The National Labor Relations Board has again pursued a company for firing employees over their facebook postings.
Here is how it began. An employee of a non-profit, Hispanics United of Buffalo (NY), apparently stated that some of the coworkers weren’t doing enough to help the non-profit’s clients. Another employee posted that comment on her facebook page, and several coworkers weighed in, complaining about the work load and other workplace related conditions.
Hispanics United fired five employees who had complained on facebook. The NLRB believes that they were engaged in “concerted activity.” Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees are protected from complaining about workplace conditions “in concert,” meaning as a small or large group. This law protects the rights of employees to form unions, but also behavior short of such formal organization. Many employers forget that they are covered by this law, and announce rules against sharing information on pay, for example, or talking to each other.
Employers seem very testy lately about how they are portrayed on facebook, twitter and websites. Employees’ rights to complain publicly (and in concert) need to be related to workplace conditions to be protected activity; for example, gossiping about a boss’s private life is probably not protected (unless it affects the terms and conditions of employment).
The case is scheduled to be heard on June 22. The last such NLRB complaint was settled.