Social media (Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc.) issues have made for interesting news so far this year. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which has weighed in on social media handbook policy related issues, recently issued a complaint against a non-profit agency after five employees were discharged from their employment.
The trouble started when an employee posted a message on her personal Facebook page related to the agency's shortcomings in serving its clients and naming a co-worker. In response to the posting, several of the employee's co-workers engaged in a discussion about staffing levels and workloads at the agency via comments to the initial Facebook posting. When the employer discovered the discussion, all five employees involved were discharged for the comments. The employer says the postings harassed the named employee.
As you might guess, the NLRB took issue with the discharges since the group discussion related to working conditions. The NLRB's position is the five employees were engaged in concerted activity related to the terms and conditions of their employment, and such activity is protected from interference (read discharge) by the employer.
This complaint is yet another attempt by the NLRB to weigh in on social media issues. The NLRB is aggressively policing employer social media policies to ensure they are not overly broad and restrictive. This complaint furthers that effort by attempting to prohibit employee discipline/discharge for employees discussing workplace concerns via social media. As we all saw throughout the Middle East, social media sites can provide an easy means for individuals to spread messages to a widespread and mainly anonymous audience. The NLRB's efforts in early 2011 seem to be focused on keeping this communication medium available for employees and free of employer restriction. Stay tuned as this chapter of the story unfolds and be mindful of the NLRB's commitment to protecting employees using these social media outlets.