Out of Connecticut comes an interesting case involving the use of social media in the workplace and its collision with employee protected concerted activity and employee freedom to associate without fear of employer retaliation under the National Labor Relations Act. The New York Times article, Company Accused of Firing Over Facebook Post, provides good background and details of the facts involved in the case.
American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc. and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 443, Case No. 34-CA-12576 (NRLB - Region 34), involves a complaint filed against American Medical Response for firing an emergency medical technician for among other things violating the company's policy of negatively depicting the company on Facebook or other social media sites. American Medical Response had denied the labor board's allegations and claims that the employee was discharged on various other grounds. The complaint contains the full language of the employer social media policies involved in the matter.
For those unfamiliar with the National Labor Relations Act, "protected concerted activity" is an employee right under the National Labor Relations Act that protects employees from employer retaliation for discussing working conditions. The National Labor Relations Act provides employees the right to associate together to improve working conditions, self organize, assist labor organizations and bargain collectively. The Act applies to activities by union and non-union employees.
This will be a fascinating case to watch to see how the new world of social media communication, connection, and association will be applied in the context of existing employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Similar protections may also be provided to employees who report issues to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Employers who have implemented social media policies that restrict the rights of employees to utilize social media tools and website should review their policies to assess whether or not the policy unnecessarily restricts the rights of employees to associate and discuss their rights to discuss union related issues, wages, working conditions, and other rights protected by the Act.