The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has accused a company of illegally firing an employee after she criticized her supervisor on Facebook. The NLRB filed the complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut, an ambulance service. AMR fired Dawnmarie Souza, an EMT, after accusing her of violating a company policy barring employees from depicting the company “in any way” on any social networking site on which they post pictures of themselves.
The NLRB's complaint
, filed on Oct. 27, was reported by the New York Times
, which quoted Lafe Solomon, the board’s acting general counsel, as saying,
“This is a fairly straightforward case under the National Labor Relations Act — whether it takes place on Facebook or at the water cooler, it was employees talking jointly about working conditions, in this case about their supervisor, and they have a right to do that.”
Additionally, Solomon said
, you can expect to see more such social networking type actions taken by the NLRB:
"This is the first complaint we've issued over comments on Facebook, but I have no doubt that we'll be seeing more. We have to develop policies as we go in this fast-changing environment."
Souza's post on Facebook drew responses from other co-workers. Jonathan Kreisberg, director of the board’s Hartford office, which filed the complaint, 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.”
From the NLRB's document summarizing the case:
When asked by her supervisor to prepare an investigative report concerning a customer complaint about her work, the employee requested and was denied representation from her union, Teamsters Local 443. Later that day from her home computer, the employee posted a negative remark about the supervisor on her personal Facebook page, which drew supportive responses from her co-workers, and led to further negative comments about the supervisor from the employee. The employee was suspended and later terminated for her Facebook postings and because such postings violated the company’s internet policies.
An NLRB investigation found that the employee’s Facebook postings constituted protected concerted activity, and that the company’s blogging and internet posting policy contained unlawful provisions, including one that prohibited employees from making disparaging remarks when discussing the company or supervisors and another that prohibited employees from depicting the company in any way over the internet without company permission. Such provisions constitute interference with employees in the exercise of their right to engage in protected concerted activity.
American Medical Response of Connecticut responded as follows, in a statement:
“The employee in question was discharged based on multiple, serious complaints about her behavior. The employee was also held accountable for negative personal attacks against a co-worker posted publicly on Facebook. The company believes that the offensive statements made against the co-workers were not concerted activity protected under federal law.”
A hearing on the case is scheduled for January 25, 2011, before an Administrative Law Judge. A ruling there could be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals.