Employees Can’t Be Fired for Facebook Complaints, Judge Says

Employees Can’t Be Fired for Facebook Complaints, Judge Says

Five workers fired for complaining about their jobs on Facebook will go back to work after the National Labor Relations Board ruled in their favor, affirming workers can safely vent their frustrations about the workplace on social networks.

The dust-up began last year when an employee at the non-profit agency Hispanics United of Buffalo vented on Facebook, on a non-working Saturday, about a co-worker’s accusation that she didn’t do enough for the organization’s clients.

Other co-workers chimed in to make comments like, “What the f… Try doing my job. I have 5 programs,” and “Tell her to come do [my] f***ing job n c if I don’t do enough, this is just dum.”

The co-worker saw the messages and passed them along to a supervisor, who fired the workers, citing the company’s social media policy banning cyber harassment of co-workers.

One of the terminated employees complained to the National Labor Relations Board. The judge, in the first social media case that didn’t involve a unionized workplace, ruled the employees were within their rights to converse among themselves about working conditions.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees have the right to talk to each other about improving work conditions, and the board viewed the Facebook conversation as an example of just that.

Earlier this year, a court settled another complaint by the NLRB citing that same right, this time involving a union issue at the American Medical Response of Connecticut.

In that case, the judge ruled the terminated employee’s Facebook comments, which took issue with her boss’ handling of a customer complaint, were considered “protected concerted activity” under the NLRA.

Outside the workplace, though, reactions to negative social media comment may not get people fired, but they can get them ousted from an establishment. This was the case for Allison Matsu, who was having drinks at Houston’s Down House and posted a tweet calling the bartender a “twerp.”

The bar’s tech savvy general manager realized the tweet came from inside the premises and asked Matsu to leave.

The reinstatement of the workers in Buffalo includes a provision to fully restore their back pay. But while the ruling is good news for those who want to vent their work frustrations on Facebook or other social media outlets, finding more discreet ways of venting may be wise to avoid future hassles.

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