A complaint issued by the National Labor Relation Board's ("NLRB") Hartford regional office on October 27 alleges that an ambulance service illegally terminated an employee who posted negative remarks about her supervisor on her personal Facebook page. The complaint also alleges that the company, American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc., illegally denied union representation to the employee during an investigatory interview, and maintained and enforced an overly broad blogging and internet posting policy.
When asked by her supervisor to prepare an investigative report concerning a customer complaint about her work, the employee requested and was denied representation from her union, Teamsters Local 443. Later that day from her home computer, the employee posted a negative remark about the supervisor on her personal Facebook page, which drew supportive responses from her co-workers, and led to further negative comments about the supervisor from the employee. The employee was suspended and later terminated for her Facebook postings and because such postings violated the company’s internet policies.
An NLRB investigation found that the employee’s Facebook postings constituted protected concerted activity, and that the company’s blogging and internet posting policy contained unlawful provisions, including one that prohibited employees from making disparaging remarks when discussing the company or supervisors and another that prohibited employees from depicting the company in any way over the internet without company permission. Such provisions constitute interference with employees in the exercise of their right to engage in protected concerted activity. A hearing on the case is scheduled for January 25, 2011.
As this case shows, the tracking of employees' use of social media is a hot issue in the employment and labor law arena. We previously discussed an employee benefits matter in which an insurer denied long-term care disability insurance to an employee based on pictures the employee had posted of herself on a beach vacation on Facebook.
The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency vested with the authority to safeguard employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have a union as their collective bargaining representative. The Agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions, as well as cases arising from the United States Postal Service.