A recently grievance filed by a regional National Labor Relations Board office, alleging that an employee was unlawfully terminated underneath an overbroad social networking policy, ought to encourage firms to take a second examine the policies that govern staff' net communications. Although the NLRB's press unharness created it seem that the worker was discharged solely because of negative comments posted on Facebook (criticizing her supervisor), the termination call might actually have been based mostly on multiple, serious issues.
As Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and different social networks became additional standard, corporations are being suggested to design and implement policies that set standards for what staff can say regarding the organization on the Internet. Of course, the aforementioned policies should be carefully drafted therefore on avoid specific violations of the National Labor Relations Act.
The NLRB's action serves as a reminder that each one employers should consider the labor-related consequences of restrictions on staff' on-line activities. Attorneys are keeping a terribly close eye on this case and it is anticipated that businesses can alter their policies accordingly. Until then, consulting with an experienced Internet law attorney to assist your company with updating its relevant social media policies (e.g., blogging, Internet posting, etc.) is crucial, even if it's solely to supplement those policies with an announcement that the employer can not interpret or apply the policy in any manner that would violate the NLRA. This kind of preemptive thinking can assist to mitigate legal risks. One caveat, when considering whether to enforce an existing policy in things that involve potentially lined communications, proceed with extreme caution.
Additionally, consulting with an experienced labor law attorney will assist you or your business to define things where Facebook comments lose protected activity status underneath the NLRA, and just how way an employer could go in disciplining insubordinate, disloyal, or libelous communications. Although various "bright lines" stay with respect to proper grounds for discipline, like revealing confidential information and/or trade secrets, social media policies ought to be scrutinized for language concerning "no discussion of wages," "no negative impact on company," and "no unharness of knowledge concerning alternative workers," all of which might be construed as involving protected activity beneath federal labor law, or "chilling" one's right to free speech.
One factor is obvious, firms must keep the NLRA in mind when drafting social media policies. It might be necessary to change them, to incorporate clear language that an employer will not interpret or apply the policies in any manner that might interfere with employee rights below the NLRA.
If you have social media policies, embody safe harbor language. Relying upon the circumstances, there may be some additional risk in aggressive enforcement.