The case involving an employee who was discharged after posting disparaging comments about her supervisor on her Facebook page has been settled, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced in a news release yesterday. The NLRB caused a wave of unease among employers when it filed the case against American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc. (AMR), on October 27, 2010.
The NLRB complaint asserted that AMR violated the National Labor Relations Act when it discharged Dawnmarie Souza for posting comments about her boss on her Facebook page and responding to related comments posted by her coworkers because such activity was protected. The complaint also claimed that AMR maintained “overly broad” rules on blogging, posting on the Internet, and communications between employees in its employee handbook and alleged that AMR illegally denied Souza union representation during an investigatory interview.
When AMR terminated Souza, it mentioned her violation of its policies that prohibited:
- “making disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments when discussing [AMR] or the employee’s superiors, co-workers and/or competitors”;
- “[r]ude or discourteous behavior to a client or coworker”; and
- the “[u]se of language or action that is inappropriate in the workplace whether racial, sexual or of a general offensive nature.”
According to the NLRB news release, under the settlement, AMR:
- agreed to amend its “overly broad” rules to make sure they don’t “improperly restrict employees from discussing their wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers and others while not at work”;
- noted that it won’t discharge or discipline employees for engaging in such discussions; and
- promised “employee requests for union representation will not be denied in the future and that employees will not be threatened with discipline for requesting union representation.”
Since the case was settled, the NLRB didn’t provide much more guidance about the subject. However, the circumstances of this case do illustrate the importance of drafting and updating policies that properly address social media and other communication issues.
Technology for HR: A Legal and Practical Guide for Managing E-Mail, Intranets & Social Media