On May 9, 2011, the Buffalo Regional Office of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) issued a complaint against a New York nonprofit company for unlawfully terminating non-union employees for posting comments about their work on Facebook. The NLRB filed the complaint against Hispanics United of Buffalo, Inc., a non-profit company that provides social services to low-income clients. The complaint alleged that the company violated Section 8(a)(1) of the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”) by interfering with the employees’ right to engage in protected concerted activity, even though the employees were not unionized. A hearing is set before an administrative law judge on June 22, 2011.
The complaint stems from an incident that occurred in October 2010 when one employee posted, on her personal Facebook page, a co-worker’s allegation that employees do not work hard enough to help the company’s low-income clients. Five other company employees responded and posted their own Facebook comments, defending their work performance and criticizing the working conditions at the company. Three days later, the company terminated the five employees who posted negative comments. The company defended its decision by claiming that the five employees harassed the employee who created the first post.
This case is yet another example of the NLRB’s interest in employees’ and employers’ use of social media. We previously posted about the NLRB calling negative facebook posting protected activity and about the complaint and settlement of an NLRB case against a company that terminated an employee after she posted negative comments about her suerpvisor on her personal Facebook page. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the NLRB reported handling over two dozen cases involving employee complaints posted on social media sites.
In light of the NLRB’s focus on social media, employers must take caution before disciplining an employee for posting comments on Facebook or other social networking sites. Employers should also evaluate their internet policies to ensure that their policies do not violate employees’ rights under the NLRA.