National Labor Board Supports Employee Fired Over Facebook Post
As the New York Times reports, the NLRB filed a complaint last week against American Medical Response of Connecticut, an ambulance service that fired an employee for posting comments about her boss. The employee, Dawnmarie Souza, allegedly posted a critical comment about her supervisor, who had reprimanded her for attempting to join a union. The post, according to the NLRB, "drew supportive responses from her co-workers, and led to further negative comments about the supervisor from the employee." American Medical Response's policy reportedly forbids employees from discussing the company on social networking sites.
According to the NLRB, however, the company's decision violated Souza's federally protected workplace rights. The National Labor Relations Act gives workers the right to form unions, and bars employers from punishing employees for discussing unionization -- which, the NLRB argues, is exactly what American Medical Response did to Souza. The board also criticized another company policy, which prohibits workers from posting "disparaging" or "discriminatory" online remarks when discussing their bosses or colleagues.
American Medical Response of Connecticut, meanwhile, insists that the NLRB's allegations are completely unfounded. "The employee in question was discharged based on multiple, serious complaints about her behavior," the company said in a statement. "The employee was also held accountable for negative personal attacks against a co-worker posted publicly on Facebook. The company believes that the offensive statements made against the co-workers were not concerted activity protected under federal law."
An administrative law judge will hear the case on January 25th, but former NLRB member Marshall B. Babson doesn't think the case is as clear-cut as the board seems to see it. A company rule that expressly forbids workers from badmouthing supervisors is one thing. A Facebook policy, he says, is quite another. If a user complained about his boss without engaging his co-workers, for example, that may not constitute the kind of "concerted protected activity" that federal law defends. If an online dialogue involves several employees, on the other hand, the judge may rule otherwise. Regardless of which way the judge swings, though, this is the first time that the NLRB has publicly defended an employee involved in a workplace Facebook snafu -- and that alone is pretty significant.
Why it's annoying: The status update reads: "John wonders why people act that way" -- and nothing more. What happened to John? Is he confused? Have his feelings been hurt? What on earth could lead to such a mysterious comment? Give context or shut up, John. With updates like this, you're only fishing for responses. Facebook is not your personal diary.
Possible solution: If John's an especially close friend, call him. If not, just ignore the vague thoughts. If he wants to discuss specifics, that's the time to talk.