Settlement Reached in Firing Over Facebook Post

By Jeff Casale

Feb. 16, 2011

A settlement in the case involving an employee who was fired for posting negative comments about a supervisor on her Facebook page was made on Feb. 7, the eve of a scheduled hearing.

The National Labor Relations Board’s Hartford, Connecticut, regional office and American Medical Response of Connecticut Inc., worked out an agreement before a hearing regarding Dawnmarie Souza, a union worker for AMR’s New Haven office. She was fired in December 2009 after disagreements between her and her supervisor culminated in Souza’s posting of negative remarks about the supervisor on her personal Facebook page.

The settlement does not set a formal precedent by the NLRB, as the board was not able to make a decision on this case, an NLRB spokeswoman says.

Under the terms of the settlement, AMR agreed to revise its overly broad rules to ensure it does not improperly restrict employees from discussing their wages, hours and working conditions with co-workers and others while not at work, and that it would not discipline or discharge employees for engaging in such discussions.

Further, the medical transportation company says employee requests for union representation will not be denied in the future and that employees will not be threatened with discipline for requesting union representation, according to an NLRB statement on the settlement.

Allegations involving Souza’s termination were resolved through a separate and private agreement between the employee and the company, the statement says.

A request for comment from Glenwood, Colorado-based AMR was not returned.

The NLRB’s regional office filed the complaint against AMR in late October, alleging that the company illegally terminated and illegally denied union representation to Souza during an investigatory interview, and maintained and enforced an “overly broad” blogging and Internet posting policy.

Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees may discuss the terms and conditions of their employment with co-workers and others, regardless of the forum.

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

Later that day after the interview, Souza posted a negative remark about her supervisor on her personal Facebook page from her home computer. The posting drew supportive responses from co-workers and led to more negative comments by Souza about her supervisor, according to the complaint.

The NLRB regional office 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.”

Workforce Management Online, February 2011Register Now!

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