NLRB settlement in case involving Facebook comments
From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
February/March 2011 Edition
Last October, the acting regional director of the NLRB Hartford, CT, office issued an unfair labor practice complaint alleging the American Medical Response (AMR), an ambulance service, illegally terminated an employee for posting negative comments about a supervisor on the employee’s Facebook page. The unfair labor practice complaint alleged that the company illegally denied union representation during the investigatory interview and enforced an overly broad policy on blogging and internet postings.
The employee posted negative comments about a supervisor following an investigation of a customer complaint. When the employee received positive feedback from co-workers, the employee posted additional negative comments about the supervisor. The employee was fired on December 1, 2010, because the employer stated that the Facebook postings violated the company’s internet policy.
The company handbook contained policies that prohibit employees from making “disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments when discussing the company or the employee’s supervisors, co-workers or competitors.” The NLRB stated that the policies were overly-broad and impinged upon the employees’ rights to engage in protected concerted activity protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)— employees may discuss terms and conditions of employment with co-workers and others.
On Feb. 7, the NLRB announced that it had reached a settlement with AMR in this case. The company has agreed to revise its overly broad policies to ensure the rights of employees to discuss wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers and others while not at work. Further, the company agreed it would neither discipline nor discharge employees for engaging in such discussions. The fired employee reached an undisclosed financial settlement with AMR, but will not return to work at AMR.
Since the employee engaged co-workers in the complaints about her supervisor (working conditions), the exchange of comments became protected concerted activity protected under the NLRA. Policies that restrict an employee’s right to discuss terms and conditions of employment with co-workers and others, in any forum or medium, violate the NLRA.