The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently intervened in a case to resolve complaints from employees who were fired after commenting on coworkers via social media.
Five employees at the Hispanics United of Buffalo, a non-profit that provides social services to low-income clients, were fired in September after they posted critical comments about coworkers on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the Washington Post reported.
An NLRB administrative law judge ruled that the employees’ discharge was unlawful, and that their comments were protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. The judge said that under Section 7, communication that is used to improve working conditions and wages, even if negative, is legally protected. This is in direct contrast to past cases that used the First Amendment in relation to similar charges.
In August, the NLRB released its first written guidelines for applying labor laws to social media practices in companies, alongside a comprehensive report issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The new guidelines were issued after the NLRB received more than 100 complaints about social media practices in the past five years, said Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon in the report.
To read more about the NLRB’s involvement in social media cases, read about companies' continued confusion over social media, and an ambulance company’s discharge of an employee for Facebook posting included in the September issue.