Legal

NLRB Sues Not-for-Profit in Firing of Workers for Facebook Posts

By Staff Report

May. 20, 2011

A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board has filed a complaint in the firing of five employees who complained on Facebook about working conditions at a not-for-profit that provides social services to low-income clients.


The NLRB’s Buffalo, New York, regional office filed a complaint on May 9 alleging that Hispanics United of Buffalo unlawfully discharged five employees after they criticized working conditions, including workload and staffing issues, in Facebook postings.


This isn’t the first time the NLRB has weighed in on the discharge of an employee over the use of the popular social media website.


The NLRB’s Hartford, Connecticut, regional office filed a complaint in a similar situation last October.


That case was settled in February, but it was the first time that the NLRB stepped in on employer policies regarding terminations and the use of social media.


The latest complaint involves an employee who, in advance of a meeting with management about working conditions, posted to her Facebook page a co-worker’s allegation that employees did not do enough to help the organization’s clients, according to the NLRB.


The initial post generated responses from other employees, who defended their job performance and criticized working conditions, which included workloads and staffing issues.


The five employees involved in the online discussion were fired after Hispanics United learned of the posts on grounds that their comments constituted harassment of the employee originally mentioned in the post, the NLRB said in the written statement.


The NLRB regional office argues that the Facebook discussion is a protected concerted activity within the meaning of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act because it involved a conversation among co-workers about their terms and conditions of employment.


A call to the Hispanics United’s legal department for comment was not immediately returned.


The complaint is subject to a June 22 hearing in the NLRB’s Buffalo office unless a settlement is reached.  


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


 


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