NLRB decisions limit employer action over social media activity

Board’s rulings on social media discipline put employers in difficult situations

Since the advent of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, employers have worried about protecting themselves from harmful speech by employees. In the last few years, however, they’ve had to walk the fine line between protecting themselves and respecting their employees’ right to communicate with co-workers and outsiders as provided in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Along the way, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued rulings that have served to guide companies on what they can and can’t do with regard to disciplining an employee for what they deem to be inappropriate social media behavior.

In the three years the NLRB has been issuing rulings on companies’ social media policies and actions, we’ve learned its stance is this: Social media sites are “virtual water coolers,” and whatever employees have a right to discuss around the workplace — including any subject falling within the definition of “terms and conditions of employment” — they may also discuss on social media sites.

Contributing Author

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Laura Friedel

Laura Friedel is a partner in Levenfeld Pearlstein’s Labor and Employment Practice Group, providing business-focused, practical advice across a full spectrum of labor and employment...

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