Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Limits of Online Expression: Company Accused of Firing Over Facebook Post

Got something to get off your chest about your boss? Recently, the Google CEO (sort of) joked about a future where young adults would have the option of obtaining a new identity/Social Security Number so that they can escape the online follies of their youth.  Although the common wisdom has it that a bit of circumspection is essential when expressing or emoting or kvetching on Facebook or your blog, clearly this is a lesson that many folks may learn too late if at all.  This can be especially perilous when it comes to bashing your employer.

Steven Greenhouse in the New York Times reports that "In what labor officials and lawyers view as a ground-breaking case involving workers and social media, the National Labor Relations Board has accused a company of illegally firing an employee after she criticized her supervisor on her Facebook page.  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 labor relations board announced last week that it had filed a complaint against an ambulance service, American Medical Response of Connecticut, that fired an emergency medical technician, accusing her, among other things, of violating a policy that bars employees from depicting the company “in any way” on Facebook or other social media sites in which they post pictures of themselves. "


"The case involves Dawnmarie Souza, who had to prepare a response to a customer’s complaint about her work. Ms. Souza, the board said, was unhappy that her supervisor would not let a representative of the Teamsters, the union representing the company’s workers, help prepare her response."


"Ms. Souza then mocked her supervisor on Facebook, using several vulgarities to ridicule him, according to Jonathan Kreisberg, director of the board’s Hartford office, which filed the complaint. He also said she had written, “love how the company allows a 17 to become a supervisor” — 17 is the company’s lingo for a psychiatric patient."


"The labor board said that her comments “drew supportive responses from her co-workers” and led to further negative comments about the supervisor. Mr. Kreisberg said: “You’re allowed to talk about your supervisor with your co-workers. You’re allowed to communicate the concerns and criticisms you have. The only difference in this case is she did it on Facebook and did it on her own time and her own computer.”

Full article here

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