Staffing Management

NLRB Challenges Employers Internet and Blogging Policy After Facebook Posts

By Staff Report

Nov. 9, 2010

The National Labor Relations Board’s Hartford, Connecticut, regional office has sued a medical transportation company, alleging it illegally terminated an employee who posted negative remarks about her supervisor on her personal Facebook page.


The NLRB regional office filed the complaint late last month against American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc. It alleges that the company illegally terminated and denied union representation to the employee during an investigatory interview and maintained and enforced an “overly broad” blogging and Internet posting policy.


Dawnmarie Souza, a union worker for American Medical Response’s New Haven office, was fired in December 2009 after disagreements between her and her supervisor. The friction that lasted about a month culminated when Souza was asked by her supervisor, Frank Filardo, to prepare an incident report about a client’s complaint about her work, according to the NLRB complaint.


Souza asked that a Teamsters Local 443 representative be present during the interview, which management denied and threatened her with discipline because of her request, according to the complaint.


Later that day, Souza went on her personal Facebook page at her home computer and posted a negative remark about her supervisor, which drew supportive responses from co-workers and led to more negative comments by Souza about her supervisor, according to the NLRB investigation.


Greenwood Village, Colorado-based AMR terminated Souza, saying she had violated the company’s Internet policies with her postings.


The NLRB regional office’s investigation found that Souza’s Facebook postings were a “protected concerted activity,” and that AMR’s blogging and Internet posting policy contained “unlawful provisions, including one that prohibited employees from making disparaging remarks when discussing the company” and another that “prohibited employees from depicting the company in any way over the Internet without company permission.”


According to a written statement by the NLRB, such provisions interfere with employees’ rights to engage in the protected concerted activity.


The case will go before an NLRB administrative judge and a hearing is set for Jan. 25, 2011.


According to a spokeswoman for the NLRB, if the case is appealed and reaches the board level of the Washington-based federal agency, that decision will set the precedent on a private company’s blogging and Internet posting policies for all the NLRB’s regions.


A request for comment was not returned by American Medical Response.   


Filed by Jeff Casale of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail editors@workforce.com.


 


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