Legal Blog

Labor and Employment Law & Social Media: Are Employee Comments Protected?

Labor and Employment LawIn 2010, an employee of American Medical Response (AMR) of Connecticut posted a derogatory comment on Facebook, a popular social media site, about her direct supervisor, referring to her as a “17,” company code for a “mental patient.” This comment spurred additional employees to comment, bringing bad publicity to the company. As you can imagine, when the company caught wind of the derogatory Facebook post, they were less than pleased and decided to terminate the offending employee. Labor and Employment Law & Social Media: Are Employee Comments protected? Following her termination, the former AMR employee filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), claiming her comments constituted “protected concerted activity” under the National Labor Relations Act. Then, in late 2010, the NLRB issued a complaint against AMR, stating the company illegally terminated the employee. A complaint is similar to a civil lawsuit. The NLRB claimed AMR violated the employee’s right to engage in “protected concerted activity” under National Labor Relations Act. AMR, meanwhile, argued that the derogatory social media comment violated its blogging and internet policy, which prohibits employees from making disparaging, discriminatory or defamatory comments about AMR or its management. AMR and the NLRB settled out of court before the January 25, 2011 trial date. AMR promised to revise its current internal policies, which improperly restricted employees from discussing wages, hours and working conditions, even during non-work time. Under the company’s new policy, employees will not be disciplined for engaging in such protected activities. So, are employee comments protected by law? Unfortunately, nothing was really settled in the above case, but one thing is clear. It is best for employers and their legal counsel to meticulously scrutinize their Employee Handbooks and Social Networking policies to ensure these policies do not violate the National Labor Relations Act. Your Employee Handbook is your organization’s first line of defense. When was the last time you reviewed your Employee Handbook or Social Networking policies? If you have any questions about Labor and Employment Law or Social Networking Policies, please contact Offit Kurman labor and employment attorney and chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice Group Howard K. Kurman at hkurman@offitkurman.com. Mr. Kurman has represented employers both large and small, from those with 20 employees to employers with geographically disparate locations consisting of over 4,000 employees. He regularly counsels clients on proactive managing of all aspects of employment/labor issues. Offit Kurman Attorneys at Law: Labor & Employment Law Practice Group At Offit Kurman Attorneys At Law, the attorneys in our Labor & Employment Law Practice Group are well positioned to offer a broad range of services to employers of all sizes and sizes, from nonprofits to government entities. When you partner with Offit Kurman, you get timely updates on the latest laws and rulings in the ever-changing labor law landscape. Our attorneys help businesses, like your, stay current with changes in the law – such as those involving the growing world of social media – and making proactive decisions regarding workplace policy and procedure. From labor negotiations and alternative dispute resolution, to wage and hour investigations and charges of wrongful termination, the labor attorneys at Offit Kurman can help resolve the challenging workplace issues you face on a daily basis. If you would like to learn more about Offit Kurman’s Labor & Emplyment Law Practice Group to see what we can do for you, please fill out our contact form to access the knowledgeable legal guidance that our experienced labor & employment attorneys offer. You can also connect with Offit Kurman via FacebookTwitterGoogle+YouTube, and LinkedIn. Sources: Comments by Employees on Facebook – More Protected Than You Might Think!