Wednesday, January 21, 2015

New anonymous workplace app raises big workplace issue

Have you heard about Memo? It an iPhone app that allows individuals to post anonymous comments, both positive and negative, about their employers to a specific group page about the company. As you could imagine, it’s the negative posts that will get the lion’s share of attention.

Here’s what a typical company-bashing comment on Memo looks like.

According to, Memo has already “received two cease-and-desist letters, two companies have blocked emails from Memo hitting their servers, and three companies have written memos to employees about the app.”

I want to address the latter—companies that, via policy, fiat, or otherwise, try to stop their employees from using Memo.

As you should know, federal labor law gives employees the right to engage in protected, concerted activity—that is, discussions between or among employees about wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. Employees’ discussions, for example, about an open-door policy, would be a textbook example of protected concerted activity.

Federal labor law prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for engaging in protected concerted activity. Retaliation isn’t Memo’s biggest risk because its posts are (supposedly) anonymous. However, federal labor law also prohibits employers from maintaining or enforcing policies that could chill employees’ right to speak about terms and conditions of employment.

Thus, if you think you can legislate Memo (or other similar apps) out of your workplace, you might want to think again. The NLRB will likely hold a very different opinion about the rights of your employees to talk about your company, anonymously or otherwise.