.
  • Emergency medical technician was asked by her supervisor to respond to customer complaint and was denied a request for union representation. EMT posted negative comments about her supervisor on Facebook, received responses from her co-workers, and called her supervisor a “scumbag.”
  • Car salesman posted on Facebook photos and criticism of food offered by dealership at sales event, saying that food was too chintzy for their clientele and would adversely affect sales commissions. Co-workers commented their agreement.
  • Restaurant employees posted on Facebook comments about employer’s allegedly improper tax withholding practices, and one employee said employer was “[s]uch an as**ole.”

Not protected:

  • Newspaper reporter tweeted (on Twitter, duh) criticisms of his copy editors and was instructed to stop it. He did, but he continued to tweet about local homicides and sexually oriented topics. Finally, he tweeted a criticism of a local television station, drawing a complaint from the TV station to the newspaper. Presumably the criticisms of the copy editors might have been protected, but there was no indication that the newspaper had terminated him for that. The other tweets were not about terms and conditions of his employment, and he didn’t seek to involve other employees.
  • Bartender griped to a relative on Facebook about employer’s tipping policy, calling customers “rednecks,” and saying he hoped they would choke on glass as they drove home drunk.
  • Employee criticized employer on Facebook wall of her Senator but no one else, and was not seeking to involve other employees.
  • Employee who worked in program for people with mental health problems posted on Facebook about alleged mental illnesses of the clients, saying that it felt “spooky” being alone in mental institution, that a client “was cracking her up,” and making similar comments. The only “friends” who responded were not co-workers.
  • Retail employee posted on Facebook about management “tyranny” and called his assistant manager an obscene name, and said that a lot of employees were ready to quit. Although he received generally supportive comments from co-workers (like “hang in there”), the Board’s regional office found that it was an “individual gripe.”

Not protected, and illegal:

  • Union business agent and three organizers went to worksite of non-union employer and began interrogating workers as to whether they were legally authorized to work in the United States, and threatening to call immigration and have the employees deported.
    One of the union representatives videotaped the event, and an edited version was posted on YouTube and Facebook.
    The regional office found that the Union unlawfully interfered with the employees’ rights by interrogation, threats, and coercion, and also interfered with the rights of other employees who might have seen the video on the internet.


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