Facebook Drama: When Status Updates Become Terminations

With social media now in every aspect our lives, it’s no surprise that Facebook and employment laws are intermingling now more than ever. But what does this mean for employees? That your boss might fire you for posting too many Instagram pictures of your food? Or that you have too many selfies? Not exactly, but a recent case shows your online footprint is not protected as you probably think. An employee of Tasker Healthcase Group learned the lesson of what not to say online the hard way when complaining in a group message on Facebook. This group message discussion, which was intended to organize a social event between employees of Tasker, wound up being a therapy session for one employee who wrote about their dissatisfaction with the company. The comments included “F*** … FIRE ME … MAKE my day,” and that the company is “full of sh**.” Following these posts, this employee was immediately terminated after another employee part of the group discussion showed their employer. Obviously this termination did not exactly “make her day,” because she then filed a charge claiming that firing her violated the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), which protects certain concerted activity on behalf of employees to improve working conditions or wages. Experts have said the claim will probably be dismissed because her posts proved to be more of a personal problem with the company rather than a violation of the NLRA regarding her working conditions. According to the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”), the NLRA protects both union and non employees, and employees can come together to address their working conditions. This includes “certain work-relation conversations” on social media outlets. Be sure to note that many of these decisions are case specific, but based on much recent case law the NLRA has been somewhat expanding its scope of social media activities that are protected. As seen in another case, the NLRB upheld and administrative law judge’s decision that a New York City catering company violated the NLRA when it fired an employee that verbally attacked a insulted a supervisor on Facebook. The post included foul language stating his supervisor is a “NASTY MOTHER F**KER” and “F**k his entire f**king family.” Interestingly, the NLRB in this case felt that this employee still deserves protection and the catering company violated the NLRA when terminating him because of this post. These cases highlight the need for employers to be aware of the NLRA, to reevaluate social media policies in the workplace and to consult with an employment law attorney. Such policies cannot “inhibit concerted activity,” but employers can still have some control over employees that use these outlets disapprovingly, i.e. if the employee greatly interrupts the employers operations or engage in conduct that hinders morale. * This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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