Labor Board Brings More Facebook Cases

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Following its recent settlement of the American Medical Response (AMR)case, the National Labor Relations Board (Board) has filed two more complaints against non-union employers alleging they unlawfully terminated employees who complained about working conditions on Facebook.

The first case, filed on May 9, 2011,  involves an employee of Hispanics United of Buffalo, a New York non-profit organization,  who posted to her Facebook page a coworker’s allegation that employees did not do enough to help the organization’s clients.  The initial post generated responses from four other employees who defended their job performance and criticized working conditions, including workload and staffing issues. After learning of the posts, Hispanics United discharged all five employees, claiming that their comments constituted harassment of the employee originally mentioned in the Facebook post.

The complaint alleges that the Facebook discussion was protected concerted activity under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) because it involved a conversation among fellow employees about the terms and conditions of their employment, including their job performance and staffing levels.

Unlike the AMR case, the Board complaint against Hispanics United does not allege that the employer maintained an unlawful policy. Instead the complaint focuses exclusively on the employer’s termination of the five employees who participated in the Facebook conversation.  Moreover, whereas the AMR case involved unionized employees, the five employees terminated by Hispanics United were non-union employees, thus illustrating the fact that the NLRA extends to all employees, whether unionized or not.

Similarly, on May 24, 2011, the Board  issued a complaint against Knauz BMW, a Chicago area BMW dealership, alleging unlawful termination of an employee for posting photos and comments on Facebook that were critical of the dealership.

The employee, a car salesman, and coworkers were unhappy with the quality of food and beverages – hotdogs and bottled water -  at a dealership event promoting a new BMW model. Salesmen complained that their sales commissions could suffer as a result. Following the event, the salesman posted photos and commentary on his Facebook page critical that only hot dogs and bottled water were being offered to customers. Ultimately the salesman was terminated for posting the images and comments even though he had complied with a request to delete the photos and comments.

The complaint alleges that the employee’s Facebook posting was protected concerted activity under the NLRA because it involved a discussion among employees about their terms and conditions of employment.

To learn more about these cases and how the NLRA applies to non-union workplaces attend EANJ’s June 8th seminar Labor Law for Nonunion Employers.