NLRB to Release Guidelines On Facebook Firings

facebook firingsIs there still any doubt that you can't get away with slamming your boss on Facebook?

The absence of face-to-face interaction on the social network has tricked many a user to post about whatever they wish on any number of topics, including frustrations stemming from the workplace. It's a lot easier to zing the person sitting in the corner office when you're talking to a blank screen.

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But of course Facebook counts more than 750 million users, and so word gets out. And no amount of thumbs-up from your Facebook friends can provide protection from the consequences of a nasty post.

The story has become as old as Friendster, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency tasked with arbitrating work-related indiscretions on Facebook, has announced that it will release guidelines in coming weeks as to how it will deal with certain Facebook scenarios. The NLRB is also urging its regional offices to send all Facebook-related cases to its Washington headquarters.

The NLRB says that it was a recent uptick in cases that has caused it to outline the formal guidelines. However broad the protections they spell out, the new provisions are sure to upset some sectors of the workforce: A recent Deloitte study found that 53 percent of employees don't think their social media presence should be subject to their boss' oversight.

But incidents that preceded the recent slew of cases have already made it clear that no amount of privacy settings can insure a purely open mic for disgruntled workers.

When medical technician Dawnmarie Souza posted on Facebook in 2010 how she "love[d] how the company allows a 17 to become a supervisor," she was referring to her boss at the Hartford office of the American Medical Response (AMR) of Connecticut, which uses the number "17" to refer to psychiatric patients.

Even though Souza made the comments from the confines of her personal computer during non-working hours, she was soon fired. Her initial appeal to the NLRB seemed to suggest the agency was willing to consider social media behavior in a different light, reserving for it greater freedoms.

In February 2011, The NLRB told AMR its policy prohibiting employees from making negative comments on social networks about either other employees or the company was "overly broad" and "contained unlawful positions," as CNN Money reported.

Initially, observers interpreted the NLRB stance as proof that established workers' rights to engage in "protected and concerted" activities, such as discussing workplace conditions, remained robust on networks like Facebook. Indeed, AMR agreed to revise its ban on negative comments to reduce restrictions on workers' speech.

"The fact that they agreed to revise their rules so that they're not so overly restrictive of the rights of employees to discuss their terms and conditions with others and with their fellow employees is the most significant thing that comes out of this," NLRB regional director Jonathan Kreisberg told AP at the time.

When the landmark case study ended in a settlement and resulted in Souza's leaving the company, it was seen as further proof that the status update was dangerous ground to opine on.


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Dan Fastenberg

Dan Fastenberg

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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.

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Patty

PEOPLE...Listen up.

ANYTHING you video, write or pictures you post on the internet are there FOREVER!
You can not ever erase or delete it.

Now, what part of F-O-R-E-V-E-R do you not understand?
Now we need to teach congressmen what forever is.

August 04 2011 at 7:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Phil

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense.

August 03 2011 at 10:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tokeitwo

Depending on the reason the employee was disgruntled, this could be a violation of our constitutional right to freedom of speech. If this employee does a good job at work, respects the boss during work hours and does not let his/her "disillusionment" show there, why shouldn't they be able to vent on a social/cyber venue?

August 03 2011 at 9:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott

It seems you have the freedom to disparage your company, nobody has taken that away. Nobody went to jail. If you are not smart enough to know that making disparaging remarks about your company will not have repercussions I feel sorry for you. The things you put out on the internet could affect the company you work for. The internet isn’t private and the things you put out there can be found. If you “vent” at home there is nothing documented. Vent on facebook it can be retrieved. Because you do have freedom of speech you can vent on Friday but don’t expect to have a job on Monday.

August 03 2011 at 8:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
J R

Facebook is for those scared of the real world . I have never had a facebook account
and don't want one .

August 03 2011 at 8:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
millssrm

Posting anything negative about management or co-workers should be considered harassment! Are they purposely trying to create a hostile work environement or just not using the gift God gave them- their brain! I personally would not want a co-worker to behave this way, and neither would Management or HR. Most poeple spend more time at work than at home and no-one needs the stress that a disgruntled employee can bring to the workplace! If you can't take pride in your job and help create a good work environement then find a job more suited to your character........

August 03 2011 at 7:59 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
niteorchid3

I'd like to know why it is if you bad mouth your boss on Facebook you can get fired. However, you can say anything you want about someone else like an aquaintance, friendemy or relative and no matter what they do you can't get into trouble.

I have had a relative of mine bad mouthing me all over the internet and on social networking sights but no matter how much complaining I do they are allowed to continue. Where is the justice in that?

August 03 2011 at 7:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jotwinowski

If you work for a company - any company - they are paying for your loyalty as well as your time. If you don't like the company or the boss, find another job and then you can say anything your heart desires. But slamming your own employer is the equivalent of biting the hand that feeds you.. BTW, I was a corporate drone for 30 years before I retired and I kept my mouth shut. For me, the only exception is illegal activity and I wouldn't want to continue working for them anyway.

August 03 2011 at 7:45 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
debbyinmo

I can understand using company property to post something critical, but if you use your own equipment on your own time, then the employer should not have the right to fire.

August 03 2011 at 7:45 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
seeinfrmyslf

"Congress shall make no law abridging ...the freedom of speech ...'

August 03 2011 at 7:36 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to seeinfrmyslf's comment
jotwinowski

Fine, but then it becomes a matter between employer and employee and tell the NLRB to mind its own business.

August 03 2011 at 7:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jeff's Angel

Technically they didn't... She didn't get sent to jail, her boss found out and she had to face the penalty that her boss thought was fit. See she has the right to say what she chooses. What people seem to forget is the right to freedom of speach does not mean saying what you want is free from consequence.

August 04 2011 at 6:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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