Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Does your social networking policy violate federal labor laws?

It was only a matter of time before the NLRB inserted itself into the intersection of social networking and employment relations. It has Twitter account. Now, it has issued its first complaint challenging an employer’s social networking policy.

The NLRB has issued a complaint against a company that fired an employee after posting negative comments about her supervisor on her personal Facebook page. The Blog of Legal Times reports that the NLRB not only alleges that the employer illegally fired the employee for the posting, but that the company “maintained and enforced an overly broad blogging and Internet posting policy.”

An NLRB investigation found that the Facebook postings were “protected concerted activity,” and that the company’s blogging and Internet posting policy contained unlawful provisions, including one that barred employees from making disparaging remarks when discussing the company or supervisors and another that prohibited employees from depicting the company in any way over the Internet without company permission.

“Such provisions constitute interference with employees in the exercise of their right to engage in protected concerted activity,” the NLRB found.

This case could have far reaching implications for all employers—not just those that are collectively bargained. If the NLRB concludes that a singular posting on a personal website constitutes protected concerted activity, then it will be nearly impossible for an employer to regulate off-the-clock Internet activity. The NLRB will hold a hearing on this case on January 25, 2011. I will be very interested to read the ALJ’s decision.

Presented by Kohrman Jackson & Krantz, with offices in Cleveland and Columbus. For more information, contact Jon Hyman, a partner in our Labor & Employment group, at (216) 736-7226 or