- NLRB’s Acting General Counsel Issues Second Report on Social Media Cases
- February 22, 2012 | Author: Edwin S. Hopson
- Law Firm: Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP - Louisville Office
Late last month, the Acting General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, Lafe Solomon issued a second report describing social media cases reviewed by his office. The Memorandum covered 14 cases, 7 of which involved questions about employer social media policies. Five of those social media policies were found to be unlawfully broad, one was lawful, and one was found to be lawful after it was revised by the company.
The remaining 7 cases involved the discharge of employees after they posted comments to a Facebook page. Several discharges were found to be unlawful because they flowed from unlawful policies. But in one case, the discharge was upheld despite an unlawful policy because the employee’s posting was not found to be work-related.
The Acting General Counsel’s report underscored two points made in his first compilation of cases issued August 18, 2011, namely:
- Employer policies should not be so sweeping that they prohibit the kinds of activity protected by federal labor law, such as the discussion of wages or working conditions among employees.
- An employee’s comments on social media are generally not protected if they are mere gripes not made in relation to group activity among employees.
In one case, Solomon stated:
“The Employer’s rule prohibited “[m]aking disparaging comments about the company through any media, including online blogs, other electronic media or through the media.” We concluded that this rule was unlawful because it would reasonably be construed to restrict Section 7 activity, such as statements that the Employer is, for example, not treating employees fairly or paying them sufficiently. Further, the rule contained no limiting language that would clarify to employees that the rule does not restrict Section 7 rights.”
In that case, the employee involved had posted a complaint about her employer on her Facebook page using expletives. Some 10 co-workers were “friends” and at least one responded to the posting. The employee was discharged over the posting. The Acting General Counsel found the discharge unlawful based on the fact that the firing was based on an unlawfully overbroad non-disparagement rule and that the employee was engaged in protected concerted activity in making the posting.
In another case, the employer’s discharge of the charging party for her Facebook comments was found to be lawful since the employee had not been engaged in protected concerted activity. However, the social media policy and its no-solicitation rule were found to be unlawfully overbroad.
Solomon stated in his press release that he has asked all NLRB regional offices to forward cases which the regional directors believe to be meritorious social media cases to the NLRB’s Division of Advice in Washington D.C. for review. In this way, Solomon stated, the NLRB can better track such cases and devise a consistent approach. According to Solomon, thus far some 75 cases have been forwarded to the Division of Advice.
The report emphasizes that it represents the Acting General Counsel’s interpretation of the National Labor Relations Act. There are currently three cases involving social media questions pending before the Board, which should provide further guidance under the Act for such cases.