Give him the status update or give him the axe.
Receiving word that his employer, Applebee's, planned to impose a ban on its employees posting negative comments about the company on Facebook, 36-year old Jason Cook decided to take a stand. Without any particular gripe to air with regard to his employer, which formally is the Apple American Group, Cook took to the social media website to post his protest.
"I have come home and talked to my family. I have wrestled with my conscious [sic], and weighed my options. A line has been drawn in the sand. I'm not sacrificing my principles," he wrote Aug. 31 regarding the new regulation, according to an ABC report.
Cook's decision to draw a line in the sand comes on the heels of major developments in the nascent field of social media labor law. The ability to interface with other digital users is perhaps the defining aspect of the Web 2.0, as was forecast by Steve Jobs during his first stint as CEO of the Apple company. But while many were foreseeing some form of established digital dialogue, few could have imagined the form it was going to take.
Indeed, an endless stream of tweets, status updates and pokes has been part of a transformation in communications not seen since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 16th Century. And the elimination of barriers has created unprecedented workplace conflicts. Should an employer have the right to control an employee's social media identity? Variations on answers to that question, which have appeared in myriad iterations over the last few years, motivated the National Labor Relations Board to release codes of conduct earlier this month.
As reported on AOL Jobs, the set of guidelines derive from established precedents for workers' rights as well as the NLRB's experience with prior social media cases. In the broadest terms, employees have long been protected from employer retaliation when engaging in a "concerted activity" to improve their working conditions. In deciding what to protect, the NLRB will continue to look for action deemed to be constructive, as opposed to an individual gripe. (Nasty wall posts are most likely not going to be protected.) And while the NLRB is more likely to protect actions made by a group, with or without the help of a union, there is precedent for the NLRB protecting individuals who seek to improve labor conditions on their own.
Apple American has yet to respond to Cook's stance, but as the NewsCore service reported, he was told that such a posture would result in the termination of this job. Having worked for Applebee's for three years in the greater Seattle area, Cook expressed a willingness to compromise with his employer. "The words 'negative comments' should be changed to 'slanderous comments,' " he wrote on Facebook.
Observers expect Apple American, which owns some 270 Applebee's, to address the controversy by this Wednesday.
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