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The company in question is American Medical Response of Connecticut, an ambulance service. According to a complaint filed by the National Labor Relations Board, the conpany illegally firedan employee who was trash talking about a supervisor on her Facebook page.
The employee, Dawnmarie Souza, allegedly posted a critical comment about her supervisor, who had reprimanded her for attempting to join a union. The post, according to the NLRB, "drew supportive responses from her co-workers, and led to further negative comments about the supervisor from the employee." American Medical Response's policy reportedly forbids employees from discussing the company on social networking sites.
The implications for American businesses are huge.It's one thing to have to deal with unhappy customers on social networks, it's an entirely different situation when employees can legally discuss the corporate culture and specific individuals. If the National LAbor Relations Board is successful with this lawsuit, it will dramatically shift the balance of power between employees and their supervisors.
The board’s complaint prompted Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, a law firm with a large labor and employment practice representing hundreds of companies, to send a “lawflash” advisory on Monday to its clients, saying, “All private sector employers should take note,” regardless “of whether their work force is represented by a union.”
The firm added, “Employers should review their Internet and social media policies to determine whether they are susceptible to an allegation that the policy would ‘reasonably tend to chill employees’ ” in the exercise of their rights to discuss wages, working conditions and unionization.
This is the first case in which the labor board has stepped in to argue that workers’ criticisms of their bosses or companies on a social networking site are generally a protected activity and that employers would be violating the law by punishing workers for such statements.The case is scheduled to go to court, January 24, 2011.