By Eric B. Meyer
Special to the Legal
The Hartford Courant is reporting that an administrative law judge will hear a “first-of-its-kind case” involving a woman who was fired from an ambulance company after she made disparaging remarks about her boss on Facebook. Business Insurance has a nice write-up of the case.
The National Labor Relations Board alleges that a unionized employer illegally fired one of its emergency medical technicians in late 2009 after she criticized her supervisor on her personal Facebook page. The employer claims it fired the employee for making disparaging remarks online about the company.
Employers firing employees for online remarks is nothing new. I’ve written about it on my blog, The Employer Handbook, where I have also discussed employee monitoring and the importance of social media policies. I have even addressed how plaintiffs counsel and defense counsel can utilize social media to “make or break” their clients' cases.
However, this particular case is unique because it underscores the importance of understanding context when implementing and enforcing a social media policy. That is, unionized employers may have an obligation to bargain with the union before implementing a policy that restricts employee online activities.
But even in a non-union environment, the National Labor Relations Act protects an employee’s right to organize. Therefore, an employer may not be able to discipline an employee who engages in pro-union speech, even if that speech somehow violates the company’s social media policy.
We’ll know for sure soon.
(h/t Daniel Schwartz)
Eric B. Meyer is a member of the Labor and Employment Group at Dilworth Paxson. He also has his own labor and employment law blog, The Employer Handbook, and readers can contact him via e-mail and follow him on Twitter.