Labor Board says employees can talk about work on social media

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Social media has been around long enough now that just about every good-sized company has rules about what employees can and can't do on Facebook and Twitter and all the rest of 'em. That brings us to today's cautionary tale. The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint against a company in Connecticut for firing a woman over comments that she posted about her boss on her Facebook page.

Marketplace's Janet Babin explains.


Janet Babin: The complaint alleges that American Medical Response of Connecticut violated the National Labor Relations Act. That act protects workers rights to discuss their employment amongst themselves, whether they're unionized or not.

Lafe Solomon says that's what this AMR employee was trying to do, when she was fired. He's acting general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board.

Lafe Solomon: The only thing different here is where the discussion took place, it took place at Facebook instead of at the water cooler.

The complaint also alleges that the company's Facebook policy was prohibitively broad.

Attorney John Barr represents AMR. He disputes that charge.

John Barr: It's never been applied to deny employees the right that they do have: to engage in concerted activities and discussions about conditions of employment or wages.

Attorney Marylee Abrams counsels companies on social media policies. She compares what this employee did to standing on a street corner dissing your boss.

Marylee Abrams: The National Labor Relations Board, it appears to me, that they are trying to micromanage what's happening out there.

But law professor William Mcgeveran at the University of Minnesota law school says Facebook is not exactly a street corner.

William Mcgeveran: Facebook is a tool for social networking, and the people you're speaking to is not just the general public, it's going to be people you've created friendships with.

Until the case is decided next year, many lawyers are advising companies to reexamine their Facebook policies.

In New York, I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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