NLRB Likes Facebook Defense of Fired Workers

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January 3, 2013 in Labor & Economy

Most job seekers take care to scrub evidence of last night’s party from their social media profiles, but the employment consequences of more nuanced online interactions are still being determined. Just before the Christmas holiday, the National Labor Relations Board issued a decision ordering the reinstatement of five workers who were fired for responding to a co-worker’s criticism on Facebook. The decision goes some way to establish Facebook posts as protected under the National Labor Relations Act, and may discourage employers from basing personnel decisions on social media behavior in the future.

JD Supra reports on the case:

The case stemmed from a message that an employee of a nonprofit organization posted on Facebook outside of work hours. After Lydia Cruz-Moore told Marianna Cole-Rivera that she planned to discuss her concerns about employee performance with the Executive Director of Hispanics United of Buffalo, Inc. (HUB), Ms. Cole-Rivera posted:

Lydia Cruz, a coworker feels that we don’t help our clients enough at HUB. I about had it! My fellow coworkers how do u feel? (Emphasis added)

Four co-workers responded, all on their personal computers and on their own time. The employees generally objected to the assertion that their performance was substandard. Ms. Cruz-Moore complained to HUB management about the posts, and on the first workday after the Facebook posts, HUB fired Ms. Cole-Rivera and her four co-workers…

The employees were fired due to a perceived violation of the nonprofit’s bullying policy, yet the labor board determined the public griping could be seen as the formation of a group defense against Cruz-Moore’s complaints to management. The decision marked the first time the Labor Board has addressed the legality of firing employees for Facebook status updates — for the time being, at least, social networking employees can breathe a little easier.

This post first appeared on Unionisty and is republished with permission.

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