On Wednesday, January 25, 2012, National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon released a second report describing social media cases reviewed by his office. The report (Operations Management Memo) addresses 14 cases related to social media and employer social media policies.
Many of the cases reviewed involved employees who had been discharged after they posted comments on Facebook. The general counsel found that a number of the terminations were improper because employees had engaged in protected activity and their terminations arose from unlawful employer policies. However, the general counsel upheld several terminations – despite overly broad employer policies – where the employees involved were not engaged in protected activity and had merely posted general complaints or individual gripes unrelated to working conditions or wages.
The report emphasizes two key points made in an earlier report in August 2011: 1) Employer policies should not be so broad that they prohibit activity protected by federal labor law, such as the discussion of wages or working conditions; and 2) an employee’s comments on social media sites will generally not be protected if they are simply complaints unrelated to working conditions or wages that impact a group of employees.
There are three cases involving social media questions currently pending before the NLRB and those decisions will likely give further guidance on acceptable employer social media policies.
In addition, McDermott partner Heather Egan Sussman will be speaking with Lafe Solomon, and Edward Loughlin (EEOC) on this topic at the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) Global Privacy Summit, Wednesday, March 7, 2012.